The journey of Hearts & Hands Therapy started 17 years ago with the birth of my son, Jason. Looking back there isn’t a doubt in my mind that Jason was born with Autism. I remember telling my pediatrician when he was 6 months old that there was something not quite right about him. He wanted to always be swaddled tight, to face outwards, avoided eye contact even when nursing, loved the snow on the tv and ceiling fans and it was like sometimes he heard me and sometimes not. By the time he was 14 months old he was diagnosed with a severe language delay (receptive of 6 months old and expressive of a 3 month old). As the years went on we got the additional diagnosis of Dysfunction of Sensory Integration, delays in fine & gross motor skills, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and finally at age 2 1/2 Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Epilepsy Something I have come to realize is that ASD doesn’t ever come alone. At this time, Jason was one in 15,000 kids diagnosed with ASD.
There wasn’t a lot of help out there then. I was lucky that we were in NJ and was referred to COSAC (now known as Autism NJ). I contacted them for information and resources and received in the mail a 3” thick packet of all kinds of programs to research. It was overwhelming to say the least. There wasn’t any clear cut way to treat this and it was trial and error. We did all kinds of therapy and diets etc. I quit my job to be a 24/7 stay home therapist/advocate for my child. I spent hour researching everything. Trying and discarding things that to me just didn’t make sense. I was very lucky to have help from family, friends, my church and my community. The one thing that was made clear in this maze of information was early, consistent, and intense therapy was needed in order to make a difference.
By the time Jason was 3 years old he entered our school district to receive assistance. Here was a whole new world I quickly realized that I needed to learn to navigate in order to see that my son received all he needed and was entitled too. I learned how to fight and win with the school district for placement (weird part was I fought to keep him IN district instead of sending him to a special needs school – usually parents are fighting the reverse). I learned all special education law so that I could fight the district on their terms and not be misguided, misinformed, and get my son what he needed.
After many years of therapy and work from everyone who met him Jason was doing great. He will always have ASD but now instead of it being a disability he looks at it as just a small part of who he is and how he needs to work. He didn’t need me fighting for him anymore because he could advocate for himself. Great! I thought, now what do I do with all this knowledge? Why help other moms who are in the same boat I was in. I became an advocate and trained other moms to navigate all the information they received. I shared my story and what I learned. This lead to working as an aide in special education classes, to getting my substitute teaching certificate, to becoming an aide who specialized in strong behavioral children to finishing my college degree and becoming an Applied Behavior Analysis home Therapist. I then went and learned the insurance and administrative side of the business and opening up Hearts & Hands Therapy.
Jason is graduating High School this year and surprised me when he said he was going away for college! I have always supported his decisions and was excited he wanted to do this but I had many concerns. Even though Jason has done well, he needed supports still for educational and social skills. So once again we researched all college options and finding out that many on the East Coast had ASD programs because they realize that there are going to be many more ASD kids attending college soon. He has now been accepted and will be attending college with ASD support this fall.
Hearts & Hands was founded out of all that I have learned over these past 17 years. We are unique in that our focus comes from a mother’s struggle and triumphs over ASD and we truly understand from firsthand experience what parents are going through; not only their child’s behaviors but also all the issues they face in the home, community and school system. We help the behaviors with scientific backed ABA Therapy but are also there to support the family in ALL that they need. We hope that you will decide to trust us with your child’s behavioral therapy and know we will do all we can for them as if they were our own child.