Tasneem, Thriving at Hopebridge Autism Therapy Center within a Few Short Months
February 03, 2020
February 03, 2020
“The highest waterfall in the highest heavens.” With a meaning like this, “Tasneem” is the perfect name for one sweet little girl who attends the Hopebridge Autism Therapy Center in Westlake, Ohio. As her name might suggest, Tasneem seems to find paradise near the water, loves to swim, and her parents affectionately call her their little “Nemo.” Always on the lookout for hugs, kisses and attention, Tasneem captivates those around her with her smile, and her therapy team is no exception.
Beginning applied behavior analysis (ABA therapy) at Hopebridge only three months ago, she has already made her way into their hearts and is excited to be in the center herself, often hopping or dancing through the door. She is adapting incredibly well and has progressed a long way in a short time period, both in the center and at home.
While Tasneem has come so far in the little time she’s been with Hopebridge, not everything came easy for this 3-year-old or her family. Her parents have worked diligently to get her to this point with the care she needs to live a more fulfilling life.
Her mother, Abby, said Tasneem missed developmental milestones as an infant, but she knew every child progressed at their own pace, so she did not think much of it at first. During well visits, the pediatrician asked whether she made eye contact or look at them when they said her name. Her parents thought maybe since she didn’t need to work much for attention – she is the first grandchild in a large family! – that it may have delayed her development in these areas. At 8 months old, the pediatrician’s screening continued; this time regarding crawling, lifting herself up and other activities typical of children this age, so they began to discuss various therapies.
“We were in denial from the beginning. I thought she didn’t know what she was talking about,” said Abby. “I just thought she was delayed in some areas, so I dove into ways to keep her brain moving, like shape-sorting and coloring, which helped, but she needed more.”
As she got older, Tasneem still did not make eye contact or respond to her name and she began flapping her arms. Abby told us that the majority of the family was still in denial, but her mother, Tasneem’s grandmother, agreed with the pediatrician and suggested they get her evaluated for autism.
“Ouddi and I took the advice and scheduled a diagnostic assessment. We were on the waiting list for three-and-a-half months before we had our appointment and Tasneem’s situation had only gotten worse by then,” said Abby. “She was constantly frustrated, threw tantrums and had no communication. There were so many behaviors at a time and we could not go anywhere without a meltdown.”
Tasneem was 2 years old at the time of the evaluation, which took place in three parts: first questions answered by Abby and her husband, Ouddi, then an in-person session with Tasneem, followed by the presentation of results. During the session with the diagnostician, Abby thought Tasneem did really well and did things that even surprised her. That is why the third appointment came a bit as a shock when they received the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis.
“We were told Tasneem was severely autistic. My mother-in-law came with us to the appointment and there were some tears all around. Personally, I had a difficult time processing the word, ‘severe,’” said Abby. “I felt like we were thrown to the wilderness. They gave us the diagnosis and handed a list of places we could go for therapy. We were left to figure it out from there and I felt like I could not sit down until I knew she was getting help.”
Tasneem began therapy the same week she was diagnosed. Her family was happy with her clinic for the past year, but when Hopebridge expanded further within Cleveland, Abby and Ouddi decided to change ABA providers. It did not hurt that the new Hopebridge center was a half-hour closer to home, which cut out a total of two hours of driving each day.
“When I went to visit Hopebridge, I fell in love with it. It is much bigger than our previous clinic, which was one room, and Tasneem is so much happier because now she has her own space,” said Abby. “There is a room for each activity – circle time, craft time, a playground – and much of the environment is broken up like a school setting, which gives me hope for Tanseem’s future.”
The intake process was fairly quick and easy for their family. Tasneem was one of the first kiddos for the center and Abby even referred two of the other families in the Westlake center.
Her mom tells us that Tasneem loves attending Hopebridge. She is flying through her program in less than three months and they are already working to update her goals.
Since beginning ABA therapy, Tasneem has adjusted to the new schedule and learned self-calming strategies with fewer tantrums and other maladaptive behaviors. She will check in with her parents in public and grab them to ask for something by pointing to it. She is also increasing her verbal skills by saying, “up” or “come.”
Maybe even more exciting – to Tasneem, at least! – was a recent trip to see “Disney on Ice.”
“Tasneem did phenomenal. It was crowded and loud, but she did such a good job, jumping and laughing the entire time. She dressed up as Anna and was so excited when the characters from Frozen came out. She hugged and kissed me the whole time they sang, ‘Let it Go,’” said Abby. “If we had done this when she was 1 year old, Tasneem would not have done as well. ABA therapy has helped so much in all aspects of her life and allowed her to enjoy so much more.”
Her parents also recently captured an adorable video of Tasneem singing, “Do you Want to Build a Snowman?” in which she can be heard saying the words, which was exciting considering Tasneem is not entirely verbal yet.
“I am so grateful Tasneem is in such a great center where the therapy team is willing to work with us so closely to give her the care she needs,” said Abby.
Abby says there are still challenges, mainly in areas that are typical for toddlers, and transitions remain to be tough for her, but overall she is happier and more comfortable in her surroundings.
Abby and Ouddi are taking advantage of parent training by making the efforts to learn the techniques and put them into practice at home, which plays a big factor in Tasneem’s progress.
“As parents of children with autism, it is so important we step into their world. I try to follow Tasneem’s lead, but guide her and teach her along the way,” said Abby. “I am a very hands-on mom and immediately tried to pick up on what she was learning in ABA to take it home with us. Right now, we’re working on vocals, so I ask family members not to give her things they know she wants unless she says it. I do this because I know she will work for it and say it if she is just given the opportunity.”
After witnessing the power of ABA, Abby told us she even uses some of the techniques she has learned with her younger son, who will soon be 2 years old. Abby says autism therapy has also helped create a connection between the siblings. Her son craves his sister’s attention, and while Tasneem previously preferred to be alone, the two now like to play together…especially loving games of tag and tickle sessions!
“My daughter is my unicorn. She is the most loving little girl,” said Abby. “I just want Tasneem to know she has the ability to go above and beyond, and even though there are things about her that are a little different, they can’t stop her from being amazing.”
“It is your world baby girl….We are just living in it!”
If you have concerns about your own child’s developmental milestones or behaviors, please contact at Hopebridge for a diagnostic assessment and to find out more about how early intervention services can impact your child’s life.
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