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Asterisk AUTISM THE WAY I SEE IT #7
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Parents ask all the time, why can my son do good all day and when he gets home he losses it? Seems like home should be the most comfortable and safe for him. It is! That’s why it happens. 
It’s actually a good skill, self-regulating until they return home, takes a lot of power! 
We all do that on some level, hold it together during work hours. 
I really like this Coke can analogy, i wish I had thought of it! Parts of this are hard to read but for many it is a true story.

I am blessed.
Autism looks different with therapy
Autism the way I see it at Hope Center 4 Autism
Please excuse my typos and poor writing skills but I hope you hear my heart.

-Susan Wood, Executive Director

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Asterisk AUTISM THE WAY I SEE IT #6
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Christmas is a time to pray for peace on earth, good will toward men.
Everyday autism parent prays for peace within their homes for themselves, their family, most of all for their child living with autism and their own personal spot on earth. 
Christmas is that magical day we look forward to all year, for the love, for family time, for gift giving, the decorations and lots and lots food. I love the holidays, and I am excited for every minute. 
Honestly, I don’t think families with autism look forward to the holidays much. These days can all be very hard for people with autism. Often the day is filled with so much “different”. Days filled with family they may not see that often and maybe don’t know that well. This means how the family members behaves may make a person with autism uncomfortable because it’s not the regular day to day people they know. 
The house, even if it’s their house will have different decorations and different people in it. The mood of the day is not normal. Voices may be louder and seem unregulated to them. The food maybe not be the normal food they normally eat and the smells this day is certainly not the normal. Even love can be hard. People want hugs and kisses which is understandable, it’s family. But for a person with autism this may feel very awkward and not comfortable. Please ask before hugging and kissing any child 
I got many reports of great victories this Christmas, pretend play and pictures of kids with Santa, parents potty training on Christmas day, one who tried new food. It maybe a stressful day for families but they celebrate great things as well. Please feel free to share your celebrations and victories in the comments.
I am so honored to share in bringing change with these families, to support and watch them grow. Thank you 
I am blessed.
Autism looks different with therapy,
Autism the way I see it at Hope Center 4 Autism
Please excuse my typos and poor writing skills but I hope you hear my heart.

-Susan Wood, Executive Director

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Asterisk AUTISM THE WAY I SEE IT #5
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Today was a dream come true. Today, we had a music event where our clients got to just be kids. All Afternoon long they were kids, just kids just like any other kid. Kids that had fun. Kids that everyone enjoyed being around, who chatted, who sang, a few danced.

Today we were all just like “normal”, Normal families, with normal kids, doing normal things, with other friends and families just like them. It was a beautiful day.

It is not a huge deal for most people’s kids to get to preform in the normal school Christmas event or PTA event. It is however NOT normal for most families with autism. I don’t know if any of the kids attending today have EVER preformed at a school event before. Seriously, I have clients who are not invited to be part of the holiday events at their school. They are left out. Somehow they forget to invite them. They forgot to let him practice.

But not today, everyone sang who wanted to sing. And then some sang again if they wanted. Today was an event that was created so that everyone was welcome, everyone was included, everyone had fun.

Thank you so much to each of you who found the time to be part of this amazing, one of a kind, best event ever. I know you were changed by what you witnessed today. 
Thank you for supporting the hair-brain ideas we create to expose our clients to experiences other children gets to take part in. 
How can they grow, and learn to take part in our world if we do not provide chances for them to experience our world. Thank you for being a Hero. Thank you for today.

I am blessed.
Autism looks different with therapy,
Autism the way I see it at Hope Center 4 Autism
Please excuse my typos and poor writing skills but I hope you hear my heart.

-Susan Wood, Executive Director

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Asterisk AUTISM THE WAY I SEE IT #4
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A child with autism is a child first and always. Every child should be shown respect and dignity. Children are gifts. For a child with autism, the autism is not their personality or who the are. They are not autism. They are a child. If you see autism you are wrong and need to filter your thinking and mindset. Autism is a cape that often hides the child. A covering that can block the language, learning, and other skills for many. A covering that can block what many see. But it is just a cape, a cape the moves and flows as a child changes, learns and grows with during therapy. A covering that can get smaller with love, time, teaching with ABA to expose the real person inside. If you see autism please look again, look harder for that cape. Most super heroes wear capes.

