Ben G. of Michigan received floortime therapy through The PLAY Project Intervention for Autism, one of Autism Speaks’ first community grant recipients. His mother, Lisa, reports how his progress has led to his writing a sermon that he read at his Bar Mitzvah to his friends and family.
My husband and I have a 13-year-old son, Ben, whose symptoms appeared when he was very, very young. Ben started getting occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and sensory integrative therapy at 14 months of age, then at 30 months came under the care of Dr. Rick Solomon in 2001. Still, Ben didn’t speak. In fact, he was a mess.
We were family #19 in the PLAY Project. Thanks to the PLAY Project and excellent speech therapists, Ben is doing well today. He is a seventh grader in a regular classroom, although he gets support through extra study hall and help with his reading comprehension. His grades are good (nothing below a B). He seems to be having a normal childhood.
Ben’s Bar Mitzvah was on October 22nd, and his friends (73 of them, to be exact) were coming. (Better yet, he is getting invited to the Bar Mitzvahs of other kids that he knows.) Ben’s Bar Mitzvah fell on the day when Jews read the creation story in synagogues around the world. Because Ben is really interested in weather and space, we were delighted that he was assigned a Torah portion that he could identify with.
But, Ben had to write a sermon.
Here is a copy of Ben’s sermon for you to read. It’s a real testament to the way his brain works (e.g. I told him we would read how God created the universe, and he expected there to be a recipe!) But, it also shows that autistic children can recover to the point of being spiritual.
Dr. Solomon, his wife, the PLAY Project consultant who worked with Ben for three years, and the speech therapist who worked with Ben for five years will all be at his Bar Mitzvah—with bells on! (You should have seen Ben’s face when I used that expression to describe their excitement!) We are looking forward to a great celebration—made possible by the great work that folks do to help autistic children get well and reach their true potential.
If you ever need a child as “living proof” that early intervention works, Ben is Exhibit A. I shudder to think what would have happened without the PLAY Project.
Autism Speaks awarded Dr. Solomon’s institute a $15,000 grant in 2007 for a project called Training Respite Care Providers in The PLAY Project Intervention for Autism.
The PLAY Project is a practical application of DIR (Developmental, Individual-differences and Relationship). Dr. Solomon and his group have trained nearly 200 therapists and teachers in 70 agencies across 22 states to train parents to implement The PLAY Project with children. This project was a collaboration with Lansing Area Parents Respite Center to train its staff of respite care providers in The PLAY Project techniques. By training respite care providers, they improved engagement and interaction with the children that they work with.
This was a pilot project to develop a new model for respite care for children with autism spectrum disorder.