The Path to Adulthood: Lauryn’s Story

When your child is 16 years old, their path to adulthood is just starting to come into focus. They’re defining important goals, and figuring out how to take care of themselves. Whether or not they like to admit it, they need support on this path – and their parents could often use some guidance of their own.

This is especially true for parents whose teen is on the autism spectrum. Individuals with autism often face additional challenges picking a career, forming relationships and living independently. A developmental pediatrician can help families navigate this path.

So when the coronavirus pandemic started to disrupt life as we know it right around the time Lauryn and her parents were supposed to meet with Lauryn’s developmental pediatrician, Robert D. Keder, MD, everyone wanted a safe way to keep the appointment. Thanks to Connecticut Children’s Video Visits, they got it.

“We needed somebody with expertise and experience”

Lauryn is 16 years old and on the autism spectrum. She’s happy and healthy, despite a rollercoaster start to life: She was born a “micro-preemie” at 25 weeks, weighing barely a pound, and spent the entire first year of her life in the hospital. For the next couple years, she used a trach tube to breathe.

The family, who lives in New Haven, first turned to Connecticut Children’s when Lauryn was age 3, and needed help learning to properly swallow and chew. They brought her to specialists in the Division of Occupational Therapy, and made “great breakthroughs,” says Lauryn’s mom, Myra.

At age 13, Lauryn’s general pediatrician referred the family to Connecticut Children’s again – this time, to Dr. Keder in the Division of Developmental Pediatrics. With key years ahead, they all agreed that Lauryn needed the care of an autism specialist.

“Before Dr. Keder, there was no single person who could look at Lauryn’s story and say ‘She needs this kind of help, maybe you should consider this.’ We had to figure it out piecemeal,” says Myra. “We needed somebody who was knowledgeable in autism and developmental delays.”

Dr. Keder has become a trusted resource. To help Lauryn find opportunities for socializing with peers, he’s shared suggestions and referrals for social groups in the New Haven area: “He’s connected us with resources in southern Connecticut that we weren’t able to find before – and it’s not like we weren’t looking,” says Myra. He’s also led thoughtful conversations about difficult topics.

“He began making my husband and me aware of things we should be looking out for once Lauryn became a teenager,” says Myra. “Some of these things were tough to talk about, but I was grateful. We needed somebody with the expertise and experience to help us teach Lauryn about these things.”

“He’s provided a wealth of information,” she says, “and quite frankly, comfort.”

“A Video Visit was perfect”

Patient Lauryn sits in front of her computer, ready for a Video Visit

For all of these reasons, Lauryn and her parents look forward to their twice-yearly visits with Dr. Keder. But as their April appointment approached, and the state of Connecticut took increasing measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, they thought it might have to be postponed. They were pleased to get a phone call from Connecticut Children’s, converting their in-person appointment to a Video Visit instead.

No one in the family had had a telehealth visit before, but the set-up was simple, and they’d all used video chats. Like most teenagers, Lauryn loves screens – “her phone is tied to her hand,” says Myra, “I’m convinced it’s connected somehow” – especially to watch cartoons and play games. It wasn’t a big leap to meet with Dr. Keder by screen, too.

“She did really well with it,” says Myra. Dr. Keder and Lauryn talked about her goal to work in the local library after high school, and laughed about how she prefers to put her returned books back on the shelves herself, instead of sending them through the return bin. Then Dr. Keder checked in with Lauryn’s parents. They talked about Lauryn’s transition to adulthood, and what supports she might need to live independently. It was the same great experience they’d come to expect in person.

“I was very grateful that the visit could take place,” says Myra. “A Video Visit was perfect – and we were happy to be in our own home.”

As the visit was drawing to a close, Dr. Keder asked Lauryn if she had any last questions for him.

“Yeah,” Lauryn said. “When is the coronavirus going to be over?”

Connecticut Children’s offers Video Visits in more than 30 specialties. Schedule one today >>

Read tips to help children with special needs thrive while learning at home >>

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