Imagine a four-year old boy who has never spoken a word. Never said "momma" or "daddy," never asked for a cookie or a glass of juice. A child who had never said "I love you." Now imagine this same boy, only five months later, saying "hat and "the card is red" and singing a song about a "bring brown bear." This boy is Eric Escobar. Eric has been diagnosed with autism, a developmental disability that prevents many children from doing what comes naturally to others.
Autism and other Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) often prevent an individual from properly understanding what they see, hear and other wise sense. It can affect social relationships, communication and behavior. Frank and Anneliese Escobar, Eric's parents, attribute his rapid improvement to the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy he has been receiving for the past five months at The Shape of Behavior, an ABA/HBI clinic run by Domonique Randall, a certified behavior analyst. "Ever since coming to the clinic there has been a big change for Eric," Anneliese said. "He has been reaching one goal after another.
He would not have done as much without the therapy here at the clinic." Before, Eric had been attending a mainstream school, where teachers try to fit Eric into their teaching methods, something that was not working. Frank said that the school finally told them that Eric needed to get help from somewhere else. At the clinic, therapists, using ABA/HBI techniques learned what Eric was interested in teaching him with a curriculum catered to his specific needs and desires. They broke down everything they were teaching him into small, learnable steps and reinforced his progress with praise after each victory, no matter how small. This is what behavior analyst do with each child, Randall said. And this is the key to remarkable improvement that Eric and others make. (***son Eric has been able to progress.) "One day Eric was eating French fries and before I gave him one I had him say, 'I want a fry" Anneliese said, her face beaming with pride, "and he said it." This is so important, in fact, that Randall makes the parents of all of her clients become involved in the therapy on some level. Cindy Cooper, whose son Aaron is a client at The Shape of Behavior, believes intensity is a huge part of success of ABA/HBI method and a definite factor in child's improvement. "Just going to speech therapy twice a week isn't enough," she said. The Coopers have been working with ABA/HBI methods since Aaron was diagnosed with both autism and apraxia, a speech disorder when he was about two years old. "We did our research and ABA/HBI just made the most sense," Cindy said. ( Children at The Shape of Behavior are provided with one***...group that is after school clinic that primarily works with pre-schoolers in addition to one client who is 18 months old and one who is nine.)
Most of the clients are diagnosed with PDD, autism, ADHD or asperger's, but some have no specific diagnosis, generally because it is too early for them to be diagnosed. But Randall said early intervention is very important whether or not they have already been diagnosed. "I think it is good if a child can begin working with ABA/HBI before they are diagnosed because that way they may never need that label," Randall said. When they start attending a mainstream school, they may just have a language delay." Randall says that sometimes a child can eventually attend mainstreamed classes with only minimum amount of ABA/HBI treatment. Because of this, Randall does occasional contract work with Cy-fair and Klein. ABA/HBI techniques can also be an alternative to Ritalin for many young children diagnosed with ADHD, Randall said. (***)