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Darren’s Story


At his 15-month well-baby appointment, Darren was babbling but not yet talking. His mom, Nicole, wasn’t concerned. The pandemic lockdown was in full swing, so she assumed the speech delay was just a temporary effect of social isolation. Darren, nicknamed Mr. Congeniality for his easy-going attitude, was a happy toddler who generously gave out hugs to strangers and was friendly with adults and kids.

Four months later, when Darren still wasn’t talking, his pediatrician recommended a developmental evaluation, and Darren started telehealth speech therapy with Wonderland.

Skilled in early support services, Darren’s therapists picked up on other concerns in addition to his speech delay. His M-CHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) screen indicated signs of autism and suggested more testing. For Nicole, the news brought many difficult emotions and overwhelming questions: “It was hard to hear at the time. You don’t know what the diagnosis will mean for your child. Will he ever talk? Is he still the same Darren?”

Fortunately, Nicole had the whole team dedicated to autism support by her side. Wonderland’s autism navigator took care of scheduling appointments, submitting paperwork, and preparing the family for the assessment. And when the evaluation confirmed that Darren had autism, the navigator was there to help Nicole make sense of the diagnosis, plan for therapy, and provide additional resources.

Darren’s speech therapy was reframed for his diagnosis, with more techniques tailored to his sensory issues. When the family struggled to fit the traditional ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy work with their schedule, Wonderland helped them find a perfect preschool placement. Nicole didn’t know how to navigate special education services, so their Wonderland therapist joined her at the school district meeting, providing in-depth information for the developmental assessment.

Darren is now thriving in his new preschool. He loves numbers, letters, and animal flashcards and enjoys practicing social skills with friends during play time.

As Darren is graduating from early support services, Nicole is proud of his successes and grateful for Wonderland’s impact on their family: “When your child is diagnosed with autism, you spend so much time having him assessed. I got burned out talking about things my child couldn’t do or was behind in developmentally. Wonderland helped me see the progress he is making. We would look at the goals we set six months ago and see how much he improved in reaching those goals. This wouldn’t be possible without Wonderland’s help, and I am so thankful.”

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