This interview first appeared in the Voice of Lakewood on November 22, 2018.
Q: Tell us About Attentive Behavior Care.
A: We provide ABA therapy for individuals on the autism spectrum; we work with children aged 18 months and up and adults. ABA is a science-based method that has been proven to work in addressing the core deficits of autistic children: social, communication, and behavior reduction. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, a wide range of children fall along the spectrum. Some are nonverbal and need to learn how to communicate their needs, while others need social skills training and group practice to bring them up to par. Examples of skills that we target include social skills, toilet training, independent dressing, safety skills, communication, and hygiene — all essential skills which enhance the quality of life of the child.
At Attentive Behavior Care, we believe in a team approach; we work closely with parents, professionals, and other peers to ensure that skills learned are being maintained in the child’s natural environment. I frequently tell parents, “If your child only behaves while with me in my office, I was not successful.”
Q: Please share some thoughts about your clients.
A: There is a saying, “When you meet one child with autism, you have met one child with autism.” Each autistic child has individual needs, and I see each child as a puzzle with unique strengths and weaknesses. Our job is to figure out what is causing their behaviors, which skills are lacking, and what motivates them to learn new skills. Then, we work to build additional skills in a fun and meaningful way.
Q: Why did you choose ABA Therapy as a career?
A: I have worked in this field for almost 11 years. I’ve always enjoyed children and teaching, and even spent a number of years fostering autistic children. Working with these children really intrigued me. Some don’t have obvious disabilities, but something is holding them back from progressing academically and socially. It pained me to watch them suffer, and I wanted to help them and teach them to advocate for themselves and better fit in with their peers. I had a master’s degree in special education, and I began taking courses in Applied Behavior Analysis, eventually becoming a certified BCBA®. It’s not easy to teach social skills and communication to children who don’t pick them up naturally, but I was, and am, driven to help these children. Now, as a BCBA®, I always keep up-to-date on the newest research. My motto is “The more I know, the more I will be able to help children.”
Q: Tell us about some memorable experiences.
A: I once worked with a nonverbal two-year-old whose mother was told her son would never speak. Of course, she was devastated. At the initial assessment, he made noises, but didn’t actually form any words; he cried and used aggression to have his needs met. After around three weeks, he was able to say “pizza,” his favorite food. His mother called everyone to share her excitement… and a year later this boy is speaking in full sentences! The most satisfying type of phone call I receive is when a child cancels their social group because they were invited to a play-date with a friend instead. Then I know we have accomplished our goal.
Q: What is unique about Attentive Behavior Care?
A: It’s easy to teach a skill; it’s harder for children to apply the skills in real life situations. At Attentive Behavior Care, we plan for generalization in two ways: Number one, we involve the parents in the therapy; by giving parents hands-on training, we enable them to achieve success with their child at home. We also offer great social groups, or “clubs,” where the child practices their skills in a natural environment, with the therapist present. Children bake, play sports, create crafts, or play games in order to practice skills such as conversation, reading social cues and gestures, losing a game gracefully, problem-solving, following directions, compromising, adjusting to changes in routine, sharing, and taking turns.
We also have a special program that we all our “Attentive Day Center.” We have our own classrooms and play areas, and we provide a full-day therapy program for preschool-aged children, focusing on communication, play, and social and independent skills. Recently, we have expanded our services in these Day Centers to include Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) and Occupational Therapy (OT). This allows the children to receive an intense therapy focused on skill-building in a fun and engaging way at this critical time in their lives – all under one roof!
Q: What do you tell a parent who’s child needs therapy?
A: Early intervention is always the key. Sometimes parents are hopeful that their child’s symptoms will lessen and they will “catch up” to their peers. Unfortunately, many times the gap only widens, and we then have to make up for lost time. It is also important for the therapy to take place where the issues are happening. If a child misbehaves at home, the therapy should take place at home as well. Having a child with special needs is difficult. These suggestions can help:
Having a child with special needs is difficult. These suggestions can help:
- Have clear expectations and rules. These children often have “black and white” thinking and have trouble understanding words like “later,” “we’ll see,” and “maybe.”
- Focus on the good; praise your child as much as possible.
- Spend a few minutes of quality time with your child daily, with no interruptions.
Q: How can a parent ensure that they get the most out of therapy?
A: Parents need to be open about their child’s struggles; understanding all the dynamics in your child’s life will allow us to provide much more effective help. Remember, we are here to help, not to judge. When I come to people’s homes at busy times, I tell them, “We all have families of our own. We don’t expect a clean or perfectly calm house.”
If you would like more information on how Attentive Behavior Care can help your child, contact us today!