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Meet Kevin, Age 3:
A glaring red flag for Kevin’s mom was that her adorable 3-year-old would chant the entire Peppa Pig script over and over until the entire household knew it by heart. Kevin would imitate phrases he overheard, and repeat the last word of the questions he was asked. Kevin was able to articulate many words most 5-year-olds wouldn’t know, yet he had no ability to carry a conversation with his parents, siblings, teachers, or peers.
However, it was Kevin’s obsession with a routine that broke his mom’s natural inhibition and prompted her to reach out for help.
“Kevin has a need for things to go a specific way,” she said when describing her concerns. “And when it doesn’t – he cannot handle it.”
She described how Kevin would have a complete meltdown if he wasn’t the one to press the elevator button, if dad took an unusual turn on the way home, or if mom wouldn’t shop at her typical grocery store.
His parents avoided taking him out, afraid they’d have to deal with out-of-control behavior in public.
At this point, Kevin’s parents knew he needed to learn basic communication skills and flexibility for the sake of their own mental health, for the family’s ability to function, and of course, for Kevin’s own present and future.
Kevin’s mom reached out to Circle Care Services, and Kevin received a thorough assessment within 5 days of her call. The assessment specialist observed Kevin’s behavior at home and conducted formal testing. Then she sat down with Kevin’s parents to hear all their concerns so she could address them in his ABA treatment plan.
What is ABA and how does it work?
Firstly, appreciate that ABA is nothing new! ABA has been helping individuals on the autism spectrum since the 1960s.
Though it’s been around for a while, there are constant improvements being made to the ABA method all the time.
Still, if it’s new to you, read on and Kevin’s story will help you understand why thousands of parents turn to ABA therapy to help their children with autism.
Kevin’s care plan:
2 weeks later, Kevin began ABA therapy with Katie, his behavior therapist, 5 days a week for a total of 25 hours. Abrar, his BCBA joined for 3 hours a week to regularly assess Kevin and gauge his response to the treatment plan. Abrar and Katie were in constant communication to ensure that Kevin was receiving the best care possible.
Kevin’s parents understood how crucial their involvement would be to Kevin’s success and attended weekly parent training sessions with pens and notepads in hand. They learned the methods Kevin’s therapists used during the ABA sessions and were committed to practicing his newly acquired coping skills, communication skills, and other core skills at home as well.
Kevin’s ABA program included goals such as
- Ability to request that peers join him in play with facilitation from his therapist
- Ability to interact with peers with facilitation from his therapist
- Decreasing stimming behaviors and learning alternative behaviors
- Increasing awareness of his emotions and how to self-regulate accordingly
- Increasing language skills such as using adjectives, following multi-step directions, and sequencing.
We worked slowly, at Kevin’s pace, giving him the tools to communicate and self-soothe instead of melting down.
Little by little, Kevin was able to reduce his reliance on his little figurine friends for reassurance and access to security and calm from within.
We worked through lots of routines and gradually changed them until Kevin learned flexibility by understanding that a change in routine is safe and okay.
When we first began therapy, it took only 6-8 weeks for Kevin to stop scripting and begin conversing in full sentences!
He can now read, have simple conversations, and he continues to learn higher levels of communication skills each day.
Now, almost 2 years later, Kevin’s sessions have been reduced to twice a week for 4 hours, totaling just 8 hours of ABA therapy weekly.
A real game changer for Kevin’s parents was learning the why behind their son’s behavior.
“Knowing that Kevin takes comfort in routine and is afraid of change helps us be more patient with him. We can now prepare him in advance for new situations and introduce new ways of doing things without making him feel unsafe.”
Kevin has blossomed in school with his peers and his family is able to enjoy life without worrying about meltdowns. Best of all, Kevin’s parents have peace of mind knowing they did everything they could to help their child be the best he can be.
Has your child been diagnosed with autism?
When your child has been diagnosed with autism, you may have mixed feelings. On one hand, it can be a relief to put a name to the atypical behaviors your child is displaying and to know that there are resources and services out there to help your child. On the other hand, you may be concerned about what this means for your family and for your child’s present and future.
A diagnosis can also be a shock to you, and trigger feelings of worry, fear, and denial. Rest assured that all these reactions, as well as anything in between, are completely normal.
When your physician delivers a comprehensive assessment for autism, they will also give you recommendations for different types of services based on your child’s needs. One of these recommendations will likely be for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) which is an evidence-based therapy that reduces or eliminates problem behaviors and increases appropriate behaviors in children with autism.
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