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Meet a Child with ASD

GEMSS was interested in checking in with Logan and MJ and updating their story.

Catching up with Logan and MJ in 2020

Logan is now 15 years old and in the ninth grade. MJ is 11 and is in the fifth grade. The family moved four years ago from a rural NH town to a bigger city. They and Jenn (their mother) share a home with Jenn’s parents and they provide support to one another. MJ is close with her grandmother and Logan is with his grandfather - they are good friends. Logan has developed a special relationship with his grandfather and they do activities together such as heavy lifting and projects around the house. Jenn has a support system available to her, such as that provided by their local area developmental services agency and her network of friends. Their home support provider is able to take MJ and Logan into the community and work on goals in places that are natural in their lives. They are there to help the children but to also let Jenn have some space and take a break for herself. Tyco, Logan’s 8 year old service dog, is getting older and is still a good friend to Logan. They have found that both Tyco and Logan are not safe around some dogs that are not well-trained so they have to be careful in the community.

Logan update

Jenn describes Logan as a gentle giant and says he is an expert in silent sarcasm and can be very funny. Logan often prefers to be alone, so when the family moved, his mother did a lot of work preparing him for his new class. The culture of the elementary school turned out to be very welcoming. The children welcomed him into the school and at the end of the year, the class took a trip to Boston. Jenn and Logan’s aide went along to chaperone but he didn’t need help from either of them. “His classmates had his back” said Jenn. The children interacted with Logan and knew exactly what to do if he needed any help.

Jenn says that Logan has a few words and that he uses a speech generating device. He uses an iPad in school along with his classmates. Logan has a one-on-one aide in school and receives speech therapy and occupational therapy both inside and out of school. Logan’s speech therapist helps him in school with his communication device. The occupational therapist helps with motor skills and is starting to help with job search. Outside of school, the speech therapist and OT work together on supporting his eating and sensory issues. Logan has a limited diet and likes smooth foods or foods that can be crunched up. Therapy also helps him strengthen his core muscles.

When Logan was younger, he had a habit of ripping up paper and eating it. It was later learned that this behavior was due to an iron deficiency.

Madison (MJ) Update

MJ is described as a diva by her mother. “It is her way or the highway. If you need anything from her you need to make sure she thinks that it is her idea,” says Jenn. MJ is a very good negotiator. For example, she might negotiate how many times she has to go to school before earning a day off. MJ uses words more than her brother but is also a bit hard to understand. She is good at letting people know what she means. It is easier for familiar people to understand what either one is saying.

MJ has always liked dance. The first year of recital she ran out on stage and did a circle and ran backstage. The next year the dance teachers took it upon themselves to go to her school in order to learn more about MJ and to try to figure out different ways to support her so she could have more success in dancing.

Like her brother, MJ participates in both special ed and general ed classes. Anxiety can increase because of how noisy it can get in the classroom, so both children are able to have quiet time outside of class to get refocused and concentrate on their work. MJ spends time with her classmates and even a little bit outside of school. MJ also has OT and speech therapy. Her body is always looking for stimulation but she has become very good at self-regulation. MJ is generally active and when she can’t be, she invents strategies to help regulate, like playing with her fingers. 

Jenn’s Advice in 2020

  • The best advice Jenn would give to a teacher of ANY child is to utilize peers.
  • When teaching or supporting children, use what they are interested in to help them learn.  For example, use a movie that the children like in order to help with an assignment or therapy.
  • To parents of a child with a disability, the most important advice Jenn would give is to trust your instincts.

Meet Logan and MJ! (2013) 

GEMSS would like to thank Logan, MJ and their mother for their generosity in sharing this story with us. You have made the site come to life with the addition of your thoughts and feelings. Thank you so much!

MJ age 4 and Logan, age 8, are happy, communicative, and smart siblings who are enjoying their new dog Tyko, a trained service dog for Logan. They live in a rural town in northern New England and enjoy their family and friends and going to school. Their mother Jenn is actively involved in their school programs and is also involved in many advocacy roles in her state. The family recently made the trip to Michigan’s Paws for a Cause to pick up Tyko with two cars and 4 adults to help and the two children, which was quite an undertaking to add this new family member!

Logan

Logan recently used his Vantage Light Talker (a speech-generating device) to ask his grandmother for pudding right before supper. She said ‘no’ as it would spoil his appetite, and he walked away. Soon, he returned with a message on his Vantage Light Talker that surprised them all – “I have an emergency. I need chocolate pudding now!” He got his pudding!

Logan might be found riding his Mobo Triton in his neighborhood with someone lending support. Although he has his service dog to help him navigate safely in the community, they are still working on how to bike with the dog without tangling him in the leash! Tyko recently accompanied the family to the Boston Aquarium, an adventure his mother feels wouldn’t have happened without the dog’s support. Tyko is proving to be a big help to the family during these community outings.

Logan was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 ½ years old but had been receiving Early Supports and Services since 18 months of age. Logan, who is a third grader, has a few good friends at school and received a marriage proposal on Valentine’s Day. He is starting to say a few words and they feel the dog is helping him become more verbal. When picking up the dog in Michigan, Logan said “Fetch” very clearly for the first time.

At school, Jenn is hopeful that the team will have high expectations for him and will include him more fully. Although in a typical classroom, he is pulled out for some work on communication. He has had a 1:1 aide since starting preschool. His new aide will be able to program the Vantage Light and it will make communicating at school easier and more fluid and in-the-moment.

Both in school and at home, Logan has chores to do. At school, he does recycling and helps with the fruit and veggie program.   When at home, he makes his bed, puts away silverware, and recycles with his grandfather.

Logan likes to use his trampoline or play on his inside swing. He is starting to play with Tyko and “he likes to do ribbon dancing, like in the Olympics,” says his mother, Jenn.

Logan has some sensory sensitivities, especially orally, and likes to have smooth foods. They are starting to notice that he has some OCD tendencies and they are working to see if these might be caused by a medical issue, such as seizures.


Madison (MJ)  

MJ is a “take-charge” kind of girl who likes to think “she is the boss,” says Jenn. She is very verbal and, although easily understood by her mother, is working on speaking more clearly so others can understand her. “She learns so much from watching other children in their play,” says Jenn. She is fully included in her preschool, where picking up new skills is easier because of so many children who become MJ’s teachers simply by engaging in play that she watches. “She likes to tag along and copy the other children,” says Jenn.

Madison also loves their new dog and playing with children her size. She was diagnosed with autism when she was 18 months of age. Her language is coming along and she says many phrases such as “Sit down,” “Watchout,” and “Be careful.” After watching a pirate themed video, she responded to her mother’s request with a salute and “Aye-aye, Captain.”

At school, Madison gets OT and Speech therapy. She has some sensory issues and uses a weighted blanket at home.  Jenn feels that she is pretty good at self-regulating.

Jenn’s Advice

Jenn hopes that both parents and teachers will feel that it is okay to ask questions and that it is a good idea to admit when you don’t know an answer. “It is okay to say ‘I don’t get it’ and try to get an explanation that makes sense,” she says. She thinks parents should trust their instincts and work with teams so that everyone understands each other.

Jenn and the team communicate with daily written communication in a notebook that goes back and forth. They have face-to-face meetings once per month and Jenn also volunteers for school events and field trips.