Diane's House - Alexis on her bike
Diane’s House – Alexis on her bike

It has been an especially exciting summer for all of us at Nature’s Edge.  After years of planning and preparation, Diane’s House, our residential facility for intensive, family-oriented therapy, welcomed its first family — the Katterhagens of Alexandria, Minnesota, in May.

Alexis, age 10, was diagnosed with autism at the age of four.  Parents Mike and Amy had tried many different approaches to therapy, but Alexis was still mostly nonverbal, with long periods of screaming out of frustration.  She needed help with basic daily activities such as toileting, eating, sleeping, and self-care.  She also had sensory issues, difficulty in social situations, and her parents feared for her safety.  While attending a PATH Intl. conference in St. Cloud, Amy met Becky, learned about Diane’s House, and recognized an opportunity to change the lives of her daughter and family forever.

The Katterhagens – Mike, Amy, Alexis and her 8-year-old brother Dylan – stayed at Diane’s House for the week of May 12-19.  This is what the week meant to them:

We recently spent a week at Nature’s Edge Therapy Center in Diane’s House.  We were honored to be the first family to live in and receive therapy through this program!

Alexis received speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy intermixed with numerous activities such as music, art, time spent with many kinds of animals, planting flowers, etc.  There was also hippotherapy (on horses).  We even had a few community outings to restaurants and stores for Alexis to work on ordering food and purchasing an item.

Alexis and the therapists worked on her ADLs (activities of daily living):  toileting, dressing, eating, sleeping, and safety.  At Diane’s House we developed a new bedtime routine (using pictures) that has carried over to our home and Alexis is sleeping better!  The therapists helped us set up a sensory diet tailored to her specific sensory issues.  With the knowledge that Becky and her staff have with speech and technology we were able to set up a program on Alexis’s iPad to give her a voice!

We got to meet with two other families with children on the spectrum.  Becky and staff had a potluck picnic for us on one of the last days.  We were treated like family.  There was time in the evening to just enjoy our surroundings:  riding bike and golf cart in the wooded trails, playing on the swing set and trampoline, spending time with the animals, and sightseeing in nearby towns.

We would have to say that the very best part of our experience was having the therapists working with us throughout the day as opposed to going to outpatient therapy for an hour a week.  Every family member got to see and practice together to improve daily life.  In this environment Alexis was more willing to do things she wouldn’t normally do.  As an example:  we have been trying to toilet train her for some time but at Diane’s House she sat on the potty the first day and had three successes the second day!  Although it will take time, Alexis continues to come closer each week at home to being toilet trained.

Becky and all the therapists were extremely knowledgeable and very dedicated to help resolve any issues that Alexis and our family were facing.  They sent us home with MANY ideas, strategies, and NEW HOPE!

Our week at Diane’s House was by far one of the best things we have done for Alexis and our family in the 10 years we have been living with her disability.  Becky has also kept in touch with us since we’ve been home and promises to continue.  We know this was a gift from God and Becky has a big heart for this cause.  There are many grant ideas to assist families with funding.

Any family in need of the therapy offered at Diane’s House would be extremely blessed to have been there.

In love and gratitude,
Amy and Mike Katterhagen

Our therapists also report that Alexis and her family made amazing progress during their week at Diane’s House:

“. . . some major changes were noticed by the end of the week.  For example, in Alexis’ participation in her morning routine:  by the end of the week she required only one visual cue (schedule) and one verbal cue to stay on track and complete her own dressing, tooth-brushing, and hair-brushing tasks (prior she had required step by step cues for each part of the task and approximately double the amount of time to complete)!”

“Speech Therapy assisted in developing functional vocabulary, teaching initiation/responses, transitioning, learning/reading site words, following age appropriate spatial concepts (behind, under, in, on, over).  Alexis appeared to know that this week was ‘HER’ week and she was very responsive to whatever we presented for her progression.”

“Safety when going outside and being near a street were a big concern for her parents.  Alexis used a picture board to initiate going outside and also worked on safety with staying near her parents in busy environments.”

“. . .parent knowledge overall about avoiding ‘w’ sitting, proper posture when squatting, how to properly stretch the Achilles’ tendon, and low tone was greatly improved in regards to Alexis.”

You can read more from the therapists’ reports here.

See photos from the week in Alexis’s book (please allow time to download).

We at Nature’s Edge and Diane’s House extend our sincere thanks to the Katterhagens for being the first of what we hope will be many families who will experience our innovative approach to therapy at Diane’s House.  We couldn’t have asked for a better family to pave the way!