Jessica knew her son, Jojo had autistic tendencies just after his first birthday. He lost eye-contact, his speech did not progress and he would not eat. He began repetitive behaviors and did not meet developmental milestones like his older siblings. He acted as if other people around him did not exist. “I tell family and friends Jojo sees the world around him through goggles. He lives in his own world and just isn’t aware of those around him. He just sees what’s in front of him,” said his mom. “That analogy helps those around him understand why he doesn’t interact or sits by himself and stares into space.”
The family got help from their Primary Care Manager and Jojo started speech therapy at 18 months-old. At 27 months he was diagnosed with autism. The family got connected to Rainbows through their doctor during the pandemic and immediately benefitted from tele-therapy. “Sessions with our Rainbows’ therapist, Mindy, are better than any other tele-health visit I have ever had,” said Jessica.
Jessica appreciates all Mindy, an early childhood special education teacher, does to help Jojo, but she also is grateful for the encouragement and reinforcement Mindy provides to her on what she has implemented and learned about helping Jojo.
“I’ve done so much research and trying different things with Jojo,” said Jessica, “it’s good to have someone who can tell you it was the right thing or to help you do it better. Mindy has done all that and more.” Mindy provides ideas and resources to help Jojo learn and progress. She helped create visual communication tools that helped lessen frustration in understanding what Jojo wanted. She even sends weekly tips so the family can try new things between visits.
Getting Jojo to eat food has been a big challenge, to help with this, Mindy reached out to Rainbows’ Speech/Language Pathologist Taylor Peck for additional insight. Taylor made videos that show other children eating. This strategy and others helped get Jojo to try eating new foods. Because he doesn’t eat regular meals Jojo gets his main nutrition through a nutritional supplement he drinks thought a sippy cup, but is encouraged to eat orally. “Sometimes he’ll eat pizza or chicken nuggets and sometimes he won’t eat at all,” said Jessica.
Every session starts with Mindy asking how they are doing and specific questions about Jojo’s progress. Jessica says, “she remembers so many things about our family. That makes such a difference to me. When we met jointly with a speech/language pathologist they were very accommodating with our family’s schedule.” The session ends talking about what we will work on next. Knowing that we’re always progressing and helping Jojo grow makes the visits so helpful.”
“It takes a team to win,” said Mindy. “Jessica is an amazing mom who has worked very hard to get her son the help he needs. The benefit of our inter-disciplinary team to bring Taylor in to help with eating has worked well for Jojo.”
Recently Jojo started ABA therapy. A therapist works with him at home in the mornings and he goes to day care in the afternoons. His family has seen progress with his speech and communication. One example is when Jojo looked at his father and said “I love you, Daddy.” “It was a great day,” said Jessica. “It took prompting, but he was able to make eye contact and say the words to my husband. That was something we have looked forward to for a long time.”
Just a few weeks away from his third birthday, Jojo’s mother says he can to count to 200, is able to read 150 words, knows complex shapes and can spell large words. He will transition into services through Wichita Public Schools when he turns three.
“We are grateful for the time we have had with Rainbows,” said Jessica. “Rainbows is a wonderful resource for families like ours. Our son has grown and so have I.”