An Autism Success Story,
Ayden (front), his brother, Mom (Leasa) and Dad
Ayden had almost no language before the age of four.
He was able to fill in words to songs. For example, I would sing “twinkle, twinkle little ________” and pause and he would say “star”.
The lack of language and repetitive behaviors were the least of his problems. This link is a video I took of Ayden just before he turned four. Ayden was a little ball of energy and kind of made our lives a living hell (harsh but true). I would attempt to clean one room and he would be in the next room destroying it. He would engage in fecal smearing. In other words, he would take his diaper off and wipe feces on the walls/toys/floors. The entire situation was so unbearable that I asked my doctor for antidepressants to get through the most trying part of my life.
When Ayden was four years old, I read the book “Let me hear your voice” by Catherine Maurice. The book was an inspirational game changer for our family. I did not have access to any Behavioral Analysts or money to hire any if they had been available to me. Yet I was inspired and determined so I decided to do ABA on my own. I ordered another book by Maurice “Behavioral Interventions for Young Children With Autism”. In chapter five of the book, there were different programs to use with a child with autism. I started with one-step commands (simple instructions for my son to follow).
Prior to starting my own program, my son could not follow instructions. It was so frustrating to have a four year old that could not even follow a simple instruction like “sit down” or “Wave bye bye”. I began working with Ayden in May of 2008. In the first month, I taught him 20 one-step commands (instructions to follow). I was amazed and reenergized by how quickly he was learning new skills. I was so amazed in fact; I decided to put all of my efforts into getting him into an ABA program. There was a program 2 hours from our house. It was a three month program that costs $12,000. We did not have any money, but armed with a tremendous amount of determination we mounted a fundraising campaign.
He began the ABA program in January of 2009. We commuted each weekday for three months. Each day, we drove nearly all the way across Michigan spending five hours driving (2 + hours each way) to attend the three hour program. During the three month program Ayden gained eight months of verbal language skills and 13 months of receptive language skills. He was also gaining social skills. This video shows Ayden right after our time in the ABA program. I love to see that video. He was genuinely enjoying us and listening when we talked.
In the years since, we have not had access to an intensive ABA program. Ayden has spent his school years in a public school. We often felt that he made the most gains in the summer when we started our in home program back up. This summer, his nana did discrete trail training (DTT) with Ayden and taught him to read over forty new words. She also worked on answering the questions “What did you do?”, “What are you doing?” And “How do you feel?”. He is doing really well with these programs.
We are super excited that Ayden will be starting a full time ABA program in a couple of day. He will attend the Kalamazoo Autism Center and receive one on one DTT. In order to make this happen, Ayden and nana have to move to Kalamazoo (three hours from our home) during the week. The program has a cost that we are not sure how we will afford, but given the tremendous gains each time we have done an ABA program, we are determined to find a way to pay for the program. This recent video is of Ayden and me interacting. You will have to excuse Ayden’s poor table manners and dirty feet, but the video shows how much better he is a interacting with others.
The Kalamazoo Autism Center in Michigan is directed by Richard Malott, PhD.