Those Three Little Words...

Like mothers all over the world, Tracy looked forward to hearing her son say just three little words. When he finally did, it was a breakthrough that changed both of their lives forever.

“For my son, the most important three-word phrase began with ‘I want,’” she explains.

Learning how to ask for what he wanted enabled Michael, who was diagnosed with autism at age 3, to replace angry tantrums with patient requests.

Tracy attributes much of Michael’s progress to the applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy he received from May Institute. Tracy and her husband “discovered” ABA when they went online to research possible treatments and therapies for children with autism. “It was the only therapy we found that had research behind it to show that it would help children with autism,” she said.

“[Before ABA] he was in a special needs preschool, getting speech and OT, but no behavioral modification therapy,” remembers Tracy. “At that point, he had no eye contact and no words. And we were at our wits’ end with his temper tantrums.”

They contacted May Institute’s Atlanta office and soon Michael was receiving home-based ABA therapy. “I knew it would be tough and time-consuming, but I also knew it would be worth it,” Tracy says.

The first challenge was helping him make eye contact. “That was the way in,” says Tracy. “After he mastered eye contact, he could work on imitation, language, academic skills, and self-help skills.”

When he started his therapy, Michael wasn’t able to hold a cup, dress himself, or ride a bike. Now he can do all those things. But the most wonderful achievement, according to Tracy, was when he began making requests.

“Before he had his words, if he wanted something he might start whining. Then the whining would develop into a full-blown tantrum that might last 45 minutes. It was exhausting for him and us,” Tracy explains. “Now he can just ask for what he wants. Within the first year after starting ABA, we had a much happier child.”

Now an active 9-year-old, Michael attends a special school for children with neurodevelopmental delays in the Metro Atlanta area. He also receives about six hours a week of ABA therapy from his therapist Heather Castle, B.A., a Senior Behavior Specialist with May Institute. She helps him with reading comprehension, expressive and receptive language, and telling time.

Looking to the future, Tracy says she expects Michael will graduate from high school, be able to hold down a job, and live on his own. “That’s my dream for Michael – independence. “We’re trying to give him all the skills he’ll need to succeed and be happy.”

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