Cliff Goodman, originally wrote this blog for Northeast Arc’s Autism Support Center. In it he shares his experience raising a son with autism, and the supports he received from NeArc along the way.

Evan James Goodman was born on March 11, 2002, in Salem, Massachusetts. He attended nursery school at the YMCA daycare center, where one of his teachers approached me, his father, regarding Evan’s unique play habits. Unlike his classmates, who engaged in group play, Evan often played alone and exhibited intense reactions to various classroom events. Concerned, the teacher suggested that Evan be evaluated for a possible sensory disorder.

Consequently, I took him to the Multidisciplinary Evaluation Center (MDEC) at Salem Hospital, where in 2004, Evan was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. At that time, different names were used for various aspects of the autism spectrum, which are now collectively referred to as ASD. Following this diagnosis, we promptly enrolled Evan in Northeast Arc’s Early Intervention program, and eventually the Building Blocks program.

Just months before Evan turned three, Massachusetts law required him to attend public school, leading to his enrollment at Bentley School in Salem. Evan participated in several sensory therapy groups focusing on disciplines such as applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy due to his condition, known as hypotonia, which is characterized by low muscle tone.

As Evan grew older, his sensory issues became more pronounced, occasionally resulting in meltdowns and self-harm. We sought further assistance from NeArc’s Autism Support Center, which provided invaluable resources and services. We also involved Evan in various social groups and activities, including sibling workshops, that were beneficial to his younger brother.

Evan continued to progress through the public school system, eventually reaching high school. During his teenage years, his sensory issues intensified, prompting us to seek help from various state agencies. Over the next four years, Evan transitioned through several residential school settings, until he turned 22.

Now, at 22, he resides in a residential home near his family, but he frequently visits home and is adjusting well to his new living arrangements. Since his return to the North Shore area, our father-son relationship has blossomed, and we hope Evan will continue to thrive and lead a fulfilling life on his own terms.

As a professional musician, I have long aspired to raise awareness about autism and support this organization that has been instrumental in helping our family. On March 1, 2024, my country band, Pick 6, hosted a benefit at the Byfield Arts Center, successfully raising funds for the Northeast Arc’s Autism Support Center. I am forever grateful for the supports we received over the years!

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