We’re an army family, I’ve been in now for going on 22 years. Our child is 13, he has a diagnosis of Autism which he received at age 6. We move on average every 24 months, coming up this August will be the longest we’ve been in one place ever, in my career. My wife and I informally went to school because we wanted to learn as much as we can about Autism to give our child the best that we can. We literally have read a library of books. In fighting for what we needed for him, in what we thought was best for him, we ended up having to go to homeschooling because at one point he was injurious to himself and to others; he’s a very rule-based child and that created some problems in the school settings. We were stationed at Fort Knox for 12 months and we attempted to get limited services in the special education setting through the school system, but due to a lack of any services and a refusal by the school to give him services, he regressed so much in that 12 months that what little bit of progress we had made over the years was basically completely lost. Because of the position where I was assigned, my wife told me, we need to find where we’re going to get the best services in the country and request reassignment there. That’s exactly what we did. We found more services and more Autism research was done in Florida than anywhere else. So we started looking for my potential assignments which were Miami or the Tampa area. My wife researched what was available in both of those areas, and she came across the bios and success stories of Brieann and Alicia that convinced us to request reassignment across the country to get to Florida so our child could be treated by them. In a very short period of time, we started seeing a very different child. We’ve thought about, what has this done for us? What is a friend worth? Friends weren’t really a possibility for our child; other kids didn’t want anything to do with him because he was different, and he only wanted to talk about his interests. He was stuck. Now, our child is able to convey his thoughts for life skills. He’s able to order his food, ask for help at the grocery store. All the things that are important for you to be successful on your own are the things being focused on here. He’s able to interact with other people. Our child is now actively wanting to have friendships; previously he really wasn’t concerned if other children weren’t around and he wasn’t concerned about other people’s thoughts. That’s something that’s been worked on greatly here at AASL. He’s a different kid now. He wants to have friends, and he wants to go places where he’s going to interact with other kids. You can’t say that he’s growing out of what he had but he’s growing from work. The one fight we have every time we move is finding someone who knows anything about Autism; it is incredibly frustrating when you go to an expert and the expert knows less than you. That’s not the case here; Alicia and Brieann have been able to help our child. And he knows it’s going to be work when he comes in, but he enjoys it. They challenge him constantly, and what he’s learning, he’s able to apply. It’s not just something that he does here, it’s something that he now applies to his life. Alicia and Brieann are both very passionate about what they do; they’re concerned about their kids. It’s not just about “get you in, do the treatment, and we’ll see you next therapy”. Our child loves coming to therapy. Previously, you had to drag him to go, because it wasn’t working. And because our child does work with a service animal, the service animal is keyed into his mood. Even his service dog gets excited when they come to therapy because he knows our child is excited. The team at AASL don’t just go out of the book; they’re innovative, they’re creative with him so it’s not boring, it’s not the same repetitious thing every time. They have to create different ways to repeat the same type of lesson until he gets it and is able to do it without doing the same exact thing repeatedly. The team at AASL focuses on things that are really going to affect their kids. All of the book exercises in the world won’t do any good if you don’t have any ability to apply it. Application is: I’m able to carry on a conversation even with someone I am not fond of or a topic I don’t like. We didn’t have that before with Miles; he wouldn’t talk about something he didn’t like or he wouldn’t listen to you if you talked to him about something he didn’t like. And now, he’s able to do those things and we see that when he’s talking to other kids. He now asks questions to continue the conversation; that previously was unheard of, it’s something he didn’t do. What makes Brieann and Alicia different from other therapists that our child has had is they don’t let him quit. When it gets frustrating for him, they work through it with him not just move to something he’s comfortable with. They work well together as a team. We used to travel an hour to get to Alicia and Brieann. When we found ourselves in need of a new place to live locally, we specifically targeted the area in Riverview/Brandon, even though it increased my drive time to work; we wanted to be as close as possible to maximize the amount of therapy because what they have done with our child has been critical to getting him to where he’s at. We want to fight for that while we’re here. He has changed so much, and he’s a completely different person than he was even a year ago. Though I look at therapy differently than my wife does on some things, one thing that we’ve been very clear to each other about is overall with him, success for us is him being able to function at some point on his own. Prior to meeting Alicia and Brieann and them being his therapists, our long-term goals were very different. With him learning life skills now, there’s no reason that he won’t be functioning on his own, probably having his own place, going to college on his own. The hope for that just a couple of years ago wasn’t there and that wasn’t going to be an option though we wanted it to be. The reality of it was it probably wasn’t going to happen. I tell him all the time, you can be anything you want to but you have to take the steps to get there. He’s learning to take those steps here. One of the things that we have enjoyed most about Alicia and Brieann is that they’re not just our therapists, they’re not just employees. It’s not just that work relationship; they care enough about our son, they get excited. When he has those moments where he breaks through, it’s not just a check in the box; they’re truly concerned. They’re as excited about his success as we are. They treat him like family and he knows that. I’ve been doing this for the army for 22 years and we intend to fight to stay at this location to include if necessary declining promotion so that we can continue to give our child what he needs. A lot of places say they offer services and that they know how to handle kids with special needs. I’m one of the people who believe in results and I don’t have a lot of time to wait for results; I want to see things change and I want to see progress. Alicia and Brieann know what they’re doing. You can keep trying these other things that don’t work or you can try this, but you’re going to see results here.
Jeromy and Melissa Wolford« Back to testimonials