The Children's Institute Blog

Having Heart For A Child With Autism

Posted: Aug 04, 2017 by The Children's Institute

Cung Sang recently had a heart transplant following an intense viral attack on that organ. But anybody who’s ever heard him talk about his son, Stephen, a six-year-old who has autism, will say there’s nothing wrong with his heart.

“My son? I never thought he’d put his own shoes on,” said Cung, who also is the father of an eight-year-old daughter. “When he did that, I almost cried. When he started talking … I was so happy.”

Stephen was diagnosed with autism right before he turned three.

“He didn’t speak, he didn’t talk,” his father said. “[It’s like] he doesn’t want to talk to anybody.”

Therapy at The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh is starting to change that. In addition to occupational therapy, Stephen is learning basic communication skills like how to request preferred objects, speech-language pathologist Kelly Coburn said.

His father, and the support he provides Stephen in therapy sessions and at home, is a big part of his progress, Kelly said.

“It’s clear to see how committed his father is to his well-being and his progress. He looks for ways to get the whole family onboard,” she said.

One way Cung said he provides support to Stephen is by sticking to his guns.

“If I can see he can do this stuff, I never help anymore, even if it takes 15 minutes,” he said. “I give him so much time. I prep him. I lead the way.”

And there is progress. Cung said his son recently started writing words and the boy was so excited, he wrote them all over the family’s walls.

“B-I-G – that’s the word he learned and he writes it everywhere,” Cung laughed.

Stephen, who enjoys playing on the iPad and iPhone, and jumping on his bed at home, “is so happy when he’s in therapy,” Cung said.

And Cung is happy about his therapy, too.

“OT, speech – they’ve done so great,” he said. “At first, I had no idea how I was going to help my son, how I’m going to get him to talk. The Children’s Institute, they showed us how to communicate.”

“He’s started to request things,” Cung added. “At OT, he’s learning to take his shirt off, put his shirt on. All these little things add up. Right now, we are in good hands.”

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