Riya’s Story (Age 5)

Early Childhood Autism

“I cannot take it any longer! We are moving back to India,” said Riya’s mother with a look of utter frustration.

Five-year-old Riya had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) two years prior, and this news created major chaos within her family. Riya was not responding to anyone; in fact, she was isolated in her own world. She would not make eye contact with her parents, and she showed no emotion toward her family members.


Riya was exhibiting challenging behaviors that are commonly attributed to ASD. She did not communicate using language; rather, she simply screamed and made unintelligible sounds. She engaged in disturbing tantrums, aggression, non-compliance, defiance, and elopement. Hannah had toileting accidents many times per day. She exhibited these challenging behaviors in the home, school, and community settings. Several attempts had been made to assist Hannah both in the home and in the school. Nothing worked. The family dynamics were quickly thrown into turmoil.

Naomi’s Story (Age 31)

Naomi is a 31-year-old woman, who has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). When Naomi was first referred to Vista in early 2011, she was living with her parents and working during the week as a YMCA activity instructor. In some areas, Naomi functioned as a typical 31-year-old adult.

In many adaptive skills areas and in her social-emotional development, Naomi was significantly behind her peers. Her parents took care of most of her needs. They did the household chores, took her on community outings, drove her to and from work, reminded her about appointments, and shopped for her clothes. The family only consumed take-out food, most of which was unhealthy.

Naomi did not express her emotions in an age-appropriate manner. If she felt sad or angry, she would burst into tears, scream, and/or walk away from the situation. Naomi was able to speak in full sentences; however, she struggled with social interactions and had difficulty initiating a conversation. She rarely asked questions and mostly replied with a very brief “Yes” or “No” response.