Jaxson T Learning New Skills: Jaxson’s Autism Diagnosis Journey

We started looking into therapy services and discovered Children’s Specialized Hospital, and I’m so glad we did.

On April 10, 2019, Candice Theinert welcomed her first child, Jaxson. Jaxson was an adorable and happy baby. It wasn’t until his first birthday that he started to show developmental delays. “He was barely speaking, and if he did, he did not say many words,” stated Candice.

Candice contacted the state for early intervention programs to help. She enrolled Jaxson in an in-state program until he was three years old. The program suggested they find a neurodevelopmental pediatrician to evaluate Jaxson and start him in outpatient therapy to better prepare him for school. A local neurologist assured the family that they did not see any signs of autism and that Jaxson was fine, but Candice knew something was wrong. “Jaxson would always be bouncing off the walls and was barely talking,” noted Candice. “His speech was the biggest issue, but he had weird habits and struggled with sensory issues.”

JaxsonDiscovering Jaxson’s Diagnosis
“We started looking into therapy services and discovered Children’s Specialized Hospital, and I’m so glad we did.” The Theinert family met with Advanced Practice Nurse, Theresa D’Ambrosio, for a new evaluation. “She told us we’re going to test him for everything and evaluate everything because, at this age, you don’t really know,” stated Candice. “She was amazing; you could tell she really wanted to help the kids.” After the evaluation, Jaxson was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Theresa stated, “Jax is one of my little buddies! I am grateful and appreciate that his mother, as well as other families, trust me with their children. I hope I can help just a little to make their journey a bit smoother.”

Jaxson“I felt a mixture of relief that I had an answer, but there was also a bit of sadness because he was no longer going to be the kid I thought he would be. I had to grieve the loss, and now he will be someone else,” added Candice. “It’s fine to grieve what you thought would be. You never want something wrong with your child.” After discovering Jaxson’s diagnosis, Candice was introduced to Children’s Specialized Hospital (CSH) Family Faculty team member, Elizabeth Marcketta. Elizabeth provided the Theinert family with emotional support and a better understanding of Jaxson’s autism diagnosis from another parent’s perspective. “I felt sad until I met Elizabeth. She helped me understand that while I wished I could do more, I need to advocate on his behalf, go to all his therapy sessions, and provide him with the tools to help him live his best life,” said Candice.

Achieving Milestones
Jaxson started speech and occupational therapy at CSH’s outpatient facility in New Brunswick to provide him with the skills he needs for success. “My son went into his speech therapy session barely talking. He was shy. He didn’t want to initiate play because he didn’t know how to communicate,” noted Candice.

JaxsonSpeech Therapist, Alexandria Chirico, helped Jaxson feel comfortable and taught him new practices. “She met him on his level. She saw he needed stimulation and would jump with him like a rabbit or bring in occupational therapy tools. We got so much more from it because she collaborated with other disciplines. Miss Ally didn’t let Jaxson go crazy. She made sure he was focused and engaged,” said Candice.

“At the start of speech therapy, Jaxson used 1-word utterances to communicate his wants and needs. Jaxson experienced some sensory needs, but with help from his mom and our multidisciplinary collaboration with Arielle (Jaxson’s OT), I could regulate his sensory needs. Once Jaxson’s sensory needs were met, I could expand his utterances. Now Jaxson can use 5-word phrases or sentences to communicate functionally throughout his life,” stated Alexandria.

JaxsonJaxson now talks to anyone who listens. For his 4th birthday, he brought in cupcakes and asked everyone, “Would you like a cupcake for my birthday?” “This was a major milestone for us. He used to be scared to have social interactions, and he did not have the verbal skills,” said Candice.

Jaxson’s Occupational Therapist, Arielle Couso, works with him on his sensory issues. “After two sessions with Miss Arielle, Jaxson became more comfortable dressing himself. She made him feel safe and comfortable. That’s really important for him, or else he will shut down,” highlighted Candice. “Jaxson has been making such great improvements in dressing. In just three sessions, he has shown increased initiative and independence,” added Arielle.

Jaxson also has sensitivity around sound and was scared to wear noise-canceling headphones. “Miss Arielle showed him that he can use the headphones for music since he loves audio stimulation. He’s now getting more comfortable with the idea of headphones, so it can help him in situations with loud noises,” said Candice.

Jasxon“His mother has been such a great support with integrating different tools into sessions, like incorporating a motivating timer. I am always pleased and excited to see the progress Jaxson makes each and every week,” added Arielle.

Jaxson loves going to therapy and seeing the therapists. “It’s like a big playdate for him,” noted Candice. “He’s made incredible progress. He was so scared to communicate because he didn’t know the words, and he now he is expressing his wants and emotions. Jaxson’s progress is incredible, and he’s learning to care for himself.”

Jaxson is continuing to make progress each and every day, he even graduated from speech therapy. “Jaxson was a speedy learner and a joy to work with! I will miss treating him but am so happy to see such progress on his expressive language from our first session to our last,” noted Alexandria.

Advice for Families
When asked for advice for families facing similar challenges, Candice stated, “Soak everything in and ask every question you can think of. The therapists are filled with so much knowledge, and they will help you. It’s important to go home and practice the skills learned. The therapists give you all the tools, but you must go home and use them so your child can continuously grow and make it into a lifestyle. Lastly, ensure you’re listening to your child on what they need, so you can better understand how to help them.”

For more information about Autism Spectrum Disorders in Children, visit Children's Specialized Hospital.