"....I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." ~James 10:10~

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

{A Better Way: Leigh Advocates for Autism Intervention, Awareness, and Support}

----Please Welcome Leigh to the blog! She has a passion for helping children and families who are affected by Autism. Our hope is that this information will lead you and/or someone you know and love to better ways to live a more awesome life!---even in the face of challenges and adversity.----

Hi!  My name is Leigh and I am Board Certified Associate Behavior Analyst and I (hands down) have the best job in the world.  In particular, I implement plants based upon the science of Applied Behavior Analysis for children diagnosed with Autism and related developmental disabilities.  This may not sound too exciting, but the amazing children I have served have provided me with more priceless experiences than many could hope to have in a lifetime.  I have worked with these wonderful children and their families for a little over ten years.  Laura has asked me to share a bit of information regarding Autism and credible resources for families.
Over the years, I have been immensely blessed and humbled to be a part of the lives of numerous families.  I have attempted to collect resources which have been shown to benefit these children and their families based on empirically-based (scientifically validated) and ethical foundations.  Numerous families have relayed the onset of confusion which occurs with a diagnosis of a developmental disorder.  To date, I have been markedly impressed by the resources published via Autism Speaks.  In particular, they have a ‘100 day kit’ (see link below).  This kit is an attempt to help families navigate through the first days of the diagnosis.  I also favor the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (see below as well).
I am, in particular, a fan of Verbal Behavior (a subset of Applied Behavior Analysis - ABA).  The primary focus of this intervention is to teach children FUNCTIONAL COMMUNICATION.  Most children I meet do not have the ability to express their needs.  Notably, many of the children understand language but do not have the ability to outwardly express language – how frustrating it must be for them!  I never tire of the moment when a child learns their first request – A-MAZING. 
Please know that not every intervention is appropriate for every child.  If a child is not responding to a therapeutic intervention, the therapy team should be working with the parent to understand ‘why’ the goals are not being met.  In my experience, communication between the family, therapy staff and school have a tremendous (if not the most substantial) impact on outcome of therapy.
Below you will find links and tidbits of related information to resources that may helpful.  If you think your child may be demonstrating signs of Autism, PLEASE speak with your Pediatrician.  The earlier a diagnosis is made, the earlier a child can enter into intervention services and a family can receive support.
Articles Citing Effectiveness of ABA-based Early Intervention for Children with Autism
The Association for Science in Autism Treatment
This wonderful organization seeks to verify treatment claims for the numerous therapeutic/intervention options for children diagnosed with Autism.  I HIGHLY encourage any family wishing to learn more about treatment options to become familiar with this organization and their materials.
Carolina Center for Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism Treatment
(where I work J)  Parent resources can be found on the site.
The Mariposa School for Children with Autism (Cary, NC)
Amazing school which serves children educationally within an ABA format. 
Autism Speaks
Consumer Guidelines for Behavior Analysis
If you are a family looking to start (or already participating within) an ABA program – PLEASE read this document. 
Early Signs Video Clip
This is a video clip of an interview with a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing Autism.

In closing, according to the Centers for Disease Control, Autism currently affects 1 in 88 children in the US – 1 in 54 boys.  Many people spend time arguing as to the reason for the numbers.  My concern lies in educating the public so that children and their families can receive much needed services as soon as possible.  I could continue to bombard you with links, book titles, journal articles, etc. but I am going to try to control myself J.  Please feel free to contact me at leigh.mahan@gmail.com if you would like any additional resources.

The Basics…
What is Autism?
Autism is a developmental disorder which affects 3 core areas of development:  social, communication and behavioral. 
Who is at risk for developing Autism?
The disorder affects FOUR times as many boys as girls. 
Why do children develop Autism?
Many groups have theories, but there has yet to be a unified agreement as to the “cause.”
When do Children get a Diagnosis?
Children are typically diagnosed within the first three years of life (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2012).
Where do Children get a Diagnosis?
The diagnostic process is typically initiated by the child’s Pediatrician.  Licensed Psychologists may also provide a formal diagnosis. 
Tip from families:  I have had parents express that they were able to most effectively communicate with the individual providing the diagnosis when they brought in video clips of their children engaging in the behaviors of concern.  This allows the doctor to clearly see the concerns of the parent ‘outside of the office.’
**A SUPER HUGE THANKS to Leigh for her willingness to share this valuable information and make a difference in the lives of others!***

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