Kiddo Update: Norah Soars in ABA Therapy
April 08, 2020
April 08, 2020
What started as tea parties and bubbles has turned into a pretty awe-inspiring year for one Hopebridge family. You may remember this family of Norah, the sweet 4-year-old girl diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), who started applied behavior analysis (ABA therapy) at our autism therapy center in Roswell, Georgia last spring.
Norah still loves having tea parties with her mother, and the wings she wore during that first “party” helped transform her into a cute little bumble bee during her first trick-or-treating session this past autumn. Blowing bubbles has progressed into blowing out her birthday candles, and the care she had shown her baby doll last year has transformed into an attachment to many dolls and stuffed animals.
It has been a year of “firsts” for Norah, as well as exciting progress in areas she began working on with her parents prior to joining Hopebridge.
Since beginning ABA therapy, Norah started showing interest in interactions with her peers. She recognizes peers’ names and faces, which her parents, Angelica and Covy, tell us did not occur before Hopebridge.
“Prior to Hopebridge, she normally kept to herself. She would smile and laugh at interactions of other kids, but would not actively seek them out herself,” said Angelica. “Seeing her engage with other children makes me really happy. All kids – including those with autism – need friends and socialization within their everyday routines.”
Norah began saying words and singing a few songs loosely before starting at Hopebridge, thanks to her mom’s introduction of PECS and flashcards, but Angelica says her speech has skyrocketed since beginning ABA therapy. As she becomes more advanced in using her voice, Norah continues to script quite a bit, but her parents are patient with her and understand she is still learning to express herself.
“For the first three years of her life, it was just silence. We no longer have silence in the car and it’s wonderful. I love our little conversations,” said Angelica. “We now have simple back-and-forth conversations with each other. She mostly speaks in full sentences. She is not quite at the level of other kids who are not on the spectrum, but she is also not far behind.”
Self-feeding is starting to take shape for Norah and her parents are working with her on drinking straight from a cup during their tea parties. While these skills are key to Norah’s development, she also recently crossed another major feeding-related milestone: eating in a restaurant!
Previously, any time they attempted to take her to a fast-food restaurant, she would not sit and it would often end in a meltdown. Her parents would have to take the meals to go, even on family trips. This time, while doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, they stopped in McDonald’s and it was a completely different experience.
“We were so proud of her. She sat and listened to music on my phone. It was a bit of a crutch for her, but she was still able to sit and eat her food,” said Angelica. “She also played in the play space with other kids, which was a blessing to watch. It had been pretty isolating for us these past four years, so this experience was encouraging for Covy and me. We were able to see a future of going out to eat with our child.”
According to her parents, one of Norah’s biggest accomplishments has been potty training. After trying a few different steps in the center without success (such as just sitting on the toilet and then wearing a diaper covered by underwear), Hopebridge BCBA Whitney sent Angelica home with some large wet pads and suggested Norah wear pants without a diaper. Without the added security of a diaper, the hope was the feeling of wetness would encourage her to use the toilet. While it did not immediately work, it clicked by the end of the week and Norah is now fully potty trained. This was a huge relief to the whole family, including Norah who is much more comfortable without the bulkiness of a diaper.
It has not always been easy and there are still challenges, but the family is already able to see the value of early identification and early intervention. Norah began school this year, which required a few changes in schedule that took some adjustment since transitions can be difficult for her. Plus, coupling school with therapy leads to long days for Norah.
“School was a little rough in the beginning, but Norah is now happy to go to attend alongside her peers,” said Angelica. “It’s a long day, but her progress makes it all worth it. I know ABA therapy is not meant to be long-term; we are setting her up with the life skills she needs at a young age.”
Angelica and Covy think it is Norah’s relationship with her therapists that enables her to enjoy the therapy experience the most. She created a strong bond with her previous RBT, Katelynn, which eased her transition. She still requests to see her every day, though Norah is also a huge fan of her current therapist, Nicole.
Her mom tells us Norah’s biggest challenge is fine motor development, including skills like cutting paper and drawing vertical and horizontal lines and shapes. Angelica hopes her daughter will find joy in coloring, though she believes Norah doesn’t enjoy it yet because she feels she is not good at it.
“She still gets frustrated when she is not perfect at something, often leaving the activity all together, but her Hopebridge team told me that she is beginning to self-advocate,” said Angelica. “They are pushing for her to express herself. She will now tell them, ‘this is hard,’ or ‘I need help,’ in those moments of frustration. We are extremely proud of her for voicing her needs.”
ABA therapy has also helped Norah expand upon her interests and discover new activities.
“Pretend play is something she has adored since the last time we spoke,” said her mom, Angelica. “Norah has dozens of Beanie Babies at my parents’ house and will bring them home to put them to bed. They ‘sleep’ under carpets, under the rug in the living room and under her blankets; she just loves playing with and caring for her toys.”
Norah enjoys playing outside, especially riding around in her toy car or tossing a ball into her basketball hoop, which was a gift from her grandparents.
Reading is also a big part of life for Norah, who loves listening to her mom act out all the silly voices. She is even beginning to read on her own now with help from therapy, and is up to 35 words per minute!
She is into kids’ shows like “Dora the Explorer,” “Wonder Pets” and “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.” She also likes “Max and Ruby,” a show about two bunnies, though her parents are scaling it back a bit since Norah tends to take the show’s situations at face value and mirror the characters’ emotions, even if they are angry or sad. Her mom looks forward to the day when Norah can enjoy the Disney Princesses; she can’t wait to watch The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast and play dress-up with her!
It is progress like Norah’s that makes all that we do at Hopebridge worthwhile. If you believe your child may have autism, set the stage early and get them the help they need. Contact us at Hopebridge to schedule a diagnostic evaluation and begin ABA therapy so we can provide them with the skills they need for a lifetime.
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