Our journey with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) began long before we found our way to The ANGEL Program at Holy Rosary. When you read about ASD, there is a perception that the signs and symptoms of the spectrum will be obvious. For some families, it may work out that way, but for us and our sweet boy, the journey to deciphering a diagnosis and finding the proper treatments was an agonizingly slow, confusing and frustrating time. Our son Jim hit nearly every milestone as an infant, and up until about 18 months, we had no sign that there was anything amiss. He made eye contact, he was verbal and picking up words, he walked on time, he smiled big smiles. We have so many pictures of him smiling into the camera with his big baby blue eyes. Somewhere between 18 months and 2 years of age, we began to notice a sharp drop off in new words and language development. We began speech therapy soon thereafter, and I credit that decision with at least starting our fight against ASD although we did not know it at the time. Over the next year, sensory processing symptoms (something we did not understand at the time) began to emerge. Something had definitely happened in his brain, and the changes were noticeable. The auditory sensitivities and overall processing of his environment now made it difficult for him in most any situation other than his familiar home. Where he had been able to function in a classroom, he could not. He would get very anxious in loud restaurants, and he feared simple things that children are supposed to enjoy like going to a movie or birthday parties. Social interactions became increasingly difficult for him. We began to call around for evaluations where wait lists of 9 months to 1 year were common for full evaluations. In the meantime, the situation degraded to the point where we had to pull him from school in the fall of his 4K year.
My happy, funny, sweet, smart child had been reduced to an anxious, agitated, sad, scared, and confused little boy. It felt like ASD was taking him one little bit at a time, and I was hanging on to him as tightly as I could. Around the time that his symptoms were reaching a low point, we were referred to The ANGEL Program at Holy Rosary. We were so grateful for the compassion shown to Jim and to us as we went through the thorough and comprehensive evaluation process. We knew almost immediately that this was a place that could help our son, and even more important, Jim realized it too. Kids on the spectrum can be extremely perceptive, and it was clear that he knew he was in a safe place with people who understood him. Within weeks of starting in the program, Jim went from spending much of the morning in The ANGEL Room to spending most of the day in the classroom with his typical peers. Over the last 21 months that he has been in the program, he has grown by leaps and bounds knocking out goals thanks to his hard work and that of his therapists and teachers. Everyone has encouraged him with love and understanding, and it has meant everything to him and to us. The inclusive nature of the program has been very important to Jim as he has gotten older and forms a sense of social belonging and community, and it has been crucial as he has worked on social goals. He continues to make progress, and there is no doubt that we would not be where we are today without the Angel Program. Parents of kids on the spectrum just want what any parent wants for their child – to have them reach the full potential that God gave them. ASD can cruelly limit that potential with its effects, but with the intervention of The ANGEL Program, that potential can be rediscovered and unlocked. It is no understatement to say that The ANGEL Program gave us our son back, but of much greater importance, it has given Jim his life back. On behalf of every ANGEL student and their family, I ask you to please support The ANGEL Program Fund and the life changing work ofThe ANGEL Program.