One day Juanda Morror noticed her 18-month-old toddler wasn’t paying attention to her when she talked to him. He avoided interactions with other children and didn’t speak. She thought he might not be able to hear.
She sought the advice of several specialists and her son Kejuan was diagnosed with severe autism. Children with autism have difficulty communicating and socializing. Some exhibit repetitive behavior and struggle with movement coordination.
“When I heard the autism diagnosis, my journey to help my child began,” says Juanda.
The journey led Juanda to Aspire Kids in Hillside. For the past year, she and Kejuan have come to Aspire twice a week for speech and occupational therapy.
“His progress makes me so happy,” says Juanda. “The therapists at Aspire helped Kejuan come out of his shell.” Kejuan now plays with his 8-year-old sister, Kayla, interacts with kids his age and socializes with people. Even with the great strides Kejuan has made over the past year, Juanda’s journey to help her son is far from over.
Juanda’s family is just one of the families who will benefit even more from The Autism Support Program: Families, Friends and Beyond, an Aspire program for children with autism and related disorders. Thanks to a $267,000 grant from an anonymous foundation, Aspire expanded their services using a new, multifaceted team-based approach.
“Aspire is leading the way in services helping children with developmental disabilities like autism,” said Kathy Ruffulo, former Vice President of Aspire Kids. “As a result of this grant, we will offer a more comprehensive program and respond to the growing number of children being diagnosed with autism.”
Ruffulo said parents of children on the autism spectrum had been asking for more resources, support and education. “Expanding services in that direction fits with our philosophy at Aspire Kids. Our programs are based on a parent teaching model. We train parents to take the skills taught to their children at Aspire and apply them at home and in other settings.”
Juanda is looking forward to using the library, attending the support group meetings and hearing the speakers. She is most excited about the social skills development groups for Kejuan.
“Kejuan is a blessing from God and a treasured addition to our family,” says Juanda. “The people at Aspire are so dedicated to helping my son. Now many more families like ours will get the support they need.”