It took about 48 hours for Wayne Tyrrell and Saprina Brannen to experience first-hand, the incredible work of the Comox Valley Child Development Association.
“We moved in on a Saturday, and on Monday, a physiotherapist was here,” said Wayne, recalling the initial meeting with a CVCDA physiotherapist.
Wayne, Saprina and their son, Michael, relocated to the Comox Valley three years ago, in the midst of a very difficult time for the military family. The timing of the posting from Greenwood, Nova Scotia, to Comox, was disconcerting. Wayne and Saprina were in the process of getting Michael assessed for Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“It’s a different process there,” said Wayne, of the Nova Scotia experience. “We had our original appointment in April, and then we were moving in August, so they said ‘yeah, no point in being here, because your next appointment is not going to be for six months.’ ”
The CVCDA served as a calming entity to Wayne and Saprina, during a stormy upheaval in their lives.
“We started contacting doctors and such out here as soon as we knew we were posted,” said Wayne. “The Child Development Centre was amazing.They told us it would take about four months to get on the program here, but we started the process right then, and the timing was incredible. We moved in and two days later, she (the physio) was here.”
And for the first time in a long while, there was reason for optimism.
“We got here in August, and by October, Michael was starting to walk,” Wayne said. “She was that good.”
Michael was eventually placed in The Autism Program – a CVCDA service established in 2005 to provide evidence-based intervention services for children with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Wayne says it’s another way the CVCDA proves its worth, to him and his family. Just like the physio work done with Michael at the outset, the work done by TAP program manager April Statz and her staff has produced immediate and lasting results.
“It is night and day,” said Wayne. “We read back to our original diagnosis and how the doctor (described Michael) and that is not my child anymore. My son, back then, wouldn’t acknowledge me, wouldn’t recognize me saying his name, wouldn’t acknowledge me making a noise, unless it was a noise he thought was funny.
“Now, he’s a different boy. The TAP program is amazing. It’s so detailed. They keep such detail with every kid, because every autistic child is so different.
“They even came to our house, to spend the night, to help us though the part where Michael wasn’t sleeping.”
Wayne said one aspect of TAP that is beneficial is the mobility of the program.
“It’s not always at the Child Development Centre,” he said. “On Mondays, they come here (to the Tyrrell home). On Tuesdays they go to his daycare, for their program. Then on Wednesdays and Thursdays, we go there. So they make it as workable as possible.”
That makes it easier on Saprina. With Wayne in the military, there are certain times that she is a single parent. (Wayne was away for a 38-day stretch this summer.)
“It’s tough at times, and we have busy schedules. For TAP to be so accommodating is incredible,” she said.
Saprina and Wayne first started noticing abnormalities in Michael at approximately eight months old.
“He wouldn’t try to stand. And he loved spinning, everything had to spin,” said Wayne.
“Saprina was in a baby group and it started becoming obvious that there were certain things the other babies were doing that Michael wasn’t.”
“He wouldn’t hold on to me – babies hold on to their moms; Michael just wouldn’t, so you had to be extra careful when you were carrying him,” said Saprina. “He didn’t even make real eye contact. We were objects, more or less.”
They started doing research and the more research they did, the more it pointed to one thing: autism.
“By the time he was barely one, we were fairly confident that he was somewhere on the spectrum,” said Wayne, adding once Michael was diagnosed, everything he had learned or been told about parenthood was moot.
“Every suggestion we have ever heard from any parent – that’s not going to work in our situation,” he said.
“It’s hard for people to understand that he is not a typical child,” said Saprina.
The CVCDA understands. And when Wayne and Saprina were asked whether Michael could be used as the poster child for the 2016 Telethon, it was a no-brainer.
“First off, look at him – why wouldn’t he be? He’s a beautiful child,” said Saprina.“Actually, he was supposed to be involved last year, but he got sick.
“We were at one of the family meetings when it was brought up. They said , ‘oh, by the way, would you be OK with us suggesting Michael as the poster child?’ And we said of course. Anything we can do to help out, because they have helped us so much.
“In one way, it’s to give back, but the other thing is that we are just so proud of our son. He is who he is, and he’s perfect at who he is.”
The 2016 Comox Valley Child Development Association Telethon is set for Sunday, Nov. 6 at the Sid Williams Theatre. Keep reading the Comox Valley Record for more updates regarding this year’s telethon.
For more information on the CVCDA, call 250-338-4288, or visit cvcda.ca