Stewart and Betsy Switzer consider themselves abundantly blessed. They have each other, great family support, and five amazing children: 10-year-old Vayda, 9-year-old Macy, 8-year-old Preston, 4-year-old Benson, and little Cole, who’s 3. They consider the cornerstones of their family to be humility, faith, and strength, and they work to accept life — all of life — with grace. So when Benson experienced early difficulties that have led to subsequent challenges, the family considered them a gift — an opportunity to grow, and to share with and educate others.
Learning along the way
Life has consisted of many hurdles for little man Benson and his family, and boy, have they gotten an education along the way! He had RSV at six weeks, surgery on his eyes (to correct a condition called strabismus exotropia, where the eyes drift out) at 10 months, too many ear infections and some hearing loss, ENT-related surgeries, and a speech delay. After being put on hold due to COVID precautions, Benson has finally received a speech evaluation, started therapy, and he was also able to start preschool — a big year for a little guy!
There were other hurdles to overcome this last year, as well. After seeing a specialist, Benson was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in May 2021. Mom Betsy said she always knew that there was a possibility; moms always just kind of know these things. Hearing the confirmed diagnosis was hard, but it also meant positive movement in treatment: He started speech and occupational therapy at Bryan Health in August, and his communication is slowly improving, which is such a relief, as the Switzers are sure this little guy has much to say. He does not speak in sentences, but can say several words and communicate via his tablet.
A level of innocence
Betsy says that Benson brings a level of innocence to their family. The other kids in the family serve Benson with grace, helping him with whatever he needs while respecting all he’s been through. They all understand that a diagnosis doesn't change anything except making it easier to get help for some of his challenges. That, and they probably treat him with more dignity than they do each other (you know siblings), considering him a great blessing. The family is hoping their experience can help someone else by bringing autism awareness to the community.
The family was nominated by Jennifer Powell, Betsy's mother. Betsy is a powerhouse stay-at-home mom and Benson’s biggest advocate, trying to find access to resources not covered by insurance that Benson could benefit from. Jennifer wanted to make sure this family received some extra holiday cheer, as they have been through a lot this year. When the family was selected, however, humble Betsy wasn’t so sure they should accept. Big sis Vayda disagreed, insisting that “Benson deserves this.” UBT couldn’t agree more.
A sweet life
The Switzers love Friday night movie nights/kids-camp-on-the-floor nights (it’s the same event, and popcorn and M&Ms are must-haves), game nights, and just hanging out at home. Except for when they go to Omaha — then they stay in the Old Market and visit their favorite candy store. They don’t get to do this very often, but when they do, life sure is sweet (pun intended).
Well Switzer Family, what’s sweeter than a night’s stay at Hyatt Place Old Market, donated by the folks at Hyatt, and a sundae experience provided by Hollywood Candy to make your annual trip extra special? When you return from that adventure, you’ve got a year’s worth of local outings in store, thanks to donated memberships from Lincoln Children’s Zoo and Lincoln Children’s Museum. Donations from Scheels provided favorite team gear, assorted clothing, and sports balls.
Mom Betsy will be heading to the nail salon for some pampering. Stewart received a new Creighton T-shirt (thanks, Scheels!), as well as a date night with the girl of his dreams (he and Betsy thought La Paz and a movie sounded divine, so that’s just what they’ll be doing).
All the Switzer kids will be zipping around on matching Razor scooters, but we had more for them: Vayda and Macy recently redid their bedroom, so they got some star lights and pillows to decorate their domain. They also got new backpacks, digital watches, and matching sweatshirts. Preston, the sports fan, received a new Husker football jersey, an over-the-door basketball hoop, that Scheels soccer ball, an Avengers Clue game, and his favorite Ballpark Mystery books. Little Cole got a new Lightning McQueen toy, a sweatshirt, a new book, a special chair, and mini basketballs.
UBT was able to check some items off Benson’s therapy wish list so that trying to obtain these things will no longer be a struggle. He’ll be ready for therapy and home life with a peanut therapy ball, a weighted blanket, a compression boat lounger, a compression shirt, kinetic sand, puzzles, a bean bag, pants and tank tops, and he also got some flag flashcards and sticker books, as he thinks flags from other countries are so cool.
Benson, we think you are pretty cool. Have a magical holiday with your amazing family. Happy holidays, Switzer family!
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