I am blessed.
Autism looks different with therapy,
Autism the way I see it at Hope Center 4 Autism
Please excuse my typos and poor writing skills but I hope you hear my heart.

-Susan Wood, Executive Director

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Asterisk AUTISM THE WAY I SEE IT #3
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Today was a normal day, as normal as the can be with 12 to 15 kids with autism in the building working to change their lives. It was busy and productive for me, donations of three used computers were brought in today as well as a hundred dollar donation all from a friend of a friend. We had a meeting about our upcoming event that features local artist and our clients singing and enjoying them selves at Magnolia Motor lounge Dec 16 (find more info on FB events and the flyer posted)
I had a second meeting by phone with a past volunteer asking how she can re-engage and help gather support for the cause. Within a hour of that call she had gotten an adult size bike we needed donated for one of our boys. What a hero! What a great person.

As I am getting finished up and preparing to leave for the weekend, I hear Nadia and Karina talking and I hear a little voice. I HAVE to walk over and see what’s up…….this little small fry, 3 years old was non verbal just 5 short weeks ago is now chattering up a storm, repeating everything Karina says. What a exciting blessing. emerging speech.
I am blessed.
Autism looks different with therapy,
Autism the way I see it at Hope Center 4 Autism
Please excuse my typos and poor writing skills but I hope you hear my heart. #its4thebabies #nadia #letstalk

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Asterisk AUTISM THE WAY I SEE IT #2
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Today was a busy day at Hope Center 4 Autism much like every other day. I saw a new client, she is 25 yr old and so amazing. Had a few meetings and finished with a parent meeting.

The parent meeting this afternoon was my last appointment of the day and well, I do not know how these parents do it. Four kids, one with autism, dad is a first responder so he is gone a lot, mom is a teacher. WOW, they are so awesome.

They are so sweet and kind, seeking help, wanting to do work at home to help their son. Layers and layers of information being shared, very quickly, our one hour meeting quickly turn into 2 hours. They need help with getting him to eat, timeout, sharing, taking turns, speech, birthday parties, getting their families to believe he has autism, the holidays and sleep.

What would you pick to work on? Where do you start?

We have to prep parents for change. They are in survival mode, doing the best they can and I want them to change what they are doing and do things our way? That cannot be easy. They don’t really know us very well at this point. It has to be scary to think about changing even if it is to make changes for the better, change is always hard. So today we talk a lot, we share a lot and we listen a lot.

We pick one thing for parents work on at home and we start a plan. We pick taking turns. Mom and child will play a game, they will follow a plan to play and take turns, mom will use the words we set up for her to use in the plan, they will play, they will take turns. This will create change. Mom will collect data ( keep notes) Once they are successful to our BCBA we will add to the plan. Everything is broken into small steps and taught one step at a time. This is how hope changes things, baby steps so everyone is successful.

I am blessed.
Autism looks different with therapy,
Autism the way I see it at Hope Center 4 Autism
Please excuse my typos and poor writing skills but I hope you hear my heart.

-Susan Wood, Executive Director

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Asterisk AUTISM THE WAY I SEE IT #1
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Tonight was our holiday open house, We do this every year and well, to be honest, there were very few folks who attended today. I could be sad and disappointed but I am not at all, I am thrilled.

Success looks very different at the Hope Center for Autism
Tonight was a bucket list kind of night, tonight was a gift.

Last April at our autism awareness rally one of our clients told me he wanted to talk in the microphone like he saw an older boy who often speaks with me does. I explained he had to work hard and practice speaking clearly and we would see.

Before I go any farther let’s step back a few years, you need to understand this child was totally nonverbal at age 4, would not make any eye contact or allow you to even touch him much at all. He was a hard child to work with at times.

