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A Dramatic Diagnosis


What is Autism?

Autism is a neurologically-based developmental disability that appears within a child’s first three years of life.  The primary symptoms of Autism include extreme deviation from normal child development including disturbances in communication, failure to develop normal social skills and abnormal responses to sensory stimulation and to objects and events.   

Autism is a spectrum disorder that results in individuals presenting with a wide range of abilities and disabilities.  While children with Autism fall along a continuum of severity, most of the children placed in Ascent’s program are among the most severely impaired.  They exhibit limited or no eye contact and appear aloof, disinterested in other children and are profoundly withdrawn.  They are unable to communicate or relate with others or to process vital information from the world around them.   Many do not speak or are echolalic (repeating words/phrases spoken by others).   Some have expressive language, but have problems with intonation, pacing, volume and/or articulation so that what they say may not be understandable to others.   They may be unable to communicate even their most basic needs.  Expressions of hunger, pain, fear or affection may be out of reach.  While many have normal vision or hearing, they do not understand what they see or comprehend what they hear, rendering them isolated and alone, unable to learn, or improve their condition without highly specialized instruction.  

Children with Autism may exhibit ritualistic mannerisms and severe behavior problems (e.g., self-injury, property destruction and aggression).  These challenging behaviors may significantly disrupt the acquisition of new skills. Taken together, the inability to self-direct and the propensity to engage in disruptive behavior necessitates constant supervision from their parents while at home.

One Child's Progression

by Irene Takoushian

My son, Steven, is a 7 year old boy with autism. He attends a regular education class every morning for two hours a day. At this point, I am still holding my breath in anticipation of how Steven will fare from day to day. Will this be a success story? Will he maintain and grow in this “normal” environment? Transitioning a child with autism from an intensive applied behavior analysis education program to a typical school setting is a new challenge and a new concept of how we will raise the bar for Steven on a new and unknown frontier in his life.

When I began teaching my little boy at 15 months old in my home, I thought that I had ample time to fill in his deficits in striving towards normalcy. Steven’s life has taught me that autism and time are overwhelmingly oppositional forces. I feel as though I have moved a mountain from the time he was diagnosed until now. I realize now with great clarity that his partial transition to a regular education classroom is for me and his teachers, both a victory and a new mountain to move. I have a great deal of hope, for he has come so far, yet every day I fear that this may be as far as he will ever go. I am haunted, driven and hopeful, all three states of emotion living within me at the same time, twisting my life into a continuous state of anxiety - for Steven, at this time, will not grow without extraordinary outside intervention.

Steven is a student at the Ascent School for Individuals with Autism. His teachers at Ascent attend and observe his transition program with him, diligently planning for success. They identify problem areas and develop the direction for his progress. With the right focus and professional expertise, Steven’s climb will become self-propelled, and perhaps someday I will no longer need to move the mountain for him. This is the reason that I still have hope: Ascent gives it to me.

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Armando Nunez, Ascent Student, Artist.JP

Our Treasured Son

by Aroza Sanjana

A birth much like every other baby, a first step much like other toddlers, but then we noticed some things that made our son special… he didn’t call out Mama or Dada, but his smile lit up the room. His hugs felt like sunshine and his brief glances were sweet as sugar. He was physically so beautiful; spiritually so attractive, but he needed our help. It takes a small army of very special people to help us raise our son to become the best that he can be.

He has come so far thanks to so many. First to God, for giving us this treasure and for guiding our hand. To our parents for devoting their retirement years to caring for him with us . To his very special teacher, Eric, who showed us there was no limit to what our son could achieve. But our beacon of hope was found in the Ascent School.

Now we dream of our son becoming an artist or a computer programmer or a partner in a business with his elder brother. We can imagine his future now without a tear coming to our eyes, but instead a smile to our faces. Thank you, Ascent, for the hope!

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