Home > In Their Own Words > In Their Own Words – The Rescue of My Son

In Their Own Words – The Rescue of My Son

This “In Their Own Words” essay was written by Evelyn Halka, who has a son with autism.

Jacob was born into our family four and a half years ago. He was a beautiful baby, big blue eyes, beautiful face, sweet little fingers and toes. Jake was also an easy baby to nurse who responded well by gaining weight on schedule. He was easy to amuse, he loved his musical toys, he loved the TV, he loved to watch the fan, and he loved the baby swing. We proudly marked the calendar with all of his development and accomplishments. We felt Jake was right on track; he rolled over, sat up, crawled, stood, walked right on schedule. He babbled, waved, and clapped and would say mama and dada.

Slowly like a season, things began to change. There are so many common explanations. Boys develop slower than girls, he had his big sister talking for him, and sometimes it takes longer for the second child. I was not worried at first, not until other skills started to slip away. I hadn’t seen him wave bye-bye as much, the clapping? Where had that gone? It was sneaky, it wasn’t a date you could put your finger on, but the sounds slowly started disappearing until there was nothing left. He was focused on objects; he played for hours with colorful toys in particular. Jake really was becoming less and less interested in us. I felt like I just became a way for Jake to get what he wanted. He would pull on me and my husband and bring us to the area of what he wanted. He started to have trouble sleeping; he would wake up crying often throughout the night and then be up at 3 or 4 a.m. for the day. Jake would no longer tolerate being restrained in any way, no high chair, no stroller, and no shopping carts. Jake started to do unsafe things, jumping off of anything he could, climbing and jumping. If he became upset he would bang his head against the highchair. He started to be very selective about what he would eat eliminating almost everything until we were down to about four foods. We would call him and he would not look at us. We could not get him dressed, bathed or teeth brushed without a fight, he could not be directed into any activity. The sounds were gone, the sleeping was gone, the waving, the clapping, pretty much all of the things that Jake was, were disappearing. Finally, Jake was gone too.

I called early intervention at the advice of my sister. After meeting with early intervention, an evaluation determined that Jake was delayed in all areas, and was a candidate to be evaluated by the Autism CATCH team in Chester County, Penn. Jacob was eligible for early intervention and received special instruction, occupational therapy, and speech in our home until he reached age three. He was evaluated by the CATCH Team and was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. It was recommended and approved that he attend the TOT preschool class provided by the ARC of Chester County.

Slowly the special instruction we received began to change my family’s life. My everyday battles were meet head-on with interest, respect, empathy and experience. My husband and I were willing participants in my son’s therapy and our son’s teacher truly become our teacher, and we learned to get to Jake with her help. A strong focus on picture exchange communication lead the lessons and slowly with helpful modification made by our instructor, Jacob began to communicate his wants to us. Slowly his frustrations began to become less. Through pictures, sequences and stories my son began to participate in his life, he finally found the words he needed. At this time we also began to receive wraparound services, and behavioral support in our home. The combination of the therapies began to fall into place. This was the beginning of his breakthrough.

Jake’s participation in the TOT program was a pivotal turning point in his story. Once Jake began the TOT program he was again becoming the son I once knew. He received OT, speech and special instruction in concentrated, individualized form in this classroom six hours per week. He absolutely blossomed and rose to the challenges he had in his life with this help. The program attacked problems and everyday battles, leaving us with the sense that we could lead a fulfilling life with my child and sanity intact. Going out into the community in various ways gave Jake so many skills. He is able to be examined by a doctor, a dentist, get a haircut, play at a playground, eat at a restaurant, shop in a store, and go to the library! I would never have imagined that we would ever enjoy any of these activities with our son. I feel like we were blessed to have Jacob in this program, and that he would not be where he is today without it. Jacob’s progress is remarkable, and been achieved because of this amazing program and the staff that provides it. I can not stress enough how instrumental it has been in my sons recovery.

