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A Beautiful Surprise

The Scholarship from Family Hope Foundation has allowed them to invest in the therapy sessions that have given Alonso and the entire family the tools they need for success.

Despite enduring the painful experience of a miscarriage, Mayra and Alex knew their family of three still felt incomplete. They longed for another child and, at the age of forty-five, Mayra and Alex received a beautiful surprise – Mayra was pregnant! Says Mayra, “We knew this could be a high-risk pregnancy and there would be a six-year age gap between our son Val and his new sibling, but we were delighted! Having coped with our previous loss, everything about this pregnancy was special.” Following a smooth delivery, Alonso Alvarez entered the world – a healthy baby boy!

Alonso’s early years progressed steadily. His sleep patterns were normal and he rarely cried. He was happy and social and meeting many milestones. He even started walking early. Just before turning two, however, challenges emerged. It was becoming very difficult for Alonso to communicate any of his emotions and his parents noticed his speech was not developing. Out of frustration and anxiety, Alonso resorted to the only coping mechanisms he knew – crying, meltdowns and just shutting down.

The behavior that stemmed from Alonso’s inability to communicate began to impact his relationship with big brother and the entire family dynamic. Says mom, “Val had a lot of patience but eventually he would get upset and start yelling at his brother. Family time became stressful and my husband and I were constantly on pins and needles waiting for the next meltdown. It felt like 80% of my time was running interference. We were not enjoying our time together.” Even though they were constantly told Alonso is just experiencing the “terrible twos,” Mayra’s instincts told her otherwise and she pushed to get answers.

Alonso began receiving services through the Early On program to help with his delayed speech development. It was through Early On that the family received the difficult diagnosis of autism and speech and language delays. The diagnosis confirmed Mayra’s instincts and also gave them a path forward. Determined to give Alonso the support he needed, they began working with Dr. Grant, a behavioral specialist at Developmental Enhancement. Alonso’s sessions focused on finding tools that would help him express what he was unable to verbalize. Dr. Grant introduced flash cards that Alonso could use to express his emotions or needs. They also worked on self-calming techniques. These methods were so effective and easily transferred into the Alvarez home. They started to see a big shift in family time and began to experience joy again.

Dinner as a family is important to the Alverez family. Before therapy, when food was not given in a certain order, Alonso would become very overwhelmed and experience a complete meltdown. Unable to communicate his desires, he would cry, shutdown and toss himself on the floor. Mom and dad have learned that they can help to calm Alonso’s anxiety with deep pressure hugs and by rubbing his back.  He can now use his flashcards to communicate with family and has started with some independence by shaking his head and waving his hands to signal no or to indicate if he needs space. He has even progressed to various self-calming techniques like learning to take deep breathes when he becomes overwhelmed.

The therapy Alonso is receiving has helped him make tremendous gains, but the cost to sustain it was out of reach for the Alvarez family. The Scholarship from Family Hope Foundation has allowed them to invest in the therapy sessions that have given Alonso and the entire family the tools they need for success. Says mom, “We have already come so far in a short amount of time. The meltdowns are less and less and his speech continues to unfold. It feels good to be moving forward as a family.”