Parents Describe
the Growing Minds Program

lettersFrom Angela Casstles, England:

"When we were faced with Jordan's diagnosis of autism, we were given a lot of useless and conflicting advice. Steven Wertz was the first professional who admitted that he didn't have a book on Jordan and he didn't know all of the answers.

We were convinced by his gentle, confident manner on that first phone call that he really did have the answers and that he would help us cure Jordan of his autism. In a split second, I made up my mind to trust this man 4,000 miles away in Florida, with something much more precious than just our hard-earned cash: my child's future.

I ended that first phone call feeling great, uplifted. I instinctively knew it was the best day’s work I had ever done. And I was proved right.

Steven, Kaitryn and Stefanie spent an intensive week, coaching, mediating and cajoling us into becoming therapists for Jordan. They armed us with the skills necessary to turn a bunch of motley relatives into a dynamic, energetic, enthusiastic team.

After we returned home, the continuing distance program was as essential as the intensive week in keeping us focused and on track. In the early days, we longed to hear their voices on the other end of the telephone. An hour spent talking to one of them elevated our spirits. We still look forward to those calls and continue to get a lot out of them. Whether we discuss a change in program or finding a new therapist, advice from Growing Minds is always invaluable.

The whole journey with Growing Minds beside us had been nothing short of miraculous and we would not be so close to the end of the tunnel now without them. Jordan’s changes have been extraordinary. Just to highlight a few…

Before our Growing Minds program, Jordan (then age three) was unable to link two concepts together. This made it impossible for him to understand even simple instructions. He was unable to tell us what he wanted and he spent a lot of time frustrated. He tantrumed and cried frequently throughout each day. His eye contact was very low and he did not point. He avoided contact and interaction with others. Although he had started to talk just before he was three years old, he could not hold a conversation, and he would not talk very often.

Now, fourteen month later, Jordan is very articulate, with an extensive vocabulary. He has an above average IQ, and his reading age is approximately 8-9 years. He is highly sociable and has lots of friends at school and the clubs he attends. He is the first person to make friends. He takes direction well, and never stops asking questions - Why? Why? Why? He is very loving and outwardly affectionate, and is just great fun to be with. He tells the worst-ever jokes, which he makes up himself!

We used to dread going to the supermarket, where people would comment on what an awful, badly behaved child we had. Now it’s impossible to go out without someone telling me what a wonderful son I have. I get comments about how clever, funny and polite he is. What an amazing journey, what an amazing child, and how lucky and proud I feel to be his Mum.

We have made this journey with Jordan hand in hand with Growing Minds. Thank you seems so inadequate when I contemplate what they have helped and inspired us to achieve.

If I had to do the whole thing again tomorrow, I would still have their number on direct dial!"

From Wil C., Switzerland

"Hi everyone! I’m the mother of 2 wonderful children. In 1998, my son Alex* was diagnosed as autistic. After two years of the Son-Rise program at home, our Alex was doing better than ever. He was TALKING, PLAYING, having a sparkle in his eyes and a lot of mischief, a will of his own. We had great times together in the playroom, and a wonderful team of volunteers.

But by the end of those two years, our program was stalling, staying on a plateau. I felt it was time for a new direction, without really knowing how to go about it.

As Alex was going to start school, and we had a certain agenda we wanted to follow, we felt our best choice was Growing Minds. We wanted to have the freedom to ask questions about different methods, like ABA or TEACCH, to see what that could
bring us.

In 2001, we traveled to Florida for a Growing Minds Comprehensive Program. Our week with Steven, Kaitryn and Stefanie made a whole difference for us. We received all the know-how to get away from our plateau, starting the first day!

Having followed Alex so much, he was becoming a little prince, and we had to develop two-way communication, asking for some more participation from Alex, for some give and take.

Steven and Stefanie taught us how to go about that, by negotiating in a very respectful way, and at the same time asking for respect in return, respect for ourselves and for the deals we agreed upon. After Kaitryn’s sessions I had a new clarity of purpose and found new ways of handling everyday challenges.

They also taught us how to introduce more precise teaching. By the end of the week, I really felt I could tackle this new part of our program! I had been coached in the playroom, I received feedback on my way of giving feedback, and our week was full of changes and challenges. Yet, we still had time to celebrate Alex’s 6th birthday!