Jacob is now four and a half and speaks in complete sentences. He attends a developmentally delayed class room and is doing very well. He will brush his teeth and sit at the table and even clean up his plate and his toys. Jacob sleeps through the night and now calls me “mommy,” my husband “daddy,” and his sister and dog by name. He is a pleasure to be around and I am grateful for all the amazing people who have blessed our lives and helped us along the way to get where we are.

Every child who is slipping away unto himself should have the chance that Jacob had; I hope that these services can be maintained and expanded to meet the demands of this epidemic. I am forever grateful for the RESCUE of my son, Jacob William Halka.

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

  1. Meredith B.
    July 5, 2010 at 11:42 am

    I am almost in tears as I read this post because I feel like you are writing about my son Sam! This is Sam’s story too, and it has been the joy of our lives to watch him grow and develop and thrive in his special needs classroom. Thank you for sharing your story, and may God continue to bless your son and your family and the patient and wonderful teachers and therapists that work with our boys!

    • Evelyn Halka
      July 8, 2010 at 10:40 pm

      Thank you all for the heart warming responses. I hope that there will be a day that Jacob’s Story is the norm for all of us. I am happy that our story has inspired hope, it is truly a blessing that I am thankful to share.

  2. Cheryl Ashley
    July 5, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    I am crying as I am typing this. This sounds exactly like my daughter Hunter Christine who will be 6 in December. Hunter has been in special education preschool for a year and also receives occupational as well as speech therapy. So far nothing has changed. I am very happy for you and your son. I hope that someday I will get to hear momma again…..it has been so long. Thank you very much for sharing your story.

  3. Jojo Lauder
    July 5, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story.. Like meridith B. Its like you are talking about my son. After early intervention my son now is doing great..I was told that he is autism free from the school district I was told maybe he was mis-diagnose but how could they say that when it was them who help me tremendously.. He is still has special needs so I am sure I am not the only one they said that.. Its pivotal that when they told me this I callled My primary pediatrician and He said No because Autism is very broad Lets keep him on this.. I am grateful though that on early stage I was not on denial that there is sometimes mysterious about this autism and when they told me.. He has symptoms I said : what are you going to help me..when and I need help they try to deny me at first but I said I read into this STAR program I want him there .. when persuasion and total LOVE for my son He was put into it and NOW you can not tell and thanks to early intervention by the school district help.

  4. July 5, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Incredible first hand account of how successful early interventions makes a huge difference. Thanks for sharing.

    Which other interventions/services did Jacob receive?

    • Evelyn Halka
      July 8, 2010 at 10:35 pm

      Jacob received OT, speech & special instuction in our home until age three through our county early intervention program. He also went to the ARC of Chester County tot class room about 6 hours a week, where he also got speech & OT. After the first 4 months we were able to get him “wrap around services” here in PA for behavioral health. He had a BSC, MT & TSS approved for home & community. It took a while to get the hours staffed that were approved. He also had some limited hippotherapy.

  5. jean manganaro
    July 5, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Fantastic. My experience is similar. Thank God for early intervention. I’m convinced my son wouldn’t be speaking today had it not been for the kind people who help him.
    Cole is 5 now and was just cleared out of special ed class. Speech is still work but leaps and bounds from before! God Bless!

  6. July 5, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    I am a speech-language pathologist and have worked a lot with children diagnosed with ASD. I’m so happy that you were able to get your son early intervention as that is the most effective tool against these disorders. I hope parents of typical children read this so they know how important it is to recognize and acknowledge these early signs of the disorder. Thank you for your story!

  7. Danielle W.
    July 5, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    OMG! This sounds a lot like my Daughter too! I got her help through the school & she went to a special needs pre-school program & went to summer school. After the summer school program was over, we went to a friends 40th birthday party & my Daughter was asking older people to dance with her & talking with everyone. I had tears in my eyes, as I’ve never seen her so outgoing before. The teachers & therapists who work with our special needs children are VERY SPECIAL themselves! They have such a way & such patience with our children!
    BTW…….Your son is so beautiful!! Thank you for sharing your story!
    God Bless You & ALL of the wonderful children out there!

