Joel Rides A Roller Coaster

Yolo and Donald Adams of Berkeley wondered if their 2-year-old son Joel was just going through the “terrible twos.” He was hyperactive and unable to sit in a circle at preschool. He was afraid of slides at the playground and he didn’t enjoy birthday parties. Yolo says he would have a “meltdown” if the noises around him became too high pitched.

“We were at the point where we were thinking we had to discipline him more, but when he was about 3 ½ and things still weren’t improving, I asked his preschool teacher,  ‘Am I going crazy or is this normal or what?’” says Yolo. “The teacher suggested he might have some developmental delays, but I didn’t know where to turn.”

Yolo was paging through a magazine one night when she saw an ad for Aspire Children’s Services, which was just down the road from the Adams in neighboring Hillside.  She made an appointment and Joel was evaluated. The team of therapists confirmed that Joel did have delayed sensory issues and started working with him right away.

That was about a year ago. Joel, now 4 ½, has been receiving occupational therapy once a week at Aspire and is in a special education preschool. Joel has been responding well to therapy. “Aspire helped us turn our child around,” says Yolo. Joel’s younger sister Daniella, 2, has also been evaluated at Aspire and is receiving speech therapy. “I think it’s a result of being in a bilingual household and because of her brother’s delay, but we want to make sure we focus on her and not let her fall behind,” says Yolo.

“There’s such a sense of caring and importance. It’s been emotional and we’ve had our ups and downs, but my husband and I have been educated and understand how to ask questions and get answers now.  Joel has improved so much in just the last year. It’s a huge difference.”

Yolo says her family now knows how to think outside the box. “We don’t give up on his abilities and we’re not so focused on problems as we are looking for solutions,” she says.

Part of Joel’s therapy has been focused on learning how to desensitize his reactions to different blaring sounds, like trains or even emotional triggers like candles on a birthday cake. “Now he’s able to talk to us and express his feelings and not scream when he’s uncomfortable,” she says. Joel’s been able to go to birthday parties and have fun. He’s also enrolled in a Sunday school class and has been able to enjoy that too.

The culmination of everyone’s efforts was felt this summer when the family made a trip to Kiddieland, a nearby amusement park. Joel was able to go on the roller coaster. “He cried because he wanted to go again and again,” says his mom, laughing and adding: “We’re ready for Disneyland now.”

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