former autism research participant girl smiling

Helping Piper Reach Her Full Potential

Children’s approach to early autism intervention made all the difference for Piper. With donor support, we can help more families stay one step ahead of this disorder.

Dani Benner knew the signs of autism spectrum disorder.

Her oldest son was diagnosed at 18 months, and chances were high that her third child would also be on the spectrum. When her daughter Piper arrived, Dani was determined to be proactive. 

She enrolled Piper in a research study at Marcus Autism Center that assessed her eye-tracking abilities when she was just weeks old. Dani carefully monitored the milestones Piper met and those she missed. So at 12 months, when Dani learned her daughter was indeed on the spectrum, the diagnosis came as no surprise. 

“The reaction wasn’t tears or devastation,” she says. “We knew the value of early intervention and that we were partners with Marcus Autism Center—we were in the best hands possible.”

Autism spectrum disorder is a social communication disorder, also characterized by restricted interest and repetitive behaviors,” says Clinical Care Coordinator Chris Booth, LMSW. “Early intervention is key. It's when lives can really be changed.”

Dedication pays off
Dani, Piper and her care team at Marcus Autism Center immediately got to work. “We were able to spend nine months of really targeted time building Piper’s skills and capabilities, focusing on what was important to our clinical team here and to her parents as well,” says Booth.

“Piper worked incredibly hard with an incredible team. On her third birthday, it was announced that she was no longer showing signs of being on the autism spectrum,” says Dani. “Knowing that she has this wide-open, clear, blank slate to live her life is a pretty incredible thing. I think that's what makes for a miracle child. She's a true product of early intervention.”

Now age 4, Piper is feisty and opinionated. She likes to color and dance. And she loves making friends at the playground. 

“Autism is not a life-ending diagnosis. It comes with challenges, but it also comes with a lot of beautiful benefits. The more you know and the more assistance you have, the better outcome you have,” says Dani. “Often people don't want to label kids, but when we properly identify autism, we can give parents hope.”

Tomorrow can’t wait
Just as Dani knew the value of early intervention for Piper’s long-term well-being, we at Children’s know that we must stay one step ahead in order to meet the growing demand for specialized pediatric care. We must be proactive in our efforts to improve our diagnostic capabilities, advance treatment and train future providers. 

Marcus Autism Center is the largest center for clinical care for children with autism, more than 66,000 of which are born every year in the U.S. Yet we know there’s more work to be done, and settling for “good enough” just isn’t an option. 

That’s why we have embarked on a mission to establish a comprehensive Brain Health Center to make an impact on kids’ health and well-being for generations to come. To achieve this vision tomorrow, we must invest today. Support from the community, along with careful planning and innovative thinking, will allow us to transform our not-for-profit hospital campus and services to better meet the growing demand for this type of specialized pediatric care. 

We Can’t Do It without You

Help us stay one step ahead of the growing demand for specialized pediatric care.

boy reading a book at Brain Health Center

Advancing the Future of Care

A comprehensive Brain Health Center will make an impact on kids’ health and well-being for generations to come.