  8. Cynthia Thomason
    July 5, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    I am so happy for your family. Most of all for Jake. While reading this story I found myself in tears. My son Caleb was diagnosed three years ago at age 4. He was similar to Jake in that he met all of his infant and toddler milestones on time. He even developed about 15 or so words. But by about 28 months old he just stopped talking. His behavior wasn’t exactly erratic, but I noticed a significant change in his personality. He wasn’t the happy child that i had know for the first two years of his life. Unfortunately I knew nothing about autism and these services were either not available where i lived at the time or just not offered. I felt as though I had to go at all of his therapy alone. He was placed in a special class for preschool, but that was the extent of it. Caleb is now 7 and still completely non verbal. He just started receiving speech and OT in the state we live in now. But things have gotten so much worse in my home with regard to his behavior. I was recently informed that along with the autism, Caleb also has ADHD. It is a constant battle trying to keep some sense of normalcy in my home. One minute my son is loving, affectionate, and happy. The next, he becomes irritable, throws tantrums that are off the charts, and often times becomes violent with myself and his older brother and sister. He has bitten just about everyone he has regular contact with including me. He bit my daughter on her cheek just under her left eye and drew blood. I haven’t been able to keep a babysitter. I am a single parent and have been raising all three of the children alone since 2005. I get absolutely no help from my ex-husband, so I am forced to work full time, and sometimes more than one job just to make ends meet. Well most recently due to Caleb’s violent tantrums, I lost another sitter. When i was unable to work for more than three days, I lost my job as well. Now i am faced with losing my home and my vehicle because i just cannot afford to pay. In the mean time I am unable to even look for another job because Caleb has become so hard to deal with that I cannot leave him. I am continuing to seek out more therapy and hoping and praying that something will work. My son is a very unhappy kid.

    • Evelyn Halka
      July 8, 2010 at 10:53 pm


      I can’t imagine how hard it must be to go this alone, I’m sorry. I will tell you that it hasn’t been easy. My family was faced with many difficult choices of how to deal with our situation. I understood that I was about to begin the fight of my life. And while Jacob progress is amazing, he still needs our help, but I feel a lot less scared than I did in the beginning. You sound defeated, and I know that I have been there before, I will pray that you find the strength to continue your fight.

    • Deanna A.
      July 10, 2010 at 11:47 pm

      I can relate very well to your situation. My son is now twelve and has come a long way since those days. My son would get frustrated because he was not able to talk when he first started school. He would bite holes in his clothes and was also very unhappy. With help from his therapists, I developed a picture program to help him communicate(real pictures worked best for him) and taught him sign language(Signing Time video series is great). Even though it didn’t seem like there was much response on his part I have found that he was internalizes all of what I was teaching him. I also found out that he had many food allergies that made it impossible for him to concentrate, much less sit still. I took him to a pediatric allergist and had a skin test done. We eliminated all red dyes and put him on acidopholis tablets, gummy vitamins, and 1 tsp of cod liver oil a day(Hi-Health has this). It has made all the difference in the world. He went from being non verbal to reading at a fourth grade level in five years. I know each child and each case if different but maybe this will help. God Bless.

    • Jeanine
      July 17, 2010 at 12:41 pm

      My son, Jack, is 13. Between the ages of 7-11 life was unbearable. I was at the point that I thought I might not be able to keep him in our home as he was a danger to himself and my other children. He could never be left unattended. He is verbal and has always had some great skills but is really delayed socially. We, too, eliminated all food dyes as well as any other foods that just seemed to make him “crazy”. We did extensive allergy testing as it runs in the family but nothing was conclusive so we just trusted our instincts. We added acidopholis and cod liver oil and definitely saw some improvement but he was still sprending alot of time in the time-out room at school. Next we tried melatonin – LIFESAVER! Jack slept through the night peacefully and has ever since. After about 6 months we saw a dramatic change in personality. No more aggression, little anger and he is able to pull himself together when he does get angry. After about a year we added a small dose of seroquel – no other medication has worked, we’ve tried them all. He now participates in the classroom and on trips. He is a different person and life is sooo much better. Also, have you looked into Medicaid Waiver? I haven’t done it yet but it may make him eligible for some respite programs. Good luck, keep trying!

