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Giving Back Blog

  • Writer's pictureAscension Illinois Foundation

Giving a Smile Back to a Young Man with Autism

Andrew’s and Jane’s Ascension Illinois treatment team.

Things had been turning around for Andrew, a teenager with epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder.

“He had learned to calm down. He was more socialized. He was communicating. And he was always glad to go to school,” said his grandma and guardian, Jane.

But when the pandemic struck and schools closed, Andrew’s mental state swiftly deteriorated.

“In his mind, it was like everybody abandoned him,” she said.

A Change Like Night and Day

Jane said Andrew suddenly was angry and confused all the time. His moods and behaviors were hard to control. He was physically aggressive and very hard to reach.

“He just could not calm down,” she said.

Andrew became so out of control that he had to be taken to the Emergency Department at Ascension Saint Alexius.

Andrew may have felt abandoned, but Jane never abandoned him, and neither did his team at Ascension Illinois.

In the Emergency Department, Andrew’s physicians from the Ascension Center for Pediatric Brain and Ascension Alexian Brothers Autism Spectrum & Developmental Disorders Resource Center worked together to adjust his medications.

Long before his hospitalization, Andrew had started as a patient at the Ascension Center for Pediatric Brain. That’s how Jane first learned about the autism resource center.

Serving Thousands with Autism Spectrum and Developmental Disorders

The Autism Resource Center opened in Hoffman Estates in 2010 thanks to the philanthropic leadership of the Foglia Family Foundation. Since then it has addressed the community’s increasing need for services for individuals living with autism spectrum and developmental disorders, serving more than 7,000 families. Nearly 52 percent of families served are on Medicaid, and about 2 percent are uninsured.

Families receive resources and support. Parents and guardians receive education. Children and adolescents receive acceptance, specialized therapies, and opportunities to socialize and learn how to be who they are in the world with other people.

Thanks to the generosity of donors, Andrew got help at the Autism Resource Center. After his hospitalization, Andrew received three crisis stabilization appointments with a child psychiatrist and continues to receive consultation appointments with his psychiatrist at Ascension's Center for Pediatric Brain at no charge.

In addition, he received individual therapy once a week for 16 weeks while Jane received weekly skills training tailored to caregivers. Ascension Illinois's care team also worked closely with the school and community partners to advocate for additional supports and assistance for Jane.

The costs for all these services were completely underwritten by generous Ascension Illinois Foundation donors.

A Complete Turnaround for Andrew

Today, Andrew is back where he was before the pandemic, Jane said. He is sleeping better, starting to go back to school, knows he can virtually connect with friends.

“Mentally, emotionally and physically, it’s unbelievable the change over the last six months,” Jane said.

Every morning he greets his grandma with a hug — something he never used to do. Jane said she is flooded with relief and joy knowing Andrew is heading in the right direction again: That he is smiling, that he is living to the best of his abilities, that he is on a path to a longer, happier life.

“It lights up my heart. Puts tears in my eyes,” she said.

She said she could not have done it on her own and is grateful that Ascension Illinois's team never gave up on her grandson.

“God Bless You.”

For the people who made Andrew’s healing possible by supporting the Autism Resource Center through their charitable giving, Jane had one message:

“Thank you for putting the smile back on my grandson’s face. Thank you for your kindness and generosity.”

What is more important today, she asked, in this period where we are all in the same boat working through some form of suffering, than to make the world smile?



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Emily Dagostino

Director, Communications

Ascension Illinois Foundation


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