May Institute is expanding its ability to provide autism services to military families through its newest program location in Jacksonville, N.C. The Southeast Regional Autism Center in Jacksonville is now serving military families in the Camp Lejeune/Cherry Point/Marine Corps Air Station New River catchment area. Camp LeJeune is the largest Marine Corps installation on the East Coast.
The center is modeled after the Southeast Regional Autism Center in Columbus, Ga., which has been serving civilian and Army families at Fort Benning and in the surrounding communities since 2007. Both centers offer a comprehensive set of educational and behavioral services to children and their families, private agencies, and public school systems. May Institute’s affiliation with the National Autism Center helps the Centers meet best practice standards for evidence-based behavioral and educational interventions for children with autism.
“ABA services in this area are in high demand and long overdue,” says Tanya Anderson, whose husband is the Executive Officer of the School of Infantry at Camp Geiger near Jacksonville. Their 6-year-old son, Cooper, was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in 2008 and approved for ABA services within weeks. However, due to the lack of available service providers, they were placed on a waiting list.
“There is nothing more frustrating than to be given the okay for services you know will help your child, but not have anyone available to provide them,” says Tanya.
After nearly a year of helplessly waiting and watching Cooper’s behavior worsen, the family’s prayers were finally answered in the form of a phone call from Anne Stull, M.A., BCBA, a licensed psychological associate from the new Center.
Since then, Cooper has been receiving ABA, or applied behavior analysis therapy, from Anne who recently relocated to Jacksonville from Columbus, Ga., where she was the Clinical Director at the Center there.
“We’re only a few months into it (ABA therapy) and we have already seen changes,” Tanya says. “We were told that Cooper’s behavior could get worse before it got better, but that patience and consistency would prevail. Cooper and I work with Anne three days a week. I observe the two of them so I can reinforce what she is teaching. Currently, we are extinguishing problem behavior by ignoring it. Believe me; doing this is hard, especially when we are out in public.”
“We are teaching Cooper to request attention and access to preferred toys and activities appropriately,” Anne explains. "By ignoring his inappropriate behaviors and reinforcing his appropriate requests, we have already seen a substantial decrease in inappropriate behaviors and increase in appropriate requests.”
“There has been a tremendous amount of interest in our services expressed by families and friends of children with autism spectrum disorders as well as the professional community in the Camp Lejeune/Cherry Point area,” Anne continues. “I’m looking forward to working with more families like the Andersons.”
Please check back in the coming weeks for more information about our newest program!