OK, back to today at 12 years old, he stood before over 20+ adults he had never met and he answered questions about his day. He did not get a microphone but he was amazing. It was a surprise for him and his parents that I was going to ask him to talk tonight, they would have all been so nervous…I was a little nervous but mostly I was excited. I prayed it would go well. What an amazing moment to see a child reach such a goal. From nonverbal to sharing his day with strangers. Bucket List for me and my boy.

Then at the same time, there was a second young man attending, who shared about being bullied in public school and a little about his current school. And about his sock drive for the homeless, what? A person with autism cares about the homeless? A person with autism has compassion?

I am blessed.
Autism looks different from therapy,
Autism the way I see it at Hope Center 4 Autism

Please excuse my typos and poor writing skills but I hope you hear my heart.

-Susan Wood, Executive Director

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Asterisk The Beginning
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I remember the day as if it were yesterday. I had just walked in the door at my mother’s house to pick up my son. As I was finishing up and getting him ready to get in the car my mother said ten words that shattered the wall of denial I had built up for a couple of months “Do you notice he doesn’t respond to his name anymore?” To say that I lost control of my emotions would be an immense understatement. I took out all of the anger I had built up behind that denial on my mother (I have since apologized.) I knew what she was implying and that meant that it was real and it was happening to us. I spent the next couple of hours under the mask of Zoloft, which I am not proud of. We spent the next few weeks researching and waiting on doctors to confirm what we already knew.

When he was first diagnosed, and even before, it was hard for us to really go anywhere. When we did people would look at us funny or comment on his “unique” behavior. When you are first starting your new role of parent nothing hurts worse than people judging your child. It’s not easy to learn how to adapt your way of thinking in order to survive mentally. People can be cruel and put in their “medical” opinion when in fact they have never been to college let alone medical school. Believe it or not, a woman actually told me that if I only loved my child more he wouldn’t have autism.

Lucky for her I was still in the shock stage of the diagnosis and really didn’t have my warrior’s sword hanging from my hip. There are constant roadblocks with autism…you make three strides forward and take fifty giant steps backward. As with any disease, the stress of the diagnosis affects the way the babies heal. We had to stop and think…”Where do we go from here? Do we deal with this by ignoring it until it gets worse? Do we jump in feet first and swim until we run out of breath? ABSOLUTELY! There was no way I was gonna lay down and let this world walk all over my baby. We decided, as a family, to fight and fight hard.

I have had to pull my screaming child out from behind the toilet because a plane passed over and he didn’t know how to process, what we “typical” people would call a simple background noise. You see for most people with autism there is no such thing as background noise. All of it, the water running through the pipes headed to the sink, the swishing of the air surrounding the fan, the dog barking three houses down is all upfront noise.

When my son’s tummy hurts, which is inevitable with children with autism, he has never been able to tell me. Imagine having a headache and not knowing what it was, not having any way to ask someone what was happening and not being given anything to help with the pain.

My son would repeatedly throw himself into the couch tummy first to combat the pain. From our eyes, it was absolute torture and we had no idea how to help him. As cheesy as it sounds it was an episode of Oprah that steered us in the right direction…

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Asterisk Eleven Years…
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Eleven years of helping families find a new normal….

It’s hard to remember life before the Hope Center 4 Autism. It often feels like Hope Center for Autism has filled almost every waking moment of my life for the past eleven years. I tell people we have three children, Lindsey, our firstborn, Adrienne, our second, and then “Hope” the perpetual toddler that keeps us on the move day in and day out. It keeps up some nights and the worry never stops. Hope is on our mind at all times. But we are blessed.

We are blessed to do something so amazing every day! We love our jobs, we love our staff and we love the families we serve.

Eleven years. Many families. Many stories. To each of you that have been part of the past eleven years, thank you. Thank you for this honor. Amazing things have happened in these eleven years. Many non-verbal clients have begun to speak. Hundreds (it seems like thousands) have been potty trained. Families have found their new normal and are living their lives again.

Let’s look forward to the coming year. One month, one day at a time. One success, one goal mastered, one word spoken. Take it all in stride.

Thank you all of you who have walked with us.

To Nadia and Lindsey who help found HC4A and have worked tirelessly since day one to ensure the high-quality therapy every day.

