“Life was difficult before Matthew came to Heartspring. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of four and a half and for the next eight years life became more and more challenging,” said Matthew’s parents Randall and Jana. “Matthew had difficulty in society, at school and at church due to his behaviors. He also had sensory issues in regards to food, clothing and sounds and he disliked being in large groups of people,” she added. Matthew’s family was basically homebound due to his behaviors and could not enjoy the everyday outings that most families do, like going to the grocery store, Walmart or restaurants. Matthew’s parents wanted him to get the help he needed along with an appropriate education. “Heartspring was an answer to our prayers,” they said.
Matthew enrolled at Heartspring in 2007 and now keeps a very busy schedule. He is currently studying geometry, literature, world history and biology. Matthew’s favorite subject is science because he likes to build things, especially things from Legos. During one of his leisure breaks in the classroom he built a maraca out of Legos, which he said was rather difficult because of the round shape of a maraca. But what he likes to share with others most is the “town of Legos” he has built in his parents’ home.
While Matthew is very passionate about Legos, he is learning to explore other areas of interest as well. He now enjoys participating in Special Olympics, which is something that he previously could not tolerate as he would become very nervous around crowds and loud noises. Now, while he still gets nervous, he has made great strides in using self-calming techniques that he has learned at Heartspring. Now he is successful in participating in Special Olympics and has recently received two medals at the State Athletic (track and field) Competition, one for the 50-yard dash and one for the tennis ball throw. Matthew also participates with his peers in a cooking class and this enables him to not only learn to work with others, but also gives him the independence skill of making his own food, which he does in his group home. This is also helping Matthew become more tolerant of trying new foods, which he often refused to do when he first came to Heartspring.
Part of Matthew’s vocational training at Heartspring includes helping Patty Alsbury in the mailroom by metering mail once a week. He does a great job.
Matthew is still working on reducing his inappropriate behaviors. “He recently was able to participate in his own IEP and did a great job,” said his behavior specialist Jennifer Miller. “He advocated for himself, asked appropriate questions, and made thoughtful comments that were pertinent to the conversation. Matthew also likes to help out with younger kids as well as his staff and can be a delightful young man.”
Matthew used to sit by himself in the school cafeteria during meal times but he now sits with one or two of his peers, showing his acceptance to be around others. He has improved in his ability to interact socially and therefore has more opportunities for a quality of life that his parents had hoped he would have. He is also able to participate more in community outings, going to movies, hockey games, baseball games and restaurants. Matthew says his favorite restaurant is Jimmy’s Diner because, “I can have breakfast for dinner.” He also enjoys eating at Golden Corral because of the vast variety of food from which he can choose.
Matthew currently enjoys visits home and enjoys helping his father feed and water all the animals. He has “a lot” of cows, four horses, two cats, two dogs, and a fish tank. He continues to expand on his Lego town when he is home, but also plays Nintendo and computer games. He likes to go to Steak and Shake when he’s home because there isn’t one in Wichita. He also shared that he loves his mom’s buttercream frosting. He says “it’s the best.”
Matthew’s parents were excited that they were recently able to take him on their first “family” vacation. They traveled to Chicago to the LEGOLAND Discovery Center, Navy Pier and Shedd’s Aquarium. “The lines were long and crowds were big and there were a few tense moments when Matthew became vocal about his dislike of crowds and lines,” said Jana. “But he was able to use his self-calming techniques he has learned at Heartspring to talk himself through the anxiety and he had a great time at the aquarium.”
“The decision to place Matthew, our only child, in a residential facility was the most difficult decision of our lives. However, the improvements that he has made reassure us daily that it was the right decision for Matthew,” said Jana, “Heartspring has given Matthew a chance for a new start to his life.”