With her son, Nitai, diagnosed with autism in 2009, Manjula Singh followed her health provider’s advice and enrolled her son in fortnightly speech and occupational therapy sessions.
There, occupational therapists worked with her son to develop gross motor skills, like running and catching balls as well as fine motor skills such as holding a pencil, and drawing.
At the same time, speech therapists set goals for Nitai to learn verbal and non-verbal communication skills that would help him communicate in more useful ways.
Limited progress with occupational and speech therapy
However, even after more than 24 months of this therapy, Manjula could see only limited progress. While Nitai had acquired some gross and fine motor skills, and could hold a pencil, and use a knife and fork, he had made very little progress with his verbal skills. “My son could barely speak a word,” reflects Manjula.
“I was desperate to do more, and repeatedly sought help from Nitai’s paediatrician, and my GP, but the only advice they gave was to continue with the occupational and speech therapy.“
With Nitai reaching kindergarten age, Manjula had no choice but to enrol him in the local school. There, the teacher’s aide provided close support for her son, who was uncommunicative, did not listen or engage, and threw tantrums on a regular basis.
At Kindergarten, Manjula met another parent whose child was also autistic, but able to handle school life in a more positive way. The parent told Manjula about the treatment that was helping her child: ABA therapy.
ABA therapy provides a new way forward
Eager to learn more, Manjula googled ABA services in Australia and came upon ABAlink amongst others. Manjula couldn’t understand why she had not been given any information about ABA therapy by professionals when Nitai was diagnosed.
Manjula contacted both providers and received an immediate call back from Christina Campbell at ABAlink. She empathised with Manjula’s circumstances and helped her understand there was a way forward. “I was worried that at age seven, Nitai was too old to respond to ABA,” says Manjula. “But Christina reassured me that ABA therapy can produce positive outcomes in any child.”
So, Manjula booked in for an initial consultation where she explained her child’s needs and where ABAlink explained what support could be provided through ABA therapy.
Convinced that ABA therapy would make a difference to her son’s life, Manjula booked Nitai in for a full assessment where ABAlink’s program supervisor undertook a comprehensive evaluation of Nitai’s abilities, before structuring an individualised program for him.
15 hours of therapy each week
Nitai’s initial program involved 15 hours of one-on- one therapy each week. And while ABA was tough on everyone at first, it didn’t take long for Nitai to settle into the routine.
“At the outset, Nitai was hysterical. Lots of crying and tantrums. It was tough on Nitai – and myself,” says Manjula.
“But I believed the therapists had my son’s best interests at heart and they knew what they were doing. And before long, Nitai settled into the routine, and things started to improve.
He started to listen to instructions. His eye contact started to improve. And he began to respond to his name for the very first time.
“He started to listen to instructions. His eye contact started to improve. And he began to respond to his name for the very first time. This for us, was such a huge step forward. And things continued to improve from there.“
“Since those early months of therapy, Ntai’s development has taken huge leaps and bounds. Each of ABAlink’s therapists have been so caring and compassionate, and genuinely committed to helping Nitai overcome his development challenges.
“I receive detailed feedback after every session, and we still have regular team meetings where we review progress made and set the next goals.
“These days, I have no trouble taking him to the local park where he will play nicely. I can take him to the cinema or go shopping without fear that he’ll have a meltdown.”
“And his progress at school has been exceptional,” explains Manjula. “So much so that his end of school report this year was very positive. He’s just about to turn ten, and his teacher is reporting that he’s more attentive than ever, staying on task longer, and is following every instruction closely.
“This was beyond my wildest dreams when he first started school.”
“ABA has certainly worked for my son and I advocate for any family with an autistic child to see if ABA therapy is right for you. I highly recommend the team at ABAlink who are all caring, highly compassionate professionals.”