This month’s featured family is the Pattons: Dad (Richie), Mom (Amy) and sons Andrew (age 11), Lincoln (age 7), and Oliver (age 3). While Richie was serving in the military in 2013, Lincoln was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at 2 years of age.
The family moved to Clarksville and Amy became involved with a special needs mother’s group on Facebook. A parent in the group had inquired about ABA therapy. Carissa Coker, AutismETC Clinical Director, responded and described the Day Therapy Program (DTP) offered by our company. Amy was immediately interested and wanted to try something new. Lincoln had been receiving therapy since his diagnosis but had made very little progress. Amy contacted Carissa and in August 2016, Lincoln began receiving services at AutismETC.
When Lincoln began therapy, he had a lot of “splinter skills”. He did well in academics, but had almost no verbal skills. He only ate 5 or 6 foods and could not dress himself. He had no social skills. Family life was difficult.
When asked to reflect on her experience at Autism ETC, Amy said, “Lincoln had just turned 5 and here I was sending my non-verbal child away for all-day therapy. Within two weeks it clicked and going to the center for services became a regular part of his life. He loves some of the therapists like family members. He had less than 20 words, but now he speaks in full sentences. Every week his vocabulary increases. Lincoln now says complete sentences such as, ‘I want to go play on the swing’ without being prompted. Our family is so thankful we found AutismETC.”
Lincoln has made great progress in the two years he has received services. His learning skills have increased. In the past, he only learned through videos or flash cards. He has graduated from the lower functioning group to the higher functioning group where he is able to perform independent work. He now listens to other students. Before AutismETC, he did not care if they were present.
Amy attributes much of Lincoln’s success to Autism ETC’s helpful and caring staff. “I’ve never had a question they could not answer. It’s great to have someone who knows more about your child than you do. Lincoln’s treatment plan is geared to fit his special needs. The staff has supplied me with sheets and cards so I can work with him at home. We have also learned to help Lincoln interact with his brothers away from the center.”
In addition to the DTP, Amy has attended several of the Community Training Workshops offered by AutismETC. She said, “the workshops are always helpful and I have been able to learn and network with families who also have children on the spectrum.”
When asked what advice Amy would give to other parents, she replied: “When Lincoln came home from the DTP that first week, he had fits and cried each day. It was difficult for him and for us. My advice is to talk to the therapists. All they want to do is help your child and make it easier for you and your family. There is no known cause of autism, but AutismETC will be there to help figure out what’s best for your child, every step of the way.”
Amy now looks toward Lincoln’s future with hope. Before AutismETC, she and Richie worried if Lincoln would live with them forever or be able to have a job. Once Lincoln began to talk, his parents felt like he would be okay. They believe he will one day be independent and able to function as an adult. As Lincoln continues to receive services, the more his family gains more and more confidence.
While the Pattons are thankful for AutismETC, AutismETC is thankful for the Patton family. Richie donates to the organization through payroll deductions at work. Amy organized The Natural Living Fair in Clarksville. AutismETC was given booth space for this event to provide exposure to the community. In addition, funds generated from this event were given to AutismETC to help children and families affected by autism. Amy hopes to build this event each year so they can increase the amount they are able to give. During this special time of year, AutismETC and the Pattons have much to be thankful for….