Owen and Liam are Ready for Kindergarten!

“Cheez-It” Owen said with his hand-held communication device before popping the beloved snack into his mouth. He smiled with delight. His speech-therapist, Anna, cheered. His mother Michelle, who was watching the in-home therapy session, cried.

In the next room, Owen’s twin brother Liam sat on a crash pad and sounded out the names of favorite animals. His interest in wildlife is expansive and includes everything from dogs and cats to emus and wallabies.

While many parents rejoice over the first words their children say as infants, Michelle celebrates every word spoken by her twin five-year old sons, Liam and Owen. Both boys are on the autism spectrum and are non-verbal. They have sensory challenges that make sitting still difficult to achieve on their own. And yet, thanks to their therapists, and a few pieces of specialty equipment, the boys are learning how to communicate, self-regulate, and be more fully themselves – at home and at school.

The twins’ introduction to Variety began in 2020 when they received the first of several pieces of equipment to help regulate their sensory behaviors, recommended by their school’s occupational therapist. Variety funded a crash pad and Spio shirts for the boys. The crash pad gives them a safe place to land when they need to expend energy at home while the Spio shirts improve fine motor skills.

Michelle was thrilled to see these needs met at home. Not long after, the boys aged out of therapy resources provided by the state’s early intervention program. So, Michelle reached out to Variety again and both boys were enrolled in Variety’s TherHappy Kids program, covering both occupational and in-home speech therapy.

Having at-home therapy throughout the summer months has been a game changer for the boys. “Liam is actually starting to use words now,” Michelle shares. “He is growing and is starting to use functional language.” Meanwhile, Owen has found someone who is willing to put the time in to understand him. “I think the reason why speech therapy is working so well for Owen is because we found someone who can speak ‘Owen,’” Michelle says about their beloved speech therapist, Anna.

Owen and Liam are now ready for kindergarten with their newfound words and skills and will continue learning and communicating at home. This also means that their mom can be an active participant in their growth. “In-home therapy helps me so much as their mom to be able to see it so I can learn and keep it going.”

Without Variety’s support, Owen and Liam would be looking at a much different “back to school week.” Thanks to supporters like you, Variety continues to ensure that these and all kids with special needs have the tools they need to thrive in the classroom and beyond.


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