Sunday, September 19, 1999

Autistic boy doing well in program




BY SUE MacDONALD
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The 4-year-old son Stevie who inhabited David and Nancy Fuller's home in Anderson Township was withdrawn, angry, unwilling to talk and a cause for concern ever since a diagnosis as autistic.

        Two years later, 6-year-old Stevie still carries a diagnosis of autistic, but he's cracking jokes, memorizing 15-sentence paragraphs, reading up a storm and exploring the world with, well, let's just say a ton of 6-year-old energy.

        A 12-volt child in 6-volt family is perhaps the best way to describe him.

        Stevie's story, and the efforts by his parents to implement an intensive, stimulating, home-based program called Son-Rise (www.son-rise.org) for Stevie, were first chronicled in the Enquirer in August, 1997, with several followup stories since.

        “He's really happy, he's learning and he's doing really well,” says his father, David, an independent sales representative. “One of the things we've learned from the Son-Rise program is that the best place for him to learn and be engaged is in his playroom.”

        The Fuller's Anderson Township home has an entire room devoted to Stevie's program, and he spends up to 40 hours a week in one-on-one encounters with volunteers who have worked with him to read, speak, make eye contact and interact with the world.

        Four summertime volunteers recently returned to college, however, leaving a gap in Stevie's program, and his parents are searching for more volunteers (474-5505).

        They're also trying to keep up with their active son.

        “He's absolutely taking the house apart,” says his father. “He can climb and he has no fear — no sense of boundaries. There's nothing he's not capable of destroying. It's really pretty funny.

        “He's doing all this because he's curious and his physical capability has way exceeded his brain,” he says. “He's not violent, he hasn't hurt anybody, and he has no more self-destructive behaviors, but he has the curiosity of a 1-year-old and the climbing ability of a professional rock climber.”

        Which explains why Stevie has shredded videos, dismantled the Fullers' wedding photo album, cracked the sunroof on David's Acura by slam-dunking himself and a plastic toy through it (no one was injured) and has been known to sneak into neighbors' houses to “borrow” items that he likes.

        “Whenever anybody's outside with him, it's like trying to cover Jerry Rice from the 49ers,” David says. “He is so fast, and he knows how to weave. I can do a good 40-yard dash, but it'll take 30 yards to catch up to him.”

        Because of Stevie's success with Son-Rise and his high level of activity, David and Nancy are convinced he belongs at home this year instead of in school.

       



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