My son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at 4 years old. The summer after his diagnosis we were fortunate to have him join the School Readiness Program. Prior to the program, our son had only been in preschool half a day and it was evident the team at the school was not fully prepared for how to work with our son who happens to learn differently.
STAR Institute gave my son a chance to have the full support of professionals that understood his individual needs.
He participated in an OT intensive session, bike camp, superhero camp, and CREW this year. CREW gave him an opportunity to engage with peers and work on his understanding of spatial and body awareness. Helpful social skills stories were provided that were fun and engaging. We still read through them as reminders. Previously, he didn’t have a good sense of boundaries when approaching friends. He would become so excited and get right in their faces, eager to say hello. After his time at STAR he has become more aware of the appropriate distance to use when engaging with his peers; he uses the tools STAR provided through social stories like ‘arms straight out’ to gauge if he’s too close or just right. This has greatly improved his ability to meet, interact and develop friendships with his peers.
The OT session was tremendous and gave him the space to expand on his gross motor skills. Before OT he was not interested in swings. The thought of him not having his feet firmly planted on the ground would cause him great angst. During OT he was supported and encouraged in a play environment that allowed him to feel confident and comfortable enough to not only try the swings, but also the zip line! See that confidence and joy emerge from him was one of the greatest moments and I thank STAR Institute for giving that to my son.
Superhero Camp proved to be his favorite! He enjoyed the music and movement. He was able to work on his social skills with peers, his motor planning and sequencing in a space that didn’t feel forced or rigid. It was a fun environment that brought the biggest smile to his face, while at the same time setting a wonderful foundation for him to build upon.
The STAR Institute is remarkable and has made it their mission to enrich the lives or children with sensory processing challenges and support parents in their understanding as well. I am forever grateful to the caring team at STAR, as they have made an incredible impact in my son’s development.
STAR Institute provides a warm and caring environment. The quality programs in place to aid children in their growth are fantastic.
Ostin LOVES coming to STAR (online as well)! He doesn’t enjoy going to preschool - glad that’s not a battle we have anymore...but I’ve never had a hard time getting him to any of his STAR classes. He LOVES all of the movement activities and pretend play!!!
"I think the big turning point for us was coming to the STAR..."
When we first toured the STAR Institute Treatment Center we were amazed. What an incredible facility! We did the MDE (multiple disciplinary evaluation), and the amount of information that they had about my son was astounding. It felt like they knew him so well, even though they just spent a couple of hours with him! The REALLY amazing thing was the team’s ability to engage him. I had never seen him go so willingly with other people as he did the STAR Institute team.
We decided on a 30-session OT plan followed by a 20-session Speech plan. We also did a 10-session social group. To say that we saw immediate results is an understatement. Within the first few sessions at STAR Institute, it felt like we were finally able to meet our son. All of the sudden he had a light turned on. He had a personality! He started pushing himself physically. He started PLAYING WITH US!!! He began communicating so well, and even using his IMAGINATION!
To see my son laugh, play, ask for help, problem-solve, to see him persevere when it’s a little bit hard, was like the answer to a million prayers. His OT (Lindsay F.) and his SLP (Carrie D.) amaze me every time I see them work. And yes, they sometimes make me jealous, because they have the ability to get him to do things that are so challenging for me. But, they always give us tools to continue the efforts at home.
The STAR Institute’s speech component is amazing. Our daughter went in not being understood by adults or children outside of her parents, nana, and daycare teacher all of whom had been with her since infancy. Even then, she was understood only about 80% of the time by those 4 key people and not at all by others. She was isolated from peers and treated as the “little sister” by them. Preschool teachers could not understand her. If she was to communicate at all with others, her dad or mom had to parrot everything she said to the person she was communicating with.
Previous speech pathologists didn’t know what to do with her. They were very successful professionals, but our daughter stumped them. She had flat lined in her speech development for close to the last year. Then we went to STAR Institute and met their OT and SLP. It was an amazing transition over about 7 weeks. Our daughter had speech twice a week and occupational therapy 5 times a week during this time with a short break after the first two weeks. By the time we left, our daughter was understood about 85% of the time by random adults. People in her life commented repeatedly to us how well they could understand her.
Our daughter is now in Kindergarten. Her new teachers have no trouble communicating and understanding her. She has met many friends and is no longer the “little sister”. She is well understood by friends during play dates. It is the exception rather than the rule that we have to ask our daughter to repeat herself because we can’t understand her. She no longer has the frustration or isolation due to her lack of speech clarity. Our STAR Institute speech pathologist, and our occupational therapist, worked miracles with our daughter and taught us (the parents) what to do to help our daughter. The program is amazing. Without it, our daughter would not be the happy, successful kindergartener she is today. The STAR Institute Treatment Center is truly priceless. Thank you!
