Autistic graduate in Chicago IL
Family of Girl with ‘Profound Autism’ Worried She Wouldn’t Get Proper Therapy — Now She’s Graduating High School

Sarah could not believe her eyes as she watched her daughter graduating from high school and making her way across the stage. The overwhelming emotions that flooded her, from tears to sheer amazement. Looking back, she remembered the terrifying journey that began when she was only 24 weeks pregnant with her daughter Hope.

Hope early years

Hope was born as a “micro-preemie,” weighing only a few pounds, and spent the first six months of her life in the neonatal ICU. Sarah could not help but reflect on the countless moments when they were unsure if Hope would even survive. The doctor’s words were also etched in her mind, warning them of the high likelihood of Hope having a severe health condition. The diagnosis came when Hope was just a toddler, confirming that she had autism.

The doctors, to give Hope the best chance at a better life, suggested she undergo intense therapy sessions for seven to eight hours each day. Sarah’s heart sank at the thought of such a daunting task for her young daughter. However, it was a necessary step to help her daughter cope with and overcome the challenges of autism.

Fortunately, Sarah’s family was connected with Dr. Susannah Poe, a renowned specialist who runs the WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital’s Neurodevelopmental Center. At that time, Dr Susannah’s clinic was still in its infancy and was less equipped due to a lack of funding, but this did not deter her from providing Hope with the best possible care.

Hope improves

The results were astounding. Hope learned vital life skills through applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, such as self-feeding, using the restroom independently, washing hands properly, following instructions, and communicating certain phrases. In fact, at 8 years of age, Hope was able to attend school on a part-time basis.

This was a brand new environment for her, filled with unfamiliar sights and sounds compared to the clinic she was accustomed to. However, thanks to the dedicated effort of her teacher, who truly adored Hope, she thrived in her new school setting.

Sarah is grateful for Hope’s progress and hopes that this inspires other parents and individuals with autism to never give up. Even those who may have a different way of experiencing the world deserve to live a meaningful life full of hope.

Treatment and Support in Chicago

As part of our commitment to providing comprehensive treatment and support, Illinois Autism Center is fully dedicated to providing quality care, therapy services, and valuable resources for individuals with autism and their loved ones.