Sawyer was born in Japan in 2015 and although his parents noticed that he developed a little slower than his peers, they weren’t too worried. They thought he might be a bit shy and they told themselves that all children are different.
But by the time he was almost two, his parents acknowledged that Sawyer had skipped past some key developmental markers. So, they sought an expert’s opinion and Sawyer was diagnosed with a developmental delay.
Not long after this, Sawyer began to change.
We didn’t really have anything other than speech delay and then a few things happened – slightly repetitive activities, illogical tantrums and then he went off his food and wouldn’t eat as much (certainly the variety decreased) and he started waking up at night a little bit more.
Whilst his doctor said it was too early to formally diagnose Sawyer, Luke and Sumika had already spent months researching autism and they knew their son. They were convinced.
There is no road map for autism as a parent. You find so much conflicting information … I think the diagnosing doctor should almost hit the parents like a Mack Truck and say this is the situation, the next two to three years of your life (are) the most important…you have to do everything because (early intervention) works.
Based on their research, Sawyer’s parents decided that ABA (Applied Behavioural Analysis) was the gold standard for early intervention and they combed the globe looking at all the options.
I didn’t really have goals in mind. All I wanted was for Sawyer to be happy. And I think that’s just about reaching potential and the potential of every child is going to be very different. I think ABA is that gateway to open potential.
Sensing that there was no time to lose, Sawyer’s family quickly made the huge decision to relocate to Luke’s hometown of Sydney and began ABA therapy almost immediately.
Within days of his first assessment at the Lizard Centre, Sawyer had begun his personalised program. This was the beginning of an incredibly steep learning curve for Sawyer’s family.
I was ignorant about the true intensity and effort that is required on behalf of the whole family to implement ABA.
As well as the staff at the Lizard Centre, Sawyer’s family also engaged three additional therapists to work with the family in their home.
These therapists were all exceptionally positive people and rather than just talk about Sawyer’s deficits, the team were very keen to celebrate his positive attributes.
Over an intensive 11-month period, Sawyer’s therapists built a very strong relationship with him and his family. Among other skills, they helped him with his speech, his eating habits and encouraged him to sing nursery rhymes.
As a parent I was so unaware of the natural learning and natural importance of these social songs. It’s not just a song. It’s repeating something. It’s eye contact, it’s learning the actions… there are so many aspects of childhood development that take place within these social songs.
Initially, Sawyer really hated these songs. Every time his therapists started singing, he didn’t want to participate at all. But after a few weeks, he started engaging a bit more and in the end, he completely embraced this part of his program.
All of a sudden, he’s requesting certain songs like ‘Rock-A-Bye Your Bear’ and ‘Baby Shark’… he’s doing all the actions and laughing and engaging with the therapist.
It might not seem like such a big deal, but to Sawyer’s family, being able to incorporate these learned skills in their everyday life has changed their lives.
That’s the beauty of a well-informed attuned program supervisor. They just guide you. It is so crucial.
ABA has helped Sawyer with some key foundations on which he can build and develop the skills and behaviours that will help him for the rest of his life.
The future is his. It’s exactly what he wants. We will do everything we can to help him reach his potential and provide the foundation and the resources. Our job as parents is to try and put a road map in place and try and help where we can.
For more information about the Lizard Centre and how we can help, please call us on 1300 752 617.