Tammy and Nathan Scheopner
I’m Tuto’s mom… He is improving so much. All of you at STAR Institute .. you and star center changed our lives…Tuto is a different boy, he’s happy, he’s learning how to regulate himself, he’s just 3 years 3 months and he can tell me … if he’s green he’s happy if he’s red he’s really mad or if he’s yellow he needs my help to regulate his mood or hungry, tired or just to sensitive…
Before going to school he says he does his exercises (proprioceptive) and uses the lady bug vibrator; he says it makes him feel good. He has his down moments but they are less stressful. He barely has tantrums now, and he asks to leave a place if he is not feeling well…
There are things we have to work out like he doesn’t wear pampers since September but if he needs to poo he asks for Pullups because he doesn’t want to sit on the toilet…he is having so much less nightmares, but he still having some when he has a difficult day… He has this friend at school with behavior problems and sometimes drives him crazy, he asks him to stop…or asks the teacher to go drink water while his friend stop running or screaming …and that’s and issue, because I can tell the days he gets overwhelmed at school and the ones he has a good day, but we will work it out….
I can tell you that all of you at STAR Institute make me feel proud of my son, make me learn how to help him and how to still enjoy been a mom. You all save my family, you changed my life for real. Sometimes I still feel sad, sometimes I worry and am really tired, because we still with out help here in Mexico. But you helped us a lot, M. is just an angel to my family; she supports us every time I get overwhelmed, and I really really really appreciate it..
If there’s anything, anything at all we can do to help your center, your work, if someday we can help just one family I would fell really good, I’m trying to help 2 moms here, by just hearing them or giving them ideas of how to handle some things…but I would love to help star center….
By the way every time Tuto feels bad he asks me to go to his house at Denver…that is huge for us!
Thank you so much for everything
From Merida, Mexico
From Joshua’s mom:
I think the main thing that was so crucial for us in going to the STAR Institute was that the first thing they did there was give us an exact diagnosis. They told us precisely what senses were over-responsive and under-responsive and explained how Joshua’s behavior correlated with what was going on in his body. When I picked up books like: The Out-of-Sync Child or Sensational Kids before the STAR Institute, I didn’t know what sections to read because I didn’t know his diagnosis. I felt helpless because I couldn’t tell other people (including the school) what to do to help Joshua because I didn’t know myself. After going to the STAR Institute, I could read those books with clarity because I had the information I needed to decipher OT terminology.
They were also fantastic at setting aside time for me to ask questions and coached me on ways that I could help Joshua in his every day life. Before I went to the STAR Institute, I cried everyday out of frustration, not knowing what I could do to help my child to be successful in life. After going I feel much more knowledgeable about my son’s disorder, which enables me to be his advocate.
The therapist, J., at the STAR Institute spent a lot of time in the summer, pushing Joshua’s social limits. She engaged him in a lot of play that forced him to learn to negotiate, listen to other people’s ideas, and compromise. She also worked on helping him translate his thoughts into more articulate language so that he would be able to communicate better with others. She was kind and loving towards Joshua and didn’t get upset with him or take it as a personal sign of disrespect when he didn’t want to do something she asked or thought that he couldn’t do something she asked. She was patient with him and although there were clear boundaries, she understood that much of her success depended on building a relationship with him. She didn’t punish Joshua for his misbehavior, she mentored him and tried to help him analytically understand the different outcomes of his behavior. This usually led him to self-correction and it was amazing to watch him grow through this process. It was an absolutely incredible experience! We ALL cried when we left because we knew we would miss J. so much!
The other thing about the STAR Institute that I love, is that they are not territorial about SPD nor do they think they are the only OT’s in the world who can effectively facilitate treatment for SPD. They encouraged me to seek out a therapist in my area and even offered to correspond with the school or a new OT if needed so that my transition back to home life would be smoother. The STAR Institute is all about the children being successful and they truly care about the individual child and about the families that come to the STAR Institute. It’s more than a business for them, it’s a passion. If anyone was considering the STAR Institute and asked my opinion, I would definitely encourage them to take the opportunity to experience it first-hand. They gave Joshua a bright future; something no one else up to that point had been able to do.
So while this may seem like a commercial for the STAR Institute, it is truly how I felt about the experience.”
I was just browsing the STAR Institute website, and I came upon your profile/credentials and I was keenly aware of how much we miss you after just a few days. As I contemplate trying to find a therapist for Joshua here at home, I wish again that we could just keep you. We created such a bond with you while we were in Denver and I am so grateful for (what seemed like) the special care that you took of my son.
Joshua is so delightful and fun right now and I thank you for helping us find our son again. The last year has been excruciatingly hard and I couldn’t even fathom facing another school year like the last one with Joshua. After the past three weeks I have hope again.
