live was born at Swedish a month before her due date, on April 28, 2013. Other than her slightly low birth weight – around 5 pounds – and needing a few days of light therapy, there was nothing that concerned doctors or her first-time parents, Anna and Jeremy.
It wasn’t until Olive was just over a year old that Anna and Jeremy became concerned about a possible delay. Her physical development, gross motor skills and eating abilities were all typical, but she wasn’t forming words and would not look people in the eyes when spoken to. Jeremy’s mother, who has a wealth of experience with children, was the first to suggest that Olive might have some sort of developmental delay and recommended they speak to their pediatrician.
At Olive’s two year appointment in April 2015, the family was referred to a specialist at Children’s. It took two months to get that appointment, but by July the family started receiving home therapy visits from Boyer. In October, they joined Amy Barnes’ preschool classroom. A few months later, the family received a formal diagnosis of Autism from Boyer’s on-staff developmental pediatrician, Emily Meyers, MD. “It took us quite a while to connect with Boyer and get diagnosed, but since we arrived it’s been so helpful,” shares Anna. “We’ve learned so many techniques that we can use and practice at home.”
Olive made significant progress in just a few short months. Judy Dittmer, her speech-language pathologist, began working on making eye contact, and Olive soon progressed to pointing at flash cards. She began to pick up words by December, and the family developed photo charts of foods and activities so Olive could point to and choose what she wanted.
“Judy is awesome,” shares Anna. “She’s so dynamic, and she really ‘gets’ Olive. They feed off each other’s energy; it’s so great to watch. There’s definitely structure and strategy during the sessions, but she lets Olive take the lead.”
“Initially Olive was having frequent, severe meltdowns when we were coming to the end of an activity. She was also very physical, and would hit and head-butt because she was frustrated and couldn’t communicate,” says Jeremy. “Now we’ve learned to give her warning and prepare her for transition. And the physical expressions of frustration have significantly decreased now that she is more verbal and has better tools to communicate.”
Boyer has been an invaluable resource for not only Olive, but for Anna and Jeremy as well. “I’m so appreciative of Amy [Barnes], Olive’s teacher, and Nancy [Glidden-White], her occupational therapist. They’ve really helped us so much through this journey. I text them with questions, and they’re always so responsive. And I really appreciate that they not only ask how Olive is doing, but they check in with me and my husband, too. They understand how important it is to support the entire family.”
Olive recently “graduated” from Boyer, and while the family is sad to leave, they are very grateful for the support they received from both staff and other parents. “If I could give a new Boyer family some advice, I’d say that they should know that everyone feels lost and alone at the beginning, and we are all looking for connections. For the longest time I kept to myself and didn’t take advantage of being in the room with other parents who were also facing challenges. Take a chance and say ‘hello’ to someone! The relationships you make with other parents have been so important to me. I wish I had approached people earlier, but I was afraid. I’ve learned how much it helps to have even one friend who understands where you’re coming from, and who can support you.”