Parents seek community support for autistic son

By Heather Meade

January 12, 2014

ARCANUM - An Arcanum family is seeking support from the community for their 4-year-old son, who has been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, to receive therapy that will help him function in everyday situations.

Currently, Callum, a loving and affectionate little boy despite being diagnosed with autism, whose population is often depicted as “cold” and “uncaring”, is receiving Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to help him better be able to function in a school-like setting, but his parents want to help him thrive in all situations, and to reach his maximum potential.

“Like every other set of parents, we want our child to fulfill his potential,” said Callum’s parents, Ethan and Rana Watt. “He has, of course, made gains (through ABA therapy), but he has always been slow and steady to grasp new concepts and acquire them fully.”

The Son-Rise Program at the Autism Treatment Center of America in Massachusetts seems like a good fit for the family, Rana asserted, and their research has brought them to many success stories of breaking through the fog of autism, she reported. The program, however, costs money that the Watt family doesn’t necessarily have between their out-of-pocket expenses for Callum’s ABA therapy, the cost of Callum’s restrictive diet, and the normal expenses of running a household, Rana commented, so they’re reaching out to friends, family, and their community to try to raise at least $2,000 to send Rana to The Son-Rise Program so she can learn how to help Callum with play therapy.

“With the Son-Rise Program, you get training at different levels; because I’m a beginner, that’s the level I’ll start at, and eventually I’m hoping to also be able to take Callum for one-on-one therapy at The Autism Treatment Center of America,” Rana said. “I’ll be meeting one-on-one with a counselor to troubleshoot Callum’s specific behaviors, and I’ll learn how to better handle certain situations.”

Rana compared the two therapies to two sides of a coin, stating that being able to provide Callum with both ABA and Son-Rise’s play-type therapy would be “the best of both worlds.”

“There aren’t a lot of resources, and there is no therapy available in Darke County,” Callum’s parents commented. “I think our biggest thing is trying to stay positive, though…Autism is a spectrum, and every person on that spectrum is unique…so of course there are different types of therapies to reach them.”

Callum’s diagnosis affects not only his day-to-day care and difficulty with transitions, but his relationship with the rest of his family, Ethan and Rana said. He is frequently disconnected from his younger brother Rowan, and only “nominally relates to Ethan and me,” Rana said. Callum, and therefore the rest of the family, for the most part, is on a special diet, cutting out processed foods, GMO’s, dyes, and dairy - he eats “clean,” and the whole family is gluten-free, his mom stated, which is expensive, and more difficult to find.

However, there are positive sides to the condition.

“He is so incredibly smart,” his dad, Ethan, said. “When he was three, he would say ‘e’ for elephant, then one day he said ‘e is for elephant,’ spelled elephant, and he was just so excited…I’m pretty sure he has a photographic memory, too, because he’s starting to recite books and movies…He’s changed me. I’m definitely more patient. He is my rock.”

Ethan reported that despite being disconnected from Rowan at times, Callum is still very affectionate toward his younger brother. The boys are just 21 months apart, Rana explained, and even though Rowan is younger, he’s often a positive influence for Callum; the two brothers seem to balance each other, their parents noted.

“Rowan is a good fit for him,” Ethan commented. “He’s very affectionate toward Rowan.”

Callum’s therapies will benefit not only him, but his family as well, allowing him to be more active in their lives, and enabling his parents to connect with him on a deeper and more consistent level, they said. His ABA therapy will help him to succeed in school and work situations, while his play therapy will allow him a chance to interact with his peers and manage day-to-day tasks such as going to the grocery store or restaurants, his parents shared.

“We would love to have enough to be able to go to Son-Rise together, so that we both learn first-hand how we can help Callum reach his potential,” Ethan and Rana noted. “It is difficult for us to understand fully the issue of autism…but we are diligently trying to do so for the sake of Callum’s future…Of course, we will carry as much of the financial burden for his therapy and care as we can, and have already done so, but with a primarily single-income, special diet costs and two boys, we will need some help.”

They have set up a joint savings account with Greenville National Bank in Arcanum, which is flagged to accept donations, Rana commented. They’re hoping the community will support them in their journey to help Callum, but understand that not everyone is able to donate to the cause, and are asking for prayers for Callum, as well.

To donate, learn more about Callum’s story and therapies, or just to connect with Rana and Ethan, contact Rana at 937-621-2167 or email rana.watt@gmail.com.