    • Natalie
      July 25, 2010 at 3:17 am

      Cynthia, I’m so sorry your son, Caleb, didn’t get the help he needed at age 4. It sounds like you certainly have your hands full. Sorry, i don’t have any advise as i’m only an interested reader, don’t have any experience with autism. Please know there are people out there who care. I am working on raising money to contribute to this site.

    • corinne
      July 26, 2010 at 4:49 am

      Cynthia, you should get SSDI for your son. You will definitely be eligible for social security for him. good luck!

  9. Geri
    July 5, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    It is very neat to read these stories. I wish mine could be the same! My son is now almost 6 and unfortunately isn’t speaking yet. I wish I had more to offer him, I can only stay hopeful that we can help him somehow. Bless your family, I am sure he will have a bright future!

  10. snowie
    July 5, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Ur story sounds like probably all of ours and i thank you for sharing it.. i have a 2 yo little girl who did exactly the same thing shes diagnosed with PDDNOS.. and Early intervention SAVED HER! Kudos to u mama for paying attention and doing something instead of being in denial.. Keep up the good work my thoughts and prayers are with u and ur family GOoD JOB! :) oh all the Therapy’s ABA is the MAIN one.. I praise my ABA every day i think id be lost without her .. the rest of the team is great too.. but her services helped the most thus far! xoxo

  11. Yolandi Olivier
    July 5, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Your story is such a big insperation for me. My son has been diagnose with Autism – PDD 5 months ago. He is now 2 and a half years old. I am also doing a program with him, and his progress is very good. When I feel like giving up, I will remember your story. I can’t wait to see how he will be when he turns four!

  12. Carol
    July 5, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    I’m almost in tears too for your story is very similar to my son’s Samuel. He was 4 yrs old entering pre-school when we were told he was ‘different’ at school and needed more help and intervention. While he did get many services in NY it wasn’t until we moved to NC that we were told he has ASD, he was 8 years old by then. The school system has worked with him so well. He’s now able to read and write and communicate more effectively. There are some awesome teachers and therapist outthere!

  13. christine Roberts
    July 5, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    hello i too am in tears because like your son close to excatly the same story with the sister and everything same excuses and all we has azip in az it is a blessing to have all those options we have recently moved to a state who does not recognize autism well and are struggling to get back home to az so my son who is five can get hes therapies back good luck and God bless and thank you for being strong for our children with Autism it means a lot to connect to someone who gets it!!!

  14. Brenna Friedmann
    July 5, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Our story began very differently than both of yours, but I can happily report that we are currently in the same wonderful place with our son, Louis who will be 4 and 1/2 in August. Louis wasn’t meeting milestones, so I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be to see your child gain skills and then have them slowly disappear. Many families in our circle have had diagnoses that have manifested in that way, and it must be so heartbreaking. All I can say is thank goodness for early intervention and the special people who make miracles happen every day!

  15. tatygar
    July 5, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    A story such as this is testament to the need for access to early intervention programs – it seems that your son got what he needed when he needed it – the correct therapies and strategies in a timely manner so as to be of the most benefit to the child. Sadly, such complete and timely services are either unavailable to many or available, but not accessible b/c of government wait lists for these services (I am referring to the Canadian system here). Yes, these services exist for every child with needs, but the trick is getting the services – my ASD son is currently on a government wait list for many of the services you received – we have waited a year and likely will wait for another 2 years before his turn comes up – he will be 7 going on 8 at that point – not so early in terms of intervention. Will he be as successful in regaining lost skills? Will he benefit to the same degree he might have if he was getting the services now?

    I wish every politician could read your success story and see how it DOES work for our ASD kids! Thank you for the hope your story brings to those who fear there is nothing we can do!

