K-O-H-L-E-R Spells Success for Special Needs Family

KOHLER product becomes a surprising learning tool for the son of Kohler associates.
Jan 25, 2018 5:15 PM ET

Adam Augustine makes a beeline through the Kohler Design Center to his favorite display where he delights in pressing each button to turn on the showerheads. It's not surprising that kids—and people of all ages actually—get a kick out of this hands-on interaction. However, it was unexpected that a KOHLER® product would help open a door to communication for this young boy.

Adam, the four-year-old son of Keith and Maria Augustine, both Kohler associates, is on the autistic spectrum. In early 2017, Adam's verbal skills were virtually nonexistent. Despite his family working relentlessly to teach him letters and sounds, his communication was limited to mostly pointing and gesturing.

Then one day, Keith realized Adam, who was rather enthralled with their new KOHLER Quiet-Close™ toilet seat, was pointing to a word on the toilet and wanted his dad to sound out the letters. After that, the Augustines spelled and pronounced "Kohler" during every bathroom visit and something suddenly clicked for Adam. He learned "Kohler," "stop" and other words encountered throughout the day, then the alphabet, and now often uses two-to three-word sentences.

"When Adam made that connection with the word Kohler and sounded it out, we were so proud," Keith said about the surprising breakthrough.

In the design center, Adam, a blur of nonstop exuberant energy, rushes from showerheads to faucets where he taps and says each letter on the display and pronounces the word Kohler before becoming immersed in swiping through the information on the iPad installed there.

With the help of dedicated teachers and the constant encouragement of his parents, Adam continues to make progress. His brother, William, 12, whom Adam looks up to and mimics, is also a big help.

"William is a great role model and is really good about spending time with Adam," Keith said, adding that raising an autistic child is truly a family effort. "I realize all parents face challenges as they navigate their children's development, but being the parent of a special needs child takes so much love and effort on a 24-hour basis," Keith said. He cites, for example, Adam's bath routine, a 45-step process that must be followed in sequence or Adam will be thrown off.

"Other parents may worry about their children getting A's in school. But Maria and I cried the first time Adam made a really good effort to write 'A' on a piece of paper," Keith said. "We take advantage of any tool we can to help Adam, and inspiration can come from many sources—even a KOHLER toilet."