Autism affects children of every race and socio-economic background. Right now, there isn't a cure, but early detection is key. One non-profit is helping local families not just live, but thrive with autism.
Jonathan Eichenholz sounds out words on a flash card. His simple words are the sounds of hard work, and the sounds of progress. The eight year old has Autism. His mother Robyn Eichenholz said it took years to diagnose her son.
"They always said that he had a foot in both worlds," said Eichenholz. "He was really social with other adults, but not kids, and that was a cue."
Eichenholz said it became clear when her younger daughter Ella hit milestones that four old Jonathan hadn't hit.
"When he was four, I thought, 'Okay, Jonathan is significantly delayed,'" said Eichenholz. "And he does have Autism."
Then, through research and word of mouth, she found Quest, Inc., a non-profit that helps people with disabilities, including those with autism.
"He could say things, but he couldn't really get the point across," said Nona Melvin, Jonathan's primary therapist at Quest. "People couldn't understand it."
"When he started at Quest, he didn't have 18-month sounds," said Eichenholz. "He just turned eight last week, and he's almost talking in full sentences! It's so amazing! I just wanted that so badly."
Like many autistic children, Jonathan had problems expressing himself. Trips to the doctor or eating out made him sick. Now, the family enjoys trips to Walt Disney World.
"It gets me so excited," said Melvin. "When he learns something new."
"He's like, 'Good Morning!' and I waited so long to hear him say that, and it's the most delicious thing to have him say that," said Eichenholz.
"I tell parents it's not what we teach," said Melvin. "It's how we teach it."
Quest's experts help more than 1,100 people daily.
"We help developmentally disabled individuals," said John Gill, Quest, Inc., COO. "What we like to say is all ages, all stages."
They work with 120 Autistic children. The team develops individualized plans for each child., using ABA therapy or Applied Behavior Analysis.
Jonathan has spent three years in the program.
"Quest gave us hope and they helped us," said Eichenholz. "That is probably the best take away in working for Quest," added Gill.
"I hope that he'll be an independent individual," said Eichenholz. "Contributor to society. I want him to go to college. I want him to have a bar mitzvah!"
A celebration of a change in life for a little boy on a quest.