Your UW support helps children with autism & other needs find their fullest potential

Your Support Impacts LivesToday’s story comes courtesy of Harwood Center Inc., a United Way partner agency enabling children from birth to 3 years old with special developmental needs to reach their full potential. As with all nonprofit client stories, we have changed names and images for privacy reasons.

Jessie was 28 months old when he came to one of our United Way partner agencies. He was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and could not speak.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is characterized by widespread abnormalities of social interactions and communication, as well as severely restricted interests and highly repetitive behaviors. Jessie was unable to follow directions, sit for any length of time, had frequent tantrums, did not interact with peers or students and had difficulty calming down whenever he became upset.

Helping children

Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder can learn skills at early ages that will improve the quality of their future lives

Jessie began intervention services at the center and his days became more structured. Counselors started a transition process with speech therapy, intense adult support, modeling of appropriate behavior, play therapy, discrete trial therapy, learning new skills and an individualized learning program catered to Jessie’s unique learning style.

“Jessie’s personality began to emerge, as a happy little boy,” said a counselor at the center. “His language began to grow and he has slowly started to interact with the other children.”

Jessie began his growing process by exchanging pictures for his wants and needs. Then he progressed further to combining language with the pictures and then learning language alone. Jessie has started to show interest in his peers and their actions.

The first time Jessie initiated an invitation to play was when the pet therapy dog, Bruno, was visiting.

“Bruno…down slide?” Jessie would say.

Jessie’s involvement with our partner agency lasted for 8 months and thanks to your generous gifts to our fundraising campaign, he has learned lessons that he will carry and expand upon for the rest of his life. Jessie is growing by leaps and bounds. His language, social, emotional and self-help skills have progressed to a level that allowed him to function well in many settings with little support. His parents say that Jessie is an enthusiastic learner, participating freely in all that is offered to him and making friends.

Your gifts to United Way makes it possible for nonprofit agencies to help children with a variety of needs across the Mid-South. We thank you for your support!

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