Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Still Learning Our ABAs

Autism-related behaviours manifest differently with each person. Our experience with James is special in that he likes and seeks out others, he is normally sunny, and is empathetic toward others. Sometimes I realize how focused I am on James, and how much I am not paying attention to the bigger picture if Autism, it's issues and research.

For example, this morning I was reading an article regarding treatments for those affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is James' official diagnosis. There were many references to ABA.


Okay, I'm officially clueless. I had to Google it. ABA stands for Applied Behaviour Analysis and there are pages and pages out there on the internet that cover what this means, what's hot, and evidence-based reports. The Bright Tots website is what I was reading this morning.

Once I got going, I realized I did know what this was, I just wasn't used to thinking about it as "ABA". In preschool, his teacher and SHAPE assistants worked with us to help James learn to eat and dress by himself, as well as cleaning up after himself. It was key in getting him engaged with successful potty training (although it took several attempts to find the correct motivating behaviour). Instead of ABAs, we talked about self-care goals, targeted social interactions, delved into breaking tasks down into small steps & social stories, and strategized ways to model correct speech & language.

Now in kindergarten, his team and family continue to look at ways to keep James engaged in his class routine, improve his social & language interactions, and encourage age-appropriate behaviours. So I feel better that I haven't totally missed out on ABA for James.

What I still feel I need to learn about ABA, though, is how else it might be able to help James. Where we can find these services. How we can pay for them. Because last time I looked, they were not covered by health insurance in California. Because I agree 220% with Autism Speaks in the part of their 2009 document "Arguments in Support of Private Insurance Coverage of Autism-Related Services", which states:
Argument 7: By improving outcomes for children with autism, mandated private insurance coverage will decrease the lifetime costs of treating and providing services and will actually result in an overall cost savings in the long-run.

Incidentally, I think the government should be seriously looking at this as well and see programs that support ABA-related services as a key investment in our future. We need to keep state and federally funded programs intact as much as possible, because for families like us they are just about our only options.

James currently receives the bulk of his services from public schools and the North Bay Regional Center. Without this assistance, we'd be hurting. And 10-20 years down the road, James might be even MORE dependent on government-related services, had we not had the help to get him to manage his own self care and jump-started his learning and speech. Along with the other 1 in 100 children on the spectrum.

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