For Kathleen Thomas, nothing in the world is better than seeing her daughter, Katie, smile. Diagnosed with autism at a very early age it is imperative to Katie’s health and wellbeing that her life be as stable and consistent as possible, and Kathleen has dedicated her life to making this a reality. Fortunately for her Easter Seals Hawaii has been a true partner and a source of support for many years, and has been there to help her guide Katie through some of life’s greatest challenges.
When Katie was in the third grade, she enrolled in the Pacific Autistic Center (PAC), where she thrived. A few years later the director of PAC sold the school to Easter Seals Hawaii. When Kathleen explained why it was so important to remain engaged with Easter Seals Hawaii, she said she knew Katie would move seamlessly into adulthood under the umbrella of this established organization. Kathleen said: “I know Katie will thrive here, and be loved, and be safe, and be a part of the community, and be valued, which is all that matters.”
2014 was an emotionally difficult time for Kathleen and This was also an emotionally difficult time for the family. Katie’s father was diagnosed with cancer, and his greatest fear was for Katie and her future. Fortunately before he passed away, he was comforted in the knowledge that Easter Seals Hawaii’s trained staff would know exactly how to handle this emotional period of the passing of her father. To help her Easter Seals Hawaii therapists put together a photo book with photos of Katie’s father and their family, routinely walked her through what had occurred, and helped her understand why her father would not be returning home.
When Kathleen looks to the future for Katie, her dreams for her daughter are pure and simple. She noted, “I want Katie to be loved, to be valued, to have a purpose and a joy every day of her life. I want her to have a job, be happy, and be healthy. That is what I want, for Katie to have friends and a place that feels like home.”
Easter Seals Hawaii strives to make Kathleen’s dreams a reality for Katie.
Easter Seals Hawaii is very respectful to its tradition of providing a vast range of exceptional services for children and adults diagnosed with disabilities or special needs and their families. It is also committed to evolve and to be responsive to its participants and to the changing needs of the community, so when it recognized a growing need for autism services in Hawaii it took the initiative to expand and grow the program.
In June 2013, Easter Seals Hawaii hired several new full time staff members who brought with them decades of experience in diagnostic and assessment services, in developing effective treatment plans and communication, and, perhaps most importantly, family member support, education, and training. Easter Seals Hawaii was very fortunate to hire Sean Tarrant as its director of autism services.
Sean has worked for over 15 years within the field of developmental disabilities and applied behavior analysis (ABA), a scientifically validated approach to understanding behavior and how it is affected by the environment. While still pursuing his undergraduate degree in psychology in 1999, Sean began working in the field of ABA as a behavior therapist for adolescents and adults with severe problem behaviors. Since then, he has worked in multiple areas within the field of developmental disabilities and ABA including in-home therapy and parent training, consultation with public and charter schools, residential and center based therapy, and the ethical reduction of severe problem behaviors. Over the years, Sean has come to realize that one of the most important things a parent can do to achieve positive changes in behavior is to increase the level of communication with their child.
Many individuals diagnosed with autism are unable to communicate, which leads to challenging behavior. According to Sean, being able to ask your child what they want and how they feel, and know that they are able to tell you this is incredibly important.
The Easter Seals Hawaii Autism Center is committed to focusing on increasing the
level of communication and also utilizing the many techniques available for increasing functional behaviors and reducing those that may cause harm or interfere with learning. It provides complete and coordinated care throughout a child’s life to bring about meaningful and positive change in behavior, and empower the individual to realize
his/her full potential.