John & Jacob

John and JacobGuess what John learned in therapy at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital?

When to ignore Jacob, his pesky little brother.

And that, said the boy's mother – Essex resident, Angela – has been a good thing.

"Life is so much easier now,” said Angela, a state employee who sits on Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital’s (MWPH) family advisory council. “At dinner time, at bath time, at bedtime.”

Most of the time.

Born with an unspecified genetic disorder, Jacob, 11, has been going to MWPH since 2006. He began at the feeding clinic (he now only needs a feeding tube at night) before Angela transferred all of his therapies – physical, occupational, and speech - to the North Baltimore campus: learning to walk on his own and communicate with an electronic tablet.

Two years ago, Angela decided to follow up on a long-held hunch. She believed that her older son – 13-year-old John – was on the autism spectrum and had him tested at MWPH. It was determined that he had what was previously referred to as Asperger’s Syndrome.

“I’d suspected it for a long time but [John’s] case was so mild,” said Angela, adding that John’s more pressing problem was extreme anxiety combined with ADHD.

Thus the friction with his brother Jacob, who, though non-verbal, possesses a sibling’s savant-like ability, said Angela “to push his brother’s buttons.

[It’s not all agitation however, as Jacob picked out a gift for John at the Mt. Washington holiday party last year and shows other random acts of kindness.]

With the help of senior psychologist Dr. Katie Kane, “John has learned to put words to his feelings,” his mother said. He was also helped at Mt. Washington by participating in a social skills group.

“He’s learned to calm himself down, he’s more communicative,” said Angela, who has noticed less rigidity and more flexibility in John’s behavior.

A dramatic change in John’s life is his volunteer work at Marshy Point Nature Center in Chase, not far from the family’s home. A student in the Gifted and Talented program at Deep Creek Middle School in Essex, he loves science and enjoys answering questions from visitors at Marshy Point.

“None of that would be happening without the help we got at Mt. Washington,” said Angela. “He used to sit for hours just playing video games. Dr. Kane helped him out of his comfort zone and into the world.”

Angela credits Jacob’s physical therapist with coordinating his therapies on the same days. Between attending feeding sessions there, he works on walking and his communication skills. While all of this is going on, Angela has attended family support groups at Mt. Washington and has picked up useful strategies from their MWPH clinicians.

“Sometimes when John would go shopping with me, I’d say I just had to run in to pick up three things,” said Angela. “And then if I picked up for or five things he’d get very upset because I said I was only going to get three.”

Now, she leaves it vague, letting John know she has to buy items without saying a specific number. She has also learned to give warnings before transitions, such as by letting John know that bedtime is in ten minutes, then five minutes and then, under the covers instead of announcing, “Bedtime!”

“MWPH,” said Angela, “cares for all of us” and the family support meetings give her a boost when the grind wears her down.

“My kids can’t get what they need if I stay down,” she said, adding that workouts at a 24-hour gym have been good for her. “I just tell myself, ‘Suck it up, buttercup’ and keep going.”

To schedule outpatient appointments or learn more about our programs, call us at 410-367-2222.