The Passion for Autism: And a Love for the Kids

dr randall magazine newsAutism is Dr. Domonique Randall's calling in life. Domonique says that at the early age of 16 she knew that she would do something in child advocacy, when she bought a behavioral psychology book at a yard sale. She has lived with autism, as her husband's older sister (with severe autism) lived with Mark and Domonique before they had kids. They know what it means to be booted out of a movie theatre, because of "happy" sounds made by an autistic family member. Domonique understands living with self-injurious behaviors and the other stresses that come along with autism.

So, just what is autism? And why is Domonique so passionate about it? According to the National Institutes of Health, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior. Domonique volunteered to work with a child with autism while studying in college, where she observed a team of ABA therapists at work. The mother of the boy with autism noticed Domonique's interest in her son and asked her to spend time with him. Domonique states, "I remember I went into his bedroom with him, which had been turned into a therapy room. I was intrigued.

He would cry at random times, he would laugh at random times. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry with him, I was in tears; and that was the moment, as a senior in college about to graduate, I knew the calling for my life - AUTISM." After graduating college, Domonique returned to Houston and volunteered her time with speech therapists. One therapist informed her that there were many families who would "love" to have her help as an ABA therapist. This is when Domonique found FEAT Houston (Families for Effective Autism Treatment), and soon realized that the families she served needed more help than she could give with a bachelor's degree.

An ABA consultant mentioned that Domonique could seek out short term training options or she could attend graduate school, to become educated in behavior analysis, as "she was a natural." Domonique states that her ABA therapy video clips were then shown at a conference, where Dr. Ivaar Lovaas was presenting, even though as Domonique puts it, "I was as green as green gets." She was inspired, and it wasn't long before she was pursuing a Master's degree in Behavior Analysis from UNT, well on her way to full the call she so strongly felt on her life.

While at UNT, Domonique learned how behavior analysis was not autism specific and was a science applicable to many significant social issues. She was able to be a part of the North Texas Autism Project under Dr. Shahla Alai' Rosales, and states, "My experiences there were invaluable and I could not have accomplished any of what I have done today without this education behind me." She recalls working with a challenging caseload of children with autism who shaped her as a professional. "I was a first year in the group, when the others were second year graduate students. I knew what to do but I couldn't explain scientifically what I was doing."

She used an extinction procedure on a young boy who was self-urinating and defecating to escape a task. Her professor compared her endurance to Helen Keller in the eight minute kitchen scene in The Miracle Worker. In 2000 The Shape of Behavior, Inc. (The Shape) was founded by Dr. Domonique Randall, BCBA-D. The Shape specializes in Applied Behavior Analysis. ABA Therapy is an evidence based treatment approach understanding behavior in relation to the environment. The use of scientific behavioral principles such as positive reinforcement and shaping are used to increase desired skills and reduce or replace aberrant behavior. After initial skills assessments, The Shape blends adult directed and child initiated instruction, giving children with ASD much needed repeated opportunities to practice with an abundance of positive reinforcement. Their youngest patient is 20 months, and their oldest is in her 40's.

Domonique states that The Shape of Behavior now has clinics in Sugar Land, Spring, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, Texas. Parents' pleas for help have been instrumental in the expansion of the Shape. With over 14 years of experience in working with children who have developmental disabilities, Domonique has been a leader in training schools, parents, staff, and children in the Houston and surrounding areas. She has served as adjunct faculty at the University of Houston-Clearlake (Sugarland Campus) teaching Learning and Behavior. Helping Hands of Houston was also founded by Domonique, where providers are matched, trained, and recruited for families of special needs children. She states she has a "passion for inclusion" and has helped many school districts and private schools with transitional services of children from intensive ABA to general education classes.

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