By Lauren Turner
Six years ago, I set out for a college internship at a clinic for special needs children. I did not know it then, but it was this internship would turn out to be a defining moment that would change my life forever. Each child I met during the course of time I worked at the clinic made an impact on my life in many different ways, but it was one child in particular that truly captured my heart. That little boy was Jacob Levin.
Jacob was diagnosed just under the age of 2 years with Autism, a neurological and biological disorder that affects each child differently with varying levels of severity. The diagnosis was devastating to the family, but hoping that early intervention was the key to Jacob’s recovery, they began the first course of therapy. They began treatment at The Center for Human Development’s HOPE Center. The HOPE Center offers hands-on parent education programs for using behavioral interventions for child with Autism and other developmental disabilities. The intensive 12-week program teaches parents how to effectively help their children using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). After completing the program, the family decided to take a different approach to treatment. They felt that at that time, that type of therapy was too rigid for Jacob.
The family decided to try out The Abilities Center, a private clinic that focuses on the whole child to asses what is interfering with progress and determine which services will be most effective to help the child grow and develop. It was here that I first met Jacob. I shadowed 2 other therapists before working with Jacob, but instantly felt the connection with him. I continued to work with Jacob at the clinic throughout the year before I planned to go back to school for my Masters in Occupational Therapy. It was then that the family offered me an opportunity that I could not pass up. It wasn’t until later that Jacob would also be diagnosed with severe Apraxia, the inability to execute a voluntary motor movement despite being able to demonstrate normal muscle function, caused by a problem in the cortex of the brain along with Dysarthria, a disorder caused by paralysis, weakness, or inability to coordinate the muscles of mouth. I have been working with Jacob for close to 5 years, and feel so lucky to call the Levins my family.
Words cannot begin to describe the impact Jacob has made on my life. The bond that we have made can never be broken. There are days that can be very challenging both of us, but at the end of the day his smiling face makes it all okay. Even though Jacob cannot speak the words “I love you”, he doesn’t have to, it is felt by me everyday. I have found an extraordinary friend in Jacob and love him with all my heart. I am so thankful to have the Levin family in my life. They have given me a piece of my heart that I will cherish forever. Not only has Jacob made a strong impact on my life, but everyone at the Friendship Circle has too. The Friendship Circle is a place where Jacob and many other kids faced with challenges can go and feel at home. They are never judged or made to feel like they are different in any way. The friendships and bond created at the Friendship Circle are truly amazing. I am so fortunate to be part of such an amazing organization that helps to change the lives of these beautiful children everyday. The friendships that are made here are ones that last a lifetime.