Marco begins his speech session with a smile on his face as he hurries to find his favorite toy- a long yellow string. His speech therapist, Christian Vaughan, stretches out her arms for a hug as she welcomes him in to play.

Now imagine a completely different scene only a year earlier. Marco comes in screaming and continues to scream for the next twenty minutes as he strains his muscles, outwardly showing his frustration. A staff member stops by after the session and lets Vaughan know that he will be praying for Marco during that time every week. And the LORD answered. "Now we have a new Marco," said Vaughan.

Marco is an affectionate 7-year-old with autism. He loves going swimming, listening to music, and eating as many lollipops as he can find. When Marco isn't pretending to be his favorite superhero, Spiderman, you can find him dancing and playing with his family.

When Marco first came to Special Kids, he had no way of effectively communicating. He would scream to try and say what he wanted, whether he wanted to go outside, to eat, or to say that his head hurt.  He would cry often and had a hard time accepting new places or people.

The biggest communication difference for Marco has come through working with Vaughan over the past two years with the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). Using PECS has helped Marco learn to communicate with pictures through teaching him what they mean and how to use them to get his desired result. With PECS, Marco is given the option between two pictures and chooses which one he wants. This summer Marco attended Camp Ability of Special Kids where he used the PECS pictures to communicate with his counselors. Vaughan says the next step will be talking with the school system and having Marco incorporate the program in the classroom.

"He really feels this is a place that loves him," said Vaughan on Marco's progress. "Now, he will wave to people in the hallway and make eye contact with them."

In occupational therapy, Marco is working on the letters in his name and learning how to follow directions in order to complete an activity. He is building up tolerance for doing activities he does not enjoy and is even working on dressing himself. "He can now feel in control of himself, and has the skills to problem solve," said Marco's occupational therapist, KellyAnn Roush. "He wants to try and work, and he's having fun now."

"Great help," said Marco's mother, Lizbeth Hernandez, when asked what Special Kids has meant to her family. "If we had not brought him here, he would not have learned anything."

Hernandez answers the question in Spanish as our Family Resources Interpreter, Teresa Bodle, interprets. Marco's mother and Bodle have developed a sweet friendship through Marco's time at Special Kids.  Hernandez goes on to say, "Teresa is the difference for us." While Marco is getting the help he needs, Hernandez is able to navigate the barrier of language through the love and support of Bodle.

As we look towards the future for Marco, Special Kids thinks back with thankfulness at how far Marco has come. "I hope he will be able to say a few things," said Hernandez about her hopes for his future. Please join us in prayer that Marco will be able to form words and learn to speak. We have already seen the LORD answer prayers for Marco and cannot wait to see what He is going to do next.