Coming from families with siblings, Dina Rieng and Jerry Chau always envisioned having multiple children of their own. But after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism — that future was hard to imagine.
“Ben was aggressive; he would hit, he would bite. His behaviors were really tough, and we worried that having another child would take away attention that Ben needed,” Dina recalls.
Ben struggled in school, as well — known as the boy who could cry all day. He struggled to adapt to any change or transition, and an inability to communicate what he needed and wanted only exacerbated those struggles.
They turned to The Bancroft Preschool and Early Education Program (PEEP), where the focus was on helping Ben to find his voice and begin to express himself.
“When Ben started at school, the first thing we did was assess him for a communication device,” said Jillian Kuni, Ben’s teacher. “We realized quickly that he needed something with a lot of vocabulary, with different categories and options he could explore.”
Kuni and Ben’s school team worked closely not just with Ben, but with his parents, to ensure consistency across home and school – and help the family navigate any changes on the horizon.
That consistency — along with Ben’s newfound ability to express himself, and comfort with his team at PEEP — helped him slowly learn to adapt, and begin to navigate transitions more easily.
The result was life-altering, for Ben — and his family.
Dina and Jerry decided it was time to finally expand their family… and they welcomed a little girl — a baby sister for Ben. They also moved, from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, to be closer to school.
“The day Ben came back to school after his first weekend in a new house, with a new baby — we weren’t sure what to expect. But on his first day, he came off the bus with this huge smile on his face,” Kuni recalls. “It was beautiful to see him so happy.”
“Ben interacts with us so much more than he used to,” Dina says. “And he’s such a great big brother. From where he started to where he is today, he’s made so much progress. We’re so proud of him.”