The Stafford Family have become increasingly engaged with Abilities United

Peyton attends Abilities United’s Milestones Preschool Pre-K program. He was diagnosed with Regressive Autism just after his second birthday. The first 15 months of his life were amazing – he was a very happy, alert baby and was very talkative and social. Between 16 and 19 months, he lost all of his speech except for the word “Ha”, became very introverted and wanted to spend all his day lining things up. His diagnosis confirmed our fears. My husband has a 17 year old cousin who is Classically Autistic. She was diagnosed at birth, but at that time, there were not as many options for therapy. Early Intervention was not available back then so she was not given the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to live independently. So much has changed in the 15 years between her diagnosis and Peyton’s, and we are so thankful for the advances in early diagnosis, early intervention and therapy.

Peyton started Early Intervention, Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy within two months of his diagnosis. I enrolled in a study at the Stanford Psychiatry Clinic on Pivotal Response Therapy. We started intensive one-on-one Behavioral therapy called ABA 10 months after his diagnosis, and by his third birthday, Peyton was talking, had great eye contact, and was social! He qualified for a social skills group and minimal speech therapy through our school district and we enrolled him at Milestones preschool. We also enrolled him in the Abilities United Therapy Clinic’s social skills group for 3-4 year olds.

These past 15 months at Abilities United have been such a blessing for our family. I describe Milestones preschool as an inclusive program in a loving environment with an exceptional staff that will work with your child and prepare them for life. This is what they have done for us. Peyton moved up to the Pre-K program in May and is expected to be mainstreamed into public Kindergarten next Fall. I have involved myself more into the Abilities United community. It’s a small sign of gratitude for this wonderful agency. This past summer I took a leadership role in the Children’s Development Services Parent and Staff Association and participated in the recent Aquathon. Peyton and my husband had such a great time swimming in the event!

I was lucky to have been able to stop working in order to focus on Peyton and get him the therapy he has needed to get where he is today. All of the therapy and interventions have given me back my son and has opened the door to a life full of possibilities for him. If you had asked me two years ago what I imagined Peyton’s life to be like, I would have painted a pretty dark picture. But, with all the progress he’s made in just these two years, I now am more optimistic and see great things in his future. I see him having lots of friends. I see him playing sports, possibly even as a team captain! I see him graduating high school and college. I see him falling in love and having a family of his own. But, most of all, I see him happy and seeing people for who they are, rather than whatever disability or developmental delay they may have, and I credit our time at Abilities United for that.

Written by Leslie Stafford and presented at the Abiliities United 50th anniversary celebration on April 25, 2013.