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"We Need to Pull Ryan into This World"

Not that kid in the corner anymore continued...

Each week, his language improves. Although he does sometimes say words and phrases repeatedly (vocal stimming), Nicole points out that lately, she’s been able to redirect this habit into more appropriate behavior, such as singing and humming. And while some days Ryan is dramatically quieter than a typical peer, at other times he’s a chatterbox. Besides “mommy,” the toddler has regained other words lost during his regression, such as “juice” and “ball.” And he often comes out with new phrases. One recent example: “Okay, I go to table.”

The Kalkowski family is also thrilled by how affectionate their little boy has become. He used to push his mother away, but now, like any typical toddler, he gets upset when she isn’t around. “The other day, I walked in from the movies with my daughters, and Ryan was at the door with a big smile and his arms out, saying, ‘Hold you,’” says Nicole. “Then, he started kissing me. I can’t put into words how awesome that feels.”

There are still heartbreaking times when Ryan rebuffs hugs and needs space, but many evenings, he cuddles on the couch with his dad, 38-year-old Tim, who owns a contracting business. Sometimes, when Nicole and Tim are tired and snapping at each other, Ryan pulls them together for hugs. And at the playground, Ryan loves going down the slide with his sisters, Ciera, 9, and Ella, 6. “Ryan is like the glue of our family,” says Nicole. “His therapists are surprised that we’re seeing so much progress so quickly.”

Nicole attributes Ryan’s improvement to several factors. First, there are his therapies and special diet. Plus, every three days, Nicole gives Ryan injections of B12 supplements, a treatment recommended by a DAN! (Defeat Autism Now) doctor — a health-care practitioner who detects underlying medical conditions that may be causing autistic behaviors and treats them through diet and supplements. Because little is known about this perplexing epidemic — and because what helps one child on the autism spectrum may not help another — it’s still impossible to determine with any certainty which factors lead to successful treatment

Therapies and medication aside, Nicole also gives some credit for Ryan’s success to her new mind-set. “As I became more secure with the situation and cared less about what others thought, I told myself, I need to pull Ryan into this world, and not let him stay in his other world,“ she says. Nicole began exposing him to everyday situations that he has trouble handling, such as grocery shopping. It wasn’t easy. At the supermarket, where the noise and crowds overwhelmed him, he threw himself on the ground, kicked, and tried to bite Nicole’s shoulder. But Nicole stood tough. “I knew I couldn’t leave the store until he stopped crying or else I’d just be giving in to the behavior,” she says. Countless tantrums and power struggles later, Ryan is now able to handle a 45-minute shopping trip.



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