Autism Awareness: Unique Treatment Plan Brings ‘Great Hope’

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WICKLIFFE, Ohio-- A mother from Texas temporarily moved 1,100 miles to Northeast Ohio to enroll her twins in a special program to treat autism.

Lesley Brooks has twin 5-year-old boys on the opposite sides of the spectrum.

“Jake’s verbal; Luke’s non-verbal. Jake will play with toys somewhat appropriately, Luke, just starting since we’ve been up here the last month - to start having curiosity to play with some normal toys,” said Brooks.

Lesley has only been here a short time but she is already seeing a change in her twins.  She gives all the credit to Integrations Treatment Center (ITC) in Wickliffe.

The small, locally-based program, has been using a non-traditional model since the mid-1990s to work with children with autism and their families. Lesley, originally from the Cleveland area, moved back so her twins could be part of ITC.

“I’ve experienced light,” said Lesley. “When you come from where it just feels like a weight on your shoulders of darkness, the sun is breaking through the clouds!”

“There’s great hope for parents; there’s great hope,” said Betsy Poti from ITC.  According to Poti, they use a unique treatment plan to cater to each child and they treat each child with a diverse program.

“It involves occupational therapy, speech and language, psychology and special ed, but they all work together,” said Poti, who is also a registered nurse. She said autism has somehow short-circuited the brain but at ITC they’re able to engage the child.

“Everything here is therapy,” said Poti. “It may look simple. It may look like they’re just swinging on the swing or with the balls. This is all meeting their sensory needs, their neuro needs.”

For Lesley Brooks, ITC was the answer she needed. “Anybody who’s got autistic kids and is listening to this, it’s what, what? They are making progress and it's done naturally, too,” said Lesley.

According to Lesley, her son, Luke, is still eating baby food at age five but after enrolling at ITC, he is finally feeding himself. “He’s making his own choices of - do I want my main entree of baby food or do I want my vegetable? So he is directing himself in feeding. He’s getting independent!”

According to the program specialists, their approach also relies heavily on involvement from parents. “You see progress faster because everybody is on the same page. It’s not a cookie-cutter therapy,” said Poti from ITC.

Lesley’s husband stayed in Texas for work while she is in Northeast Ohio with the kids.  “I miss my husband; I miss my dog; I miss my friends, but what we’re seeing for our kids right now, it’s worth every moment away.”

And for Lesley, every moment at ITC could make a difference for a lifetime. “You know, I want my kids to get married just like any other parent, beforehand, before I got up to Wickliffe, I didn’t see that. Now, I see that there’s hope.”

A child may be eligible to enroll at Integrations Treatment Center through their current school, and scholarships are sometimes available through the Ohio Department of Education.

For more information on ITC, CLICK HERE.