Tyler, son of Kaplan residents Dirk and Tessie, began to show signs of socialization issues when he was in Pre-K. If a situation didn’t play out exactly as he expected it to, Tyler would exhibit outbursts.
At the pediatrician’s recommendation, the Gary’s placed Tyler in occupational therapy to work on social skills as well as gross and fine motor skills.
Although OT helped alleviate some of Tyler’s symptoms, further disruption was still monitored in the classroom and prompted the Gary’s to take their son to a psychologist. It was then that an official diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome and Sensory Integration Disorder was rendered.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Aspergers syndrome, a mild form of autism, is a developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others.
For Tyler personally, this was the reason he was socially awkward around children his age.
Sensory Integration Disorder is a neurological disorder which results from the brain’s inability to integrate certain information.
In Tyler case, this explained why he had a problem tuning out background noises. Whether it was a lawn mower outside or the tapping sounds of chalk on the board from the classroom next door, every little sound threw Tyler’s concentration and focus off making it nearly impossible for the six-year-old to concentrate at school or venture out into crowded places.
In order to compensate for Tyler’s developmental disorders, his parents feel a consistent routine and gradual integration or exposure to high pressure situations are important keys to success.
Every morning, Tessie wakes Tyler up at the same time, thus begins the before school morning routine. He is allowed a certain amount of time to play, and is given a five minute warning before transitioning into the next activity.
While he eats his breakfast, Tyler dons a pair of headphones through which he listens to special music that slowing integrates background noises into the tunes. This gradually allows the six-year-old to become accustomed to hearing noises throughout the day. If any portion of his routine is disturbed, Tyler can be very irritable throughout the remainder of the day.
Tyler’s swimming lessons give him another avenue of working on many of the challenges OT is assisting him with, as well as a great social environment. Tyler is given a different challenge in the water to move each arm and leg independently of each other. In the water he responds differently to movement.
“Tyler loves the water today,” his mom said, “but it wasn’t always that way. I knew that for safety reasons he needed lessons and they also benefited him socially and physically. He is re-evaluated every eight or so months by his occupational therapists, and comparisons are made to the previous findings. Each time he meets a few more goals that were set forth in the initial evaluation.
“We have seen an improvement in his writing/coloring, cutting with scissors, following two or greater step directions, and tactile processing. He never wanted his hands to be dirty and now it is not such a bother. His balance has improved and social issues are getting better. The therapeutic listening has greatly improved his emotional response to his environment.”
The Garys cannot stress enough the importance of early intervention, a good relationship with a child’s pediatrician and school, and education on the subject matter.
“We’re learning as we go. Aspergers is a developmental disorder, not a mental or behavior disorder,” Tessie reiterates, “People aren’t educated on it enough. People used to think of autism as the kids in the corner rocking and displaying nonverbal skills, but it’s so much more now.”
The Garys are a part of Acadiana Autism Society of Louisiana. The Vermilion chapter meets on the second Monday of every month at the Kaplan Library at 6:30pm. Meetings are open to the public and all families dealing with any varying degree of Autism are welcome to attend.