I am sure you have heard it time and time again from many parents how heartbreaking it is to find out that your child has SPD and not have any idea what to do about it. Very quickly I went from wondering if I was just a bad parent to knowing that I was completely inadequate to deal with the new reality and not knowing where to look to find the answers. The STAR Institute was truly God’s answer to my many tearful prayers. I can’t even begin to tell you what a difference it has made in our lives. And without even doing justice to how I feel in my heart, I thank you for all you have done and been to our family and to Joshua.
He is still doing well. The schedules have been so great!!! They make such a difference in the way our day goes both on the beginning and on the end. I have seen Joshua emerge socially in his awareness of his surroundings (no more talking in front of him because he actually listens and responds now). It seems like his intellect has also been unlocked and he is chatty and interested in everything. He seems confident about going to school in the Fall and hasn’t had the anxiety about finding a new friend that he had when he found out that his friend was moving. He is more articulate in his speech (ie. he is able to tell me what he wants or thinks) and doesn’t seem so reluctant to try new things. And he is fun!!! He hasn’t been that in a while. He had a major meltdown last night and seemed to get stuck on one idea and although it took a little work, I was able to get him back in the green zone and finally get him back on track to get to bed. Before this month, I would have never known what to do and I certainly would have gone to bed feeling like a complete failure as a parent. Thank you for giving me the tools to overcome all of that. It was amazing!!!!!!
You don’t need to respond. I just wanted you to know how much we miss you and once again how grateful we are for you!
Dear Friends at STAR Institute,
As you know, I have been completely amazed by our experience at the Star Institute, but I just wanted you to know some specifics. Before we came, Emerson was having difficulty with gross motor, fine motor, vestibular, executive planning, and was over-responsive in many sensory areas.
He had a history of repetitive play, staring at fans and social withdrawal. His ability to stay related, make eye-contact, or stay present at school was really compromised. I simply could not manage my frustration at his need for input (by banging into me) and sadly, just did not understand him. Additionally, he was not capable of imaginative play and most play was difficult to sustain without frustration.
Now, we are a completely different family. We understand what he needs and our marriage is greatly improved because we are all on the same page now (thanks to Dr. A.). Specifically, Emerson is so related now and present in his eyes. He sparkles (Dr. A.’s term) all the time at home and at school. He comes into my arms warmly now and seeks comfort. He loves playing with his little brother and now he is engaging in imaginative play.
He engages other people so freely and warmly as well. He manages his energy really well and always is able to discuss his level of arousal (thanks to M.). Usually, he calls us out on our level of arousal or over-arousal as it were: “Mom, I think you are about a four right now”. This is a completely different boy.
We have continued a modified burst model with his OT here at home by coming twice a week and then taking a break for integration. We saw how much he had grown after a short period of growth at home post Star center. I am completely sold on your burst model and preach this to whoever will listen to me. Next year, when I go back to work, I will be in contact with you guys to see if there is any way that I can help out here in Northern California.
Our first angel, J (in California) has been an incredible support to our family as well. She has tested him on all the fine, gross motor stuff and he is falling in the average or above average range now. He is swinging wildly from swings while throwing balls in a basket. For a child who had never really colored (only with a fist grasp and under duress), he is now seeking out a dry erase board to write letters and numbers. As I shared with M. recently, he is playing freely in gooey, slimy stuff now as well which we know will eventually help with feeding. Our last challenge is his eating stuff and we hope to visit Dr. Toomey when our cash flow is better.
His teachers from previous years stop me often and tell me of Emerson’s quantum development. Many are a bit surprised. We feel like his daily life with his current teachers is a bit like floor-time (all the time). They are gifted and share his accomplishments with such a deep understanding of his uniqueness. I told A. that I cry daily.
We are filled with gratitude daily for our blessed opportunity to share in the richness of your center. We felt so cared for as a family and feel that this whole-family approach really saved us. We treasure our time there and look forward to coming again.
Could you please forward this to Dr. M. to let her know another example of what her legacy is creating.
Blessings you to all and keep on, keeping on….
With such love,
Before we brought our 5 month old to STAR institute, feedings were a struggle. We had no idea why our baby had difficulty feeding well, we just knew feeding time was stressful. From the moment we called the institute, we knew we were in good hands. The feeding specialist was knowledgeable, compassionate, and engaged us in a thorough evaluation both over the phone and in person. We gained information on the likely causes behind her problematic feedings, simple strategies to improve feeding success, and medical concerns to discuss with the pediatrician. Feeding our baby improved immediately, and has continued to improve after implementing further recommended changes. Our baby is happier and she's thriving. What's more is Mom's stress has diminished. We cannot thank STAR institute enough, our only regret is that we didn't get help sooner.
Domino - Denver, CO