By June of 2010, our family was in a desperate situation. Our then three-year-old son, Kaedan, had recently been diagnosed with Autism and his behavior was spiraling out of control. Despite our efforts (and our local school’s), Kaedan was not potty trained and urinated and defecated on our floors daily. He threw violent fits that often let to him biting his older sister and his one-year-old brother. At one point, we took a photo of his brother’s arm and it had six bruised bite areas on his arms. He had exactly two words in his vocabulary: “daddy” and “drink.” He didn’t play with toys; he destroyed them. He didn’t respond to requests; it was like he was deaf. Another major problem we faced was that Kaedan stripped nearly constantly. You could not keep clothes on the child at home, at church, or in Kroger’s. We stopped eating out and rarely ventured into public. We didn’t know what to do until a friend recommended the Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center.
I called BRAAC and set up a meeting with one of their behavioral therapists, Samantha McFarland. Her arrival was a monumental tipping point in our autism journey. She taught us how to handle Kaedan’s stripping (by blocking it without eye contact or any verbal reinforcement). She taught us how to potty train him. She taught us how to handle his violent outbursts and fits. We took notes. She sent us typed recommendations a couple days later. We followed her recommendations to a “t.” With a lot of hard work, within a month I had nearly eliminated Kaedan’s stripping and his potty training was going well.
However, we still had many other problems, so we hired an advocate and gained a full-time placement at BRAAC by the end of October. BRAAC helped us set up a home program and sent a therapist weekly to help us with behavior in the home. The therapist and I did trips with Kaedan to Wal-Mart and Kroger in order to improve his public behavior. We slowly began to feel more competent in handling Kaedan’s outbursts, and over time, his behavior improved enough that we could leave him with a babysitter and even go out. His language began to grow, slow at first, then faster the last couple of years. Kaedan now can ask appropriately for all his needs, answer questions, and respond to requests and follow directions. His growth is directly attributable to BRAAC’s staff and philosophy. As a public school teacher, I can verify that the public school was simply not able to handle Kaedan’s unique disabilities and barriers. BRAAC without question was.
Five years ago, our family was in total disarray, but BRAAC has given us hope. To give you a practical example of that hope, we will take our first family vacation this summer to North Carolina. We would have never considered this before! All our family can do is have deep gratitude for all BRAAC and their staff have done to change the trajectory of Kaedan’s and our family’s lives.Mark Ingerson - Kaedan's Dad,