Albert's Journey

Albert's Journey Towards Living His Best Life
September 25, 2023
Parenthood comes with both joys and frustrations. Holding your newborn and watching as they take leaps in development over the months and years bring love and happiness. The crayon artwork on the walls, however, can bring its own set of obstacles. That’s how life started out for the Hickman family.

When Albert Hickman was born, parents Rich and Emily were overjoyed. They watched their son hit milestones month after month and grow into an active two-year-old boy. Yet as Albert continued growing, they began noticing his troubles self-regulating. Albert struggled with following directions and sitting still, but above all, he struggled with communication. A two-year-old not being able to communicate his wants and needs? You can imagine how that led to inevitable outbursts of frustration. Seeking advice from their pediatrician and other resources, Albert was diagnosed with autism at 26 months old.

A diagnosis would certainly come as a relief, yet as Rich and Emily began early intervention services for Albert, and soon after, their second son, Ollie, was born. Rich, a new stay-at-home dad, became primary coordinator of Albert’s appointments – occupational and speech therapy several times weekly – as well as caring for their newborn. Even with consistent reinforcement of therapies at home, Albert’s progress was slow. The Hickmans felt overwhelmed.

Then, they discovered The Children’s Institute, and life changed drastically.

“Outpatient therapies at The Children’s Institute made such a difference in the life of our family,” explains Rich. Albert began receiving both occupational and speech therapies at The Children’s Institute in 2021. At first, he was unable to sit or hold a pencil for more than a few seconds at a time. Today, after 2 years of continued therapies at The Children’s Institute, he is growing into his full potential. He can sit and focus on schoolwork for more than ten minutes at a time, multiple times a day. He’s mastered the alphabet and can write his first name. Albert started attending The Day School this school year, and is becoming an attentive and independent learner because of the school-based therapies The Day School offers, with time for racing around the school gym and interacting with elements of the sensory room between classes.

Nathan Sharbaugh, regional director of occupational therapy services and Albert’s dedicated occupational therapist, describes the techniques that help Albert reach his goals: “We prioritize child-centered care. In building a relationship with the Hickmans, we determined what makes Albert unique, what motivates him to learn and grow, and goals Rich and Emily have for Albert and their family.”

“Albert is a smart, loving, and creative kid with a great sense of humor,” Nathan continues. “He has autism and manages his thoughts, emotions, and behaviors by sensory seeking, often through physical activity. Together with Albert and his parents, we identify Albert’s sensory needs and help him self-regulate by giving him space to move in his environment. This enables Albert to focus on other, quieter tasks.”

These days, you can find Albert exploring outside and gaining independence. He rides a bike, is learning to swim, and is fascinated by insects – even the ant farm he keeps inside! He loves books, particularly Curious George, his dog, Gus, and he is an active part of his family, with a protective-older-brother relationship with his brother, Ollie.

“Emily and I see so much growth in Albert,” says Rich. “We are looking forward to this year and into the future as Albert continues to build positive relationships and live his best life."

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