On August 17, 2007, Alanna Hepler, LMSW was told her son, Ethan, was diagnosed with severe autistic and nonverbal learning disorders.
“My husband and I were devastated and felt so alone with the uncertainty of our son’s future,” Alanna shared. “After his diagnosis, Ethan’s doctor told us we could choose a life of disappointment or we could choose to find the joy.”
Alanna and her family chose to find the joy. During the fourteen years after Ethan’s diagnosis, Alanna has played an instrumental role in local nonprofits which help families who have a loved one with a learning disability. Today, Alanna is part of Amarillo Area Autism in Action, Embrace Autism and the Panhandle ABA Resource Association.
“I was instrumental in helping these nonprofits turn their passion into reality,” Alanna said. “Until COVID, I was also holding monthly support groups for caregivers of individuals with intellectual disabilities and special healthcare needs.”
As a social worker, Alanna uses her skills and knowledge of working with individuals with special healthcare needs to better interact with her patients in the BSA Rehabilitation department.
“I can empathize with our patients and their families, since I am a caregiver myself,” Alanna said. “We see families and individuals often on the worst days of their lives. Our patients have head injuries, strokes, amputations and other complex medical conditions which can change how they and their family’s function.”
When caring for patients with a disability, Alanna encourages them and everyone in the family to find joy in their lives.
“I tell individuals and their families to appreciate the things they still have the ability to do, instead of focusing on their deficits,” Alanna remarked. “It’s important to acknowledge the disabilities and plan how to adapt your activities, but you can’t lose the joy of living.”
The BSA Rehabilitation department’s highly trained staff is available 24/7 to help patients suffering traumatic injury or illness get on the road to recovery. For more information, visit bsahs.org/rehabilitation.