Intensive ABA Services
When Michael was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder just before his third birthday, his parents were "sent on an emotional rollercoaster ride." He had received speech, occupational, and developmental therapies since the age of two through the state's early intervention system because he was not talking. His parents had been communicating with him for nine months via picture boards. While the boards were helpful, Michael began to tantrum more frequently as his third birthday approached. In addition, he had limited play skills. With the transition from the state's early intervention services about to take place, his parents anxiously looked into additional services.
Within a month of Michael's third birthday, his mother had contacted the Lovaas Institute after talking with other parents who were already receiving services from them, and as she put it, "reading more in four weeks than in four years of college." When Michael first started the program, he demonstrated emerging skills in a wide variety of areas including imitating actions, following directions, and matching.
Michael progressed steadily in all targeted skill areas except for vocal language. He had learned to play with a variety of different toys and games. He could respond to instructions that included colors, prepositions, or categories. And, he could imitate facial expressions and oral movements. However, his ability to imitate sounds or use vocal approximations while requesting remained limited. Based on Michael's progress, the Lovaas Institute's behavior consultant speculated that he would do well in the Reading and Writing program pioneered by Nina Lovaas. The program allows nonverbal children to communicate via written word cards and later through typing on a keyboard or writing on paper.
Michael excelled in the Reading and Writing format from the moment he began. He quickly learned to sight read, match words to objects, point to the correct word when shown an object, and follow simple written instructions. Written word cards were then used by Michael to identify objects and later form more complex sentences. He transferred to using a voice output device and his language skills continued to grow. He used his device to type multiple sentences to describe objects and to make comments while playing.
While emphasis was placed on advancing his language development through the Reading and Writing program, part of his treatment was still devoted to practicing verbal imitation and his use of vocal language. Three years after starting treatment, at the age of six, Michael's vocal language began to rapidly improve. His parents first noticed him saying words more clearly and speaking in phrases. In treatment, Michael was able to quickly generalize acquired language skills from a written form to vocal language.
Michael currently attends a regular education, second grade classroom full time. He is shadowed in school by a 1:1 aide who was active in his home program. He receives pull out services for speech therapy. He does well in school in one-on-one situations with both his teachers and peers. He follows teacher instructions and answers teacher questions. He interacts with his peers and spontaneously initiates conversations. He continues to need help with staying on task to complete independent work and to follow all group instructions. His behavior consultant and the school are already discussing how to gradually fade the aide out of the classroom during parts of the day next year.
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The names of all children in this newsletter have been changed in respect for family confidentiality.
Big Bear Wants In! Put stuffed animals down the back of the child's shirt, up the pants leg, in the sleeves.
The Big Spin! Pick the child up by the armpits for a big spin (don't fall over!).
Pump Me Up! Say, "It's time to pump me up!" Mimic two-handed bicycle pump while inflating your cheeks. Now you can't talk, but hold the child's hands and have them POP your mouth. You can also mime inflating your entire body by slowly lifting up onto your toes, and expanding your arms and stomach (in rhythm with the child's pumping action).
Train Ride! Line up the chairs, one behind the other and go for a train ride. Who's the engineer? Who's in the caboose?
Go Swimming! Manipulate the child's arms and legs so they are "swimming" or doing a "cheer."