Easter Seals 2011 Child Representative Kyle Mayer

Photo of Kyle smiling

Stephanie Gordon's mother was visiting from out of town. It had been months since she'd seen her grandchildren -- enough time that the grandmother noticed differences in Kyle, then 22 months old.

She expressed concern that his speech had regressed, and more than ever, he preferred playing alone. Stephanie, too, had wondered about her son, so when her mother mentioned autism, she immediately began searching for information online, including visiting Easter Seals' web site.

"When I read through a checklist of warning signs, he hit every single one," she says. Within days, Stephanie was at the pediatrician's office. The doctor doubted Kyle had autism, but Stephanie stood firm, asking to be referred to a specialist. Even after a team at the local children's hospital ruled out autism, Stephanie sought another opinion.

Eventually Kyle was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a form of autism. Stephanie and Kyle's father, Mike, then began exploring options for improving Kyle's social, communication, learning and daily living skills, but they encountered waiting lists at every turn.

When Stephanie heard about an intervention known as the P.L.A.Y. Project offered through Easter Seals in the family's home state of Wisconsin, she called and was able to enroll Kyle for one three-hour session each month.

Still, Stephanie felt Kyle needed more intensive support. When Easter Seals launched an Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) program in February 2010, Kyle was first on the waiting list. Ever since, he's undergone 30 hours of therapy each week, and sisters Julia, 8, and Jenna, 6, are involved during every session.

Already, Stephanie can see a difference.

"I can really have conversations with him," she says.

Now 7, Kyle is in first grade at his neighborhood school, and teachers say he may be able to live independently someday.

Stephanie says Kyle's progress is a result of the early start he got at Easter Seals.

"We were able to build such a strong foundation for him," she says. "Without that, I don't think he'd be anywhere near where he is today. We're just so thankful for Easter Seals."