Richard, 15, and Loretta (Lori), 13, live at home with their grandmother, Judy, in Dillon, Montana. Both are showing success in AWARE’s Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) service.
Richard loves animals and goes to the local animal shelter every chance he gets. He recently made it out to the Idaho Falls Zoo, which was a huge hit! He also likes cooking and takes advantage of practicing his skills each evening as he prepares dinner with some guidance from Judy. He cooks everything from macaroni and cheese to lasagna and burgers or tacos. Legos are another of his favorites as well as putting together 3D wooden puzzles (the more complex the better!).
Lori loves reading and has many books in her home library. A majority of her books are fantasy novels, and she loves anything mermaid related. She also enjoys crafts such as knitting on a circular loom where she makes small purses for cell phones and half-sleeves for her arms. If she’s not reading or knitting, then she’s likely working on jigsaw puzzles that depict various flowers or animals.
As you might guess from their activities, Richard’s favorite subject in school is science because it includes animals and learning about nature. Likewise, Lori’s favorite is language arts because it involves reading and writing.
Richard has been using AWARE’s ABA services for about one and a half years while Lori has participated for about six months.
Both kids were referred to ABA through a similar process. Initially, they were referred to a Comprehensive School and Community Treatment (CSTCT) program offered by another provider in Dillon due to behaviors displayed in school. From there, they were set up with psychological therapy services, which helped formalize their autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. Once they had their diagnosis confirmed, they began ABA services with AWARE. They continue to receive CSCT and psychological support today.
“We were struggling with behavioral issues and needed family support. I have been very grateful for everyone’s help and guidance in coping with the behavioral issues we were experiencing. It helped me be more objective and to understand that their behaviors are not only learned or reactive behaviors but part of their makeup. Autism has its own quirks as well as its benefits. By setting up things like written schedules, our daily lives have gotten so much easier. The kids are thriving on the routine, it takes the guesswork out of the equation and reduces the constant verbal instruction,” Judy said.
For now, the short-term goal is to get both Richard and Lori through high school and past graduation.
“Richard’s negative behaviors have become much more manageable over time. He has increased his life skills like cooking, basic housekeeping, social skills, volunteering at the animal shelter and library as well as improving his reading skills from the library books he checks out. Lori is getting there too but needs a bit more work since she more recently joined the program,” Judy said.
Down the road, both kids will likely need continued support and the teams are already trying to get appropriate facility placements lined up – the process can take several years before authorizations are granted. As much as Judy would like to, she knows she won’t be able to serve as a primary caregiver forever. She has to do what she can now to ensure her grandkids are set up for success in the long term.
When talking about the services received through AWARE Judy said, “It has provided a clearer path in working with my grandkids. It teaches life skills in a more precise way so that they understand the expectations, and it creates a routine that will be easier to follow and reduces the repetitious instructions I was providing before.
Richard and Lori were removed from parental care several years ago and their father recently passed away which added another level of trauma to their history. They both have multiple diagnoses including autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and PTSD along with dyslexia and oppositional defiant disorder.
“Being a widow, raising my grandkids has not been an easy journey. Since I still work full-time, it would be much easier if there were childcare services available for older children. Currently, there is nothing available for children with special needs who cannot be left unsupervised. I am grateful for the quiet time that AWARE provides me. It may sound a little selfish, but it prevents me from falling into caregiver burnout and for that I am truly grateful,” Judy said.
Well, Judy, we think you are doing a great job with Richard and Lori. Your determination is laying the foundation for both kids to pursue independent lives while fostering resilience, hope, and a bright future. There is no doubt in our mind that each of them will continue finding success with each goal they set. Keep up the great work!
For more information on AWARE’s ABA services, click here.