Meet Joey

Joey Dechant
Age 4, Autism

Joey Dechant is beginning to understand the world around him. “Just the other day, he picked up a Magna Doodle and wrote his name. He just did it. When we got home, I pulled out a paper and pen. He wrote his name again. I couldn’t believe it,” his mother, Kristin, said.

Once he could not speak, now, he won’t be quiet. He can pick out numbers up to 20. He knows every letter in the alphabet.

There was a time when Joey never hugged his mom. He just didn’t understand what a hug was. “The other day, he said ‘I love you, mommy’ and gave me a big hug.”

Joey wasn’t always this social. By age 2, Joey had not spoken a word. His mom felt something was wrong when she scheduled an appointment with Joey’s pediatrician. Children around his age should be experimenting with language and making simple sentences. After being referred to a neuropsychologist, she
knew why—Joey had autism.

Joey and Kristin had their first appointment at Marcus Autism Center with Amy Pakula, M.D., who confirmed his diagnosis. Unfortunately, there were no openings in the Language and Learning Clinic, but our clinicians were willing to meet with Kristin and Joey near their home.

“They would meet with me and give me my to-do list for the week. She helped me understand what applied behavior analysis (ABA) was and how to use it.”

Kristin is using ABA everywhere. “If we’re at the grocery store, I’m constantly asking him to pick out colors and letters.” All of the extra practice really paid off—Joey began a prekindergarten program this year.

Kristin now helps other families who have a child with autism, filling out Medicaid forms or teaching the basics of ABA. Rather than being paid, she brings a Marcus Autism Center donation envelope to their house.

“I would rather they help another family. We’ve been so blessed to have all the help we’ve had,” Kristin said.

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