For mother Lisa Mortimer, nothing in life has been quite so rewarding as seeing the success her six-year-old son, Steven, has achieved as a result of Applied Behavior Analysis teaching.
Applied Behavior Analysis is a popular method for treating autism during the early stages of its emergence. Generally, it takes place within the home so that parents can learn from experts on how best to maximize their child’s educational opportunities. It consists of behavioral coping mechanisms specifically designed to counteract the detrimental effects autism can have on the individual’s ability to communicate, reason, and interact with others.
Though Steven was receiving therapy, Mortimer says he did not make significant gains until his enrollment with an ABA program. Since then, he’s made incredible gains in his cognitive abilities; he is now able to say more than 50 words and communicate appropriately with his peers. She credits this largely to the rigor of the program, which consisted of two hours of daily behavioral training within her home.
Unfortunately, government-appropriated benefits in the form of ABA treatment are not guaranteed to children beyond the age of five. Following this time stamp, families generally have to commit to paying upwards of $60,000 in treatment for their children. To combat this, Mortimer has asked that the government provide funding for ABA past the age of 5. She believes that doing so will create extremely beneficial outcomes for both children affected by autism and their families.
Thus far, she has succeeded in persuading her state (Michigan) to extend these benefits to the age of 21, starting next January. She hopes to expand this development further across the nation.
As Heidi Fogarty, who heads the program Mortimer’s son went through, “Autism is a pervasive developmental disability. It lasts a lifetime. We need to continue to provide kids with opportunities to learn and to gain skills. I definitely think it would benefit beyond the age of five to receive ABA services. The age they’re targeting now is early intervention but the kids over the age of five can continue to make gains.”