When Caiti was three days old, she had brain surgery for an encephalocele, which is a neural tube defect. When she had some developmental delays as an infant, we were not initially concerned as we were told by the neurosurgeon that this may be a manifestation of the surgery and she would catch up to her peers. As she developed, Caiti was a late talker and had more fine and gross motor delays. We had in-home therapy through the school district. As she approached school age, it was clear that she was not developing as her neurotypical peers were. We were unfamiliar with autism at the time and it was discovered that she was having some absence seizures. We were told by the neurologist that the seizures likely were causing her difficulties. She was also given a provisional diagnosis of ADHD when she was in first grade. As time went on, the symptoms she was displaying were not matching with the diagnoses we were given.
I heard of Fraser from a friend of mine when Caiti was in 2nd grade. We had a Diagnostic Assessment and she was diagnosed with Aspergers. I know that this probably is not the typical reaction that parents have, but in a way we felt relieved when we had the correct diagnosis and knew what steps to take to help her. Having the diagnosis did not change who she was – she was still our sweet girl. She would still have the same challenges, but without the correct diagnosis and the tools for knowing how to deal with these challenges, we were unable to fully help her. Since starting therapy at Fraser, Caiti has had individual therapy, group skills therapy, and speech therapy. She was recently discharged from group skills as she has learned how to implement several of the skills that are taught at therapy in her daily life. She reports that group skills helped her learn how to have a conversation. Previously, she was unable to carry on a conversation if it was not about her preferred topic. She is now able to engage in conversations even when they don't focus on her preferred topic. She has increased awareness and is learning how to read non-verbal cues in others. This is still an emerging skill, but she is improving and is becoming successful in navigating relationships with others. I firmly believe that without the help Fraser has given all of us, she would not be where she is today. Her therapists at Fraser have had always had her best interests at heart and I am confident that as she continues therapy at Fraser, she will acquire more skills to be successful as she goes through life.
Logan, Caiti's younger brother, was late on his developmental milestones and I began getting concerned at his nine-month well child check. His pediatrician recommended waiting until 12-months and if he was still delayed, then we would seek help. As an infant and toddler, he never learned how to chew food and self-refused food to the point of us needing to force feed him. We finally were advised to get a feeding tube for him. He still has the feeding tube, but our hope is that someday he will learn the skills to eat a balanced diet and not need his "tubie." Logan spoke some words until he was 13-months old and then he completely stopped talking. When we scheduled Logan's assessment, we were pretty sure that he had autism. When we received the official diagnosis, we were not surprised.
Logan began day treatment, speech, occupational therapy, and activities of daily living therapy when he was 26 months old. At that time, he was non-verbal and would have meltdowns that would last hours. We were unable to communicate with him and couldn't take him out to any public locations as when he had a meltdown there was no way to help him work through it. We tried to use whatever ideas we could get from books and the internet, but it was extremely overwhelming and we were lost trying to navigate a world we knew nothing about.
Logan received therapy at Fraser for 3 ½ years. In that time, he has become verbal and expressive communicating his wants and needs. He has gotten to a place where he enjoys family outings and is getting better at telling us if it is too much for him or if he needs a break. He is interacting with and playing with his peers and adults more. Most of all, he is happy.
Fraser therapists taught him tools and strategies to cope and regulate his emotions, express his thoughts and feelings, and changed his life (and all of our lives) forever. Fraser has taught us how to be better parents to both of our children who are on the autism spectrum. We are eternally grateful for all of the help and support that has been provided to us. Our children would not be as successful and happy as they are without the help we received from Fraser.
- Jen Bakken, Caiti and Logan's mom