Baby Stuart couldn’t imitate sounds, or even smile. While his mom, Susan, knew something was wrong, she had no idea that life would be very different than she’d ever expected.
“At first Stuart had no facial reactions,” says Susan. “Then red flags became more diverse. There was no babbling—no pointing— no words.”
Stuart couldn’t express his basic needs or wants. While specialists continued to evaluate and investigate his actions, Stuart communicated his frustrations through temper tantrums, meltdowns, and running away. Day-to-day life with Stuart was taxing.
Then, at age four, Stuart was diagnosed with Autism, a complex neurological and developmental disorder.
Dealing with Stuart’s Autism consumed Susan’s every waking moment. “At times I wondered if there was more to life than paperwork, appointments and therapy,” says Susan.
Then one day Susan hit an all-time low. She was in a hospital emergency room with Stuart and his baby sister, who had a fall. The wait period to see a physician was lengthy and Stuart, who thrived on routine, was hungry. He communicated in the only way he knew how—screaming and crying. Unbeknownst to Susan, the incident was reported to Children’s Aid and a home visit was made to evaluate her parenting skills.
Susan didn’t need judgment and advice. She needed support. She contacted The Salvation Army London Village Respite Care Program that provides planned short-term and time-limited breaks for families and other unpaid care givers of children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
“Respite makes my life a little easier,” says Susan. “I can put my worries aside for a while when Stuart is cared for by workers who understand his uniqueness.
“And Respite also allows me to focus on my husband and daughter,” continues Susan. “Time and energy put into caring for Stuart means less attention for them. And our family unit needs to stay strong to face the challenges that lay ahead.”
Stuart, now 10, has achieved small victories at respite. Activities like bowling and swimming have boosted his social abilities and independence. He makes friends— bathes himself—brushes his teeth on his own—sleeps on his own.
“We feel hope as Stuart makes progress,” says Susan, “and look forward to seeing where he will go from here.”