When I first met Dhilan he was a 3-year old boy with autism who had frequent behaviour tantrums and did not like spending time with other people.
It was apparent that he didn’t really know how to play; his version of play would be to repeatedly line up his toy cars on the windowsill.
He wanted to be alone, had no functional communication, ate very few foods and was not toilet trained. Dhilan’s mum Sandi asked Dimensions for help in December 2015.
Sandi told me “It was a real struggle to go anywhere with Dhilan and it seemed like our life was put on hold, he could not cope with certain environments and due to his lack of communications we would get extreme behaviours.”
The Dimensions technical assessment (covering requesting, labeling, listening, matching, play, social, imitation and vocal skills) gave Dhilan a very low score of just 10.5 for his age.
Essentially he was missing the basic skills a child needs to be able to learn naturally from his environment. Dhilan started his early intervention programme using a modern applied behaviour analysis (ABA) approach.
The programme is implemented by his family, some volunteers and a lead tutor meaning all Dhilan’s loved ones were able to deliver a consistent approach whilst ensuring the budget could stretch much further.
First, we focused on Dhilan tolerating his ABA tutors being with him with fun and games and by building a trusting relationship with him. We then broke down his target skills into small steps and taught them systematically using lots of positive reinforcement.
Dhilan soon realised he had the potential to do lots of things! Functional replacement behaviours were taught to Dhilan to replace his problem behaviours, which have now reduced to very low levels. For me, I knew ABA was going to work for Dhilan the day I heard him laughing during the sessions.
Over one year later, Dhilan is a social and happy little boy. He looks forward to the tutor’s arrival, he plays with toys (including some imaginary play,) he is toilet trained, eats a wider variety of foods, is speaking with improved clarity and is now working on some basic academic skills such as phonics and counting.
His score in our technical assessment is now 82.5, bringing him much closer to his age group peers. I am excited to see what the next year holds for Dhilan!
The final words must come from Dhilan’s family. Sandi told me, “In the last year that we have been doing the ABA programme for Dhilan it has changed not just his life but our family life too.
In just a few short months of starting the programme his speech went from screaming to single words and now sentences, he has lovely play skills with his sister and enjoys spending time with her.”
“The whole of ‘team Dhilan’ work really well together; they are very engaging and he enjoys his sessions. It’s lovely to hear him being so engaged and having fun I often have to take a step back just to enjoy where he is now and also look forward to where he is going, he is doing and saying so many things I never thought I would see or hear.
He will always be autistic but ABA has given him a chance to learn and to be independent one day, I am so proud of him.”
By Sarah Wall, Consultant Behaviour Analysist
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