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Kelsea’s Story


After months of struggling on our own, we were referred to Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Southeastern Pennsylvania Autism Resource Center (SPARC) and finally began to feel some hope. There were experts who could actually help us with this overwhelming challenge.

Ideally, dinnertime is a relaxing time for a family, a chance to come together to share a meal and stories about their day. In our home, meals were a complete disaster!

Kelsea was just two years old when our pediatrician said she was significantly underweight. We soon began the requisite round of medical tests to rule out any physical cause to why she would not eat. We were relieved when all the tests came back negative, but we still had no idea of what to do next. Nothing we tried worked and the whole family was becoming very frustrated.

After months of struggling on our own, we were referred to Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Southeastern Pennsylvania Autism Resource Center (SPARC) and finally began to feel some hope. There were experts who could actually help us with this overwhelming challenge.

Thank you for letting me share my story. Devereux SPARC helped our family when we were in crisis. The programs that changed my daughter’s life would not be possible without the support of donors, like you.

Prior to working with the team at Devereux SPARC, Kelsea would eat only a few unhealthy snacks: veggie straws, potato chips, small containers of pureed baby food. She would never eat nutritious solid foods like fresh fruits or vegetables. She would even refuse typical childhood favorites of pizza, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets. Every meal was a battle ending with food everywhere, tears shed and lots of screaming. We desperately needed help!

Devereux SPARC’s unique feeding assistance program usually takes place in their offices, where parents are able to watch - through a one-way mirror - the interventions being carried out by the very skilled and compassionate team. However, our family came to Devereux SPARC in the middle of a pandemic, when the offices were closed and the therapists were working remotely. Treatment would occur virtually in our home, using laptops and tablets.

The Devereux SPARC team cautioned the treatment program was going to be difficult, particularly in the beginning when some stressful physical intervention might be necessary. They told us it would require a lot of patience and commitment to the proposed plan, but that we would absolutely succeed. We are so fortunate that Kelsea’s grandparents share some of the daily caregiving with us and they, too, agreed to participate in the program.

The care Devereux SPARC provides is made possible by the support of the greater community. Please consider making a gift today so that innovative programs and services can continue providing hope to families, like ours.

We began working with Dena and Brittany, our Devereux SPARC clinicians, to create a list of foods we wanted Kelsea to eat. We would pick two and introduce these during our virtual sessions. All the food would be presented in very appealing small portions, or bites. When Kelsea accepted and mastered these foods, she would then move on to two different foods. For each success, she would receive a reward such as extra time with her favorite show or with a special toy. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? How much of a challenge could this possibly be considering Kelsea was only two years old?

Devereux’s century-old tradition of inspiring hope and promoting meaningful life choices combines compassionate care with transformative treatment, empowering individuals with cognitive, emotional, and behavioral differences to access support and achieve their dreams.

Unfortunately, it was not easy. Kelsea is very strong willed. When we started, there was lots of resistance, tantrums, and the need for lots of intervention. Some days were so challenging that we considered stopping the program, but the wonderful, experienced Devereux SPARC staff were incredible! They were very encouraging and supportive, letting us know that what we were experiencing was a normal part of the process and that we were doing a great job.

And day by day, just as they predicted, Kelsea began to eat more of the previously refused foods until eventually she was able to eat small portions of the same foods our family was eating at each meal. We cannot describe what an amazing difference that made in the quality of life for our whole family!

Today, almost a year later, Kelsea is eating well and our pediatrician is thrilled with her weight gain. We will never be able to adequately thank the Devereux SPARC staff for their extraordinary dedication and commitment to helping our family heal.

Devereux SPARC’s feeding program is the only program in the region that combines intensive clinic-based therapy with home- and community-based services. While intensive feeding programs typically require inpatient or full-day treatment, Devereux SPARC’s model provides for an outpatient treatment setting. Please make your gift today by clicking the button below.

Thank you for helping Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health SPARC create some certainty in this uncertain world for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and other behavioral concerns, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety and feeding disorders.

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