I recall vividly meeting Mia and her twin girls 12 months ago. The girls had very limited play skills and Dearne in particular had difficulty focusing on tasks/activities/toys for more than 10-15 seconds. They lacked the skills to occupy their own free time. Mia described life at home as difficult and said that it was impossible to leave them on their own in a room for any length of time.The twins did not make eye contact in response to their name. They communicated by constantly dragging or hand leading their parents.
I saw a Mum who was very stressed out and I knew what I needed to do. Immediately when I met the girls, I identified a number of skills that the girls needed to work on. The first two skills that we targeted explicitly were imitation (copying actions) and play skills. I prioritized these skills first as I know that by learning these skills, we could then begin targeting a whole range of skills across a variety of developmental domains. In less than two months, we taught the girls to imitate the actions of others, this opened up all sorts of new possibilities for them. They learned to copy our actions and dance to their favorite songs, they learned to manipulate their favorite toys and play with them functionally, they learned to follow their peers at daycare and sit with them at group time, for the first time they became aware of others around them.
During the first 12 months of the girl’s programs I have noticed a significant amount of change. The dedication of the twins’ family and team of therapists has been inspirational. They are now interacting with each-other (this is something we targeted in therapy sessions, initially starting with side by side parallel play and then progressing to turn taking and co-operative play), they are now communicating (Dearne is using one word vocal mands, Marissa uses some words and also communicates through Picture Exchange Communication System- PECS), they are attending weekly mainstream dance lessons and taking part fully in those lessons. The biggest success of all is seeing Dearne and Marissa smiling, they are happy! They enjoy their therapy sessions. There are many misconceptions out there about ABA and there are many people who argue that ABA tries to “normalise” individuals with autism and make them fit in with society. This is the opinion of people who truly do not understand what the science of Applied Behaviour Analysis is. Before ABA, the twins were unable to express themselves or have their needs met. We are now starting to see their individual personalities emerging. Previously, we did not know their individual desires or preferences. Thanks to ABA they now have some degree of choice and control over their own lives.
For anyone who says that ABA tries to “normalise” individuals on the spectrum, here is a great link to a blog post dispelling this myth:
Jac Murphy – Aspire Behaviour Therapist and Program Manager
Here’s the article from 9News!
‘Unbelievable’: The therapy parents claim is transforming the lives of children with autism!
In a playroom in Sydney’s inner west, two women are leading a frenetic, high-energy, carefully choreographed lesson blending song, dance, drawing and storytelling.
These women are therapists who work for Aspire early intervention clinic, and their pupils – three-year-old twins Dearne and Marissa, diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – are responding with equal enthusiasm, breaking out in pirouettes when one of the therapists play their favourite song.
It’s a stark change from just a couple of years earlier, when the girls were largely unresponsive to their environment.
Mother Mia Cazilieris, 34, said it was the girl’s grandfather who first twigged to the fact they were different.
“At about 18 months, dad expressed concerns that the twins weren’t saying any words and that I would leave and they wouldn’t show any normal reaction,” she told 9news.com.au.
“They wouldn’t cry – they weren’t too bothered about it.”
Ms Cazilieris said the girls would also “hardly” respond to their name, didn’t play with each other or other children, and showed no interest in toys.
In April 2014, a paediatrician advised her the girls were exhibiting signs that suggested they might be on the autism spectrum.
Ms Cazilieris said she went into “absolute hysterics”.
“You go through this sort of numbness, where it’s like a bad dream,” she said.
“Like any parent, you hope that they have a normal sort of typical life and then I was told this, [and suddenly] didn’t know where we stood.”