According to Autism Society more than 3.5 million Americans live with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, some more severe cases than others. While it is a difficult disorder to cope with at times; a local mother and pediatric nurse not only found a way to help her son, but other individuals that receive care at Sparrow Hospital.
What it's like to be on the spectrum
“We don’t know why but God doesn’t make mistakes, so we’re just going to roll with it," said Kellye Youngs, a mother and Sparrow Pediatrics Nurse, on learning her son's autism diagnosis.
Youngs began to notice some defiant behavior in her son, Sebastian, around fourth grade.
“If I were walking out of the department store, he’d have to walk out of the other door," Youngs said. “He was just very strong willed.”
Sebastian also liked to feel compression, and he would cry when his mother put lotion on his body.
Sebastian explained that he didn’t actually notice a difference in himself versus other children until he began high school. However, his mother felt the hardship of his diagnosis right way.
“At first, all I did was cry," said Youngs. “I enjoy working with special needs children, but I didn’t think I could take care of one of my own.”
Kellye stated that's when her and her husbands' parenting style had to change.
Studies show that positive reinforcement is generally the most effective behavior management strategy in dealing with children with autism, according to Autism-help.org.
Sebastian's biggest struggle is communication.
There was an incident at school where a student held Sebastian over a bandsaw, and spit water on to his face as an April Fools joke. “He wasn’t able to communicate to the principle what happened,” Said Kellye, “I feel that’s a big safety issue for him.”
Kellye worries for Sebastian's safety at school, and how other students treat him.
“Some people can say they have a lot of friends; I say I have a few good friends and that’s all that matters," said Sebastian.
But, Sebastian says he would never want to be cured of Autism.
“There are people who will look at Autism as something to be scared that your kid has. Some people look at it as if it's something to be dreaded, but in the end we are no different that everybody else." said Sebastian.
How the Sparrow sensory cart helps
Being a pediatric nurse at Sparrow Hospital Kellye Youngs is exposed to special needs patients often. Having a child with special needs of her own enabled her to bring the experience from home into her workplace.
Youngs began to mention the things she implemented at home to help Sebastian with sensory issues, which later nurse educators at Sparrow to begin their research on how they could help patients with autism.
Thus the creation of Sparrow's sensory cart, filled with tools available for the staff when caring for children and adults on the spectrum. More specifically, the cart contains dark thick curtains to hang on the windows to block out the light, a heavy compression bag that sits on the child's lap, biting bands and toys, and many other tools.
The cart is very fundamental, due to it being a non-medication intervention. This allows staff to sooth and calm children and adults without having to sedate them.