06 July 2011
ACT would like to introduce its readers to another very cool kid. Lucas is a bright 11-year-old boy who loves dinosaurs, Pokeman, riding his scooter, and downloading “apps” for his iphone. His mother describes him as enthusiastic, “prehistoric”, and adorable. Today, Lucas is a happy and unique fifth grader who has a thirst for knowledge and is learning many new skills. However, when Lucas was two years old, his mother recalls that he had almost no language. She was concerned that he wasn’t talking and brought this to the attention of his pediatrician. At the time, the doctor insisted that Lucas would eventually begin to talk and recommended speech therapy for him.
Lucas began speech therapy at two years of age and continued until he was six. His language skills slowly improved across those four years. Lucas’ mother was concerned about other behaviors, as well. Lucas had meltdowns when he didn’t get something he wanted right away. He had difficulty expressing frustration and anxiety, and having tantrums was his way of communicating those feelings. Lucas’ mother reports that it would take a long time to calm him down once he became upset. He was also a picky eater, eating only 3 or 4 preferred foods.
At school, Lucas had a very difficult time making friends and navigating social situations. Academically, Lucas appeared to be above average in many areas; however, he had trouble with reading. Despite his difficulty with reading, Lucas was able to learn tremendous amounts of information about his most preferred subjects – dinosaurs and prehistoric times.
Lucas’ mother recalls wondering throughout the years if he had Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. She points out that Lucas has always been a very affectionate and loving child who seemed to want to have friends and be social. This aspect of his personality was contradictory to what she had heard about children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Lucas was finally assessed by a psychologist who was familiar with ASDs. He was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism when he was in the third grade.
Shortly after his diagnosis, Lucas began to have behavior therapy with ACT. Throughout the past two years Lucas has been learning many new skills in therapy. Socially, he is learning how to “read” other people’s body language, have conversations about a wider variety of topics, use his own body language to show others what he is feeling, and understand complex socials situations. He is also learning how to identify anxiety and frustration, express these feelings appropriately, and use coping strategies to calm himself down. Lucas is being taught to better manage his time, plan and organize activities, and practice effective study skills. He has also participated in ACT social skills groups, where he worked on generalizing skills he was learning in therapy and practicing social skills with his peers.
Lucas’ mother reports that he rarely has meltdowns anymore. He is better able to think rationally about situations and use healthy coping techniques to calm himself down. Because of the coping strategies, she says that she sees a significant decrease in Lucas’ daily anxiety. She comments that his social skills are improving as well. She and her husband are extremely proud of Lucas’ efforts and progress. Lucas will be starting middle school next year, and his mother looks forward to seeing how he will learn and grow during his teenage years!