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Easter Seals provides exceptional services, education, outreach, and advocacy so that people living with autism and other disabilities can live, learn, work and play in our communities.

Bryan's Story of Hope

Bryan smilingBryan was born July 1, 1998. He is the second of three children. When Bryan was 14 month old, his mother and some of her coworkers noticed that while his motor skills were developing as expected, he was not showing a social response. At two and a half years old, Bryan was evaluated by a neurologist and diagnosed with poor muscle tone. Bryans parents were told he would probably have learning disabilities which would affect his performance in school.

Bryan’s parents began a long journey from specialist to specialist, trying to identify the condition that affected their child. Meanwhile, he was receiving early intervention services at Easter Seals Puerto Rico for his motor skills.

Bryan received speech therapies at Easter Seals Puerto Rico. His therapist suggested that Bryan’s social and communication difficulties were related to a problem of sensorial integration, which is typical of children with autism spectrum disorders.
 
Bryan was not socializing or playing. He preferred to be alone, playing electronic games. While he did follow directions, he didn’t understand or adjust to rules. He had difficulty with the social interaction of waiting for a turn, sharing a toy, or simply saying hello or answering questions on how he was feeling or what he wanted. He felt uncomfortable when someone tried to touch him and he was irritated by noises. Bryan was interacting only with his own family and since he didn’t talk at the time, his sisters acted as his interpreters and took care of what he wanted.
 
When he began therapy, Bryan refused to get close to his therapists and he cried a lot. However, he did carry out the activities assigned to him and slowly began to acquire new skills. It was a long process of uncertainty and stress for all the people close to Bryan.

Bryan’s motor skills were very delayed. When he entered preschool and kindergarten, his little sister protected him. It was amazing to see a 2-year-old girl understanding and providing what Bryan wanted or needed and feeling responsible for being with him all the time.
 
Easter Seals Puerto Rico worked hard in order to develop the skills that enabled Bryan to attend a regular school with support from his therapists after school.
 
The transition to first grade in a new, mainstream school was very difficult. To ease this, his oldest sister, who attended the same school, acted as Bryan’s tutor. She looked after him, intervened when he was facing a problem, and explained what was expected of him or what others needed from him. But when he finally seemed to understand what he had to do and was able to respond to the group, the school semester would end.

Puerto Rico’s Easter Seals therapists made suggestions on how to work with Bryan in the classroom. They also helped him with the skills that would aid him with the curriculum that the teacher was following at school.  His family helped him adapt. During school breaks, they prepared him for the following school semester. They took him to buy  school supplies, giving him rewards and encouraging him to get the things that he liked the most, stressing that they were for the classes that were about to start. They provided a lot of positive encouragement and rewarded him with happy faces in his notebook. For Bryan, this was a representation of his good work and a way of knowing that Mom and Dad would reward him with his favorite activities.
 
The tests performed on Bryan showed that he had an IQ of 121. He was an eight year old boy with the social development of a four year old.

Bryan’s teachers, therapists, and parents worked together during his preschool, kindergarten, first grade and second grade years to help him earn the ‘Student of the Month’ award. Later, in second grade, he was selected as ‘Student of the Year,’ for getting A’s and B’s in his classes. His third grade year however, was not a positive experience for the child and very difficult for his parents. Everything that had been achieved in years past fell through. The teacher didn’t understand how to work with Bryan and was not taking advantage of the teamwork provided by his parents and therapists. She thought that Bryan didn’t have any condition and would keep writing complains in his notebook. Bryan began to get F’s and fell behind. The teacher would sit him by himself where he became isolated. Easter Seals Puerto Rico supported the family during this process and guided them on their rights and alternatives to make sure that he received proper services. They continued to support Bryan so he could understand how to live with his condition and the world around him.

Bryan’s parents explored different activities that would help motivate him. On Saturdays, they took him to swimming lessons and gymnastics. Because of the routine nature and the challenges these activities posed, Bryan excelled and won medals. This positive encouragement helped him to celebrate with the other members of his team.
 
This year, Bryan was the child representative of the ‘Espectacular’ program of Easter Seals Puerto Rico. He assumed this responsibility with great seriousness although it took him some time to understand what his role was and what message he needed to convey. It was a great experience for him because he understood that he would be the spokesperson for people with autism in order to make life better for kids like him. Bryan felt recognized and important. Once again, his older sister was with him, giving him support and helping him with the interviews. This also helped raise awareness on the reality facing the siblings of children with autism. It showed the anxiety siblings feel when they see the rejection and teasing from others.
 
Bryan now sees the future with optimism. His exceptional ability with computers gains him fans and friends. Since he really enjoys this, he likes to show others. He finished elementary school with good grades and has started middle school with more confidence. Bryan’s journey is still long and difficult, but with help from Easter Seals Puerto Rico, it is no longer confusing or uncertain. Bryan has set goals and knows what he needs to do to be in charge of his own destiny. He is confident that he will succeed because he has learned to explain his condition to other people by understanding and accepting himself for who he is.

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