“I love you.”
This three-word phrase from a 5-year-old boy conveys more than just a simple emotion. It’s the culmination of years of hard work by one family and a team of therapists at Marcus Autism Center to help young London learn how to express himself.
Developmental delays or something more serious
London’s mother, Rachel, and his grandmother, Lisa, started to notice some differences with London before he was 2. He wasn’t talking yet, and he’d hold his toys close to his face while playing. He tracked along walls when he walked. Like most families, they held out hope that maybe he was just a late bloomer and that his development would eventually catch up. “You walk that line of denial to a certain point,” Rachel said. At each of London’s yearly check-ups, his pediatrician encouraged them to wait, hinting that he may just be developmentally delayed.
By the time he turned 3 and was still nonverbal, the family knew they had to act. “If doctors had thought there was a chance London might have had cancer, we wouldn’t have waited for more information every year,” Lisa said. So, the family found a developmental pediatrician who accepted insurance and prepared for the visit. London’s family was overwhelmed once the official diagnosis came in.
“The amount of information out there on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is staggering, and it’s scattered everywhere with a thousand different ways to approach it,” Rachel said. Navigating the world of ASD treatment alone can be emotionally overwhelming, too. “It’s like a dark tunnel, and you’re not sure where it goes, or if there’s a light at the end of it.” Lisa said. “Or even if it’s the right tunnel to follow.”
Before starting at Marcus Autism Center, London communicated little and was content to play quietly by himself. “You’d have to get down and enter his world to see what he was understanding,” Rachel said. By this time, London could use just five words.
Getting specialized autism treatment
London’s first experience at Marcus Autism Center was in the Feeding Program. Children with autism often experience difficulties with tasting, swallowing and selecting food. The program implemented a scientific-based process to help with introducing new foods. London was a quick learner, and the staff made breakthroughs in helping ease him into the textures of different fruits. He eats almost everything now and has a special love for apples.