Sixteen years ago I was a 1-1 assistant for a child with autism in an elementary school. She was very challenging. She was non-verbal and very aggressive. At the end of the year I received the most beautiful card from the mom that included this story. It’s called “The Starfish Story”.
It meant so much to me. Now it means even more to me. Just over a year ago Courtney started a therapy called, ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis). It’s one of the top strategies for working with children with Autism. It requires many hours a week of intense therapies usually conducted by a couple therapist and lead by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Though I took the course work to become a BCBA at one point, it still made me nervous to have Courtney receive this therapy. For her, it meant 12-15 hours a week of therapy. I knew it was the right thing to do though.
So a team of three therapists and a BCBA was assigned to us. Our BCBA told us at the beginning, we were very lucky that we got the team that we got. Two of the three therapists had the title of lead therapist in the company. At the beginning, Courtney had no mode of communication, unable to respond to her name, a flight risk, a biter, a scratcher and a ball full of energy. She had major meltdowns at the beginning. They really struggled getting her to participate in tasks and had to teach her a communication system that they barely knew themselves. These ladies spend 12-15 hours a week, in our house, working one on one with her. The only days she has off are holidays. No summer breaks and no weekends off.
I received news the other day that the two therapists who have been with us since the beginning are leaving the company because of budget cuts. The company had to make some major budget cuts due to a change in reimbursement from a certain insurance company. The team leader position was one of the cuts. So at first we were very lucky to have two team leaders on our team, but now we are getting quite the blow because those two team leaders are now leaving.
The thought of it puts me to tears. These ladies have done so much for my family. Thanks to them, after a year, Courtney has made so much progress. She now has a way to communicate her wants and needs, she is responding to her name, we can walk down the street hand in hand without me worrying about her taking off on me, and the meltdowns are few and less intense. These two ladies made a huge difference. Words can’t thank them enough.
We still have our BCBA and we still have our other therapist that has been with us for several months now. I’m sure the company has many other good therapists. I’m sure Courtney will continue to make great progress. But these two ladies started us off and I will forever be grateful that they picked my little starfish up. They made a difference to her. They mattered to us.