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Extreme Makeover: The McPhails On Autism

By Erin Maxson & KDRV Staff

MEDFORD, Ore. — Two of the McPhail boys, Sawyer and Thatcher, were diagnosed with autism. The Southern Oregon episode of “Extreme Makeover” will reveal the tools designers were able to incorporate to help the children. The McPhails now have some top of the line equipment, which will help their boys’ physical, mental and social development.

To get an idea of what Sawyer and Thatcher go through, NewsWatch 12 talked with two of Lindsay McPhails closest friends who also have children with autism.

A visit to the park for Noah Olivier would have looked very different a year and a half ago. Since his diagnosis of autism, the Oliviers incorporated all kinds of therapies, tools, and equipment.

“We have a trampoline in our front room, we have a hug pillow, tunnels that he can climb through that provide resistance seriously the list goes on and on for the different things that we’ve used,” said Noah’s mom, Heather Olivier.

Heather is a close friend with Lindsay McPhail and Emilie Sampson. The trio call themselves the “warrior mothers,” all have sons with autism. Emilie and Heather helped the producers and designers understand how to meet the needs of the McPhail boys, who are on different ends of the spectrum, but like many autistic children, they struggle with sensory overload. They can’t tune out what we can.

“It feels like you are under attack,” says Heather Oliver.

“Imagine nails on a chalkboard,” explains Emilie Sampson, “Then, having that feeling all day in their everyday life.”

In the McPhail’s new home, there is a therapy room for the boys, but the whole house is meant to be a sanctuary, to better prepare them for the rest of the world.

“When you are able to meet those sensory needs for your child, not only does it make life for your child so much easier but also the whole family dynamic can change and it can be a healthier place for your whole family,” says Sampson.