Saturday, October 6, 2012

Helping James - Autism & ABA Therapy

James has beautiful green eyes.
Eyes that we haven't seen much of because of
his poor eye contact due to his autism.

On August 14, 2012, James Heuer, an almost 3 year-old little boy, was diagnosed with Classic Autism. His family also learned that James has Cognitive Communication Disorder and Developmental Dyspraxia. James’ family was finally able to know why James never answered to his name or interacted with his twin sister (signs of autism). They were able to know why James never seemed to understand what was said to him and why he always got so upset when he tried to communicate with others (Cognitive Communication Disorder). They now know why James had such bad lack of coordination and couldn't seem to hold his own weight (Developmental Dyspraxia).

The recommended treatment for James is 35-40 hours a week of Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapy (ABA Therapy). In ABA Therapy James is presented with a task and is asked to repeat that task until he is able to do it as well as someone his own age, such as turning around to answer when his name is called. When his therapists come to the house to work with him we tell his twin sister that his friends are there helping James ‘learn how to learn’ because he doesn’t know how. James has a close family member who was diagnosed with autism when they were James’ age. This family member participated in ABA for 40 hours a week for almost 3 years. That family member no longer carries the diagnosis of autism. While losing the diagnosis is the best possible outcome of ABA, any amount of therapy has been proven to improve the life of a child.

Though very expensive, ABA is widely recognized as a safe and effective treatment for autism. It has been endorsed by a number of different states and federal agencies, including the U.S. Surgeon General. An in-home ABA program providing the recommended 40 hours a week of therapy will cost around $50,000-$60,000 a year. Unfortunately, the state of Utah views autism as a behavioral diagnosis and not a medical one and therefore does not require insurance companies to help pay for autism treatments. This means that James’ family will have to pay for all of his treatment out of pocket.

On September 17, after 4 days of ABA therapy, James was brought to his mom during a session and called her 'Mommy' for the first time in his life. On October 1, after 18 days of ABA, James saw his dad and called him 'Daddy' for the first time. Those moments and future moments like that will be worth every cent earned, fundraised, begged for and then spent providing James with ABA Therapy.

“Sometimes people say that the puzzle represents autism because it is very complex and autism is a puzzle to all of us.” We don’t know what causes autism or why certain children have it and others don’t. Please help us slide James’ missing puzzle piece into its place by donating to give James the treatment he needs.