When Richelle Imo was 3, her mother, Adaobi noticed she was not interacting with other children her age, or even adults, let alone talking. It was a marked difference from her twin sister Richlynn who easily engaged with others and was speaking in full sentences.
Encouraged by her daycare provider to seek out an expert opinion, Adaobi brought Richelle to her pediatrician, who diagnosed her with autism. Following her diagnosis, Richelle began applied behaviour analysis (ABA) therapy at ErinoakKids. That is when things began to change.
ABA-based services and supports are designed to help children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) address behaviours that interfere with functioning, and develop skills in four key areas: communication, social skills development, daily living skills and behaviour management/emotional regulation. One of the many benefits of ABA is that it is customized to each family to address behaviours and works toward established goals.
For Adaobi, she hoped Richelle could learn to better manage her behaviour toward her and her husband Nnamdi. Richelle would often obey Nnamdi, but act out and refuse to listen to Adaobi.
To address the challenge, ErinoakKids ABA Therapist Sandra Flanigan used ABA strategies and parent coaching to help Richelle. She taught her new skills to help her manage daily situations and worked with Adaobi to prompt and reinforce Richelle’s positive behaviour.
“I would give Richelle an instruction and model to Adaobi what I wanted her to do. Then, Adaobi rehearsed this with Richelle while I watched and gave her feedback,” Sandra says. “As we went along, I provided less instruction as Richelle improved until eventually Adaobi took over giving all instructions.”
The strategies and individualized approach were effective for Richelle, who struggled to move from one activity to another.
“Before she would cry and bite when we needed to go from say, doing a puzzle to eating dinner,” says Adaobi. “But Sandra gave me strategies to help. And now it’s not an issue at all, whether we’re at ErinoakKids, at home or out in the community.”
ErinoakKids’ approach to delivering ABA onsite, at home or in the community, allows families like Richelle’s, the opportunity to actively participate in therapy.
“Increasing the knowledge and skill set of parents gives them the confidence to continue to support their child as they learn in all environments,” says Sandra. “This helps to ensure their child’s success and improvement over time.”
Continued innovation in ABA services has not stopped there for ErinoakKids. In fall 2015, ErinoakKids became one of a handful of children’s treatment centres in the province to increase ABA service hours during evenings and weekends to better meet the needs of families.
“The flexibility of the program has been so important for our family,” says Adaobi. “We are able to focus on skills and behaviours that Richelle needs. Thanks to ErinoakKids and their ABA program, Richelle has come out of her shell. She can communicate with me and handle the outside world well. I couldn’t be more thankful to ErinoakKids and am excited to see what the future holds.”