From a nonverbal 3-year-old newly diagnosed with autism, to a high school student with a smile always on his face, Cameron Rice’s life has improved dramatically over the 15 years he’s come to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.
Parents Steve and Lori Rice from Avon, Ind., first visited the Christian Sarkine Autism Treatment Center at Riley in 2000 for help handling their son’s behaviors—running from them in public, refusing to sit at the dinner table and sleeping very little.
Dr. Naomi B. Swiezy, program director at the center and director of HANDS in Autism, began working extensively with Cameron and was immediately impressed with his family’s dedication.
“Behavior intervention is a tremendous commitment that many families struggle to commit to first thing, but they were incredibly consistent, and they saw the ultimate payoff,” Swiezy recalls.
Over the years, Swiezy coached Steve, Lori and Cameron’s three siblings—Caleb, 21; Cari, 20; and Connor, 16—how best to communicate with him, even going out in public with the family to help troubleshoot outbursts.
“It always struck me how above and beyond everyone went to help Cam,” says Cari Rice, who recently raised $1,000 for Riley at the 2015 IU Dance Marathon. “Cam would not be where he is today without the people at Riley.”
Cameron is in his third year at Avon High School and will continue in the district’s job skills program after earning his certificate of completion. He has fond memories of his therapists at Riley.
“They were great helpers,” he tells his mom. “We played games, read books, drew pictures on the board, worked alone at the table, built things with Lincoln Logs and ate M&M’s.”
Lori Rice encourages parents of children newly diagnosed with autism to start at Riley.
“You have to assemble a team, and you can assemble that team at Riley,” she says. “The work they’ve done has really improved the quality of our life as a family.”
Did you know?
With $1.65 million from Riley Children’s Foundation, Riley recently launched programs in eight Indiana communities aimed at helping diagnose autism and related disorders earlier while providing parents with quality referrals. Children need to be diagnosed before 36 months of age in order to maximize treatment. The average age of diagnosis in Indiana is 63 months. In communities with these programs, the average is 32 months—well within the time period when intervention has been proven most successful.