January Family of the Month Story Meet the Mohammed Family

It simply isn’t difficult to imagine the emotional stress placed on the parents and caregivers of a child with autism. For some, daily tears accompany their struggle to help their child succeed. This was sadly the case for Autism ETC’s January family of the month, the Mohammeds.

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 Nawazed and Gareba are the father and mother their boys Noah (age five) and Adam (age four). The boys are less than two years separated in age, and both of them are on the autism spectrum.

When Noah was two years old, he was diagnosed with autism at Vanderbilt Medical Center.  Noah began attending the pre-k program at Vanderbilt. When his younger brother Adam was three years old, he was also diagnosed on the spectrum.  Gareba begins their story, “I was taking my sons to Vanderbilt and they were participating in programs for children with autism, but I felt like we needed more.  A friend of mine drove by the center and told me there is a place on Holt Road named ‘autism something’. Making a change was hard for me, but I knew this was something I needed to do.  I stopped by the office and filled out the paperwork. I was able to get Noah started quickly. Noah was non-verbal and Adam was verbal. Adam would hit Noah because he could not communicate.  I felt like if Noah could go to the center, then I could handle Adam.”

Gareba continued, “When I brought Noah for his assessment, I just knew Autism ETC was going to be a great place for him.  I began counting the moments until he could start receiving services every day. When we came to Autism ETC, Noah did not respond to his name.  His eye contact was not there. He would not imitate anything and he did not make any sounds. Two weeks after starting services he waved, ‘bye-bye’.”

After Gareba was able to get Noah started, she worked diligently to get Adam the next opening.  Gareba said, “Adam had very repetitive speech and play. His behavior with Noah was very bad. Adam would also hit his head on things when he was unable to express his emotions.”

“As I continued to bring my sons to Autism ETC, the other families would continually tell me how much the center was helping their children.  I began to feel like I had someone on my side to help me. As a parent, I felt the pressure coming off of my shoulders. I use to cry every day, but I’m a different person now.  I could see my kids were in good hands.”

Adam and Noah participate in the afternoon day therapy program.  Gareba reports, “Since coming to the center for almost a year, Noah has made great progress.  He makes eye contact, follows directions, and responds to his name. He is imitating now. Today, his staff sent me a video of him saying the word ‘Cheetos’ when he was asking for his snack. He now has sporadic words.  In the seven months Adam has received treatment at the center, he has made great progress, too. He follows directions, and his communication is fabulous. He can tell me if he is upset. Before he would hit or throw things.  He can now express his emotions. When he has a problem, he can tell me, and I can help him solve the problem. After coming to the center for one month, he stopped hitting his brother. He asks questions. Before he did not want to talk but now he wants to communicate.  He will tell me about what has happened during the day.”

Gareba shared how the staff has helped her: “The staff is amazing.  They tell me each day what my children are working on. This helps me so I can work on the same things with them at home.  The staff freely shares their knowledge. Every day I learn something new.”

When asked about her advice to parents with a child on the spectrum, Gareba responded, “Do whatever it takes to bring them to Autism ETC.  They will help you! It is amazing what has happened to my children and me. There is a weight off of my shoulders. Having my children come here has made me a happy person.”

Looking to the future, Gareba believes that Noah will be able to be an independent person and Adam will be successful in a typical school setting.  “I believe others will be able to see Adam is an intelligent child who will be able to do the things any typical child can do.”

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