To each and every family who has ever honored us by allowing us time with your child.

I say it often, I am so blessed. Most people live their entire life looking for their calling, but not me. I know why I’m here.
Today I cried with a mom, she said that today she can now begin to understand her son. Her son’s desire is to be like everyone else. Then there’s another mom crying because her son needs more therapy but the funding is not there. And there’s a third client who threw the kids ball over the fence because they wouldn’t play with him. Pretty normal kids stuff at times and then sad and maddening at times too.
Then the hardest one today, a new mom asked me some heartbreaking questions, “How much therapy does he need to make the autism go away? We can just get the right amount of therapy and he will be normal right? We do what the Dr says and it will be gone, right?”
With tears in my eyes, I had to explain to this sweet woman that it doesn’t work like that. This is a very hard thing to explain. She cried.

Eleven years of walking beside families as they begin the journey to try to heal and find a new normal

Susan Wood
Executive Director/Co-founder

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Asterisk Do you medicate your special needs child?
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I was just like you. I gawked and judged anyone who mentioned medicating his or her child. “They did not try hard enough,” I would say to myself. I judged. Now I regret every rude thought that entered my mind. To those who still silently judge, this is for you.

Those who love us know how hard I tried and continue to try. I wholeheartedly believe that nutrition and a clean diet can be game changers. I wholeheartedly believe that biomedical treatments for kids with autism do work. I wholeheartedly believe that ABA therapy changes and enhances the lives of those on the spectrum. But I also know that a year ago I was hiding. We had stopped all our activities and outings. I would leave him with the babysitter longer and longer each day because taking him to a store was not an option. Years ago, we had already surrendered most of our freedom of being able to go to birthday parties, restaurants, and any place typical children may be.
Parks were our outlet for many years; they allowed him to roam freely and play without disturbing others. But by this time we had stopped going to any park that had ANY person there. We only went in the wee hours of the morning when we could be alone. Empty parking lots became our “outings” because my kids could run and play freely- and when his outbursts became unmanageable, he could safely and quickly go to our car to “scream it out” and no one would judge us.
I was scared. I was desperate. Every time he had an aggressive episode I would lose more hope, more confidence in my ability to manage him on my own. His physical strength was growing but mine remained the same. It was only a matter of time before his strength would surpass mine. Many episodes I watched helplessly as he tore our home apart and beat himself in the head mercilessly.

My world began closing in. I began to shield my friends from the horror that we lived every day. Even those closest to us did not know how bad it got. No one lived it the way I did. How could they not know? Because I hid it. Silence and smiles covered up the tears and physical marks from outbursts- the pain in my soul hid behind my fake smile.

I would like to tell you that the aggression was the worst part, but I would be lying. It was the screaming. Car rides (2+ hours round trip) were unbearable. We have all sat through a horrendous car ride with a baby or toddler crying- multiply that noise level and frustration. This was every single day, every time. Every morning on my way to work. The screaming was relentless. It pierced through my ears and made my brain shake. Having any type of conversation with my other children was impossible. My middle child began wearing headphones in an attempt to block the noise. The baby had to suffer through the torturous screams as keeping headphones on a toddler is… well… if you have a toddler you know.
The constant, hours and hours of screaming that finally made me say yes. Yes, we need help. Yes, we need to medicate him. I finally surrendered to the fact that I could not allow this to continue any longer.
Somewhere out there, there is another family in crisis. Hiding the ugly autism and putting on the brave faces needed to survive this world. I know this because I lived it.
So if you hear a momma talking casually about the medication her child is on, just know that the choice she had to make tore her up inside. Know that she questions herself every day when she looks at her child. Know that she agonized for weeks, months, or years over this decision. Know that she has tried it all and will continue to try. Know that it took everything in her to admit that she had lost control. And while she doesn’t need your approval, she most certainly doesn’t need your judgment.

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Hope Center for Autism
2751 Green Oaks Rd | Fort Worth, TX 76116

Phone: (817) 560-1139
Fax: (817) 560-7039

Office Hours:
Monday-Thursday 8:30am - 5:30pm
Friday 8:30am - 3:30pm

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