AutismETC’s May family of the month is the Waldrup family: Holly Waldrup (mom), Adam Waldrup (dad), Nash Waldrup, and his step-sister Cara. The family would not be complete without mentioning Holly’s mother (grandma) who assists with Nash’s care. The Waldrup’s journey began a little over a year ago. Out of desperation, Holly contacted AutismETC. She knew something was wrong with her son, but she had no idea what to do about it. “The universe placed our home about two minutes away from AutismETC’s Holt Road location in Nashville. I walked in one day in a very broken state. One of Autism ETC staff members took the time to listen as I told them about Nash and agreed something was going on with my child. However, I was told we needed an official diagnosis.”
Mom immediately began trying to schedule a diagnostic evaluation for her son. Since Nash was already receiving services at Vanderbilt for other medical issues, mom was able to quickly get him an appointment. Three days after his 1st birthday, Nash was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism. He was the youngest child ever diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at Vanderbilt. Many children on the spectrum present typical infancy skills and then begin to regress, loosing abilities they once had. Nash was different. “He was never ‘there’ to begin with,” said Holly. “He never made eye contact. The first time he smiled was while watching something on TV when he was 3 months old. I started to suspect autism when he was 6 months old because he always appeared to be in his own world. He did not gesture and he would make grunt noises. I felt like he did not really see me as his mother.” Nash’s GI and feeding issues also affected his behavior.
Nash started receiving ABA services from Autism ETC in the fall of 2018. Holly said, “Prior to starting ABA therapy, Nash was going to Speech, Occupational, and Developmental Therapies. I found that ABA offered a combination of each of these specialties. I knew ABA was going to be successful because it gave him what he needed. ABA has helped Nash with his speech, has helped him learn to cope with various situations, and has reduced his stims and self-injurious behaviors. I am ecstatic about how dramatic the change in Nash has been.”
Nash participates in the Day Therapy Program, receiving services from 9:00-12:00 Monday through Friday. “I did not think I needed help with how to play with my child, but I did,” stated Holly as she reflected on how the staff has helped her. “I have learned to play with my child in a way that helps him to learn. I have learned how to better communicate with Nash. This happened because of the help I received from Nash’s BCBA, Kelly Maier.” Holly went on to say, “I feel like Shelby Measel (Nash’s RBT) is like family. I can see she truly loves Nash.”
“Sometimes it’s hard to comprehend all of the progress your child has made when you are involved with him on a daily basis,” Holly reflected. “He now makes eye contact. When he started services, he would either hum or grunt, but now he is starting to talk. He says, ‘bye’ and waves and signs ‘all done’ appropriately. Yesterday we had another breakthrough. He said, ‘yellow’, ‘purple’ and attempted to say red. He also says daddy and momma. All of this has happened because of the help he has received at AutismETC. On May 11th he will turn 2.”
The advice Holly would like to share with other parents is, “Persist. Listen to your gut and fight for your child. I’ve learned that ABA therapy has helped my child the most. Get your child into a program as soon as possible because early intervention is so important. If you live in the Nashville area, AutismETC is the place to send your child. Through Autism ETC, I have also met a network of parents who have helped and supported me.”
As she looks to the future for her child, Holly said, “I have confidence my child will have a fulfilling, successful life. I attribute this to the help he is receiving at AutismETC.”