Lukas & Max's story
In that instant, Deborah Samuels knew. Standing in her living room surrounded by the cries of her three children, she turned her attention to two year-old Lukas. In the middle of a meltdown, Deborah found him sitting on the floor, frustrated, unable to speak and staring at her helplessly.
“I could see it in his eyes. He seemed trapped,” explains Deborah. “It was as though he was trying desperately to communicate with me but couldn’t manage to find the words. That was when I knew he had autism.”
Deborah and her husband Frank Merfort had seen the warning signs.
“His speech was limited and he appeared to be fixated on certain items, staring at them for long periods of time,” she says. “He would also have frequent sleep disruptions that are common in children with autism.”
Lukas, the oldest of Deborah’s three boys, was diagnosed with autism in 2011. He was later referred to ErinoakKids in 2013 for Intensive Behavioural Intervention therapy, a program designed to increase learning and change behaviour.
Since then, Deborah and Frank have watched their son flourish. “He doesn’t stop talking,” says
Frank. “He interacts with more people than ever before and he’s so much more independent – he even brushes his own teeth and gets his own snacks.”
For Frank and Deborah, the knowledge and support they gained from ErinoakKids was
invaluable. It helped the pair cope when their youngest son Max was also diagnosed with autism at 2 1/2 years-old.
“Max really never had any words at all,” said Frank. “He had no interest in things and we knew after our experience with Lukas he had autism as well.”
Max, now 6, is a part of the IBI program at ErinoakKids. After months of therapy, his speech is slowly emerging, he follows instruction and is fully potty trained, thanks to the work of ErinoakKids Senior Autism Consultants like Kathi Cosgrove.
“When we first met Max he was non-verbal and his attention to the people and tasks around him
was very fleeting,” says Kathi. “He is now using up to three words to request and label the world around him. He sits and attends to tasks for up to 20 minutes and his eye contact is incredible. Hearing Max’s voice, and watching him become increasingly independent and steadily acquiring new skills has been deeply rewarding for our team.”
For Deborah and Frank, the experience has been equally fulfilling.
“I always used to underestimate him and now I see there is so much more to him,” says Deborah. “I credit his success to the staff at ErinoakKids. They’ve helped both my sons become the best they can be while offering the guidance and support we desperately needed as parents to help our kids be as independent as possible.”
So much so, Lukas will be ready to transition from his school-based IBI program to his community school in September.
“Today Lukas is who he should be,” Deborah says. “He is far from that boy sitting on the living room floor. He is that boy that was just waiting to come out.”