Testimonial: Above all, he is attending kindergarten and has been integrated with normal children.

 

by Noreen Lewis
August 1998

Mrs. Noreen Lewis speaks about her son, Jonathan:

Everything about Jonathan's development was normal for the first 21 months of his life, He smiled, sat-up, rolled-over, played with his baby toys, crawled, walked, and displayed affection as a normal child would. However, after 21 months of age he did not develop any language and lost the few words he had. Also, my husband and myself began to notice changes in his behavior. For instance, he no longer responded to his name and would confine himself to the corner. He also began to engage in "self-stimulating" behaviors (i.e., banging toys, spinning, toys, and flapping his arms).

When Jonathan was 2-years-old, my husband and myself consulted our pediatrician, and she referred us to a neurologist. The neurologist indicated that Jonathan had a pervasive developmental delay with associated autistic features, It was very difficult for us to accept the diagnosis. We felt devastated, seared, alone, and confused. Anxious to find some answers, I began to research autism. I immediately contacted the Autistic Society of Quebec and asked them for information. However, after reading the information I still had many unanswered questions. Hence, I pursued help at the Montreal Children's Hospital (MCH), where Jonathan underwent many tests (i.e., Zelazo Information Processing Procedure™).

At the age of 2 years, 6 months Jonathan began seeing an occupational therapist every two weeks for approximately three months. Dr. Dale Stack at the MCH was then following Jonathan every three weeks. However, I felt the help Jonathan was receiving was not intense enough. Therefore, I continued researching autism and come across a documentary, which described the Lovaas program - a home-based behavioral intervention. I recruited a group therapists who worked with Jonathan for three-hour sessions twice a day. The initial drills were very basic and included nonverbal imitation, gross and fine motor play, matching, and verbal imitation (sounds only). As parents, we were beginning to feel better about the situation. His vocabulary consisted of approximately 100 words. For example, he was able to say hello and goodbye, label objects on demand and answer questions.

Throughout this time, Dr. Zelazo was still following Jonathan at the MCH. Dr. Zelazo suggested ways in which we could improve his vocabulary so that he would be able to create two and three word sentences (i.e., baby drink milk & cut apple with knife). We were content with the progress Jonathan was making. However, we also felt that Jonathan needed to improve his spontaneous language skills. We were convinced that he would benefit from Dr. Zelazo's Toddler Treatment Group. After months of trying to got my son enrolled, he was finally accepted and Jonathan began in October 1997.

The group helped Jonathan in various ways. To begin with, the therapists immediately noticed his weaker points and worked harder to improve on these areas. I also had the opportunity to attend weekly group meetings with Dr. Zelazo and the other parents, where I received useful feedback. Although these meetings were sometimes difficult to handle, the support from the other parents reminded me that I was not alone and motivated me to work harder with Jonathan. I also learned how to improve my sessions at home because I was corrected every step of the way during the meetings. As a result of my sessions at home and the Toddler Treatment Group, Jonathan's spontaneous language improved and his behavior became more compliant. In addition, Jonathan was placed in a natural setting, which improved his interaction with the other children in the group. I truly believed that this routine would later help him to adapt in school.

Jonathan is now 5 years old and has completed a year in the Toddler Treatment Group. He has increased his vocabulary and is now capable of learning certain things on his own. He is also becoming more aware of his environment and is able to play and interact with his sister, which are things he has never done before. Above all, he is attending kindergarten and has been integrated with normal children.

I thank Dr. Zelazo and the Toddler Treatment Group for giving Jonathan the opportunity to benefit from this program. As parents of an autistic child, my husband and I truly believe that Dr. Zelazo's program will be helpful to many other children and parents.

Noreen Lewis