Pandemic takes particular toll on teenager with autism
Things had been turning around for Andrew, a teenager with epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder.
"He had learned to calm down," said Jane, his grandmother and guardian. "He was more socialized. He was communicating. And he was always glad to go to school."
But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and schools closed, Andrew's mental state swiftly deteriorated, as he thought he had been abandoned, she said. He was suddenly angry and confused. His moods and behaviors were hard to control. He was physically aggressive and very hard to reach.
"He just could not calm down," Jane said.
Andrew became so out of control that he had to be taken to the emergency department. There, the doctors were able to work with the specialists at the Amita Health Center for Pediatric Brain, and the Amita Health Autism Spectrum & Developmental Disorders Resource Center, where Andrew was a patient, to adjust his medications.
The Amita Health Autism Spectrum & Developmental Disorders Resource Center in Hoffman Estates has served more than 7,000 families since opening with the support of the Foglia Family Foundation in 2010. There, families receive resources, support and education. Children and adolescents receive acceptance, specialized therapies and opportunities to socialize and learn how to be who they are in the world with other people.
Following his hospitalization, Andrew attended crisis stabilization appointments with a child psychiatrist and continues to receive consultation appointments with his psychiatrist at Amita Health's Center for Pediatric Brain.
In addition, he underwent individual therapy once a week for 16 weeks, while Jane attended weekly skills training tailored to caregivers. And the care team worked closely with school and community partners to make certain Jane got the additional support and assistance she needed. The costs for these services were provided through generous donations to the Amita Health Foundation.
Today, Jane said Andrew is back where he was before the pandemic, sleeping better, getting back to school and virtually connecting with his friends.
"Mentally, emotionally and physically, it's unbelievable the change over the last six months," she said.
Every morning he greets his grandma with a hug, something she says he never used to do.
Jane said she is flooded with relief and joy knowing Andrew is heading in the right direction again, living to the best of his abilities and on a path to a longer, happier life.
"It lights up my heart. Puts tears in my eyes," she said.
For more information on how you can give back to children and families with special needs affected by the pandemic, visit amitahealth.org/giving.
• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Amita Health. For more information, visit amitahealth.org.