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We are an Army family! Miles was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 6 and he is now 18 years old. Marley is Miles' Autism Service Dog and his best friend. This dynamic duo has been together for 8 years and look forward to many more adventures! 

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgement.  
                                                       2 Timothy 1:7


Miles and Autism

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, 
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways, 
and He will guide you on the right paths.
                                              Proverbs 3:5-6

Miles is 15 years old and an "Army Brat." His dad is in the U.S. Army & our family moves often. We have all been very blessed to make some wonderful friends in Christ during my husband's 22 year career.

Miles is our only child. We were excited to become parents to our 9lb. 10oz. "little" boy! 

We made our first move to Iowa when Miles was 3 months old. He met all of his milestones, slept through the night, wasn't fussy and was an easy baby. The only thing we noticed was he quit taking naps during the day before by the time he was 6 months old. 

By age 1 he started walking and running on full blast. When he got really mad or frustrated he would throw himself down and bang his head. He would scream anytime the lights were turned off at night in his room and took toys apart but tried putting them back together. We mentioned these issues to our Family Doctor but nothing was found out of the ordinary and milestones were still being met in all other areas. 

By age 2 we moved to Louisiana. Miles loved swimming and he potty trained quickly. He was still banging his head when upset and couldn't play with other kids correctly. We asked our Family Doctors about this issue but were told it was the toddler stage. 

By age 3 and 4 Miles learned to dress himself and get his own snacks. Playtime with other kids turned into fights and he would spit or hit kids anytime they passed us in the store. He even ran away from us a couple of times while shopping. If you've ever seen a 3 year old run, you know how fast they are when they don't want to be caught! 

We made adjustments to all of our outings which became a routine for Miles. He always had to ride in the shopping cart, at all times he had to hold your hand when walking and at the movies he had to sit buckled in his car seat. The good behaviors were rewarded and the behaviors we wanted to change had consequences. Some strategies worked better than others but we could not figure out a way to make his interactions with others more positive. 

Age 5 we moved to southern Louisiana. We found a Child Psychologist who tested him and diagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and possibly Asperger's Syndrome. The Child Psychologist was not able to diagnose Asperger's Syndrome and referred us to a child Neurologist. The Neurologist told us that she did not like to label children with Autism until 9 years old. 

During this time we made the choice to start Miles on the medication for ADHD which helped his focus in kindergarten and to this day. Kindergarten proved to be the BEST school year ever for Miles! He had an awesome teacher who paired him up with a friend and he also made friends at our church. 

Ages 6 and 7 we lived in New York. Finally Miles received an "official" diagnosis of Autism (Asperger's Syndrome). Miles' Doctor helped us begin to understand Autism and was a much needed guide on our journey. We were also very blessed with wonderful friendships at our church through this difficult stage of life for Miles and ourselves. 

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. Typically, autism affects individuals in five key areas: Communication (verbal and non-verbal), Social skills, Learning, Behaviors and Medical Issues. 

Each individual with autism is unique. Many of those on the autism spectrum have exceptional abilities in visual skills, music and academic skills. About 40 percent have average to above average intellectual abilities. Indeed, many persons on the spectrum take deserved pride in their distinctive abilities and “atypical” ways of viewing the world. Others with autism have a significant disability and are unable to live independently. About 25 percent of individuals with ASD are nonverbal but can learn to communicate using other means. 

Medical and behavioral treatments are available to individuals affected with autism. With early intervention (via both traditional therapies and medical intervention unique to the individual,) the future can be very bright for many affected with autism. 

Asperger's Syndrome is generally thought to be at the milder end of this spectrum. Asperger's Syndrome is a developmental disorder that affects a person's ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others. Children with Asperger's syndrome typically exhibit poor social interactions and an all-absorbing interest in specific topics. Kids with Asperger’s Syndrome often have few facial expressions and difficulty reading the body language of others; they might engage in obsessive routines (such as lining up their toys) and display a sensitivity to sensory stimuli (may be bothered by a light that no one else notices; cover their ears to block out sounds in the environment; or prefer to wear clothing made only of a certain material because it’s not “scratchy/itchy”). 

