Oakland Boy With Autism Begins to Speak, Play and Build Relationships

Parents Relieved as Tantrums and Head Banging are Replaced by Happy Family Experiences
(All Names Changed for Privacy)

“Simon, we already went up and down the elevator three times. We need to go to the food court now,” explained Rebecca to three-year-old Simon as she grabbed his hand to pull him in the right direction down the shiny shopping mall floor.

“WAAAAAAAANAAAAAWAAAAAMAAAMAAAA,” replied Simon in tears and desperation.

“The elevator is not for playing, sweetie,” Rebecca said as she continued towing Simon towards the food court, trying to keep her cool.

Neither Simon nor Rebecca enjoyed lunch that day as Simon continued his shrill protest at being removed forcibly from playing with the elevator. Neither chicken fingerss nor ketchup nor fries could console the young boy.

Such was life for Rebecca and her husband Thomas. Simon had entered this world just like any other baby, cute and warm and cuddly as can be. But eventually he was diagnosed with autism and a harsh new reality set in for the family.

Tantrums were just the tip of the iceberg for Simon. Other challenges included:

  • Inability to speak
  • Head-banging
  • Poor relationships with peers and siblings
  • Fixation on electronics such as garage doors, fans, and of course… elevators

Thomas and Rebecca felt embarrassed to take Simon out in public. They were afraid to have friends or family over to the house. They couldn’t go out together as a family on the weekends, and they couldn’t find quality time to enjoy their marriage.

Thomas and Rebecca constantly worried about Simon’s future and safety, as well as the future of the family. Would they be taking care of Simon into his 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s? Would he ever be able to enjoy friendship? Reading? Sports? Love?

The Day Everything changed

It was a chilly day in February of 2018 when Simon started receiving ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy from Positive Pathways in Oakland.

The first challenge encountered by Taylour, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, was creating a good relationship with Simon. It’s not so easy to build trust and connection with a child who can’t speak or socialize.

Taylour addressed the issue by joining Simon in playing with toys and engaging in activities that he already liked. Play was the key to creating what may have been the first relationship Simon had with anybody other than his parents.

From there, Taylour was able to help Simon acquire new interests and learn to play with new toys in new ways. Simon was learning new things for the first time in a long while.

Next, Taylour taught Simon social skills so that he could successfully interact with his peers and siblings, all through play.

At our center, he began making friends. First, he would take toys from other kids or run away when peers initiated play, but over time he began watching peers, then following them, and then responding to their bids to join in play.

After 8 months, he was initiating play with peers!

We also taught him to speak using his interests in activities and toys. He began using the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) but quickly began saying 1 to 2 words. Within a year, we were able to expand his language to short sentences.


Life-Changing Results for Simon

Simon has grown incredibly in the last 18 months. Here are some of the highlights of Simon’s accomplishments after working with Positive Pathways:

  • Simon stopped banging his head in the first 6 months.
  • Simon stopped having temper tantrums in the first year.
  • Simon’s social skills vastly improved, allowing him to have positive interactions with his siblings and peers at our center. He began responding to and initiating with peers to play, even engaging in peer’s play plans, versus following a restricted pattern of play that he used to engage in.
  • Simon is visibly much happier. He smiles, laughs, and excitedly greets his family members, therapists, and peers.
  • Simon is able to communicate his needs and wants effectively, rather than resort to tantrums.

One factor that contributed to Simon’s success was the use of play and child-led activities to motivate Simon to learn new skills.

Reflecting on their experience with Positive Pathways, Thomas and Rebecca couldn’t be happier that they chose to place Simon in our early intervention program. They loved all of their therapists and feel that the team really understood who Simon uniquely is and created a program specifically for him.

The Secret to Simon’s Success

So, what was it that helped Simon grow so much in just 18 months? How did he end up on a trajectory to live a much fuller and happier life?

One element is seeing each child as a holistic individual with their own strengths, weaknesses, and ways of communicating.

But the most important factor that helped Simon is the fact that his parents took action and got the help they needed.

They appreciated that the longer you wait to get help, the longer it takes to help your child. They decided that they didn’t want to stall or delay or look into it “someday.”

Now look where Simon is.

There’s Hope for Every Child

Imagine train tracks that stretch all the way to the horizon. If you alter the course of those train tracks just a couple of degrees, they will end up miles away from where they point now.

ABA therapy is about helping your child change direction now, so they end up at a totally different destination in the future.

By helping children with autism learn the communication, social, and life skills they need, we can help them live more independently for the rest of their lives.

There is hope for every child.


Now It’s Your Turn

Would you like to get help for your child? Our team of highly experienced professionals has many decades of combined experience helping kids with autism. 

We can look at ways to address whatever is on your mind, including:

  • Signs of autism
  • Helping you set up a diagnostic evaluation
  • Toileting issues
  • Temper tantrums
  • Social skills issues
  • Difficulty performing routines
  • Communication deficits
  • Self-injurious behavior
  • Eating difficulties
  • Academic challenges
  • And more…