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Firefly Autism, Prognosis: Hope

Tags: Stories of Impact

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Garrett Mayberry

When your baby doesn’t smile back

When your toddler can’t say “momma”

When you doubt your dreams for your child, and the only answer is a cold diagnosis: “Autism”

This is when you need help. This is when you need hope.

Firefly Autism’s mission is to transform the lives of children with autism and empower their families. Working in Denver and the Western Slope, Firefly Autism provides intensive therapy and intervention services for more than 200 children and their families. Their work helps children develop a lifelong love of learning and the skills to interact meaningfully with their communities.

One of Firefly Autism’s programs, the Early Childhood Program, serves children 18 months to 6 years old. Through daily progress measurement and a socially enriching classroom environment which includes one-on-one instruction and therapy, students make large strides in achieving their development goals. There is no better way to understand this gift of hope and progress than through the personal stories of children and families the organization serves.

One child came to Firefly Autism’s Early Childhood Program at two and a half years, non-verbal and developmentally delayed. His parents were exhausted and in desperate need of help after their son’s refusal to eat most foods led to malnutrition and hospitalizations and his bath phobia triggered severe tantrums. Firefly worked with the parents to curb the child’s behaviors and encourage verbal communication. More than two years later, the child, now in kindergarten, is verbalizing sentiments such as “I’m sad,” and has not had any tantrums for over a year. He has overcome his bath phobia, now bathing without his parents having to get in the tub, and his more robust choice of foods means he has gained weight. Recently, his teachers noted that on the playground he was able to introduce himself to a friend and ask to play.

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This little boy’s story is only one example of how early intervention can transform the trajectories of children on the autism spectrum. Of the 200 children served through their early intervention services in the past year, Firefly Autism reports 100 percent demonstrated progress; 95 percent with previously specified individualized goals achieved proficiency related to skill acquisition; and 75 percent achieved proficiency related to reduction in problem behaviors.

The transformative nature of Firefly Autism’s intervention programs was recognized in September 2014 with a $5,000 El Pomar Trustee Regional Merit Grant to the Early Childhood Program. With the support of this grant and other generous donors, Firefly Autism has been able to offer life-changing education to an additional eight children experiencing autism.

For many families, the word “autism” can raise fears of deferred dreams, isolation, and frustration, and as autism diagnoses touch the lives of more people than ever, it is critical to meet the growing need for resources and support. Step by step—through first words, first baths, and a lifelong love for learning—Firefly Autism is creating “a world where the lives of children with autism, their families and communities, are transformed through learning.” They are changing the prognosis to “Hope.”