"Autism does not keep Will from doing what he loves to do: being front and center as the 'Cougar' mascot for his school's team," says Christy, Will's mother. "He enjoys it so much and really gets into it. He never wants to miss a game."
Ed and Christy suspected their oldest son, Will, had autism by the time he was three-years-old. He had significant speech and language delays and would throw tantrums all day long most days.
At the time, Ed and Christy had two sons: Will and newborn, Griffin. “Will was turning the house upside down,” remembers Christy. “We knew that something had to give so our family could return to normal.”
While Will’s official diagnosis wouldn’t come for another two years, Ed and Christy enrolled Will in an early childhood program on his third birthday. There, the family began to see small victories, but both Ed and Christy became increasingly frustrated by not being able to provide the services that Will needed to thrive.
“We went to numerous doctors trying to determine what was causing Will’s delays,” recalls Christy. “In the beginning, I kept telling myself that we’d find out what was ‘wrong’ with Will, or that we would ‘fix' this. My acceptance of Will’s diagnosis has been an ongoing journey. Solving the ‘problem’ of autism has become recognizing his strengths and turning them into opportunities.
"Will and I have come a long way together," notes Christy. "Easter Seals Midwest has been easy to access and very helpful. We are thankful when Will's needs and our family's wellbeing are both addressed."
It wasn’t until Will was nearly 13-years-old that Ed and Christy turned to Easter Seals Midwest. The family had relocated from the St. Louis area to southwest Missouri. The Roberts family now has three children: Will, Griffin and three-year-old Laney. Getting Will as involved as possible and seeking help through behavior support were the reasons behind contacting Easter Seals Midwest for help.
“Moving from St. Louis to southwest Missouri was extremely hard on our family,” Christy shares. “The resources are limited, but Easter Seals Midwest has been the best organization to meet our family’s needs. The staff members truly care about families and children with autism, and they utilize the resources they have available to plug each family in and get the children involved. It really makes a difference in the quality of life the children—and entire family—are able to have.”
After going through Easter Seals Midwest’s intensive, two-week Parent Training Program for those impacted by autism, Will’s parents were supported in the new challenges the teen years can bring.
“It’s good to revisit some of the techniques that worked before, but that we may have gotten away from,” says Christy. “He’s trying to communicate a lot of the same things he used to, but in different ways.”
In addition to the Parent Training Program that he and his parents attended, Will also has been able to take advantage of other Easter Seals Midwest services specifically for young people with autism.
“Will enjoys the time he spends with the teen social skills group, and looks forward to going," notes Christy. "It has taught him to be conscious of what others think of him, and this awareness has aided him in building friendships at school. Easter Seals Midwest is the best organization in southwest Missouri to help us cope with the challenges of autism. We truly appreciate all of the services we have received.”
Laney, Will's little sister, was our Snowflake Art Contest winner in the 5 & under age group with "The Frozen Snowman":