Today, the Indiana ACT for Families coalition’s Family Friday spotlight is Justin Bowen, an Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapist from Cicero, Indiana.
Justin has been working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for roughly 18 years. He graduated from Ball State University with a double major in Elementary Education and Special Education, but knew he did not want a traditional classroom experience. He found his way to ABA therapy and became a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) helping Indiana children and adolescents learn communication and life skills.
Early Intervention = Better Outcomes
Justin says that early intervention “one hundred percent does” make a difference in the effectiveness of ABA therapy, a fact he says is supported by data that dates back to the 1970s. Throughout his time working in ABA therapy, Justin has seen firsthand the beneficial impact that early intervention therapy can have on a child with ASD. “The simple truth is that younger brains are more elastic,” said Justin. “They can learn a whole lot better and faster, and they can hit important milestones a little easier.”
Justin also highlighted the challenge of relearning instilled behaviors. “If a 3-year-old has always done something, there’s a lot less unlearning they have to do, versus if a 15-year-old has always done something and you are trying to unlearn those behaviors.”
Justin’s points clearly show the importance of early intervention and reinforce the negative impact that reduced access has on children with ASD and their families. “It’s better to maximize therapy early on during the crucial point of early intervention and then taper it off as they transition into school,” said Justin. “We see better success that way and it’s a lot easier for the families too.”
“If We’re Doing it Right, the Kiddo Doesn’t Know We are Doing Therapy”
Throughout his time as an ABA therapist, Justin has seen hundreds of families’ lives changed by ABA therapy. One of his standout client success stories exemplified how high-quality ABA therapy can change the trajectory of a child’s life. “I had a kiddo who was about to be discharged from the therapy center due to his explosive violent behaviors,” said Justin. “He would normally have around 500 instances of physical aggression and by the end of the month, I got it down to less than 10 a day.”
Justin has seen and continues to see children thrive in the world of ABA therapy. “With autism, it’s kind of this unique piece where if we’re open and honest with each other, we can actually all work together and learn to generalize the skills and the different environments,” said Justin. “If we’re doing it right, the kiddo doesn’t know we are doing therapy. They think that they are just playing.”
Parents Benefit From ABA Too
Justin has also seen the impact that ABA therapy can have on the whole family by helping to educate parents on how to better teach their children with ASD. “Every single time a kiddo gets authorized for ABA services, there’s a component of parent training that is covered. I recommend that parents take one-hundred percent use of that. It is their time to get a master’s level approach on how to better teach their kiddo on the spectrum and it’s at no additional cost to them.” He explained that children with ASD learn differently and that parents often benefit from education about specific ways to set up their children for success.
One example he gave is explaining how kids with ASD benefit from specific step-by step instructions.
“If you tell a kiddo on the spectrum. ‘Hey, we’re going to go to lunch soon, go get dressed.’ They may not be able to handle that. But if you break it down for them and say first ‘Go put on your clothes.’ And once they’ve completed that task ‘Now I need to get your coat.’ They’re going to have much more success with that. So, it’s beneficial teaching parents effective techniques.”
Justin says that he has seen the support provided by ABA therapy help lift emotional burdens for parents by helping them better understand their child’s unique needs and way of learning.
Indiana ACT for Families is a broad coalition of Hoosier families, ABA therapists, ABA therapy providers, and stakeholders, including The Arc of Indiana and other advocacy groups, working to advocate in support of promoting access to high quality ABA therapy services in Indiana. For more information, please visit www.IndianaACT4Families.com.
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