How did you discover that your child had Autism?
Our discovery of JD being diagnosed with ASD was interesting, to say the least! From the time he was about 4 or 5 months old, he was considered developmentally delayed because he was not reaching any of his milestones on time. He was enrolled in PT, OT, Speech, and Feeding Therapy, and he had several tests done (x-rays, MRI, ultrasound) because they were concerned that he might have Cerebral Palsy. All the tests came back clear, but at his 15-month Well-baby checkup, his doctor recommended seeing a Developmental Pediatrician because he scored poorly on the MCHAT, which is an early screening tool for ASD.
We were living in Tennessee at the time, and were recommended to get a screening/evaluation done at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Nashville. They were doing a 5-year research study (The TADPOLE PROJECT) on early intervention and its effect on children with ASD. JD was diagnosed with ASD by them at 16 months, and was also enrolled in the study. It was a great opportunity for our family! JD received 15 hours of DTT/ABA a week, and I had a great support system that empowered me and helped me learn about ASD and how I can help my son. I knew absolutely nothing about Autism when he was diagnosed, so I feel very fortunate to have had such a great team and BCBA who were able and willing to help me learn and understand how I can best help him.
How did you learn about Autism Service of South Carolina?
I learned about Autism Services of South Carolina via Google. We were stilling living in Tennessee at the time, and I was trying to line up a company for when we made the move to South Carolina. I believe the person I had spoken to was Diane Haws. I appreciated how she took the time to actually answer my questions and explain what I would need to do in order to get my son started here in SC. I had called several companies in the area, but many of them had brushed me off since we were not in South Carolina yet. Diane took the time to explain the process to me, and was very nice, so I knew that I wanted to use ASSC.
How do you feel your child is doing now in comparison to when they first started their ABA therapy journey?
Within 3 months of JD starting his ABA therapy journey, he went from being almost completely non-verbal (not even gestures) and not knowing how to play with toys at all to tacting and manding in 1 or two words and playing appropriately with several different toys. Within 6 months he was starting to communicate effectively and learning how to use his imagination. Now he is 4.5 years old and has an amazing and wonderful imagination. He is able to effectively communicate his wants, as well as carry on a conversation with another person. He can play with a wide variety of different toys, including board games. He is so, so smart! He knows all his letters, can count past 100 hundred, and even taught himself some sign language recently (thanks, Youtube!). While he still struggles to interact with peers, he is getting better. He asked his classmate to play tag with him today! And will say hello and good bye to his other friends at school. He does still have some attention-seeking and self-stimulatory behaviors, but we’re working on it and overall his progress has been amazing!
What kinds of support have been most helpful to you and why?
There are several supports that have been very helpful. First of all, we have a great team. My team is awesome; I have a great therapist, BCaBA, and BCBA who are always available to help when needed. Someone is always available if I have a question or need advice, like with night-time potty training, accidents, tantrums, etc. I also think it is very important to have Parent Training. ABA therapy needs to be consistent, and implemented not only when the therapist/BCaBA/BCBA are there. It is so, so important for parents to be trained and understand why a certain behavior is occurring, and for them to know how to handle that behavior. For example, a few months ago, JD would throw himself to the ground and start crying when he didn’t get what he wanted. We had a team meeting with his therapist, BCaBA, and BCBA where it was decided that it was an attention-seeking behavior, and came up with a plan to ignore the behavior. It was very difficult and frustrating sometimes to ignore my 4 year old screaming on the ground because he wasn’t getting his way, but because of the training I was given, I was able to understand why the behavior was occurring (for attention) and how to make it stop (not giving it attention). Because he was not getting the attention he wanted, he stopped throwing himself on the ground and now he rarely does it at all. We all worked together to find a solution to the issue, but it’s also up to the parents to do their part!
We interviewed a family that Autism Services of South Carolina serves in honor of Autism Awareness Month! For more information about Autism or to find out how to get services through Autism Services of South Carolina please visit their website http://www.autismservicessouthcarolina.com/