The Children's Institute Blog

Celebrating National OT Month: Andrew's Story

Posted: Apr 20, 2017 by The Children's Institute

When Andrew McElhaney was a baby, his mother, Allison, could tell he was little different.

“He was walking at nine months old but everything else was delayed,” she told me. “At two, he wasn’t speaking a lot, not calling me Mommy. Those red flags got me thinking, ‘We’ve got to get him checked out.’”

When Andrew was diagnosed with mild to moderate autism at age three, Allison knew that the first few years would be the most important, as well as the most formative.

“My biggest fear when they told me he had autism is that he wouldn’t be able to function,” she said. “I took that and ran with it to make sure he had everything he needed. We started a lot of speech therapy and occupational therapy. Now, here he is, and I’m just really grateful to everyone who’s pointed us in the right direction.”

“He’s talking now, saying, ‘Mommy, can I have a drink?’” she added. “It’s wonderful!”

Christy Shaffer – his occupational therapist at The Children’s Institute in our Norwin Hills satellite for the past year – said Andrew’s progress is largely due to gains that he’s made while doing messy play, practicing turn-taking, coloring, naming objects and answering questions, and taking part in fine-motor activities such as working with scissors. That progress is noticeable immediately to anyone who’s been following him since his initial diagnosis, she added.

“He no longer puts things in his mouth that are inappropriate or unsafe – that’s a big deal,” Christy said. “He can play with friends. He can pay attention and play a game, such as Kerplunk! His overall awareness of himself is much improved. And he can just sit, play with a peer, and be happy.”

Before therapy started, Andrew had issues getting messy at home. Now, he willingly paints with shaving cream on his feet – and enjoys it, Allison and Christy said. He’s also more rambunctious and active; he even signed up for T-ball this spring.

“I’m really hoping he takes to it,” said his mom. “He’s so full of life. He’s a bumper and a crasher.”

Christy said Andrew is now doing things that are also age-appropriate, such as coloring, crafts, and scissor skills.

“Andrew’s been through various types of OT treatment and he’s done well with all of them,” Christy said. “Things are just meshing and the autism does not define him. He’s like a typical kid who wants to learn, that’s all. We taught Mom how to ‘read’ his behaviors to better engaged him with a task.. Mom does a great job with that.”

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