09 June 2011
ACT would like to introduce our readers to Eric! Eric is a bright, inquisitive, and energetic 12-year-old who has a glint of mischief in his blue eyes and a smile that will brighten anyone’s day. Eric loves bugs and especially bees. He swims, listens to all types of music, and enjoys exercising on the treadmill and stair climber.
Eric began behavior therapy with ACT when he was 8 years old. Before then, Eric was a frustrated child, as his mother Millie says. It was difficult for him to communicate his feelings and needs. Eric didn’t communicate appropriately. To express his frustration and anger he would knock over desks, pull people’s hair, and throw things. At home, Eric had a strained relationship with his older sister, Jessi. It was difficult for them to play together nicely because of Eric’s aggressive behaviors.
At school, Eric was bored. Millie recalls that he was not challenged to do his work. No one knew what academic concepts were mastered because Eric wasn’t motivated and did not have a response format for showing what he had learned. He was aggressive, so he had trouble with peer relationships and class participation. He also had difficulty sitting in his chair appropriately and following class rules. Shortly before starting with ACT, Eric’s parents had acquired a “talker” for him. This augmentative communication device, also called a Voice Output Device (VOD), looked like a small computer with a touch screen. Millie and Mark, Eric’s father, worked to program endless pages of buttons into the talker. Eric could touch a button and a word would be spoken aloud for him by the computer. Unfortunately, no one at school used this talker with Eric.
Millie noted that ACT therapists were the first to take the time to learn how Eric’s talker worked. They learned how to program new pages and buttons and actively used his talker in therapy sessions and at school. Now, four years later, Eric’s ability to communicate has increased significantly. He uses his talker to communicate his needs, express his feelings, tell jokes, and ask questions. ACT therapists also began working on Eric’s inappropriate behaviors in his classroom. Currently, he is able to sit in a chair appropriately and do his schoolwork. He is able to play games with friends and be included with regular education peers in their classroom. Eric makes choices and circles to indicate correct answers. He is learning to use a calculator, sight read, and tell time. He is consistently learning new things.
At home, there have been many significant changes since starting behavior therapy. Millie says that their home is now much calmer and more relaxed. Now Eric can play alone, brush his teeth, make basic snacks, and more. Eric’s parents express that they feel more empowered than they did four years ago. Millie says that she has learned tools from ACT to deal effectively with Eric’s behaviors. She feels confident when the family goes on outings that she can structure the outing so that Eric will be successful. If Eric is having a tough day, Millie feels sure that she can handle it effectively.
One major improvement that Millie sees is the relationship between Eric and Jessi. Now, she says, they really enjoy their time together. They watch TV, swing outside, and play computer games together. Eric affectionately calls her “Deedee”. For Millie, this was a very significant change. To see them playing together and really enjoying each other fills her with joy. “Watching them play,” Millie declares, “that says it all!”