BEATING THE ODDS
Washington Township, NJ
By: Linda Burns
So here we sit…in the office of a highly-respected pediatric neurologist at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania…my son lining up blocks; my husband staring straight ahead at the wall…and the only thing I could think of was…I need to be strong for both of them. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for a father to hear that his son has autism…yet I knew in my heart that if we didn’t get consumed by this diagnosis, we could devote ourselves to providing Ross with whatever schooling, therapy, intervention necessary to give him the best shot at life…whatever that “life” may hold in store for him. And then we heard the words…yes, Mr. and Mrs. Burns, your son has autism.
That had to be the longest walk the three of us had ever taken, while going from the hospital to the parking garage…our son wanting to skip over each and every crack in the sidewalk…while my husband and I were just oblivious to all the hustle and bustle of the City streets…just eager to get home and come up with a plan of action.
I had researched ABA and now it was time to present it to our School District. Keep in mind, this was 1996 and our son was the first child in our district to undergo an ABA home-based program. Luckily for us, we were welcomed into the office of the Principal of the Preschool Program for children with special needs; he listened attentively; said, I heard this started out at UCLA; what do we need to do to get the ball rolling.
It was now time to post signs (yes, pre-internet I!!) at local colleges because now we had to start interviewing candidates to provide 40 hours of ABA in our home …7 days a week/12 months a year…until our son was in high school. Of course, we were able to decrease the number of hours per week over those 14 years…but nevertheless, he never had a summer off or a vacation away from ABA!
Needless to say, here we are about to celebrate his 21st Birthday and I felt the need to write this article. He is finishing up at our County College and has plans to transfer to Rowan University as an engineering major after graduating this May. He commutes to school, works with my husband in his lawn care business, loves sports and eating out, has many friends and has had his share of girlfriends!!! I attribute his success to his ABA program, his strong constitution and a heck of a lot of hard work!!!
Thanks so much to Linda Burns for sharing her family's story with us. Linda lives in Washington Township, NJ with her husband Bob, her son Ross and her daughter Ashley (shown above). Linda is a court reporter/owner of Infinity Court Reporting, LLC. She and her children are the co-authors of Beating the Odds at Autism; One Family’s Winning Hand, where they share their story of not only growing up with autism…but learning to live day to day...finding a way to smile through the frustration and sometimes even laugh at the unpredictable moments. They attribute ABA to laying the groundwork for Ross’ success… making him available to learning. Ross began his home program with Dr. Kathleen McCabe-Odri, who was co-director of a small private consulting practice then known as Partners in Therapy, which has now transitioned into non-profit integrated programs through Partners in Learning. The ABA approach we used many research-based practices from the field, but implemented them in non-clinical settings; such as, home, integrated classes and community activities. Dr. McCabe-Odri’s team used traditional direct instruction/Discrete trials, incidental language approach, systematic desensitization, behavior relaxation techniques, written/picture schedules, script fading, as well as some behavior management via token economy, self-monitoring and classroom systems from the teacher.