Meet Gavin - How We Support Teens with Autism -

Meet Gavin – How We Support Teens with Autism

Gavin, a teenager in Judson Center's Bridges to Success Autism Program, enjoyed attending his homecoming dance

A supportive sous chef.
A sideline football fan.
A rising Roblox engineer.
A helping hand to all in need.
A teen with Autism.

Autism doesn’t define Gavin or what he is capable of.

If anything, he is a shining reminder that teens with autism can do anything.

With the love of his family and the support of his Autism Connections team, 15-year-old Gavin is thriving.

Life Before Judson Center

Gavin’s parents, Heather and Paul, didn’t notice many differences in their son until he was around three. In addition to a limited vocabulary, he began having awful meltdowns that would last hours. After seeking help from multiple sources, Gavin initially received a broad diagnosis that was not autism.

As Gavin attended elementary school he was in a mainstream classroom and received speech therapy. However, as he got older, his sensory issues became more prominent and his social interactions began to look wildly different than those of his peers. Nearing his freshman year of high school, Heather knew it was time to advocate for Gavin to have another round of testing. It was only then, more than a decade later, that Gavin officially received an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis.

After his diagnosis, doctors recommended that Gavin quickly start an autism therapy called Applied Behavior Analysis, also referred to as ABA. Heather said, “I didn’t think ABA would be a good fit for him. But, I decided to listen to the advice of our care team and we started asking about nearby programs. The overwhelming response I heard was, ‘Judson Center is the place to go.’ Now that I know the incredible gift it has been for my son, I wish we would have started sooner. We’ve not experienced this kind of care in any other setting. I’m so grateful.”

Building Bridges to Success

In the spring of 2023, Gavin began attending Autism Connections. He is currently part of Bridges to Success, a special focus of Judson Center’s Autism Connections program. In Bridges, Gavin is receiving speciailized treatment designed to support teens with autism. The staff use ABA therapy to help teens and young adults develop relationship and independent living skills that prepare them for the experiences of adulthood.

Gavin and his family who have supported him on his autism journey.
Gavin & his family

Sarah Deland, Associate Clinical Manager, explains, “A lot of ABA programs focus on early intervention services and often stop supporting children around 6 or 7 years of age. But, Judson Center is known in the community for being a place where a child with any type of autism diagnosis or behavior can come for support, even if they are older.”

The Bridges to Success team works with Gavin on his individualized treatment plan and hosts parent training. Heather recounts, “The level of support they offer not just for the child, but the whole family, is invaluable. We have parent training sessions and work on developing goals together. Gavin comes to our training and we work as a team.”

She continues, “The team comes up with programs for him. They work on things like signing his name, making his bed, cooking, being safe on the internet, and reading social cues. I’m astounded by the level of patience, care, and ability that the staff have to teach him new skills.” For Gavin, and all teens with autism, developing these skills is crucial for preparing to be independent as a young adult.

When asked how ABA has helped Gavin, Heather said, “He went from never wanting to read out loud in English class because of his speech impediment to reading Romeo and Juliet in front of the whole class. Judson Center has helped him achieve so many things that would never have been possible a year ago.”

Gavin’s Bright Future

Gavin loves to talk about his time at Judson Center. He said, “Going to Judson Center has helped me be more independent and take initiative. It’s even helped me make more friends. I like Judson Center because of what they’ve done for me.” When asked about the Judson Center staff who work with him, Gavin added with enthusiasm, “Audrey and my Behavior Technician Kristina are my favorites!”

Audrey Torma, Gavin’s Board-Certified Behavior Analyst who creates his treatment plans, recalled the progress he’s made in less than a year. “His independence in social situations and his self-esteem have grown significantly. Because of our work together, we see Gavin blossoming into a kind and empathetic young man.”

Audrey, Kristina, and the Judson Center team have built bridges to help Gavin find future success, and with their help and the loving support of his family, Gavin plans to pay their gift of care forward someday. After graduating, he wants to go to school to be a special education teacher. Gavin said, “I like being with kids who have special needs. I know I can understand them more than others and I can help them improve and grow like I have.”

Gavin is an inspiration to us, to his family, and to other teens with autism. His compassionate heart and love for learning will take him far and we can’t wait to see all he accomplishes in the future!