Any parent is proud to watch their child make his first basket for the school team. But for Sharon Rusch of Appleton, watching her 15-yearold son, Max, making his first basket was true cause for celebration. Max was diagnosed with autism at age 3, and Sharon had wondered if he would ever experience that type of milestone.
Max had many social challenges, obsessive behaviors and sensory issues. He preferred to be alone and didn’t know how to play with others. He preferred a strict routine, such as eating only certain foods. After Max was diagnosed, Sharon and his dad, Jeff, attended an event where they met Jessica, a caseworker from LSS.
“She talked with me and told me the steps to follow to get help for Max,” Sharon said. “She actually became Max’s first caseworker.”
At age five, Max began intensive therapy: 22 hours each week, at home. LSS provided case management, identifying and arranging for services and therapists through the Children’s Long Term Support Waiver program. Therapists taught Max to self-soothe and worked with him on foods and textures. He struggled with words, so they labeled everything in the house.
“They met him wherever he was and used that interest to teach him,” said Sharon.
The intensive therapy lasted three years. Today, Max meets with a daily living skills therapist every two weeks; a case worker visits every two months to reassess his needs and suggest programs. Max entered Appleton West High School last fall. There’s no formal autism program, but Max’s middle school teachers thought he would do well there. Max has friends at school, too. In fact, one of his friends captured his first basket on video.
“The basket itself was amazing, but the fact that Max was even in a gym, with the blare of the buzzers in his ears and his classmates surrounding him on the court, was even more amazing,” said Sharon. Max’s progress warms Sharon’s heart and gives her great joy.