Elias L Finding the “Right Fit”

"Tyler and Sam do an excellent job at stepping back and seeing the whole picture and providing thorough information for us to assist Elias, and that's huge. That's what everybody needs and deserves, and their children deserve when going to services, and that's what we received at CSH."

Elias Lazaro, a lively toddler with endless energy, began displaying changes in his behavior at three years old, leading his mother, Jamie Cannon, to seek evaluation. Elias was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, elopement, behavioral concerns, and autism. Based on a recommendation from Jamie's aunt, they visited Children's Specialized Hospital, where Elias received excellent care from Melanie Niederhauser an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN), at the Toms River facility. Melanie suggested occupational and play therapy for Elias, which Jamie was initially unsure about but remained open-minded about the potential benefits for her son. Now at four years old, Elias receives treatment at CSH Monmouth Outpatient Center, where he quickly gained a reputation for his charm and enthusiasm. Melanie shared, "They are such a wonderful family, he has such a big personality, and he always makes me smile. Elias is a great, expression-filled storyteller." After Elias's first visit, Jamie was confident that CSH was the "right fit" for their family.

Jamie and Elias appreciate the warm welcome they consistently receive at CSH. Even though it takes them twenty-five minutes to get there, Jamie thinks the commute is worthwhile. Jamie shared, "We love everybody at Monmouth, even the women at the front desk. They've always been so sweet. It's special to us because when you have a special needs child, there are so many people that are not as understanding, whereas when you walk into CSH, and your child has an outburst, they're not staring. They're making sure that you're okay. They understand, and it's been such a pleasant experience as far as the interactions all around."

Elias’s Outpatient Therapy Journey

Elias LazaroUpon arriving at CSH, Elias worked with Samantha Ciesmelewski, Occupational Therapist, and Tyler Soos, Psychotherapist, for play therapy. Jamie is thankful for Samantha and Tyler's dedication and patience toward Elias. She shared, “We really lucked out with our therapists. They are amazing.”

Since December 2022, Elias has been receiving occupational therapy. Samantha explained that her sessions with Elias focus on sensory integration to promote improvements in his self-regulation skills, body awareness, and calming strategies so that he can transition better throughout daily activities and routines and improve his attention and participation in play tasks. Jamie attends sessions with Elias and Samantha to apply the techniques she has learned at home throughout the day, especially when Elias struggles and requires additional sensory input.

Samantha shared that she introduced a sensory swing into Elias’s therapy because “the lycra swing provides children with vestibular input as well as deep pressure and calming proprioceptive input. With rhythmic and linear movements, it can be very calming for kiddos and help them calm down if they become overstimulated or upset! It is such a great tool to have to help with self-regulation.” Jamie immediately recognized the benefits of the sensory swing for Elias, so she installed one in their basement for him to use at home. Jamie shared, "Elias is a go go go child, so at first, it was very hard for him to sit still in the sensory swing. It was a big accomplishment for him to be able to sit and enjoy it after six months of trying to hop out or crying in it.” Jamie mentioned that Elias's therapist gave their family valuable information to assist them in navigating his diagnosis. “The amount of information Sam was able to provide us with and explain, and the overall understanding and picture she was able to provide for us compared to previous services was astronomical," stated Jamie.

Samantha is also pleased with how much Elias has progressed during therapy sessions. She stated, "It was so amazing to see how far he has come, and I am so grateful to have worked with such an amazing family. One of my favorite moments with Elias was when he was so engaged in our sensorimotor obstacle course and was able to attend it for almost the entire session. We had such a fun time pretending to be Buzz Lightyear and saving our friends from Toy Story!"

Additionally, Tyler began individual psychotherapy with Elias in September of 2022. Tyler said, “He has been very sweet and was always wonderful to work with. Whether discussing how to talk about our feelings, skills we can use when feeling upset or frustrated, or generally building rapport and trust, he was always receptive to our conversations and compliant in sessions.” Over time, Elias developed a strong connection with Tyler, who shared, “Around Thanksgiving last year, Elias’ mother emailed me a picture of him after he got dressed for his school Thanksgiving feast with the caption, ‘he wanted to get dressed up, and when he picked his outfit, he said it was like Mr. Tyler.’ He looked adorable and very handsome, and I was flattered that he wanted to dress up like me.” Jamie shared that Tyler provides valuable feedback, coping strategies, and service recommendations to their family.

Releasing Resistance

Elias LazaroInitially, Elias had difficulty following his treatment plan due to his resistance to authority figures. However, his therapy sessions became more effective once he recognized that Samantha and Tyler were there to support him. As Elias grew more accustomed to CSH, he found pleasure in the gym, particularly in Samantha's obstacle courses and board games. Jamie observed a notable improvement in Elias's sensory processing and general behavior both inside and outside the hospital as he learned to manage his behavior more efficiently.

Elias is now a four-year-old who enjoys being active outside of CSH. His favorite activities include jumping on trampolines, spending time around water, playing Lucky Duck, and hanging out with his sister. Jamie shared that Elias has always been a "class clown" with a natural talent for making people laugh, and his therapists agree. Jamie hopes that her son will have fun with his friends at school and pursue his aspirations.

Jamie advises all parents to "pay attention to your gut; parents have special instincts, listen to that. Overall whatever services are offered to you, stay open-minded. I didn't know what occupational therapy could provide for him, but within the first few minutes, I thought, how did I miss this? I realized how great this would be for him." She highly recommends CSH's services to all parents and their children. She shared, "Tyler and Sam do an excellent job at stepping back and seeing the whole picture and providing thorough information for us to assist Elias, and that's huge. That's what everybody needs and deserves, and their children deserve when going to services, and that's what we received at CSH."