Living with autism is a challenge that as many as one in fifty families face everyday. Meet a family who says intensive therapy has not just helped their daughter, but changed their lives.
Four-year-old Kendall's mom and dad can't believe how far she's come.
"Where our daughter is today versus where she was a year ago is night and day," says Jason Jones.
When Jason and Andrea's second daughter is born, there's pure joy, but soon they see Kendall struggle.
"She wanted to communicate, but she was having a hard time doing that, so she would just kind of scream or have tantrums," says Andrea Jones.
Doctors eventually figured out that Kendall was on the autism spectrum. The diagnosis is only the beginning. Kendall is a frustrated toddler, and her behavior is unruly.
"I remember times I was sitting on the doorstep I just had to walk outside, take a moment, close the door. My daughter is in the house screaming and I felt like there was nothing I could do about it," says Jason.
"It was hard to watch her at preschool. She would be by herself," says Andrea.
Intensive therapy would be the only answer. Not only can it be very costly, but it's often tough to find the right fit.
"It's not easy to find the perfect place for your child," says Andrea.
Ultimately Kendall ends up at the Kauffman Children's Center in West Bloomfield where she is now blossoming with the help of a team.
In the sensory gym, each movement helps Kendall's brain organize thoughts, input, and movement in the real world.
"That's what helps sensory systems to be able to process effectively, so that they can do all of the rest of the skills that we need to do in terms that we're talking about whether it be speech and language or sit at the table at school," says Jessica Hunt, Director of Occupational Therapy.
Behavioral and speech therapy are a big part of Kendall's treatment.
"We look at function of behavior, what need is the child have being met. Then we need to figure out a way to make it less necessary to engage in that problem behavior. So we're teaching the child communication to replace the inappropriate behavior," says Kerry Peterson, Director of Autism Programs.
She's succeeding with speech therapy. It all constitutes applied behavior analysis, or ABA therapy, a widely recognized treatment for autism.
"There's two things we're looking at. Teaching them new skills in the most effective way possible, and then we're also looking at addressing problem behaviors in a research based way," says Peterson.
It hasn't been easy, but Jason and Andrea have survived financial hardship and strains on their marriage. Now a family of five, they celebrate Kendall's differences and progress.
"She has skills to be able to cope with emotional issues that boil up her system, and I never have those moments were I have to walk out of the room," says Jason.
"She's much different now. She walks up to strangers and wants to give them hugs and she can get everything out now. She has so much to say," says Andrea.
During this Autism Awareness Month Andrea and the Jones family want to tell other families, keep asking questions. Talk to other parents and look for support.