In 2004, the Baton Rouge Speech & Hearing Foundation began its Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy program for autistic clients.
At the time there were four students; today there are 34 children receiving services. And those services aren’t cheap. It costs the foundation close to $120 per child, per day to run the multidisciplinary program.
Proceeds from this year’s Volunteer Activists Luncheon, which takes place May 4 at the Crowne Plaza, will help make sure that the much-needed services are available for such clients as 5-year-old identical twins Sam and Seth Sadden. While the foundation accepts most forms of insurance, including Medicaid, that doesn’t come close to covering the expenses and part of the foundation’s mission is to provide financial assistance to those in need.
According to Sherri Sadden, the twins were late with many of their “milestones” — sitting up, crawling, talking, walking, but everyone chalked it up to them being boys, twins and preemies. Sherri Sadden and her husband, Stephen, were prepared that the boys would probably always be a little behind developmentally. They were not prepared for their 2-year-old sons to be diagnosed as autistic.
“The first four months were pretty rough,” said Sherri Sadden.
“We didn’t tell anybody, not even our families. We had to accept it ourselves, do research about it. We had all these questions: What did we need to do? Where could we go for therapy? How much was it going to cost?
“It’s a very emotional time for parents and many of them don’t want to accept that diagnosis,” she said. “But that’s not good for the child. We know how important early intervention is when dealing with autism.”
Declaring their “pity party” over, the Saddens shared their news with family and friends and went to work for their sons’ future. They had insurance, but it only provided therapy one day a week. It was through that therapist, Joy Pennington, that they learned about BRSHF’s Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy program.
“She told us there was a waiting list but that she knew some people,” said Sadden. “We were actually recommended by another therapist.”
Sam and Seth started attending the three-day-a-week program right before their third birthday. Mom and dad have seen “tremendous” progress. “Seth is talking and following directions,” Sherri said. “Sam’s not as fast, but he’s really starting to come around.”
Also helping with the process is older sister Skyler, 7. “They learn from her, play with her. Older children are a tremendous help in the socialization process,” said Sadden.
But it is BRSHF she credits with saving her sons. “I can’t imagine where we’d be right now without Baton Rouge Speech & Hearing.”
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