JumpStart Helps a Family at the Beginning of their Autism Journey

Connor, age 4, and his family learned new, life-changing skills during their time with SARRC

Samantha from Phoenix and her son Connor, age 4, are relatively new to their autism diagnosis.

Samantha says that their journey began in late 2015 when Connor and herself were visiting her sister in Tucson and watching him interact with other kids. When the visit was over, she and her sister talked about their concerns about his behavior and she began to watch Connor more closely, eventually seeking medical advice.

“On November 1, 2016 Connor was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder [ASD] with accompanying language delays requiring substantial support,” Samantha recalls. “He also was diagnosed with global development delays. It has been such a roller coaster ride and I know there is so much more to come.”

After the diagnosis, Samantha took Connor to a speech therapist for an assessment.

“The speech therapist said she never worked with a child with autism before and suggested that we go to a place called Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center and that we should be able to get some answers there.”

Once at SARRC, Samantha and Connor attended the JumpStart program. JumpStart is a six-week program that provides the latest information, support and training for parents of children up to age 6 who have recently been diagnosed with or are at risk for ASD. The program includes both expert-led discussions for caregivers and a classroom component for kids where the children with ASD receive ABA-based intervention. During the program, parents like Samantha receive hands-on, individualized training in Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT).

“At JumpStart, both Connor and I were able to learn PRT and from there on I would implement it at home and anywhere an opportunity would present itself,” Samantha says. “Connor does not get along with anyone he doesn’t know or interact with on a daily basis. When they started doing one-on-one with kids during the program I saw Connor warm up to people who were part of the program. Connor went from using only one type of vocalization to multiple sounds of vocalization and still continues to grow.”

Although Connor is not yet able to communicate verbally, Samantha describes him as a “sweet and loving little boy.”

“He loves to give out hugs to his sister and loves the two small dogs that we have,” she describes. “He loves to stack his blocks and other toys. Basically anything that he realizes he can stack he will. He loves to play ball with everyone in the family.”

Samantha adds that not only has PRT benefited her with parenting Connor, but also his sister.

“Learning PRT also helped me with my daughter, Savannah, who has epilepsy and suffers from global developmental delay as well,” she says. 

She says that, while Connor’s autism manifests itself as non-verbal, it doesn’t stop him from expressing his own personality and needs.

To learn more about SARRC’s JumpStart and JumpStart Online programs, visit autismcenter.org/jumpstart, call 480.603.3283 or email pdowling@autismcenter.org