The Summer of Strength

This summer was different. A good different.  A different we have never seen.   It was honestly the most progression we have seen yet with Cody’s development since birth.  It’s one of those summers that we will look back years from now and start singing Bryan Adam’s, Summer of ’69, Best days of our lives!  Still a great tune….

Things this summer started clicking. Cody’s brain literally started connecting the dots in a sequence that actually made a picture.  Imagine a page full of dots? The dots represent information. Once you start connecting them, it turns into knowledge (or a picture).  Once the knowledge can occur you could even look at ways of connecting them different in your mind and this is when your imagination starts!



Have you ever looked at the clouds and looked for pictures?

Recently, my Aunt Sharon and my dear west coast friend, Amy Donegon posted these photos on social media. What do you see?

Yes! a Pig and ET!

These are connections Cody has created this summer. He seems more present.  His retention each week would hold onto programs he would master at the same time he would gain new skills. We actually got to see his sense of humor for the first time. He even got in trouble pushing my buttons!  If you have been following our journey from the start this is how I knew something was not right early on because he was such an easy baby.

So what was different?  Is it his age? Is it his therapists?  Is it a perfect blend of therapies that are suitable for him?  Is it his peers? Is it because we never stop therapy in our home? Is it the supplements we give him?  Is it the Figi water?  The answer…..I DON’T KNOW but who gives a shit, because it truly is the best summer yet!

We got to hear Cody’s voice more than we ever had! Our newest phrases/words that started from his iPad turned into his voice such as:

  • Toss me
  • Tickle me
  • Turn on
  • Pick me up
  • I want cell phone
  • I want black/ red ipad, etc.
  • Water intstead of wa wa J
  • Mom
  • Top
  • Phone
  • Horse (getting very close)

Any emergency related question, he can answer you from his PECS (communication device).  You can ask him:

  • What’s your address?
  • Where do you live?
  • What’s Moms Cell phone? What’s Dads?
  • Do you have a brother or sister?
  • Where do you go to school?

From his PECS you can ask him:

  • Who’s that? He will answer….That’s ….
  • What do you see? I see…
  • What is it? It’s a….
  • Where are we?
  • Cody! He says…What?
  • Let’s go! He says, Where we going?


We have increased a substantial amount of new foods this summer!  Carrots, pickles, varieties of chicken, varieties of turkey, apples, peaches, fish, pasta, ground beef, tortilla roll ups, eggs, rice cakes, variety of granola bars.

Oral Motor Mouth Strength

Muscle movement he has never used!  We did simple things like blowing out candles, using Bro’s duck call, playing harmonica, drinking from small straws, whistles, etc. This has helped in being able to shape the sounds of words which in return he is speaking more!

Requesting full instructions from his communication device: This summer we built forts, He would tell me what blanket and color to use in what order. Even requested the tunnel toy to be used!

Greetings:  Hi, Bye, Good Morning and I love you with person’s name.  We worked on these greetings with Cameron’s friends, family, therapists and friends.

Music:  The boy loves to sing and dance now! Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes is a HUGE hit at the house!  He requests from his communication device for an old cell phone we had that we emptied and we let him use specially for music only. It’s has about 50 songs and it’s his new favorite thing especially if he can watch his self in a mirror!  He has always loved music from the start.

 Self-Dress: Mastered socks, pants, shirts and shoes!  Still needs actual practice with button down shorts and button pants.  He recently started playing with a puzzle that has latches, hooks, etc. to help with fine motor.


  • We implemented a getting self-dressed using a Monday – Sunday drawers.
  • Brushing teeth
  • Washing hands (longer)
  • pedaling his big wheel for long distances
  • Dishwasher help
  • Picking up after therapy sessions
  • Getting his own water from fridge
  • Getting his own silverware, napkin and cups
  • Retrieving his own snack
  • Transferring clothes to washer and dryer
  • Using hamper
  • Throwing away trash
  • Taking plate to the sink
  • Wiping spills and retrieving a paper towel

Social Skills

We had 4 opportunities where a friend came to play during therapy sessions this summer.  For the first time, he actually jumped on the trampoline with them, took photos, ate lunch together, etc. Still more lateral play but increased engagement with eye contact.

