When Ellen* contacted JF&CS Children’s Behavioral Health Services for her 7-year-old son, Davi*, she never imagined that he would come so far – and that in turn, she would be able to return to work, rent an apartment, and give them a better life.

A single mother, Ellen moved to the U.S. from Brazil 11 years ago. When her boyfriend was deported before Davi was even born, Ellen faced a dizzying number of challenges as a single parent. Then, when Davi was 3 years old, he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Davi was aggressive and uncommunicative and Ellen had to quit her job to take care of him because his behavior would not allow for a babysitter or day care.

Realizing she needed help, Ellen was ultimately referred to JF&CS. Davi started working with Angie Ware, a clinician for JF&CS In-Home Behavioral Services (IHBS). Angie encouraged “functional communication” through the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), which uses illustrated squares to help a child communicate his emotions, wants, and needs. Angie also created a daily picture activity schedule for him so that he would know what his day would look like in order to reduce his anxiety. She encouraged Ellen to get a weighted blanket for Davi because studies have shown that weighted blankets can help reduce agitation in children on the autism spectrum. Finally, Angie met with school administrators to help them develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for Davi that would meet his special needs.

In January, Davi “graduated” from IHBS. With an effective IEP in place at school, he no longer needs IHBS assistance. He has even started reading and is beginning to thrive at home and in school.

Since Davi is now able to take the school bus and can go to a babysitter after school, Ellen has been able to go back to work and doesn’t have to worry about picking him up during her work day.

“Life without JF&CS would be difficult because I would be suffering,” says Ellen. “I would still be struggling with my son’s behaviors. But now he can attend his friends’ birthday parties, he can follow directions and I’m no longer afraid he’ll hurt himself. He can even go to Chuck E. Cheese and have fun on the weekends!”

Angie credits Ellen for Davi’s remarkable progress. “What made this truly outstanding was the hard work and dedication of this single mom, teaming with JF&CS to overcome her son’s difficult behaviors at home and in the community. After helping her understand the function of Davi’s behaviors and adapting communication, we were able to strengthen the loving relationship between the two, which was the most rewarding part of all.”

*Names changed to protect privacy.

Originally posted on the JF&CS blog.

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