Doctor's Day 2020

Special Needs R A I S I N G A C H I L D W I T H

When Dr. Jovanka (Vanja) Vuksanovic, hospitalist at Great Plains Health, and her husband, Dr. Eduardo Freitas, physician at Great Plains Health Infectious Disease, moved to North Platte 11 years ago, they noticed that their 18-month-old son, Marko, still wasn’t speaking. Since there were three languages spoken in the home (Portuguese, Serbian, and English), they thought that might explain the delay in speech. They focused on speaking only English in the home, but there was no improvement. When they took him to the pediatrician for a well-child visit at age two, the pediatrician noticed other things. While most children at that age are shy or stick close to their parent, Marko ran into the room and immediately started playing with toys. The pediatrician asked Dr. Vuksanovic to fill out questionnaires related to speech, social and interactive behavior. Thus began a lengthy two-year process and finally a diagnosis: autism.

At the time, Dr. Vuksanovic knew nothing about autism. She had never met someone with autism, and the only point of reference she could think of was the movie “Rain Man.” She immediately began the process of advocating for Marko and getting him help. They started with applied behavioral analysis (ABA), which was not available in North Platte. They hired someone to come from Kearney to give the therapy and had the therapist not only train Drs. Vuksanovic and Freitas but also their nanny. Dr. Vuksanovic remarked, “We were lucky that we could afford the therapy, which was all out of pocket.”

Dr. Freitas and Dr. Vuksanovic also have help from family. “We always have someone living at our house,” said Dr. Vuksanovic. “Our families make extended visits and stay anywhere from two to six months.”

Doctor’s Day 2020 2

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