We also attended some play-dates and parties to expose him more to these settings. I could feel Cody being more observant to friends this summer and hoping this will continue to increase being back in school with his friends and getting to attend recess this year.

Interaction with Lily (Our dog)  He has taken more liking to petting and giving her kisses.  He even has a few play dogs that he places in Lily’s bed. This increase all started around the time we were approved for a service dog and I was showing him videos and engaging him more with dogs. I want to continue this in the event we go through team training in October for him to get him canine companion.

Today, Cody started Kindergarten and Cameron is officially an upperclassman! What better way to distract me than to celebrate Cody’s accomplishments, no matter how BIG or small that they are.  The funny thing is Cameron was the one that actually made me cry this morning when he drove off for school….. I am so blessed with this child. He had am amazing summer of baseball, made some new friends, strengthen his playing in several positions, hit the gym and picked up his fishing pole again.  Can’t wait to see what he has in store this school year.  His class load sure is heavy….

First Day of School

Cameron Charles
Proud of this kid. His heart and compassion for the things he loves is so endearing.
Cameron Charles, You are growing into a young man of character. You make me so happy just being you. Have a kick butt year! Love you. #Classof2020#Junior #officialupperclassman


Cody Rivers
This boy started Kindergarten today. How can this be? I pray that his peers stay kind to him. I pray that he transitions well with a new schedule. I do find comfort in his amazing teachers and having some familiar buddies in his class. He had an amazing summer of growth and anxious to see this overflow into school. Being a parent of a child that is nonverbal always makes me feel anxious but I know he is in good hands and I have to hold on to this trust.
Cody Rivers continue to share your beautiful smile and personality and deep down I know you will continue to move mountains.
I love you buddy and so proud of your bravery.  #LISDBeKind#Classof2031 #ProudMom


Published by mamalamaneustupa

Bio My name is Shelley Neustupa. I am a mother of two cool boys and a wife of 22 years to my high school sweetheart. My oldest son attends the University of Oklahoma. Boomer! My youngest is in 2nd grade and was diagnosed with Autism and Mixed Receptive Expressive Disorder at age 2. Since his diagnosis, I promised him I would advocate and educate as hard as he works each day in therapy. I began writing and have been able to touch many parents that may be new to this journey providing them with actual experiences (not candy coated), support and resources through my entries. Writing is my therapy and my hope one day that my nonverbal son will be able to take these diaries and speak about his own journey and how autism relates to his own experiences. Who knows he and his older brother may become National Speaker’s one day? Come along on our journey to better understand our lives through the eyes of a boy with autism, his Skilled Companion dog Jude, his big brother (and best friend) and mom and dad. My raw vulnerability captures the everyday moments of our journey and will bring even more awareness. A week does not go by where we do not learn something new about ourselves and I want to share these chapters with you. My Sons Undeniable Strengths… Extremely smart and figures out things quickly. Has a memory that allows him to remember more things than I could ever hope for. Persuasive by his personality and sheepish looks. Overabundance of stamina and strength. Loves the outdoors. Enjoys life and always has fun with an unforgettable smile. You can find us here: Writer: Autism Through His Eyes Facebook Instagram YouTube Pinterest Canine Companions for Independence News Interview Cody and Skilled Companion Jude - Our Story

2 thoughts on “The Summer of Strength

  1. Wow! So many amazing accomplishments in just one Summer! He’s surpassed so many former goals & new ones, too! I think it’s likely a combo of all the therapies, opportunities for interaction, & having a hands-on & truly incredible mom & family. So thrilled for you, Cody, & your entire family. I hope he continues to amaze you this school year!


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