    • Evelyn Halka
      July 8, 2010 at 11:04 pm

      Sadly, I am well aware that because of the lack of services in many areas many children do not have the same options Jacob had. This is why it is important to let people know! It is important to let our state and federal official know. PA is very far along in this area, I am thankful for all the moms & dads & educators, before me that pushed for the laws that are in place here. I do hope some day that this will be what all children who have special needs receive, it works!

  16. gigi
    July 5, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    MAy God continue to bless that little boy!!! Bless all of our teachers….if it wasn’t for them our children would have very little hope

  17. July 5, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    these stories give such hope!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Guiselt Santos-Banks
    July 5, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    I am reading Sam’s story and I only pray that my Gabe will one day be in his shoes. All I can think of is that I will fail him in some sort of way. We just found out about his disorder and I am a wreck. I have had a few people(friends and family) assuring me it will be OK but I don’t know if I can do it. I’m terrified, scared and I feel alone. My husband is about to leave on a deployment.

  19. Tunesha Johnson
    July 5, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    Your story is like reading a page out of my son Cameron book and I’m so happy to read this, you truly have given me hope. l ‘m so happy for your family.

  20. Truly
    July 6, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Thanks for sharing this inspirational story with us. Early Intervention is the key. I must describe our daughter exactly as your son. Angelia was 2 when diagnosed with PDD/NOS, regressed in every way “however”, speech, ot, ABA, therpeutic horseback riding and other therapies helped her to be where she is today at the age of 8. Her words didn’t come back until she was 5 and 3 word sentences weren’t until she was 6, I’ll never forget “Trick or Treat” as her first 3 words spoken. She is still a bit delayed however has made so much progress as she continues with speech therapy! I Thank God for Early Intervention and also the Pediatrician that recognized our concerns when she turned 2, we had never heard of PDD/NOS “or” Autism until 2004. HOPE is also important for all of us that have a special needs child in the spectrum. God Bless!!

  21. Bridgett Schneeberger
    July 7, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    My grandaughter was dignosed with Autism today. I want to enable my daughter in law and son with every possible resource for our beutiful girl! They live in Mesa,
    Arizona. Can you direct me to the best resources possible!

    I sincerely appreciate your help!

    God Bless

    • autismspeaks
      July 8, 2010 at 9:39 am

      Bridgett: First, they should order a 100 Day Kit, free of charge: http://www.autismspeaks.org/community/family_services/100_day_kit.php. This will walk them through the first steps and can be personalized for age and region. When they call to order the kit, they will speak to a member of our Autism Response Team who can offer further guidance.

  22. Sara
    July 8, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Wonderful story that fills me with hope! My two-year-old was recently diagnosed with “mild” autism (a “3” on a scale of 1 to 10 w/1 being the most severe). He has many of the symptoms you indicated. How did you get through his being finicky with foods? My son too is very limited in what he eats, which oftentimes frustrates me more than the other challenges.

    • Evelyn Halka
      July 8, 2010 at 11:21 pm

      Our OT Rebecca, was such a huge part of getting through to Jacob’s food related issues. He was defensive to colors and textures, and would over stuff for sensory input. It was a slow process. ( We are still involved in although, he has made HUGE improvements.) In the beginning she had us just presenting the food he would eat in new ways to help him become more flexible. (cut the grilled cheese a different way everyday, then change the bread, then change the cheese ect.) We followed a program called “steps to eating” by Kay A. Toomey, PH.D. The biggest improvements happened when we were able to include him in on food preparation when he got a little bit older, it sort of exposed him in a less scarry way. Hope this gives you a place to start.

      • Sara
        July 9, 2010 at 3:22 pm

        Very helpful- thanks!

  23. Natalie
    July 25, 2010 at 3:38 am

    What an adorable picture of your little boy! So glad he got some help and is doing better.

  24. Patty Barnish
    March 25, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I was wondering if anyone has seen results with cod liver oil? What have you’ve seen and how soon? I started my son on it 2 wks and have seen amazing results. Am i crazy?
    Please advise!

  25. Patty Barnish
    March 25, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Cod liver oil anyone?

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