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Rachel Head, COTA/L and Russell Baumgartner

Progress: The New Perfect

For one family struggling with autism the right therapist made all the difference

Story by Jason Baumgartner

Photography by Pete Grady

I used to view “progress” simply as a word that means we’re not there yet but we’re getting there; however, it may be that progress is something you only truly appreciate after you’ve experienced regression. Progress is everything to me now—progress is the new perfect.

Kari Thompson and Russell Baumgartner

Kari Thompson and Russell Baumgartner

On April 17th, 2014, my son Russell was diagnosed with Autism. He was 30 months old.

It was a diagnosis that our family had been expecting. My wife started noticing things were different at 12 months, and from the age of 22 months old he had been participating in the Infant/Toddler program through the State of Idaho.  Still, we sat through the evaluation with the Pediatric Neuropsychologist and listened to his prognosis. Russell was diagnosed with Level 2 Autism, the middle of three levels – requiring substantial support. We were devastated.

The doctor called autism an epidemic. Today 1 in 68 children are diagnosed, 1 in 42 boys. He went on to tell us that we needed to face some realities; the life we had dreamt for our beautiful little boy would not be the life he would live.

Still, toward the end of the evaluation he said something that gave me hope.

“It’s too early to tell just where he’ll end up on the spectrum.”

Early intervention therapies have been the only treatments to consistently improve outcomes. The next year of Russell’s life will be critical for his development.

My mind hung on that thought as I pledged to do everything in the world I could to help my son become the very best version of himself.  We had a lot of decisions to make in a short amount of time in order to maximize this prime developmental period.

Kari Thompson, owner of the Children's Therapy & Learning Center

Kari Thompson, owner of the Children’s Therapy & Learning Center

Coincidentally, about a month earlier I had met Kari Thompson, owner of The Children’s Therapy and Learning Center in Eagle. Her practice was opening near my office and I stopped in to see what type of services they might be able to offer Russell. At the time we had a therapist coming to the house once a week, but Russell was still regressing and we were looking for alternatives.

I was immediately drawn to the facility, and to Kari. The building is kid-friendly and functional. There is a large play area for sensory and gross-motor play with swings, slides, obstacle courses, ball pits, and more, as well as smaller rooms for work on fine motor skills, memory and comprehension.  Kari’s background is as impressive as her facility. She holds a doctorate in Occupational Therapy, and is one of two therapists in Idaho who are AOTA Board Certified in Pediatrics.

After the diagnosis, it became clear that Russell needed to switch therapists. With that in mind, we scheduled an evaluation with Kari and her team.

Like many kids with autism, Russell struggles from sensory processing disorder. His brain isn’t able to organize sensory signals into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. As his dad, it was so hard to watch him regress and struggle with everyday activities. He woke up miserable, he had terrible anxiety, and sudden meltdowns for seemingly no reason.

From the very first appointment, Kari and her staff began to teach us “why” our son did certain things, like toe-walking and mouthing objects. We learned about the different types of sensory input, proprioceptive and vestibular, that Russell was craving. They told us which toys to buy, how to use them, and where to find them. We were given recommendations on books, diets, teaching methods, and activities. Compared to what we knew and were doing before, it was a world of difference.

EM_Living_092014_small3Russell now goes to CTLC for 5 sessions a week.  In 3 months he has made so much progress, it’s as if he is a different boy.  Gone is the anxiety, gone are the hour-long meltdowns, and gone are the sleepless nights. Russell is more comfortable in his own skin.

He is happy again.

I enjoy the days when I get to pick him up from therapy. I walk inside and wait for Rachel or Jessica, his therapists, to bring him out. When he’s had a breakthrough I can see it on their face before they even say a word.  They are as proud of him as I am.

Russell is making progress, and in my eyes he is perfect.

I’m increasingly grateful to The Children’s Therapy & Learning Center for helping my son take giant leaps forward. You are changing his life forever with each visit.

For more information about the services provided at The Children’s Therapy & Learning Center or to have your child evaluated, please don’t hesitate contact them at:

CTLC Phone: 208-957-6301
Email:  kari@childrenstlc.com
Website:  www.childrenstlc.com