Our son Nathan is like any other six-year-old. He goes to school every day. He likes eating pancakes and ice cream. And reading books. He’s a very happy kid. And really smart.
He’s also Autistic – which affects his ability to communicate and interact with others. My wife, Rachel, and I initially found out about Nathan’s autism when he was three. His daycare providers told us he didn’t seem to be developing at the same level as other kids his age. They recommended we have him cognitively tested, which we did.
The diagnosis was autism spectrum disorder, and there’s no medical cure for it. We learned that one in every 42 boys born in the U.S. is Autistic, so the condition only impacts 1 to 2 percent of all Americans – relatively low numbers compared to other childhood conditions.
So, you might think a company as large and global as Kellogg wouldn’t bother providing specific benefits related to autism for its U.S. employees.
Then again, Kellogg isn’t like most companies. I already knew that – but with Nathan, the message of Kellogg caring about its employees came through loud and clear.
Autistic kids have just a 2 percent chance of attaining a normal IQ without professional help. The Cadillac of this kind of help is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. ABA Therapy is based on the science of learning and behavior. Through ABA therapy, Autistic kids have a more than 50 percent chance of attaining a normal IQ.
The goal of ABA Therapy is to increase behaviors that are helpful and decrease behaviors that are harmful or negatively affect the ability to learn.
For example, Nathan and others like him seem to learn better with pictures than with words. ABA therapists use pictures to show tasks and tell stories – then, they meet with parents and siblings to use these visual techniques to communicate more effectively with their Autistic child. ABA therapy doesn’t cure autism, but it helps Autistic kids and their families live more normally in a non-autistic world.
Unfortunately, like most specialized therapies, ABA therapy is expensive. For most families, it’s impossible to work into the budget.
So, when Kellogg decided to include ABA Therapy in its employee benefits package, Rachel and I were elated. It is one example of how Kellogg is providing employees with the support they need to manage their lives and care for their families.
Our leadership knows the importance of mental health along with physical health through the Company’s benefits program – which goes along with one of our company’s core beliefs: Living our founder’s values. We’re all about nourishing people with our great foods, and ensuring families like mine can flourish and thrive.
In celebration of International Day of People with Disabilities, Monday, Dec. 3, this proud father is celebrating his extraordinary son. Nathan will always have autism. But gradually, he’s learning to find his voice. And every day, he brings our family more joy than we could ever imagine.