Autism statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 68 American children as on the autism spectrum.  The data continue to show that ASD is almost five times more common among boys than girls: 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls.  By way of comparison, more children are diagnosed with Autism each year than with juvenile diabetes, AIDS or cancer, combined. ASD affects over 2 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide. 
(info updated 2014 from CDC)

After getting Miles' diagnosis, we started reading several books on Autism and Asperger's Syndrome and realized we felt relieved. No longer were we the "strange" parents describing our worries to Doctors who did not understand. Now that we knew what we were up against it gave us a sense of direction and purpose. We were informed and ready to get Miles the help he needed to begin overcoming his obstacles. 

In the public school setting Miles was not being allowed the help that was available to him per the IDEA laws. We had more IEP (individualized education plan) meetings than most parents ever experience. Miles was constantly in trouble at school and in the Principal's office. He would have meltdowns as soon as he got home from school because it took all of his energy to "fit in" and do as he was instructed. During this time Miles' health and immune system was at it poorest. He caught every cold that went around school and due to the anxiety of his school environment he began stimming

Our constant prayer was that the Lord would lead us to the right place where Miles would get the help he needed. We were joyful when our prayers were answered and the Army gave us our "marching" orders! We requested to move sooner rather than later and left on Christmas day. 

At age 8 and 9 we lived in Illinois and felt that the Lord was leading me to homeschool Miles. This was not an easy decision but we are so glad to have stepped out in faith and trusted the Lord because this situation has worked well for our family. 

His school work improved by getting 1 on 1 instruction. Being allowed to work at his own pace and level also gave him a confidence boost. Because he was homeschooled Miles was able to attend private therapy for Speech, Occupational and Physical therapy 3 times a week. We were also doing home therapy for Applied Behavioral Analysis and Relationship Development Intervention. 

We began seeing a Defeat Autism Now Doctor (D.A.N) who had Miles go on a Gluten Free Casein Free Diet (GFCF) and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). He had to take supplements and vitamins and the Doctor reduced the number of medications he was taking. He began getting allergy shots and a vision exam revealed he needed glasses. 

He made a couple of new friends while living in this area and we were blessed with amazing support from our local church. All of these new components working together made improvements in Miles' health and well being. He was no longer banging his head when upset and his belly no longer hurt. 

Then one day we were reminded of the short time our Heavenly Father grants us here on earth. In a span of months Miles experienced the passing of his Great Grandma and then our pet of 10 years passed away. With the loss of his best friend, who had been at his side through every move, Miles got "stuck" in the grieving stage. Nothing was helping him move through the loss but it was time to physically get moving as the Army was relocating us again.

Age 10 we moved to Kentucky.  I began researching Autism Service Dogs and we prayed that if this was what the Lord intended for Miles to have, we would find the right organization and companion for him. Our prayers were answered when we discovered Service Dogs for America. We were approved to receive a Service Dog and attended 3 weeks of training. Miles met his new pal, Marley!

Miles was again attending Occupational and Speech therapy 3 times a week. We took Miles for a vision exam and discovered that he needed Vision Therapy. He also had a Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) which would require Listening Therapy. 

We enrolled Miles in the public school for 1 hour of 1 on 1 instruction in a Special Education Classroom. We wanted to slowly integrate Miles into the environment since his past experience did not leave good memories. Our goal was to see success academically and begin to add therapy to his schedule 3 times a week in the school environment. Once more we had to fight the school through IEP meetings and again experienced more of these meetings than most parents. 

My husband was notified that come Summer we would be relocated and he had a choice of where to go for his next assignment. We took this prayerfully to the Lord and asked that He point us in the right direction. I began a U.S. wide search to find the State with the best Autism Services.  I found that Florida offered the best services for what Miles required and it had a position that my husband was eligible to take. 

