Before her son Simon was diagnosed with autism at two-years-old, Katharina Olfert spent her days torn between putting out house fires to struggling to find snapshot moments with her equally-young daughters. Dealt with a myriad of health issues at a terribly young age – from open-heart surgery for a heart defect to hernia surgery and a concerning case of pneumonia – Simon started his life in confusion. He would have screaming fits 12 hours a day, and if it wasn’t the fires, it was the deep shattering sound of bells signaling a meltdown in process. Olfert had no idea how to stop it or even verbally reach out to her son.
Heartbroken, she desperately needed to find the help that could more than fix his issues – it could also bring her family back together. Safe and sound under the same roof. But at that moment in time, she had no idea where to turn for the best possible help for her own child.
Surviving the Echo Chamber
Although the next few years after his diagnosis were not a walk in the park, Olfert says that the sound of silence gradually came two years later as a refuge in the form of Kids Uncomplicated and Teleroo™ – and its suite of online tools that provided strategic direction for her son and her family. A friend in their rural area of Linden, Alberta, recommended Inspiration Station – a private preschool in Airdrie, Alberta. One of its teachers helped Olfert and her family qualify for provincial funding with Family Support for Children with Disabilities (FSCD). It was here that she met the team at Teleroo™ – a global leader in personalized digital services and clinical solutions that create profound, life-changing experiences for children and families in rural communities and isolated areas, as well as city centres.
“Before collaborating closely with their expert team of service providers, our household was an echo chamber of shrieks and screams,” says Olfert with a soft sigh.
“We had so many issues because he could not communicate. But after initial house visits to build a relationship with Simon we were able to start applying real-time solutions for real-time meltdowns.
“Now, instead of feeling helpless, we were armed with the right strategies through video, annotated notes, and virtual connections with the Teleroo™ team. And then, slowly but surely… our house quieted.”
A New Hope
As Simon began to positively respond to his Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), Olfert also saw hope for her family. She states that it was the peaceful moments when she could think, that it was the simple strategies at times, such as offering different choices to Simon – from a food item or a blanket to finding the television show he wants – that kept her in control by letting him choose. Olfert and her husband would collaborate with him on visual charts and the ability to have multiple choices helped him communicate his wants and needs.
Or sometimes a simple solution was swaddling him in his blanket, so he felt safe and tight. And since Simon always wanted to be wrapped really tight, well, his loving mother could only happily oblige.
What Olfert is also learning from this experience is the value in the family support services offered by the Teleroo™ team. It was more than the evidence-informed outcomes in real-time that made all the difference – no, for her, it was how the team taught her in one-on-one sessions how to prioritize time with her girls. Even when there wasn’t a meltdown. Especially when there wasn’t a meltdown. This support taught her to slow down and think more – to understand why it made sense to spread herself equally across her entire family.
Home is Home Again
“Simon is now seven-years-old, and the experience with Teleroo™ has not only helped our family grow with his disabilities…” explains Olfert, who pauses and smiles. “But, he is now the most incredible little boy and makes friends easily and quickly. He rattles on about his day at school in detail. And his sisters…”
She pauses again with another smile. “We have found our family again. We have all found life again. Our home is finally home again.”