A Behind The Scenes Look At The A-Word

I have been working for CARD as the social networking coordinator since November 2010, and yesterday was the first time I sat in on a therapy session. Before working here I was unfamiliar with autism and didn’t know that it is treatable. Luckily, the session I had the opportunity to sit in on was with Jack Riley as he worked with his therapist Jessica as The A-Word was being filmed.

Most of my education about autism is from watching Jack Riley on The A-word.  I thought being there would be like watching the star of a reality show and forgetting that my presence would change what I would be seeing. I thought I would be there only as an observer seeing what ABA therapy was like. I was wrong.

Jack Riley is a bundle of energy and can’t help but run up to whoever is new in the room with excitement, wanting to play. All smiles and full of giggles he’s vocal and surprisingly social, a far cry from where he was over a year ago when he began ABA therapy with CARD. Jessica even used me for one of the programs she was teaching Jack Riley called prepositions.

Jessica: “What is Daddy?”
Jack Riley: ” A man.”
Jessica: “What is Jessica?”
Jack Riley: ” A lady.”
Jessica: “What is Tyler?”
Jack Riley: “A man.”
Jessica: “What is Suzanne?”
Jack Riley: “Girlfriend.”

Jack Riley definitely has a sense of humor.

Speaking with Jack’s father, Mike, I got to see where Jack used to be pre-CARD. He was non-vocal, had little eye contact, and often seemed to be in his own world.  According to Mike, a lot has changed over the last year, not just with Jack but with him and his wife Cheryl too.

Pre-ABA, Mike and Cheryl’s house consisted of just the three of them. But with the introduction of CARD, visitors to their house became a daily routine. Mike said at first, he and Cheryl would get ready for everyone to come over, but as time progressed, they began seeing all their visitors as friends, opening their door to them in sweats and casual attire. In the last year, Mike and Cheryl had another baby, a girl named Lainey.

As you can see, the family has been VERY busy. But even so, everyone seems happy. Being in their house I could instantly feel this warmth. Everyone who enters their front door is part of their family.  I saw that the definition of family includes  those who have a profound effect on you, that Jessica, and his other therapists, and supervisors reciprocate all the care that they get from them. You could see the genuine excitement Jessica had in telling Mike a new skill that Jack Riley now possesses.

I see how our services not only change a child, but the family, and all those who interact with them. I feel lucky to get a sense of what that is. I look forward to having that opportunity again in the future.

Here’s the most recent episode:

To see The A-Word go to:


or like them on Facebook here:



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