“It was Feb 13, 2009 when QECDA first came into our home for Henry's assessment. On Feb 16, 2009, the hardest day of my life, I realized what we were dealing with, and we never looked back”, says Cheryl Rafuse, Henry’s Mom.
Henry was later diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder by Dr. Kiran Pure. Even before the diagnosis was confirmed, his parents, Troy and Cheryl Rafuse, shifted into high gear, researching everything they could find on ASD and the strategies and programs that have been proven to be effective in helping children with the disorder. With encouragement and support from Donna Dexter, Early Interventionist with QECDA, Cheryl began taking a remote access course on Pivotal Response Therapy, a program that has been scientifically proven to improve communication and behavior in children with Autism. She set up her own home program for Henry, working tirelessly to help him achieve the goals essential to him fitting in socially, physically and mentally with other children his age. Troy put his engineering skills to work designing toys and equipment that motivated Henry to play and interact with them.
Today, Henry, at almost 5 years of age, has a very busy daily routine. He attends Do Re Mi Preschool for 3 afternoons each week and during the summer attends QECDA’s Early Learning Play Group. He has 5 autism support workers, funded through the Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention program, who work with him and his Mom in their home, for 15 hours each week. He receives home visits from Early Intervention and a Speech Language Pathologist, as well as programming support from an Occupational Therapist. He and his parents continue to work and play together daily, as they analyze the next steps towards his success and independence.
Cheryl explains her motivation for taking such an active role in Henry’s programming: “I have always been proud of Henry for who he is and how far he has come, and what we have been able to do together as a family. I want Henry to grow up feeling proud of the person he is, autism and all, and to know he has strengths and beauty like everyone else in this world. I also feel families need to speak about it, so hopefully others in the community can gain some perspective and understanding of children who are different.”
Henry expresses his thoughts on the support he has received from his parents by telling one of his support workers, “My favourite thing is hugs from my Mom!”
“It continues to surprise me that families, who face enormous challenges, so readily invite me into their homes and their lives,” says Debra Rickard, early interventionist with QECDA. QECDA is one of 18 early childhood intervention programs located in Nova Scotia. The program, coordinated by Denise Lowe Whynot and Donna Dexter, offers developmental assistance through home visits to families of children with developmental delays and disorders, in Queens County. For more information about QECDA go to www.earlyintervention.org/queens and, if you have concerns about the development of a child, call QECDA at 354-5890.