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Beachcomber
5199 E. Pacific Coast Hwy. #608
Post Office Box 15679
Long Beach California, 90815-0679
Phone: (562) 597-8000
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Feature Stories

Autism - An Uphill Battle

From Issue: Volume XXII - Number 9
5/2/2014




ANDRES playing with bubbles before one of his behavioral therapy sessions

Ever since Andres was born, just less than three years ago, he has faced an uphill battle every step of the way. However, the bond and strength between a mother and her son has shown that it can overcome anything, including autism, but that is not where Andres’ story begins.

Andres was born at 31 weeks and spent the first month of his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in an incubator because his lungs weren’t fully developed. While Andres was in the NICU, it also was discovered that he was born with a heart murmur which further complicated things. However, Andres’ mother, Monica, never wavered in her confidence that Andres would overcome these issues. Her confidence was rewarded because once they diagnosed his heart murmur and his lungs developed enough, Andres was finally allowed to go home.

Unfortunately for Andres, his uphill battle was just beginning. As he started to grow, Monica noticed that Andres wasn’t moving well and his head was taking on more of a flat form rather than round. They decided to do some tests.
“Our pediatrician asked if Andres would turn over onto his tummy when I would leave him on his back for an extended period of time,” says Monica. “But he would just stay on his back and he never really moved his head much either.
Andres’ skull development was becoming a concern and their pediatrician sent him to an orthopedic doctor who measured his skull. After the measurements were taken, Andres was referred to a neurologist to see what could be done, his skull was more flat on the left side than the right. The neurologist recommended that Andres wear a helmet so that when his skull continued to grow it would become more evenly rounded.

However, Monica had a feeling that all these signs were leading up to something more. Andres was now approaching 2-years-old and he still wasn’t crawling, he didn’t have any words, he would be aggressive at times and his stare was delayed.

“After talking with our pediatrician, he suggested that I take Andres to the Stramski Children’s Developmental Center for an evaluation,” says Monica. “The Stramski Center at Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach was a far drive from Santa Ana, but our pediatrician recommended them and the Stramski Center team was able to take him right away.”

After Andres went through his original evaluation with the certified pediatric nurse practitioner specializing in developmental pediatrics, it was recommended he have additional testing. He was then scheduled for an Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule – 2nd Edition by the Stramski Center’s occupational therapist. The results of this testing indicated a mild to moderate concern that he would develop an Autism Spectrum Disorder. He was provided with a provisional diagnosis which would allow him to access intensive early intervention services and the diagnosis would be re-evaluated after his third birthday.

“Looking back on that day, it was really hard for me because as a mom it is a scary and confusing time,” says Monica. “However, the people at the Stramski Center were very supportive and helped me get the care and support that Andres needed right away.”

Once they knew it was autism, Monica, with the help of the Stramski Center, contacted a local regional center so Andres could receive behavioral therapy close to home. Andres does about 10 hours of behavioral therapy each week and comes to the Stramski Center every three months. Through his behavioral therapy, and under the continuous watchful eye of the Stramski Center, Andres, who is now almost 3-years-old, has made great strides. He now has 10 words that he can say regularly and his movements and behaviors continue to improve.    

“I am definitely very appreciative and grateful to the Stramski Center for everything they have done to help my son,” says Monica. “We work through all of this together as a team, from coordinating appointments with my work schedule, to explaining what autism is and what I had to do to help him control it, I just don’t know where I would be without them. My other child doesn’t have autism so the care team’s guidance and kindness has helped Andres and I move forward.”

Submitted by
LB Memorial Medical Center