Tristan’s Story

Where Tristan Started

Tristan is a ball of energy and a bundle of joy – he can be heard giggling through the hallways at Cornerstone while he is being tickled, hugged or spun around. At home, he loves to read books with mom or sit with his dad in a pile of rocks outside.

Tristan began therapy at Cornerstone at 4 years old with a focus on building his communication. He came to the center making very few sounds and was unable to point to desired items. He did not know sign language or have a way to communicate to his family and peers. His mom, Jamie Hill, said she could see his frustration, so she would help him by giving him any item she felt he needed right away. His dad, Brandon Smith, said Tristan expressed his frustration through self-injurious behaviors and outbursts.

“It was heart breaking as a parent to not be able to fully understand what your child was trying to communicate to you,” said Smith.

How Tristan Has Improved

At Cornerstone, his clinical team has taught Tristan sign language (he currently knows over 20 signs), how to point to desired items and how to make vocal sounds such as “ba” and “oo.” Therapist Megan Downey showed him how to puff his cheeks by blowing a straw wrapper and a train whistle.


Then one afternoon, Tristan was playing with the ball at home and he said his first word: ball. His family cried and showed videos of this moment to family and friends.


“We are all so excited Tristan has found his voice,” said Hill. “We never gave up hope that he would. Cornerstone has been a huge blessing in his transformation. It’s awesome that everyone is excited with us.”

The transformation has not stopped there. After he said the word “ball,” Tristan has continued to surprise his therapists and family with the growth of his language. His first word at Cornerstone was with therapist Kat Moore and he said “help.” In the span of two weeks, Tristan also said help me, hi, up and mom. Hill said Tristan smiles after he says a word for the first time, which shows her he is proud of his hard work.

Both Hill and Smith feel Tristan’s story will be one of hope to others.

“It can be so hard to watch your child get another year older and still not reach certain bench marks that you’d hoped he would,” said Smith. “You never give up that hope as a parent, but it can start to get easier to become complacent with where your child is at. When he began using words vocally it was like all that hope and patience had finally paid off.”

Not only has Tristan’s success impacted his family, but he has also been an inspiration to the staff.

“He was my first client here and I could never have asked for a better first client experience,” said Downey. “I wasn’t new to ABA, but having him has been so rewarding for me as a therapist. It makes me wake up and want to come to work every day.”

To watch his success story video, click this link to visit our youtube channel.