Autism Case Study: From Sleepless Nights to Hope
Mom reports “I feel like I have a new kid” after just four months of therapy with Ascend Behavior Partners
(All names changed for privacy)
1am, and five-year-old Amelia is still awake. So is her exhausted Mom, Sarah.
2am… 3am… still awake. Finally it’s 3:37am and Amelia falls asleep. Sarah does too, know it’s her only chance.
7am, and Amelia wakes up from her rest in a very, very bad mood. She bangs her head on walls. Sarah is horrified, especially when Amelia seems “out of it” after one of her self-inflicted head bangs.
Amelia didn’t like to wear clothes. She would just take them off wherever she was, even in public. She didn’t talk to her sister, and she had no ability to speak. Sarah had to keep Amelia separate from her sister so that she would not get upset and start injuring herself again.
But to Amelia’s pediatrician, this behavior was nothing to worry about. Amelia would “grow out of it.” “It’s just a phase,” he said.
Sarah felt trapped, isolated, and depressed.
After years of hearing “Amelia is just fine” from the pediatrician, Sarah finally changed to a different doctor. Amelia was diagnosed with autism.
Sarah enrolled Amelia in ABA therapy with Ascend Behavior Partners shortly thereafter, in March 2019.
Every BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) at Ascend Behavior Partners has at least 10 years of experience in the field. Jessica is no different, and she promptly got to work putting together a plan to help Amelia stop injuring herself, sleep normally, and communicate effectively.
The plan included:
- Function-Based Treatment – understanding why Amelia engages in the destructive behavior she engages in (like head-banging), and teaching her better alternatives
- Frequent Positive Reinforcement – to encourage good and constructive behaviors
- Discrete Trial Teaching and Task Analysis – breaking down common skills (like brushing your teeth) into steps that Amelia could master
- Natural Environment teaching – teaching Amelia new skills in her home environment
- Parent Training – we taught Sarah techniques of positive reinforcement and find ways to do things like go out shopping, to restaurants, or on play dates
- It was an intense series of treatments, and the results came quickly…
As of this writing (July 18, 2019), Amelia has made a lot of progress. She now:
- Requests an average of 10 things per hour (a big improvement from being totally non-verbal)
- Names 40 objects in her environment
- Follows 1-step instructions
- Goes to sleep between 9pm and 11pm, and stays asleep until 8am to 9am
- Engages in parallel play with her sibling at the table
- No longer has temper tantrums when Sarah leaves home
- No longer takes off all her clothing
- Uses the toilet
Amelia’s growth is life-changing for Sarah and the family. Sarah has freedom to leave the house and started taking classes to qualify for a job that she desires. Family members are able to communicate with Amelia. Self-injurious behavior and tantrums have decreased significantly both in frequency and intensity. And, Amelia tolerates wearing clothes.
A New Life for Sarah
Sarah told us, “I feel like I have a new kid.” She also has a new lease on life.
One key to Sarah’s success is that she follows the recommendations of the BCBA and RBT (Registered Behavior Technician). She participates during some sessions and follows the plan outside of sessions.
Most importantly, Sarah decided she had had enough of people telling her Amelia was just “going through a phase” and took decisive, effective, smart action. That’s the best way out of difficult situations.
There’s Hope for Every Child
Imagine train tracks that stretch all the way to the horizon. If you alter the course of those train tracks just a couple of degrees, they will end up miles away from where they point now. ABA therapy is about helping your child change direction now, so they end up at a totally different destination in the future. By helping children with autism learn the communication, social, and life skills they need, we can help them live more independently for the rest of their lives. There is hope for every child.
Now It’s Your Turn
Would you like to get help for your child? Our team of highly experienced professionals has many decades of combined experience helping kids with autism. We can look at ways to address whatever is on your mind, including:
- Signs of autism
- Helping you set up a diagnostic evaluation
- Toileting issues
- Temper tantrums
- Social skills issues
- Difficulty performing routines
- Communication deficits
- Self-injurious behavior
- Eating difficulties
- Academic challenges
Here’s What to do Next
Below there is a form you’ll need to fill out, and on the following page you’ll be asked to pick a time to schedule your session: