Gus was 12 months old when he was diagnosed with Autism. From then until 2nd grade, Gus was in a special education only classroom working on intensive early interventions including speech therapy, ABA services, OT, PT, adaptive ice hockey and therapeutic horse riding in the hopes that he would be a verbal and independently functioning adult before he graduated from high school. Here Gus is in his Baltimore Saints Hockey jacket #5 when he played adaptive special ice hockey at 5 years old.
Since the 3rd grade, Gus has been in a mainstream classroom of 10-15 typically developing peers with a 1:1 aid. He struggled with sensory overload in a mainstream class for the better part of 2 years until he met his 5th grade teacher, Mr. Guy Kraemer. With Mr. Kraemer’s urging and skills, Gus started developing better eye contact, better sensory regulation, and more independence with his daily routines. It was then that his peers began to believe in his academic abilities. Long before this, Gus had already won over their hearts with his easy smile and willingness to work hard. This crucial support from Mr. Kraemer and acknowledgement that he was capable started opening up all types of doors for Gus.
Early Teen Years
By middle school (6th to 8th), with the help of his talented and ABA trained 1:1 aid, Gus began to read. This allowed him to understand and communicate just a little bit more. Then, he joined the middle school football team with his typical peers. Through hard work and perseverance, he scored a touchdown in the last game of his middle school career with the help of his teammates. Beginning at 12 months old, Gus went from no eye contact, 10 words, flapping, rocking, and disruptive repetitive behaviors to better eye contact, 300 words, minimal flapping and no more disruptive behaviors. With all of this progress though, we recognized and acknowledged that it was highly probable that he would not drive, marry, or live independently without our help.
Gus is now 15 and just started 9th grade. He continues to work hard to gain more verbal communication and better eye contact. See Gus in action in one of our facebook videos. High school graduation is just a few years away so we had to start thinking about what Gus’ future would look like after high school. What will he do? Where will he live? Who will take care of him? How will he support himself? We won’t be here forever. Many families with kids with disabilities wrestle with these same problems. We thought, he loves people and he loves to work hard. How do we support Gus when we are not here and more importantly, how will Gus and other kids like him support themselves when us parents are not around. That’s how the Gus Belt Family Foundation idea was born, with the first program idea of the Coffee Cart Program.
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The CCP students have been working hard on their questions for the employees at the Happy Cup Coffee Company from Portland, Oregon. The picture shows
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