A Martinez family with two sons who have made great strides to overcome developmental disabilities will be profiled in the June Children's Miracle Network Telethon.
Brothers Matthew Zimmerman, 8, and Andrew Zimmerman, 5, were both diagnosed about three years ago with Asperger's syndrome, a developmental disorder similar to autism.
"Every single sensation is overwhelming to them," said their mother, Sheila Zimmerman, who has two other sons who don't have the syndrome.
For reasons unknown, Matthew and Andrew's brains process sensations differently from most children.
Many of the physical and social skills most children develop at regular stages didn't form in Matthew and Andrew.
Largely because of speech and occupational therapy at the Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center, their parents say, the boys are adapting to the world around them.
The family will be profiled during the Children's Miracle Network Telethon June 2-3 on Augusta NBC affiliate WAGT (Channel 26). Last year, the Children's Medical Center received more than $900,000 in area donations through the telethon, according to a news release.
Every dollar pledged during the telethon remains in the local market to help CMN hospitals purchase equipment to improve the health and quality of life of children.
Asperger's syndrome is among the pervasive developmental delaying disorders, such as autism, affecting 1 in 166 children born in the United States, said Dr. Karen Carter, a developmental pediatrician at the Children's Medical Center.
Carter's patients, like Matthew and Andrew, are typically very bright, but lack many of the fine motor and social skills necessary to adapt in the world.
"These kids are meeting a lot of their (developmental) milestones on time," Carter said, referring to such things as their first steps. But other social and fine motor skills are delayed or do not develop.
Other hallmarks of Asperger's include repetitive behaviors and emotional discomfort when there is a lack of routine; poor understanding of concepts such as personal space and other social rules; and inability to grasp nuances in language.
"(Asperger's is) not a discipline problem but the way children see the world," Carter said.
At age 2, Andrew could say only 10 words and could not form sentences. Speech therapists told the Zimmermans that Andrew's lack of language skills was so severe he could not be tested.
He also couldn't walk far without falling and would tumble out of a chair without some form of restraint. He was soon diagnosed as developmentally delayed, and that diagnosis was later pinpointed to Asperger's.
Andrew's diagnosis led to Matthew's, because the older son had similar fine motor deficiencies, lacked some social skills and had a speech impediment, Mrs. Zimmerman said.
Matthew and Andrew's treatment includes directed play through obstacle courses and occupational therapy to help them write, tie shoes and properly clothe themselves. Shoes, clothes and other objects are assigned space in the home and the family's days are tightly scheduled, which comforts the boys.
In three years, Matthew and Andrew have progressed to a level of playing organized soccer and baseball, with their mother as their coach. Matthew scores above average in math for a second-grader and Andrew shows great skill at his age for art, his mother said.
In many ways, the boys act and sound like typical youngsters, and their parents say that's a long-standing goal.
"My goals for them are the same as my other children," their mother said, referring to college degrees, jobs, marriage and children.
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