From the beginning ....
Imagine being a young active duty military family with a newly diagnosed child with Autism, and living away from your family-support system. That’s the beginning of his journey on the spectrum.
His journey started in Virginia, where we were stationed. Our family was complete, with a healthy toddler (Jalen) whose smile was infectious and his eyes lit up each time he recognized our military friends and family.
Jalen met all his developmental milestones until 14 months old, when he started displaying symptoms of autism. We were in denial for months until we saw a specialist, who diagnosed him at 18 months old. We were devastated at the time of the diagnosis because we didn’t know much about autism spectrum disorder, nor did we know where to seek answers to all our questions.
We were referred to the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) office on base for information on community resources for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and more. We gathered all the resources and started networking for programs and support groups, as we navigate our new path of supporting Jalen.
Jalen started his early intervention programs with in-home Occupational Therapy (O.T.), Physical Therapy (P.T.) and ABA at a center in Virginia at 18 months old. At such a young age, he was engaging at the early start program (2 days a week) at his elementary school (PEEP program) and still attending the ABA center on the opposite days. He would always give his best to any given task in all the programs. The therapists were understanding and patient with us, because we were overwhelmed and barely holding it together as a family. The team of therapists we had, were amazing . Their compassion and support for the program was phenomenal, as it reflected upon our child when his light and curiosity for life began to light up again however it was at his own pace and timing. We embraced the bumps and celebrated his triumphs while on his journey on the spectrum, and we are just riding along with him.
We had a solid foundation in Virginia with all his early intervention team of therapists supporting Jalen, then we had to relocate to Ohio and we were anxious to say the least.
Prior to arrival of Ohio, we researched and networked through local Autism Support Groups and Autism Speaks website and found his next ABA Therapist. Our scheduled interview day was within a week of arriving in Dayton, Ohio. We were still unpacking and trying to find a balance in our chaotic day. The therapist arrived, and during the interview Jalen had approached her with a toy, and that was it. Interview was over, she was hired! He hadn’t done that for a while, so we were responding to his energy he felt with Ms. Lisa.
Jalen ended up with another great team of angels (ABA consultants and therapists) in Dayton, they were Lisa, Kristin, Julie, Ronni, and Breanna. They were engaging and always full of surprises especially during the holidays when his mother was deployed. Jalen and his brother were surprised with bags of Christmas gifts, from these angels that understood the stress on children (with special needs) when a parent is deployed. At the end of our time in Dayton, Ohio the team of ABA therapists had supported Jalen through so much. Just to mention a few, he was non-verbal, then learnt to sign his needs(sign language) to speaking (using his words). He learnt to express his feelings/needs by age six, with the dedicated team of ABA Therapists in Dayton, Ohio.
Jalen was restless and energetic so John (Dad) enrolled him to play soccer with South Dayton TOP Soccer. A program where high school students buddied up with a special needs child, to teach and play soccer with them. Jalen loved running around the field instead, while his assigned buddy was out of breathe.
He also played baseball with The Miracle League of Greater Dayton where he was given the chance to run around the field without being stopped. Jalen loved it. We finally got our battle rhythm going, and we knew to expect a relocation notification soon.
We transferred to San Antonio Texas, within two months of notification of our transfer. We researched on the Autism Website for a ABA Consultant, and we found Ms Anna and the rest is history as we know it. Jalen had an exceptional team of ABA consultants/therapists (Anna, Pam, Nikki, Mary, and David), they supported him in home, at school
and in our community.
He transitioned well to elementary school with a few regression, and with time he regained his momentum and was back on track.
Jalen was able to participate in swimming, soccer, and basketball through the Kinetic Kids Program in San Antonio. And he still played baseball with The Miracle League of San Antonio.
Upon his completion of his sixth grade in Texas, we made the decision to retire from the military and relocate to South Carolina.
Jalen started his 7th grade in Middle School, we are finally settled in and he had his daily routine mastered. He started running with a club at his school (Let me run challenge), and he enjoyed running with his peers then Covid-19 lockdown was initiated March 2020.
He continued to run within his neighborhood with family during 2020, and he accumulated 120 miles that year, while completing his virtual learning from home.
During the early weeks of virtual learning, it was stressful and we had to research on the perfect blend of essential oils to use in a diffuser in the virtual learning space. We purchased multiple essential oils, and started mixing 2-6 blends, and finally the “Keep Calm” blend was created, with his input on the scent he preferred. However, over the years blended essential oils and their unique properties have aided in many occasions like focus, sleep, calming, etc.
In our home, we are relaxing to our “Keep Calm” blend of essential oils, soothing our stress away.
***Stay tuned for additional products and/or blends of Jalen’s Mix.