May 2016

Autism: A Reason to Hope

Author: Dr. Lorrie Spencer, BCBA-D

April was Autism Awareness month, and in the Lowcountry you can find evidence of how much awareness of autism has increased. Although now it seems as if almost everyone knows someone with autism, this has not always been the case. Thankfully, the increase in awareness has led to an increase in diagnosis and services. I love to watch someone’s face when I tell them I am a behavior analyst and I work with individuals with autism. This is typically followed by a statement and a question. The statement is, “Wow you must have a lot of patience.” My own children would laugh at this statement. The question is almost always, “What is a behavior analyst?”

Behavior analysts work with individuals to shape and change behavior. At Autism Inc., we see individuals from 2-21 years of age. This is what I can tell you we know about autism spectrum disorder. The CDC reports 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism. Most parents begin to notice differences in their children’s skills in the area of language, socialization and behavior. Individuals with autism can exhibit such severe deficits or challenges that the services of a certified behavior analyst are required.

The field of applied behavior analysis focuses on shaping behavior. A key component includes capturing motivation. We analyze behaviors and the environment and identify ways to meet an individual where they are and take them to the next level. We are detectives who are trained to identify why an individual is behaving a certain way or why an individual is not able to exhibit skills that a typical peer is able to exhibit. After identifying this information, we develop behavior plans to address these skill deficits or excesses.

In South Carolina, we are lucky to have a waiver program that allows individuals with autism to receive ABA services. In providing ABA services, we go into homes and work with families and see individuals in the community and in center-based programs. Applied behavior analysis is also covered by private insurance in South Carolina. We were actually the second state to require insurance to cover ABA services. Research has shown the earlier and more intense the intervention, the better the outcome. This is why it is so important to identify autism early and begin therapy as early as possible.

Again when people ask me what the best part of my job is, I immediately tell them it is never boring. We see the most amazing children and families every day. We get to witness growth and passion and success on a daily basis. I have the blessing of working with over 60 therapists who make a difference every day. There is never a day when we don’t laugh, and there is never a day when I am not surprised by the passion of our therapists, the hard work and perseverance of the parents we work with and the growth our clients make.

Based on a need for intensive educational services for individuals with autism, Autism Giving Tree is opening a private school for individuals with autism in August of 2016. We are working hard to continue raising funds to serve individuals who require high levels of support in an inclusive setting. Autism Inc. in conjunction with Autism Giving tree is excited to announce our first annual street carnival June 5, from 1-4 p.m., behind Autism Inc. (29 Plantation Park Dr., Unit 204, Bluffton).

For more information, visit autisminc.net or call (843) 706-0831.

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