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Starting ABA Therapy for Nonverbal Teen

We started Applied Behavior Therapy (ABA) in December 2010 for my nonverbal fourteen year old son Matthew. The process leading up to this was a year in the making with the Regional Center, which is through the California Department of Developmental Disabilities.

"California has 21 regional centers with more than 40 offices located throughout the state that serve individuals with developmental disabilities and their families."

First there was the Behavioral Services Orientation I attended that was followed by six weeks of Behavior Management Workshops. These are available in Korena, English and Spanish. Parents of consumers need to request funding for the workshops through the Service Coordinator.

For the past year my children's worker has changed several times so it was not clearly stated that I would also need to request a behavior assessment. It seems they assumed the behavior would disappear with the information the parent received at the workshop.

Matthew has been smacking the walls since he entered puberty, leaving over twenty holes throughout the house we rent. Since the behavior is still taking place I never fixed the walls, which was my proof that there is a need for therapy in the home.

It is my belief that the behavior is part auditory as Matthew really likes the sound of that thump and he gets some deep pressure from the movement of his arm. Before I attended the workshops I purchased a sensory belt, thinking that I would place this on Matthew each time he pounded on a wall. He ended up taking the belt off in a matter of seconds. The next idea was a set of bongo drums, but they turned out to be very small and not easy to redirect.

The authorization for the functional behavior assessment (FBA) was approved and took place over several visits between August and October 2010. Therapy was approved Dec 1-May 30, 2011 with 48 hours per month of direct intervention, parent education and training, with 5 hours of supervision and three hours of clinical meetings. The therapy is split between two guys that Matthew has connected well with.

At the meeting with the state worker to discuss the request for ABA therapy I mentioned the company I was interested in. It turned out this is the same one she was requesting the services through.

I knew of Wellspring through Twitter and read over their information on functional behavior assessments and in-home ABA services. The next step I pursued was placing a call to give them a heads up on our request and to share some information about Matthew. The Director I spoke to ended up being the one who performed the FBA.

By gathering all this information prior to the authorization I saved time which meant the therapy is taking place over the long three week holiday break.

Therapy is covering toilet training, toothbrushing, an eating program and soon a program to get Matthew more comfortable in the bathtub and lead up to him learning to take a shower.

During the second week Matthew put a hole in a kitchen window before starting a toothbrush session. These wacks to walls, mirrors and windows are so random that it is still not clear what the antecedent is for them. The regional center was notified of the injury to his hand - a few cuts that needed bandaids for a few days.

During this short time Matthew has demonstrated use of his left hand with throwing a ball and has been sipping from a cup and sitting on the toilet for two minutes. He has used a fork a few times and his time sitting at the table is getting easier.

The behavior intervention plan is a twenty-five page report. I have data sheets to fill out daily and the sessions take place four times a week for 2-3 hours.

Another article will share some of the intervention plan details.

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