The A-word chronicles a family’s experience with autism and progress motivated by therapy from the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD). Follow Mike, Cheryl, and little Jack Riley, and experience the true meaning of autism, the A-Word.
In this episode we see that Jack Riley has been in preschool for the last three days with Jessica as his shadow. And during clinic they discuss how school is going and work on some new skills. Jessica updates the team on how Jack Riley’s behaviors are in class, and how his teacher is handling him.
Play has always had an important role in teaching Jack Riley. They have used play to teach him how to use items functionally – like when they use pretend food and place it on a plate. Jack Riley has now graduated to doing socio-dramatic play with his therapists where they take on different roles. They have been playing ‘restaurant’ for the last two months, where Jack Riley pretends to be the waiter, costumer, or the chef. Now that he has played out these roles, Jessica and Mike are taking him to an actual restaurant to see how he behaves in public.
Jack Riley is working a lot on social skills now that he is in school, and because Lainey is now big enough to walk over and play with his toys. His therapists are having Jack Riley play with his sister during their sessions so he can practice how to appropriately play with her. Simultaneously, Jack Riley’s therapists are also making it a point to go on outings in the community so he and his parents can get more comfortable with what to expect while they are out.
After a new therapist has completed 20 hours of elearning from CARD’s online training program and practiced what they have learned with a supervisor in the office, they then go out into the field and do overlaps with a senior therapist like Jessica. Today, Jack Riley and Jessica show Christine what it’s like to work with a child that has autism.
Jack Riley has been having a hard time being nice to his little sister Lainey. In reaction to that, his parents are trying out some positive reinforcement to get him to behave nicer. They started a system called ‘happy points’ where every time Jack Riley is nice to his sister, they give him a ‘happy point’, and once he gets enough happy points he is able to get a fun prize. Simultaneously, with his therapist Jessica, they work on writing a social story about ways in which he should interact with his sister. Hopefully, with enough reminders he will be nice to his little sister all the time.
Jack Riley is now 4 years old. A lot has changed in the last few years. He’s a lot more verbal than he used to be, but occasionally his language isn’t functional. Today he keeps scripting the same phrase while he’s doing tasks like unwrapping his birthday present, or playing with his toys. Echolalia is fairly common with kids with autism spectrum disorder because it’s a self-stimulatory behavior and is intrinsically reinforcing. The behavior comforts, and helps regulate themselves no differently than body rocking or hand flapping; it’s just a different form of stereotypical behavior.
This week, Jack Riley’s supervisor, Diana, visits to check on his progress. Jessica and Diana discuss how going to the bathroom has been an issue with Jack Riley. They problem-solve to see what they can do to change his behavior.