It can be quite astounding to learn that a new case of autism is diagnosed nearly every 20 minutes - as many as one in 150 children. That’s more than 1.5 million Americans with autism, making it more prevalent than Down syndrome, childhood diabetes and childhood cancer combined. Children do not outgrow autism and there is no cure. It is a lifelong disability with a normal life expectancy.
Shae has autism. Her brother, sister and father are also on the autism spectrum; her father having very high functioning autism or Asperger Syndrome. While life was challenging in their house, Shae’s autism seemed to be more severe than her other family members. Virtually unable to communicate with those around her, Shae would throw herself to the ground or run around the room whining, screaming and crying both during the day and at night time. Anthony and Heide, Shae’s parents, had to learn to survive on very little sleep. At times, Shae would throw things at others or bang her head on tables or walls. Heide also had to keep a very close eye on her at all times, as she was prone to eating small objects such as erasers, crayons, play dough and small toys.
Working closely with Shae’s school district and regional center, Heidi contacted Heartspring. Shae came to the Heartspring School when she was just six years old. At age five, she was asked to leave her public school due to her challenging behaviors. Without communication skills, she was constantly frustrated and unable to express her wants and needs. Some people in Shae’s life had all but given up on the tiny bright-eyed child with long brown hair, but her parents were steadfast; they knew that Shae could learn. They understood that if she could be taught better ways to interact with her surroundings and learn to express herself, she could begin the journey of reaching her potential.
“I’m so excited that Shae has been accepted [at Heartspring]! We truly believe that Heartspring is the only place that can give her the best chance of getting better,” said Heide. Shae has been at Heartspring for almost 2 years and is progressing positively with the support of teachers, therapists and staff, and most importantly, her family.
Currently, Shae is learning to communicate using a picture exchange program that allows her to show her care takers, through pictures, exactly what she wants or needs. Her classroom consists of six other students around her age, also diagnosed with autism.