Age 11 we were relocated to Florida. The most exciting part of this move was when Miles made a best friend and had his first sleep over....something we thought might never take place! The Lord has truly been good to us on this move. He has allowed Miles to make continued gains beyond our wildest dreams! 
Miles started Vision Therapy which made the single largest impact on his quality of life. It has helped him overcome a majority of issues with vision we never realized he experienced. The therapist and Doctor made each session fun and challenging which kept Miles motivated and on track. The coolest thing we heard Miles say, at the end of his first phase, was how much better he could see things--it simply amazed him! It was exciting to watch him realize that all of his hard work was having good results.  Because of Vision Therapy he enjoys to read and school work is much easier.

Miles' Occupational Therapist also helped with this vision gain because she understood what it encompassed and worked in partnership with the Vision Therapist. Occupational Therapy is also working to improve his Central Auditory Processing Disorder, handwriting and continually improving his motor skills. The improvement he has made from this particular team of therapist in 3yrs is amazing…he still has quite a way to go but I truly believe they will get him to the level of his typical peers. Miles enjoys seeing this team of therapists because they make the work fun and challenging which keeps him interested!

Speech Therapy has helped Miles improve his communication and written language skills. They have also helped him understand facial expressions, body language, peer interactions, idioms and daily life skills. These therapists have made larger gains with Speech in the course of 3yrs than any other speech team Miles has worked with before. We are excited to have such enthusiastic, encouraging and caring Ladies help Miles develop skills that will greatly benefit his quality of life in the years to come! 

Physical Therapy has helped Miles loosen up tightened muscle groups and strengthen his core and endurance level. This awesome team has helped Miles make gains in improving his muscle weakness where other therapists had said there were no issues. This is his least favorite therapy since it requires very hard work but the upbeat, encouraging therapists compete with Miles in some of the exercises to keep him interested in improving! 

Miles also participated in Music Therapy. This helped him with sensory issues and understanding the rhythm of communication. He had a lot of fun learning in this interactive environment! 

The Applied Behavioral Analyst is helping Miles overcome many behavioral issues, relationship development, peer interactions and daily life skills. She has been a wonderful and encouraging part of our journey. Miles would not be where he is today without having received the consistent and quality therapy service she offers. I will never be able to thank her enough for the gains she is making in Miles' life. Her love, care and compassion for children with Autism is truly remarkable.

Since moving to Florida we have been blessed to have Miles utilize Free Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (mHBOT)! Thanks to Chamber of Hope and Oxygen4Life, non-profit organizations, who understand this necessary therapy is needed for our Autism Children. Miles' sleeping and endurance levels increased plus he made a friend!

Another unique opportunity Miles has had since living in Florida is a PEERS group through Socialights Connection Inc. He is learning hands on Peer interaction that provides hands on  "homework" so he can practice what he learns during class. He's learning beneficial social skills and how to make and keep friends! 

All of these therapies and the D.A.N Doctor working together have helped Miles progress in leaps and bounds.  He still has a way to go of course but we are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel! I will never be able to express my gratitude enough to all of his current Therapists. We have truly been blessed that the Lord put you all in our lives! 

Miles and Marley have also started attending a 1 of a kind Charter School, Pepin Academy, for kids with IEP's. He is making gains in relationships and education because all of the above therapies working together prepared him for this next adventure! 

I want to say how Thankful we are to the Lord for giving Miles to us as our son. WE LOVE YOU! You are creative, funny, loving and a joy to be around. We are so PROUD OF YOU Miles. The hard work you do everyday during therapy and at home has helped you overcome many obstacles that stood in your path. Change and hard work are never easy or fun but you have done a GREAT JOB at persevering. Keep up the GOOD WORK Miles! 
I would like to mention our family and friends who have been there for us at every step of our Journey through Autism. Your understanding, acceptance and unconditional love has been a comfort to us and you have helped Miles make important relationship gains. We are grateful for all of you!
To find out more about Autism visit: Autism Research Institute (ARI), Autism Speaks or Talk About Curing Autism Now (TACA)

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