Braydon Kauzlarich | NDAD

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Braydon Kauzlarich

Published: Monday, March 11, 2024
Young Braydon Kauzlarich sits with arms crossed over his legs.
Originally published October of 2020

Amanda Jaklich’s voice illuminates when she talks about watching her 10-year old son Braydon play youth baseball this summer.

“My heart was so full,” the Elgin, N.D., mom recalled in a phone interview. “I don’t know if I can put it into words how happy he was being with his peers. Being accepted in a group, actually enjoying himself. I didn’t think he would be….” She paused. “….be able to enjoy it in that way.”

Braydon Kauzlarich is autistic. At a time when the young team took social distancing steps to help protect players during a pandemic, Amanda witnessed her bright son lessening a communications distance between himself and teammates.

Weekly two-hour 40-minute round trips to Bismarck and back for Red Door Pediatric Therapy clinic sessions – all made possible with medical travel assistance from NDAD - is helping Braydon learn life skills paths to more rewarding interactions with other children and adults, not the least his family, including 4-year-old twin brothers Landon and Zane, and Amanda’s fiancé, Gary Eisenbarth.

Braydon is one of the first children to benefit from NDAD’s newest service, the Autism Spectrum Assistance Program (ASAP). It was created in late 2019 to help families cope with service gaps for their child or adult with an autism spectrum disorder.

When help is unavailable through local, state and federal programs, ASAP may help qualifying individuals by providing gas cards for their out-of-town medical travel expenses to keep appointments for occupational, physical, speech and language, and behavioral therapies, and for psychiatric appointments, too.

ASAP also may assist with up to eight hours a week of respite services.

NDAD “has been great,” Amanda said. “It’s really helped tremendously for our family, and every little bit helps.” Marsha Dupré, client services representative for central and western North Dakota, is “helpful above and beyond what she’s had to do.”

Meanwhile, Braydon continues to make strides “as far as emotional responses toward things,” she said. While he still likes to be alone and can be uncomfortable with touch, he has gradually shown more ease being in the company of peers and others, she said.

He’s also learning how to adjust his competitive behavior to avoid what mom calls occasional “meltdowns.” Among other things, Braydon is learning to understand body language better, which helps him recognize the subtle cues provided by people he’s speaking to – say, when another child shows great interest verses little or none.

For Braydon, who can tend to share his interests in acute verbal detail, those lessons are becoming stepping stones to more sustained and fruitful peer relationships. NDAD’s help has made a difference, she says.

“Emotionally, he still is a little distant,” Amanda said about Braydon. “But I have been getting some hugs back lately.” She chuckled, and her tone of voice revealed a grateful mom’s bliss.