Helping Autistic Children Navigate Life

Posted: Nov 15, 2022

Four year-old Ja’Terrion was completely non-verbal when he was diagnosed and became a patient at the Autism Center of The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart. However, this early-age intervention was to make a huge difference in his life.  As a result of the speech therapy he received, he went from not saying anything to actually using words. Today, two years later, Ja’Terrion is enrolled in kindergarten and continuing to make progress in his communication skills.

The use of an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)  device in his speech therapy was a blessing for the little patient. An AAC is a technological tool that supplements speech and helps the individual communicate nonverbally.  In the beginning, Ja’Terrion would use his AAC tablet to tell others what he wanted with one word, but he has advanced to the use of multiple words in conveying his needs. His actual verbal communication also has seen great improvement, thanks to his speech therapist. As he began to talk, she taught him how to pronounce words correctly.

Ja’Terrion has difficulties with his fine motor skills. As a result, he struggled with everyday activities such as getting dressed, eating, and holding small objects. His occupational therapist worked with him to strengthen and improve these skills so he could become more independent. He is even beginning to write alphabetical letters in school.

His mother Destiny notes that both his speech and occupational therapists went above and beyond in the services they provided, even ensuring he had the same therapy tools he uses at the Center available at kindergarten. And Ja’Terrion’s grandmother Charlene comments that those who work at the Autism Center “are dedicated in their efforts. It’s always a blessing and a gift to have therapists with a wealth of knowledge and training and education to assist others.” 

As a member of the Children’s Miracle Network, the Studer Family Children’s Hospital benefits from the fundraising efforts of business partners across the region. 

One such business is Panda Express, which specifies that its funding goes to support their four pillars of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. The Autism Center focuses on all of these needs, offering equipment and programs that benefit patients like Ja’Terrion.

Destiny is passionate about informing others of her experience with the Center, the support it offers, and the difference it makes. She believes it is her calling to advocate in the future for those whose lives are impacted by autism.