Zach Fisher turned eleven in May and has been receiving services from HCO for a little over 2 years. Zach is the youngest of three children of Pam and Kevin Fisher. His siblings are quite a bit older. Josh is 20, and Sarah, 18, just graduated from high school.
Zach was a healthy baby, progressing in all areas until he began to regress at the age of about fifteen months and lost all of his speech. Pam and Kevin felt lost as to what to do for him. Pam began to research his symptoms and talk to other parents. Eventually, she found a group of parents to connect with and began to learn about options for Zach. She and Kevin became friends with the other and have also found help from Facebook groups dedicated to parents of children with autism.
Gundersen Clinic in La Crosse offered diagnostic services, but didn’t have a program for Zach. Pam researched many agencies looking for help for Zach’s autism and ADHD. The Fishers found Partners in Excellence, an autism therapy center in La Crosse that offered treatment programs for children with autism from ages 1 – 10 on an outpatient basis. Zach was there from about the age of 2 until 8.
At the same time that they were adjusting to his autism diagnosis, Zach was showing signs of food sensitivities and reflux. It was trial and error for a while until they discovered he was sensitive to gluten, dairy, and certain dyes used in foods. To simplify their meal times, the rest of the family adapted to Zach’s food restrictions.
Even with the outpatient program and school services that Zach received, the Fishers were still on 24/7 duty in the evenings and weekends to care for their son. Pam and Kevin both work full-time, so they learned to rely on and support each other, taking turns caring for Zach. Their families both live further away in Chicago and Prairie du Chien, but their daughter was able to help out, and Kevin’s sister from Chicago came to watch Zach so they could go on a family vacation.
Zach receives special education services from the La Crescent-Hokah School System, where the program is centered around the individual child. In the summer, he attends summer school 3 times a week in June, July, and August. School helps to fill Zach’s sensory needs, and Pam and Kevin have seen much progress over the years. He is good at physical things (he loves to swim and go to the park) and engages at school. His para at school uses sign language, and Zach also communicates through picture exchange.
When the county finally assessed Zach, they told the Fishers about HCO, and they found that the organization could fill almost all their needs. Now, Zach receives support from Home and Community Options staff at HCO’s Children’s Resource Home. Pam and Kevin are able to go on mini-vacations while staff help Zach with activities of daily living and takes him to swim and swing at the park. “We know he’s in good hands,” Pam and Kevin shared.
All of the Fishers are thrilled that they discovered HCO. Staff always greet Zach with a smile when he arrives, and work with him on his communication skills. They’ve noticed that repetition is the key for Zach, and Pam says Program Supervisor, Abby Jackson, is amazing. Zach’s receptive speech has improved. They also like that with HCO, everyone is on the same page. They can communicate by phone or email, have an annual meeting with HCO, or meet any time something may come up.
Zach has become more independent and plays computer games, watches YouTube, listens to music, and can find Sesame Street on TV. Pam also suspects that Zach can read the subtitles on movies. She is hoping that typing and typewritten material will open up a whole new world for him.
“We are so fortunate to have found HCO,” Pam says.