In many ways, Bryce Selof of Wonder Lake is like any other 10-year-old boy.
But there’s something about Bryce that makes him different from other boys his age. He was diagnosed with autism when he was in preschool.
“They saw habits and behaviors that represented symptoms of autism,” says Bryce’s mom, Christine.
Since his diagnosis, Christine became educated about autism and worked with Bryce’s school district to get him the proper care and treatment to help him succeed.
“His brain is always going, and sense is a huge thing for Bryce,” Christine says. “So sitting on a bean bag chair or playing with rubber bands at his desk with his feet help to calm him.”
Bryce attends regular classes at Greenwood Elementary School in Woodstock. But he does have special reading classes and speech and occupational therapy as well.
“His speech isn’t great, so it’s hard for him to communicate,” Christine says. “So he reacts by running away, hiding or having a fit.”
He has run away from school a few times and, Christine says, he’s behind academically.
“We have decided to enroll him in the Target Program at Creekside Middle School in Woodstock,” she says.
The Target Program has classes of no more than six students, who have similar disabilities as Bryce. Those classes offer more one-on-one time. The speech and occupational therapy will be part of class time, instead of Bryce having to leave class. And extra safety precautions are made, so children like Bryce don’t have the opportunity to run away.
Bryce has a sensory disorder, so he reacts strongly to sound, taste, touch and light. Bryce doesn’t like the feel of jeans or other types of pants, so Christine has him wear sweatpants, as those are what he’s most comfortable in.
He also likes hot showers.
“It soothes him, so if he’s having a fit, I put him in the hot shower,” Christine says.
When an autistic child goes into a fit because of overstimulation, frustration or anger, soothing techniques such as holding the child tight or swaddling him or her with a blanket helps to calm the child.
Christine adopted a German shepherd named Max and has trained him to be a service dog for Bryce.
“With the help of Lucky-E Kennel Inc. in Ringwood, I’ve trained Max using search-and-rescue techniques, so when Bryce runs off or hides because he’s upset, Max will alert someone and help find him,” Christine says.
Max will attend school with Bryce next year.
“Max is Bryce’s best friend,” Christine says. “Because Bryce loves Max so much, he’s much more aware of what’s around him now. Bryce won’t go running across a street anymore. He’ll watch out for Max now.”
Christine sticks to a rigid routine and schedule with Bryce. Even something as simple as changing lunch from hamburgers to hot dogs sets him off.
“You can’t tell him it’s no big deal and just move forward,” she says. “It’s really a big deal to him.”
Christine alerts him of changes in advance and tries to stick to the routine.
“The best way I can describe it is, imagine if you were told you were going to get a raise at work next week, and your boss decided to take it away,” Christine says. “How would you feel? That’s how Bryce feels about a change in his routine.”
Christine gets emotional support from friends and family. She reads a lot of blogs and uses www.autismspeaks.org as a resource.
“Each child is so different, you just have to learn what works for him or her and what doesn’t to make life easier and manageable,” she says.
Ultimately she wants to see Bryce “become more social and develop a circle of friends.” mc
For more information on autism and Autism Awareness Month, go to autism-society.org or autismspeaks.org.
Lending A Helping Hand
To highlight the growing need for concern and awareness about autism, the Autism Society has celebrated National Autism Awareness Month since the 1970s. The U.S. recognizes April as a special opportunity for everyone to educate the public about autism and issues within the autism community.
Autism has become more prevalent in the last few years, affecting 1.5 million Americans and occurring one in every 110 births in the U.S.
It is a complex developmental disability that becomes noticeable within the first three years of a child’s life, impairing his or her ability to communicate and interact.
With the proper treatment and support, autistic children can learn and grow up to lead normal adult lives.
• Source: www.autism-society.org/about-us/national-autism-awareness-month