As April wraps up, so does Autism Awareness Month, but that doesn’t end the need for care for people in Connecticut living with autism.
Springtide Child Development takes a holistic approach to treatment, and that includes looking out for comorbidities, other health conditions that someone with autism might be dealing with and need attention for.
“Here we go!” Sean, a five-year-old from Hartford, said during a session at Springtide.
The little boy with autism is on the go. Five days a week, he spends six hours playing, learning, and getting behavioral therapy at the Springtide Child Development Center in West Hartford. The site runs after-school and day programs for kids with autism.
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“This has really been like the one that’s catapulted him into where he is now,” Milka Ortiz, Sean’s mom, said.
Sean’s mom and grandma say his progress in dealing with autism has made leaps and bounds since he started coming to Springtide a year-and-a-half ago.
However, along with autism, the little boy also has to deal with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
“It’s not easy,” Leida Clarke, Sean’s grandmother and one of his caregivers, said. “It’s very challenging. You have to figure out what’s part of his autism, and what part of his ADHD.”
Sean is not alone in his situation. Clinicians at Springtide Child Development say they are always on the lookout for comorbidities.
“Really while I have a focus on the behavioral aspect when I work with children, usually with the autism diagnosis, I’m also looking for what other reasons could be for what is happening with this child,” Darian Shipman, Springtide Child Development Board Certified Behavior Analyst, said.
“If I can’t pinpoint a behavioral aspect, which is my specialty, I will then talk with the team about if they need any additional diagnosis, if it’s not already in their file,” she said. “If it is, I take that into consideration.”
It is common for kids with autism to face other physical or mental health conditions. According to the National Institutes of Health, some comorbidities include down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, congenital heart abnormalities, ADHD, migraines and headaches, sleep disorders, and gastrointestinal issues.
Shipman, who is Sean’s behavior analyst, says his ADHD diagnosis is at top of mind during treatments.
“We have really worked with his caregivers to figure out his medication,” Shipman said. “I’ve also observed maybe when it wears off to help staff and additional support with how those transitions may look different in our safety awareness.”
Sean’s family says initially, his diagnosis with ADHD was confusing.
“We thought it was all from autism, but it turns out that it’s both,” Clarke said.
It is why they are grateful for the holistic approach to care at Springtide.
Yet they say there is a huge need for more resources for kids with autism in Connecticut. Before they found Springtide, Sean was put on long waitlists at other facilities.
“Two plus, three years,” Ortiz said.
It is time they could not waste, when mere months of treatment have proved transformational.
“Five months ago, Shawn couldn’t be left alone with his sister. He was now he plays with her,” Clarke said.
“That’s one of my favorite things,” Ortiz added. “Watching him and her, together, interact.”
Its treatment that they see as setting Sean up for bright years ahead.
“I don’t mean to keep crying, but it’s due to the love of people that are taking care, and they’re teaching him,” Clarke said. “The whole point is for Shawn in the future, that he can have a safe future, he can have a better future and a better quality of life.”
This content was originally published here.