Look into his saucer-sized brown eyes!
Wonder what he’s thinking?
So do we…every single day.
As you may be aware Liam is 5 years old and suffers from Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which affects how a person communicates and relates to people and the environment. For Liam, it has affected his use and understanding of language quite severely. Liam is virtually non verbal, he can label objects or people, however his words are not clear, for example his “mummy” sounds like “Mu-he”. His understanding of language (receptive skills) are that of a 2 year old (limited to single word instructions). He also has difficulties with social interaction and imagination which means he finds difficult to play with his peers and doesn’t like change as he can’t imagine what is going to happen next.
Since his diagnosis at age 3 years, his family have been researching and trialing various treatments including changes to his diet and giving him nutritional supplements however these did not have any positive effect on Liam’s behaviour, until we tried a 2 day session with an Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) therapist in July 2011 and our life has since taken a dramatic turn for the better!
Thanks to ABA, Liam is now able to say two-three word phrases in context and he is like a different child. He is able to interact with other adults and children and make requests such as “push swing”, “open door” etc and communicate his preferences “want juice” etc.
ABA is a form of behavioural therapy which uses motivation and reinforcement (reward) to get Liam to conform and be able to concentrate on simple tasks to assist with his development and education. To us, Liam’s family, ABA has given us hope and a way to engage with Liam.
Unfortunately ABA is the most expensive form of Autism treatment. Typical ABA programmes can cost families in the region of £20,000 per year (source National Autistic Society). We are a simple, hard-working family of four, we don’t have those means at our disposal.
As a way of accessing ABA we have set up a volunteer programme and recruited final year University Psychology students to work with Liam for 2 hours a week every day after school and pay the ABA Therapist to train the volunteers, monitor and control the programme. We also pay the therapist to go into Liam’s school to train the teachers on use of ABA techniques which has kick started his education (Liam has recently learnt to write his own name!). We pay for the ABA therapist to come out to see Liam every 3 weeks with an overnight stay. We also pay for a Speech and Language therapist who has been trained in ABA techniques to come out every 6 weeks which almost duplicates the previous cost.
Furthermore, we use the donations made to Time To Talk Liam to pay for intensive ABA sessions for 4/5 days every 2 months (depending on fundraising!), which is amazing to be able to do, as it brings Liam on so much quicker.
We are fully committed to ABA for Liam and are in it for the long haul. There is no quick fix for Liam. His condition is constantly challenging us and he will need as much support as possible, particularly in these early years, to hopefully get him to reach his true potential and achieve a level of independence in adult life, which is all we want for Liam.
If you would like to know more about Autism and ABA therapy or would like to donate or help with fundraising, you can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for taking the time to read our story.