4½ years old
Transitioning Out of Treatment:
6½ years old
"Thank you so much for everything!"- TJ's Father
TJ was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder at the age of two and a half. To complicate matters, he was also having seizures on occasion. He did not walk until the late age of 20 months. He had a tendency to mouth objects. And, he did not develop the use of words, other than occasionally imitating "momma" or "dada." With the use of medication, seizures were brought under control. TJ received speech and occupational therapy twice a week through their state's early intervention program. When he reached school age, his parents decided not to enroll him in a special education classroom where the ratio of student to teachers was 5:1.
After searching diligently for an alternate form of education, the family contacted the Lovaas Institute, whose services were highly recommended by another family. At the initial consultation, TJ was a generally easy-going child. He readily sat down with the instructor to work. He completed island puzzles on his own. He demonstrated difficulty imitating others, matching, and following directions. His requesting skills were not elaborate, but they were clear. For example, he would climb up on his chair when he was hungry and stand up when he was done. He would pull someone over to a drink he wanted or get the drink himself and bring it to someone to open.
While TJ struggled with some initial skills, he continued to make progress in a number of different areas such as imitation of others, beginning play skills, matching, and spontaneous vocalizations. Based on TJ's progress, a shift was made from academic programming to a self-help track in which TJ learned to become independent with daily tasks. His Lovaas Institute consultant also worked with his family to determine the number of hours of therapy that would allow TJ to maintain the same rate of progress as he did the first six months.
Treatment was tailored to focus on those skills most likely to immediately generalize into the natural environment. For example, emphasis was placed on leisure skills with activities in which he demonstrated interest. The self-help skills that were taught allowed TJ to achieve a higher level of independence, and reduced his reliance upon his parents. Instructors and parents were taught how to capture and contrive situations in the natural environment to facilitate requesting and other incidental learning skills.
TJ's story reminds us that the best measure of the effectiveness of an intervention may not always be school placement or IQ. Rather, progress should be measured by the ability of an intervention to increase one's quality of life and to take part in the family's everyday life. TJ can now independently ride his bike, play with 17 toys for at least 3 minutes, follow an activity schedule for 3 activities, put away common household items such as his dirty plate, clean spoons, and his shoes, identify 44 objects related to his everyday life, and has said over 55 words on occasion. Currently, his parents are discussing whether to enroll him in the public school's special education class or to home school him, as they do their other children, while continuing to implement the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis in everyday life that they have learned over the past two years.