When Erik was born he had a stroke that caused some damage to his brain. By the time Erik was 4 months old, he stopped eating. “Once he stopped eating, he had to use a feeding tube for all his meals,” his mother, Deanna, said. Erik’s neurologist recommended that Deanna take Erik to the Marcus Autism Center Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program.
“They had to use every trick they had on Erik. They even came by my house to help me with applied behavior analysis (ABA),” Deanna said. Treatment began with a brush dipped in milk to help Erik’s mouth get used to the sensation of eating. “When we go out to eat now, he cleans his plate. It’s incredible.” By age 2, Erik graduated from the feeding program.
But by age 5, Erik was beginning to have problems in preschool. “I can remember one weekend in particular when he cried the entire weekend, from beginning to end.” Frustrated by her options, Deanna contacted Alice Shillingsburg, Ph.D., who was beginning a new program that would eventually be called the Language and Learning Clinic.
“Erik couldn’t tell us if he was hungry or thirsty, nothing. Erik and three other boys were the first children to take part in the Language and Learning Clinic. Dr. Shillingsburg and Roy Sanders, M.D., were amazing. They fought for Erik, and they helped him get a scholarship through his school for treatment,” Deanna said.
Eleven years after beginning treatment at Marcus Autism Center, Erik’s behavior is almost unrecognizable from the child he once was. He loves to be near other children. “He can talk to me using sign language. He communicates and understands lots of words. When he doesn’t know how to say something, he can work his iPad that doubles as a communication device,” Deanna said. “It has just made being a family a lot easier. Now that his behavior is under control, he’s in a great public school. Erik is always going to have problems, but he’s living a better life.”
William Sharp, Ph.D., Director, Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program
Marcus Autism Center is a subsidiary of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
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