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Congratulations, you made it through 2017 and into the new year!

As we kick off 2018 and clink our glasses to new beginnings, we start to consider our New Year’s resolutions—the changes we’d like to make to our routines, and things we hope to accomplish in 2018. As a parent of a child with autism, that includes planning and setting healthy and attainable goals for you and your child. We know it can be difficult to get back into the groove of things after the hectic holidays, so Cayer Behavioral Group (CBG) has gathered some tips and tricks for making this year the best one yet!

  1. Take an interest in your child’s interests. Being a parent of a child with autism and having to juggle work, school, appointments, and therapies can make it very difficult to get quality bonding time. Making the small, conscious effort to take a personal interest in your child’s interests can go a long way in bringing you closer together. I bet you’ll find that their passion is contagious, fun and inspiring. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even teach you something new!
  2. But also take time for yourself. This one is difficult for a lot of parents, because their children tend to come first in most aspects of their life. That’s why it is important to remember that we give can only give our children our best, when we ourselves are at our best. So make your needs and well-being a priority in 2018, guilt-free, knowing you have your child’s best interest in mind. Take 3 to 4 days to blow off some steam at the gym, schedule a date-night for you and your spouse, or even just a few minutes to read a new book, listen to your favorite song, or take a hot bath!
  3. Don’t beat yourself up! Everyone has bad days, and there will likely be a few along the path to accomplishing your goals. But perfection is boring and unattainable, so give yourself the credit you deserve. Take a moment to reflect on 2017’s feats, and pat yourself on the back for surviving another year despite its mishaps. You are a devoted parent who works hard to take care of your special needs child, and thanks to you, their needs are being met with love and care. That in itself is something to be celebrated!
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for support. Being open and honest about our struggles can be difficult. Maybe you don’t want others to see you as weak or inept, or are worried about being a burden, or just don’t know how to properly convey your emotions. But asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. There is an entire community out there of people who have been in your shoes, and who are not only willing, but eager to welcome you with open arms—CBG included! So don’t be afraid to reach out to your team at CBG and ask for support when you need it. You are resilient and resourceful, and asking for help will only make you more confident when facing stress next time around.

Wishing you and your family a prosperous 2018!

Two Kids Playing

What is ABA?

ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis, is the most effective therapeutic intervention for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is successful with both children and adults. The focus of ABA intervention is to improve a person’s quality of life by teaching skills necessary for day-to-day functioning, and to decrease behaviors that may inhibit success. Typically, ABA interventions rely on the use of strategically applied reinforcers that motivate the individual to learn a skill, or refrain from engaging in an unwanted behavior.

ABA is a form of therapy based on B. F. Skinner’s theory of behaviorism, which focuses on observable behaviors. ABA therapy is applied in a variety of ways, but each therapeutic intervention is customized to be meaningful to the individual.

ASD kid looking at a globe - ABA blog

Why is ABA so popular?

ABA is proven to be effective! Studies show that 30-50% of children with ASD who begin receiving quality, intensive ABA therapy from a young age go on to succeed in regular education classrooms. Moreover, their success continues to improve well into the future. ABA interventions also help improve family relationships by increasing positive behavior within the home, and enhance social skills, such as appropriate eye contact, reciprocal conversation, making and accepting bids, as well as many others.

Specific, child centered  interventions are designed to teach functional skills that are important to the child. Examples may include: washing hands, tying a shoe, or a job-specific skill. The specific needs of the individual drive the design of his or her interventions. As a result, ABA-based interventions open up endless possibilities for learning and success, and encourage positive change in the lives of individuals and their families.

Kids playing in the classroom ABA approach

The Growing Field of ABA

As ABA grows in popularity, the number of services provided grows. Every day, more and more ABA-based services are provided in schools and in the community. A growing number of teachers and staff are embracing ABA and welcoming it into schools and classrooms. There has also been an increasing number of opportunities for older individuals with ASD. This makes it easier for adults with ASD to contribute their unique skills throughout the community.

College is a dream many have, but some feel it may be out of reach because of a variety of disadvantages.

This is the story of Oscar Diaz and his pursuit of his college dreams:

Study book with glasses

​Oscar diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of 4. He started elementary school in a normal kindergarten class but soon was relocated to a class that could “fit his needs.” Several of his family members thought this was a tragedy because it wouldn’t entitle Oscar to much, but it was the beginning of Oscar’s path to success.

 

Getting switched into the a different class opened Oscar up to ABA therapy and sooner than later things started looking up. It took Oscar six years to graduate elementary school, but it was worth it. No one, not even Oscar, thought elementary school graduation was possible, nor did anyone believe Oscar would be able to go to middle school without any ABA services. However, Oscar completed both middle school and high school without any service dependency.

Stack of books

Once his necessary education was complete, Oscar wanted more. He always dreamed of going to college but never thought it was possible because of his family’s economic status. So he took a year off after high school to devote all of his time studying for the ACT and SAT. After receiving an exemplary score, he applied to five universities in Florida and received a full merit scholarship to Florida State University. Oscar is now 24 years old and just graduated college with a Bachelor’s degree.  

This is only one of the many success stories that began with the believed constraint of Autism. But Oscar did not let the stigma hold him back, and hopefully neither will other children like him.

A child’s first steps are both the scariest and the most significant. Overcoming that first fear sets the foundation to conquering future obstacles. From there, kids learn to run, ride a bike, and play soccer. Along with a child’s first steps they also discover a crowd of support as their parents cheer them on to keep going.

photo of parent holding child

Parents of children with Autism also have a vital first step to take: seeking the diagnosis.

No, it isn’t fun. The road will be bumpy. There will be obstacles. But it will put the child on the right path to reach their full potential. Parents will find the support of those who will advocate for their child, answer all their questions, and most importantly, celebrate the milestones.

 

The following steps will help guide parents during the diagnosis process:

  1. Consult your family doctor or pediatrician. They will refer you to an Autism specialist or a team of specialists, including but not limited to: a child psychologist, a child psychiatrist, a pediatric neurologist, a speech pathologist and/or a developmental pediatrician.
  2. Follow through with the evaluation. Getting evaluated for Autism Spectrum Disorder consists of parent interviews, a medical exam, a hearing test, and direct observations. Clinicians will assess the child’s level of social behavior, social understanding, speech and language, play behavior, motor skills and adaptive behavior (ex: eating, dressing and toileting)
  3. Gather resources to begin a treatment program as soon as possible. Research has indicated that undergoing intensive behavioral therapy as a toddler can significantly improve cognitive and language skills in younger children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Autistic child being held by parent

 

With an early diagnosis, little ones with Autism can receive intensive therapy as young as 15 months old. Therapists, a part of the support team, develop unique, individualized treatment interventions to build onto the child’s strengths. From emphasizing eye contact to reinforcing every little sound as an infant, a 5-year-old with Autism will be prepared to play with peers, ask for help, or tell stories upon their first day of kindergarten. The greatest developments will come from prompt action and a readiness to learn.

“Growth is never by mere chance. It is a result of forces working together” – James Cash Penney

Written by: Tori Mason, Registered Behavior Technician