Dr. Lana Warren: Today, in recognition of Autism Awareness Month, I am joined by Dr. Rebecca Landa the Director of Kennedy Krieger’s Center for Autism.
Dr. Rebecca Landa: I first met Alan 11 years ago when he was about 18 months old. He was so cute with his blonde hair and crystal blue eyes. The family came to our autism center because he was not talking but even more concerning, he was not responding to other people. His parents were scared and very worried. I diagnosed Alan with autism that day. His parents, of course had many questions like “Would he talk? Would he have friends? Would he graduate from school?” The big immediate question for the family was “What can we do to help Alan?”
Coincidentally, we had recently been awarded funding from the National Institute of Health to do a research study looking at the effectiveness of a new intervention for toddlers with autism that I had developed and that’s the corner stone of early intervention at our program today, 12 years later. The family immediately enrolled him in the study. Soon, Alan began to relate to others and initiate communication, play with toys and become more flexible in his daily life experiences.
After the study, Alan continued to receive services at Kennedy Krieger and to show steady progress. Fast forward to last June when he was graduating from elementary school, at graduation he had won the honor of being the student with the best sense of humor. He had to give a speech which took a lot of courage and composure because unlike other children, for whom speech comes so easily, speech for him is hard. But he talked slowly saying each word deliberately and clearly as he told his peers about his goal of becoming a fire fighter and about 3 goals for middle school. One, make new friends, Two, attend a middle school sleepover and three, learn to play new games. His parents were beaming with pride. I have no worries for Alan. He’s paving his own way through life and anyone who gets to be that new friend or be at that sleepover or play that game with him won’t know it, but they’re with Superman.
Dr. Lana Warren: Inspiring moments is produced for WYPR by Kennedy Krieger Institute. I am Dr. Lana Warren.