ABA Therapy Center Makes Life More Fun for Girl with Autism
October 12, 2020
October 12, 2020
With all the big belly laughs and songs that come from 5-year-old Penny, some may find it surprising to learn she is non-verbal. Diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), this loving, caring little girl is a delight to be around, even though communication may be a challenge for her at times.
“She is the happiest kid you will ever meet,” her mother, Mindy, shared with us. “Although she doesn’t speak, I have no doubt the world Penny lives in is an amazing place because she is always so happy. As we learn to navigate her world, I look forward to joining it even more.”
Though Penny is a happy-go-lucky kid, Penny’s parents had an early inkling that she may need extra support. She did not walk until 19 months old and did not speak verbally, though she made noises. When she turned 2 years old, her parents enrolled her in early development services in Columbus. At 3 years of age, she attended a special needs preschool. Shortly after, they arranged an evaluation and received an official autism diagnosis.
About a week after Penny was diagnosed, her parents attended the OCALICON conference, where they learned about various services for autistic children and those with developmental disabilities.
“Our heads were spinning. We were not sure what services we needed to add to what we were already doing for Penny,” said Mindy. “Hopebridge was a vendor at the convention and we learned a lot about what they were able to offer at their autism therapy center in Dublin, and it’s been wonderful ever since.”
Mindy told us Penny is learning a great deal at Hopebridge and having a blast at the same time. She has attended Hopebridge for the past year and a half, where she receives applied behavior analysis (ABA therapy) and occupational therapy as part of the Hopebridge360 program.
Though Penny still does not voice words or use sign language, she is learning to use a communication device, which has helped her share her wants and needs and connect with others. Her eye contact has also improved, and she loves to be around the other Hopebridge kiddos and watch them play, even if she doesn’t always participate.
Penny’s playtime has also enhanced since joining the center. Her parents and therapy team worked with her on teaching her how to play since she did not know what to do with the toys that neurotypical children tend to gravitate to while playing. Her go-to toys are those with buttons and sound, but she is now working on puzzles and shape-sorters. Penny is proud of being able to put the shapes in the correct slots, and Mindy told us her daughter recently did a happy dance at home when she finished.
Penny adores music and loves to dance, so the Dublin center’s “Dance Party Fridays” are a huge hit with her. Her favorite songs are from Badanamu, Frozen, Trolls and “Baby Shark,” but almost any upbeat tune will get her going – and the louder, the better. According to her mom, she moves from the minute she wakes in the morning until she goes to sleep at night.
When it comes to movement, elopement is another big challenge for Penny. While they have safety measures in place at home, Mindy told us the wandering occurred anywhere; even attempts to leave the yard to head down the street. To reduce this behavior and keep her safe, Hopebridge implemented a daily schedule. Penny’s therapy team works with her by using picture icons so she knows where she’s going for each session during the day. This helps her be more attentive of where she is going, as well as provides guidance, to keep her on track at the center, at home and beyond.
Mindy said their family struggled with some additional challenges at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they were able to work through them with support from Hopebridge. Penny’s behavior analyst, Anne Maglione, checked in with them often and they utilized telehealth for ABA and occupational therapy before the center reopened after the temporary closure.
“I’ve been amazed, especially with this strange season,” said Mindy. “When it first hit, everything changed and her normal routine was disrupted. She was very confused and it was heart-breaking to keep her from Hopebridge, school and horseback-riding. She didn’t know how to ask and we didn’t know how to tell her. When our center re-opened, you could tell Penny was so happy to be back somewhere she recognized.”
Mindy has an incredible outlook on life with her daughter, so it’s no surprise Penny is such a joyful child! Much of her progress is due to her family’s support.
“Penny’s brain works a little differently, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Autism is more about teaching us how to adapt to the way she learns,” said Mindy.
She has advice for parents and caregivers whose children may have just learned their children have autism. Mindy urges these parents to look for the positives – “there are many!” – and try not to get too overwhelmed by it all.
“Autism can be scary, but it can also be awesome,” said Mindy. “As adults, our minds become closed. We have ideas on the way things are supposed to be, but autism can give us a new way of looking at life.”
If you think autism may play a factor in your child’s life, we are here to support you every step of the way. Contact us to arrange a diagnostic assessment or find out how Hopebridge360 can benefit your family.
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