Autism ETC’s August family of the month story is about a grandmother’s love and the impact it has made on her grandson. Meet Pam Reynolds and her grandson, Nash Reynolds. Nash’s mom and dad have an active role in his life; however, Pam took over the responsibility of raising Nash when he was 6 months old.
Nash had been attaining developmental milestones but talking was not one of them. At 14 months of age, he began to regress into a shell and no longer made eye contact with his family. When Pam took him to the pediatrician and expressed her concerns, the doctor referred Nash to the Tennessee Early Intervention System (TEIS). Pam asked his TEIS service coordinator if she thought Nash had Autism. Because the TEIS coordinator did not have the credentials to make such a diagnosis, Pam made an appointment to have Nash tested for Autism. He was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
When Nash received his diagnosis, he was participating in a pre-school program. Pam did not know what to do. Nash continued to be non-verbal and started engaging in head banging. Pam purchased a wrestling helmet for Nash to prevent him from injuring himself. Because of his behaviors, Pam was unable to take Nash into public settings. She consulted with his teacher who suggested Pam contact Autism ETC on Holt Road. When Pam came to the center she was greeted by Rhonda Manous, Executive Director of Autism ETC. Pam stated, “this was the best day of my life.” Rhonda talked with her and listened as she explained her situation with Nash. Pam knew nothing about ABA therapy. But as she soon learned, Nash was one of the few lucky children (at the time) whose insurance covered ABA therapy.
Soon after Nash began services, Pam realized she had found a place that could help her with parenting skills and also explain some of Nash’s behaviors. The therapists were caring. After his second week at the center, Nash’s therapist brought him to Pam when she came to pick him up. His therapist said, “say Hi, Grammy”. Nash said, “Hi, Grammy”. Needless to say, Pam was in tears hearing him speak for the first time. She knew she was on the right path. Her frustrations of the past were quickly melting away.
Nash participated in the summer camp program and the Day Therapy Program. One of the issues Nash had was potty training.Within 5 days of the staff working with Nash, he was potty trained. Nash participated in the Day Therapy Program for 2 years and has now graduated from the program. He attends a blended class at a local elementary school. His ABA therapists continue to provide services, coming 2 hours per day to work with him at school. Nash is now verbal and is considered to be a high functioning individual. He still occasionally develops undesirable behaviors, but now, his therapist quickly steps in and develops a plan to correct the behavior.
When asked what advice she would give to parents who have just learned their child has autism, Pam said, “When you first get the diagnosis, it sucks the life out of you. It drains you of the hopes and dreams you had for your child. But you have to focus on the child’s needs, not your emotions.” Pam realizes some younger parents may not want to admit their child is having an issue. She experienced this with Nash’s parents. “Parents need to realize the professionals know what they are talking about and early intervention is the key to success. You need to work hard, starting as early as possible. Early intervention makes all the difference and is the key to success.” Pam has learned the brain can be re-trained, but the work has to be done consistently every day.
Pam has taken an active role in the Families Affected By Autism (FABA) group that was formed by Karen Blake, Founder of the Autism Foundation of Tennessee. Pam would like to encourage families to become part of this support group that meets once a month. She wants to make it her mission to help every parent get to the place where she is now. This is hard work, but it is achievable. She wants to see experienced ASD parents mentor families who are just starting this journey. She hopes one day these mentors will be available to support other parents, even if there is a melt-down at 2:00 a.m. To learn more about the group, contact Karen @ 615-554-0229 or Pam @ 615-506-7945.
Pam’s journey: Both of Nash’s parents were tall. When Nash was born, Pam envisioned him one day becoming the center for Vanderbilt University’s basketball team. When they received the ASD diagnosis, she thought, “there goes our future.” However, with the progress Nash has made through the help and support received at Autism ETC, Pam believes Nash will complete school and possibly attend Vanderbilt. Pam stated, “Vanderbilt has a wonderful college program for individuals who are challenged.” So attending Vandy and becoming a useful, contributing adult in society is still Pam’s plan for Nash. She wants him to be happy and successful at whatever he chooses to do. With Pam’s love and guidance, that dream will come true.