One day, while I was preparing supper, the phone rang and I proceeded to answer. My long-time friend was on the other line and we began with some friendly conversation. Then, there was a long pause. A sinking feeling came over me and I asked if everything was okay. My friend proceeded to tell me that her son had just been diagnosed with autism. I heard sobbing on the other line as I tried my best to comfort her. After a few moments, we began to have a very nice chat about the next steps in the process. We discussed the steps that our family took and how to start researching what is available in her area since she is in a different state. I clearly remember those first days, and talking about it with my friend made me even more grateful for how all the pieces fell into place for us to help our daughter.
One of the most helpful tools we have used is ABA therapy. ABA stands for Applied Behavioral Analysis, which is a scientifically based approach to understanding behavior (actions and skills) and how it is affected by the environment. ABA uses positive reinforcement to increase behavior and skills. There are many aspects of the therapy that we found beneficial. First, the program was individualized to meet our daughter’s needs. Second, we learned techniques to help our daughter throughout her life. Third, we were able to see rapid changes in a short amount of time.
The program can be either center-based or in your home. We chose to have it in our home, so every day we had three shifts of people who would arrive. Each shift was about three hours long. During the shift, the therapist would execute the programs that were in place and document the results. Then, once a week, we would have a team meeting where all the results would be shown and changes would be made to programs if needed. Graphs were shown so progress could easily be seen. Our team was great! ABA therapy was the best thing we could have done to help our daughter and our family.
By the time our phone conversation ended, my friend had an action plan and was ready to move forward. Life is an adventure, and autism is a mountain that one can climb over, tunnel through, or walk around. How it is done is up to you and your family. The best advice I can give is to keep moving forward.