INDIANAPOLIS — Mary Shiera can't help but smile when seeing her son, Lucas.
“He’s here. You feel it. He will talk to you, he will look at you, he will respond to you,” Shiera said.
At 18 months old, Lucas was diagnosed with autism, and soon after, he started with Easterseals Crossroads through its Autism and Behavior Services program. Shiera's daughter, now 8, was also diagnosed around the same time as Lucas with autism. She too utilized services through Easterseals Crossroads.
“He used to rock, he used to do this with his hands. He would not look at you. He could be around kids but not play with them,” Shiera said.
That has all changed through diagnostic and behavior intervention. Lucas attends therapies at Easterseals Crossroads four days a week.
“I’m more than happy. That’s my blessing. Seeing all he’s achieved now what I have today, it’s an amazing feeling,” Shiera said.
Tracy Gale, director of Autism and Behavior Services at Easterseals Crossroads added: “When he started here, Lucas was kind of in his own world and he really has made so much progress beyond what people even knew to expect.”
Gale the program helps upwards of 400 Hoosiers a year.
“1 in 44 children will receive a diagnosis of autism at some point in their life,” Gale said. “What that says to me as a provider is (the) need is very great.”
Early intervention is part of that great need and something both Gale and Shiera believe is key to Lucas’ success.
“We know that if we’re talking about something neurodevelopment, we know the earlier we can intervene the more the brain can change and respond to that intervention,” Gale said.
Shiera's message to other Hoosier families caring for someone with autism is: don't be afraid.
"It's hard at the beginning. It's overwhelming, It's scary because you want as a parent a perfect kid, but if you connect to the right people, at the end you will see,” Shiera said.
Easterseals Crossroads provides disability services to adults, children and families. It offers programs that help people live independently, as well as resources and training so individuals can learn and grow. The community resource program also offers employment options to prepare job seekers, and activities to allow families to play and relax.
For those wanting to connect with Easterseals Crossroads, click here.