Billy was fortunate. His diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) came when he was still a young toddler. His parents had noticed that, unlike other children, he was withdrawn, intensely focused on certain things and his speech was delayed.
Research has shown that early identification and intervention can result in dramatically better outcomes for children with ASD. The sooner the intervention, the sooner symptoms of ASD can be treated and great progress can be made.
“Billy spoke in a very flat tone, he didn’t make eye contact, didn’t show emotion. Interaction with other kids was difficult, and he could not tolerate hugs,” said Connie, Billy’s mom.
The diagnosis answered many of their questions and gave Billy’s family a path for finding help as soon as possible. He was referred to another agency through the Regional Center and received some intensive early-intervention therapy just before he turned two years old.
When Billy aged-out of the early intervention program he was referred to the Autism Spectrum Disorder services provided by Uplift Family Services.
Using an evidence-based treatment, Pivotal Response Training (PRT), Uplift Family Services addressed behaviors common in children with ASD, including motivation and responding to multiple clues. Based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), PRT has demonstrated positive changes in key behaviors that affect language, play, and social interaction. In addition to building crucial skills, ABA can also help reduce both everyday social problems and serious behavior disorders.
When Billy first met with his behaviorist, Anna, there had been a big change at home – he had a new baby sister – and for a child with ASD, changes to the normal routine can be very upsetting. “He was quiet, not engaging in new things, unhappy and within himself,” said Anna. “He was very focused on his toy trains and easily frustrated when he was asked to do new things.”
“Uplift Family Services formed a wonderful, caring team that worked with him at home, at his pre-school, and out in public,” said Connie. “They immersed him in typical situations with kids his age.”
Anna quickly learned that reading books and playing with his trains were two of Billy’s favorite things to do. She used this information to make teaching skills more fun for him.
Billy needed a lot of help to manage his anxieties – the loud noises of other kids, among other things. Anna taught him coping skills that he could understand at his age. “We would pretend that he had swallowed a balloon and that he could see it expanding in his stomach. He practiced taking deep breaths to blow up the balloon, and that helped him to calm down when he was feeling anxious,” said Anna.
Transitioning into new situations was a major problem, but once he learned the skills to manage his anxieties, and with repeated exposure, he had time to get comfortable in new situations and continued to make great progress.
“The first therapy Billy received had a very rigid structure. Goals would only be changed on a set schedule – if he mastered something ahead of schedule, he was not encouraged to master the next step until the scheduled time. But, the Uplift Family Services program allowed the goal to change as soon as Billy mastered something,” continued Connie. “He made much quicker progress that way.”
None of the parents in Billy’s social circle knew of his diagnosis, but all who observed him over the weeks when Anna was working with him noticed his improvements. He was more social and looked happier. He laughs more now, and most importantly, he interacts with other children.
“I really don’t have the words to powerfully describe the difference that Uplift Family Services made in Billy’s life and our life,” Connie said. “His sentences are becoming conversations, he’s engaging with other kids, and he shows real empathy for other people. They helped my child become more ‘natural,’ and he’s funny now.
“Before, he could not tolerate hugs. Now he’s very affectionate. He even comes and asks for ‘love,’ and we finally get special cuddle time.”
Read more about the Specialty Applied Behavior Analysis program at Uplift Family Services.