27 June 2011
ACT would like to introduce our readers to a remarkable young girl named Rachel! Rachel is a bright, active, and easy going eight-year-old who loves to ride her bike and spend time with her family.
When Rachel was just 18 months old her parents, Connie and Robert, brought her to ACT. Connie recalls that during this time Rachel didn’t respond to her name and didn’t interact with the family. Rachel couldn’t use language to express her needs. If someone said “no” to Rachel, she would tantrum to show her frustration. She needed constant supervision during free time because she would put objects in her mouth and run away. Her older sister, Alex, tried to play with Rachel, but it was difficult. Going out as a family was also a challenge because of the preparation it required in anticipation of Rachel’s needs.
When Rachel began therapy with ACT, her treatment focused on decreasing her tantrums and mouthing of objects, teaching her functional communication, and improving her cognitive and play skills. To address communication skills, ACT began to teach Rachel how to use the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). Rachel responded to PECS very quickly and began to make simple requests by giving a picture to an adult. Rachel learned to use some sign language as well. Therapy also focused on teaching Rachel basic play skills (e.g., taking turns). There were periods during Rachel’s treatment when her rate of learning appeared to slow down; however, these periods would eventually pass and Rachel’s rate of learning would return to its usual level. She was receiving approximately 40 hours of therapy per week during this period of her treatment.
ACT therapists currently work with Rachel at school as her aides. They help Rachel communicate with others, interact more with her peers, and learn new academic material in an effective manner.
In May, 2008 Rachel began to use a voice output device (VOD) or talker. She uses it at school, at home, in the community, and during therapy. Connie says that Rachel uses the talker spontaneously now and that she is continuing to improve her skills.
Connie reports that Rachel has made very significant progress during the past six and a half years. Currently, Rachel has almost no behavior problems. She is able to effectively communicate her needs, play cooperatively with peers and Alex, her sister, sometimes independently and sometimes with support, and she regularly helps the family by setting the table and emptying the dishwasher. She is part of a soccer team and a “lunch bunch” where she eats lunch with regular education peers at school. Rachel can sight read and is learning to type and use a calculator. Connie says that life is more relaxed now. She can, for example, cook dinner and not worry about what Rachel is doing in the house. Family outings are also more relaxed and productive.
Connie specifically requested that Dr. Anderson, Dr. Barbi and all of the ACT therapists who have worked with Rachel be thanked for their hard work and dedication. “ACT is awesome!” she exclaims. Lastly, Connie wanted to impart the message to families of never giving up, no matter what happens.