We came away from Florida with heeps of new projects, ideas and enthusiasm and we continued straight away at home. Now, 6 months later, we look back on Alex's progress, which was followed closely by Steven through the 6 month-distance program. We are so surprised by everything he has learned. He has more general knowledge on animals, countries, geography, professions, he knows the letters and reads a few simple words, he counts to 20, he is more polite and softer in approaching people. He can play very well now with his peers, on a give-and-take basis!

Along with school, we will continue our Growing Minds Program, to help Alex to become even more confident and willing to learn. Our confidence and enthusiasm for his future are endless! Our Minds Grew, and are still Growing, and I hope yours will too!

Update, 2012
Alex, now 17, recently graduated from secondary school with good grades. He speaks two languages fluently and does not require special accommodations due to his history of autism. He enjoys friendships with his peers and a typical social life. His parents describe him as social, gregarious and willing to take on new challenges.
*The name of this boy has been changed at his request to protect his privacy.

From Patricia Stillie, Scotland:

"Cailean has made the greatest progress with the Growing Minds program. Prior to our Growing Minds program, Cailean, then age 5, was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism. Now, a year later, the Senior Medical Officer has diagnosed him with high functioning autism. He is making great leaps. The greatest change in Cailean (which is making our lives so much easier) is how well he cooperates outside the playroom. In the house, going out to play, coming back in again—all without a tantrum ! Now going to the weekly shop is no problem. I no longer have to put him in the shopping trolley or buy my groceries online. Now Cailean walks beside me as I shop. Sometimes he will run off to get his favorite items, but he always comes back to check where I am. Before he would run and just keep going.

He is so different and so much happier now as he delights in all the new learning activities we do. The program is still very organized and is structured properly, but I feel more relaxed about teaching him, not just in the playroom, but around the house and outside on trips to shops, fire station, police station (only visiting !) etc. I am more relaxed and he is too. That is what Growling Minds has taught me and it is the Growing Minds approach that has proved so right for Cailean. It has brought him and the family forward by leaps and bounds. Growing Minds has truly helped Cailean grow toward a more independent life."

From Cathy England, United States:

"The Growing Minds program was a turning point in Ryan's and my life together. Ryan (age 12 and diagnosed with High Functioning Autism) responded enthusiastically to Steven, Stefanie, and Kaitryn during our week in Florida. Through my observations of their being with him, and their observations and subsequent feedback of me being with him, I learned more about my own style and how I could make improvements. Most importantly, I learned that I am a good mother, to take confidence in myself and my interactions with Ryan, and to be more positive. I learned to be more affirming of both myself and of Ryan, and to show that affirmation visibly and sometimes dramatically, in my responses to Ryan. The six month follow-up period was extremely helpful in reinforcing what I had learned, and in supporting me as I encountered real-life situations."

From Sandi Collins, England:

" I am the proud mother of two beautiful children, Ben (aged 5) and Jordan (aged 3).

Ben was diagnosed with autism when he was two and a half and we began a Son-Rise program for him a year later. Although Ben started to speak and interact more with everyone, we felt frustrated at times, because we did not know what to teach him next. He was also starting to show severe behavioral problems. Our program was based on the idea that the child is the teacher. In the beginning, we knew that this was the way to build rapport with our child. But after a year we realized that, unless we found some direction, Ben would never understand how to interact fully in the outside world.

We began a Distance Program with Growing Minds six months ago. Believe me, we have never looked back. The support and advice we receive twice a month has been paramount in the recovery of our child from autism. No longer do we feel stalemated or that we are losing our way. Any problems are quickly dealt with during a consultation with Steven or Stefanie. Constructive advice is given, which works every time we put it into practice.

Ben has learned so much in the last six months. He no longer displays the behaviors he had when we began. He can take direction and actually enjoys it. He thrives on the different tasks we set him on a daily basis. At the same time, we still have all our enthusiasm and the non- judgmental attitude that we used before.

Our program goes from strength to strength. Even though we are the ones who play/work with Ben, I know that without Growing Minds I would not have the knowledge, support and understanding about autism that keeps our program strong.

Thanks to Growing Minds, our son has gone from the speech of a two-year-old to that of a three-year-old in only six months. To mention all the ways Ben has improved would take forever. His speech is improving daily, his imagination is blossoming, he plays with his little sister for longer periods of time and he is asking to go to school. We are now looking forward to the next six months with Growing Minds. We will be forever grateful to Steven, Kaitryn and Stefanie for all that they do."