An Answer to Their Prayers

Imagine living with someone who screamed more than 1,000 times a day, at the decibel level louder than a lawn mower.


The Hanegraaf family of Appleton, Wis., lived in misery for three and a half years until a UW Health surgeon came up with a solution.


Vicki and Kevin Hanegraaf of Appleton have twin sons, Kade and Kyle, now age 16. Both have severe autism. When Kade was about 11, he suddenly developed a vocal tic – a recurring obsession with making the same noise over and over again. Tics are part of the repetitive behavior that can plague some people with conditions such as Tourette's syndrome and autism.


In Kade's case, the tic took the form of a high-decibel scream – measured at 87 decibels, or somewhere between a lawnmower and a car horn. To make matters worse, his twin, who is also autistic, is sensitive to noise and he was suffering right along with Kade.


But Kade suffered the most, his mother said.


"He was absolutely miserable; he was caught in this tormenting cycle,"’ she recalls. "He’d turn his ears up while he was doing it and hear the echo of it. He knew it bothered us, so he would hide in closets, in dark places and scream."


The family looked everywhere for help. They took him to a behavioral specialist, to a psychiatrist, and finally to a children’s neurologist in Milwaukee, who diagnosed him with Tourette’s syndrome and prescribed anti-psychotic drugs. Nothing worked, until they were referred to Dr. Seth Dailey, chief of laryngology at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics.


Vicki Hanegraaf calls Dr. Dailey, "an answer to our prayers."