By Dr. Madhavi Vemireddy (COO) and Dr. Jeff Jacques (CEO) of CareTribe
When my husband Jeff and I had our son Xavier in 2010, we did not know all the ways in which it would change our lives. We would soon learn that our son was on the autism spectrum, and this would change our lives drastically. Even though both my husband and I are physicians, we needed to learn a great deal about his condition.
We learned there are specific needs for children on the autism spectrum, including healthcare and education, as well as social and nutritional. We also saw how these needs changed our family dynamic.
To start, we learned about healthcare needs, which encompass many things. We needed to find a developmental pediatrician, as well as a physician with an integrative medical background. It is also important to have a holistic approach. Some children on the spectrum are non-verbal, so there is a need to make sure there are no underlying medical issues that could be contributing to certain behavior.
Regarding educational needs, children on the spectrum need specialized support before mainstream school age. They require early intervention services, which include speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and ABA therapy (applied behavior analysis). They need an IEP (individualized education plan), which includes getting a team together to discuss educational needs, determining where they need additional help, and getting opportunities to participate in mainstream schooling.
Next would be social needs, which in part, tie together with educational needs. Making sure there are opportunities for children to socialize in group activities is important. There was a program at our son’s school where an autistic child was paired with a mainstream child for reading together. This was greatly beneficial for both parties. The autistic child felt included, and the mainstream child had the chance to interact with someone on the spectrum and see they are not different from themselves. Studies show that these types of programs have cut down on bullying of children with disabilities dramatically.
Also important are nutritional needs. Finding a dietician who has experience dealing with children on the spectrum is key. Some behavioral or medical issues can be addressed through different diets. For our family, we found going gluten- and dairy-free to be instrumental. Children with autism can potentially have certain nutritional deficiencies, for which your dietician can suggest supplements.
Everything my husband and I learned, as well as our experience as our son’s caretakers, would lead us to start our own company, CareTribe, in 2019. Our mission is to provide resources to help the wellbeing of the whole family unit, as well as to focus on, and support caregivers. Our company has a team of licensed clinical social workers, who we call “care navigators,” to do research and find the best doctors in the right places. They can also help with stress and changing family dynamics. We offer digital pathways that can help educate and connect you to resources for all your family’s needs.
Drs. Vemireddy and Jacques founded CareTribe in September of 2019 and have a vested interest in it. They are the proud parents of two boys, one of which is on the autism spectrum. When moving from California to New York two years ago, they realized they needed to setup a new support system for their son, which is why they created the company.