In the spring of 2019, Presha watched closely as various experts from around Des Moines evaluated her son Isaiah for Autism.
“We noticed that Isaiah was having some trouble playing appropriately with friends, so we started looking for answers. He was especially struggling with aggression and elopement (running away),” said Presha. “We had him evaluated, took him to play therapy, and then were referred to a doctor who diagnosed Isaiah with autism.”
While receiving a diagnosis was an important step to help Isaiah live a great life, it didn’t solve Presha’s concerns about his future.
“My biggest concerns were for Isaiah’s safety,” said Presha. “He has no concept of fear and didn’t have appropriate boundaries with others. He was aggressive and prone to running away. I also knew that these factors would hold him back from learning at the same level as his peers. The world of autism was new to us, and so much felt unknown. We were looking for resources anyone could offer that might be of help.”
Just a few months later, the family found a resource that would change Isaiah’s path in life: the Autism Day Program at ChildServe. As the only program of its kind in Iowa, the Autism Day Program offers specialized weekday care designed for children ages 2 – 5 years old who have a diagnosis of autism.
“I have sat in on a few sessions with Ovan Garcia, a Behavior Technician at ABA,” said Presha. “He’s like a big brother to Isaiah. I’ve never seen someone “work” with my child in a way that is so connected. He stays at Isaiah’s level and is constantly looking for ways to keep him engaged-all while keeping a positive attitude.”
“Isaiah has grown so much in the last year,” said Presha. “He’s learned to use communication more effectively, play appropriately with friends, and become more independent in daily living skills. His acts of aggression, property damage and elopement have decreased drastically. “
To make these incredible strides forward, Isaiah has worked hard with support from a whole team of experts at ChildServe: from the specially trained direct care team at the Autism Day Program, board certified behavior analysts and mental health professionals, to a pediatrician, and speech and occupational therapists. The team creates a unique care plan based on each child’s needs and goals, and works together across multiple disciplines to make sure care is consistent and effective.
ChildServe has been expanding another aspect of our autism services that benefitted Isaiah: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA and the Autism Day Program are two separate programs that work closely together as needed to help children build independence.
ABA is a science that evaluates why a child is doing certain actions or behaviors, and how best to teach a child important daily living skills. ABA aims to decrease behavior that makes it difficult for kids to learn or engage with others so they can be successful and safe at school, home, or in the community.
“The Autism Day Program and ABA are both individualized services that have been shown to have an immense impact not only on the children in the programs, but also their families,” said Shawn Kolb, Autism Program Manager. “While ABA is primarily provided one-on-one, services in the Autism Day Program are delivered in a group setting. The combination of both programs, along with other therapies provided at ChildServe, has resulted in amazing outcomes.”
“Isaiah constantly talks about his teachers at ChildServe,” said his mom Presha. “He comes home and tells me all about them. They are his best friends, and on the weekend, he wants to go see them.”
For Isaiah, a combination of ABA and the Autism Day Program played a crucial role in shaping his growth.
“ABA has been instrumental in helping our family practice the skills Isaiah learns at ChildServe in our own home and in the community,” said Presha. “What has been most impressive to me is how they keep working on a certain skill until they find a technique that works for him. It’s not a cookie cutter program; instead they take time to learn about him and how he responds best.”
ABA and the Autism Day Program work together differently depending on each child’s needs. A typical week for Isaiah would include receiving care at ChildServe from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. every weekday. During that time, he spent half his day at ABA, and half at the Autism Day Program, where occupational and speech therapy were also built into his schedule once a week. At most other providers, families would need to drive to multiple appointments and locations to receive these services on the same day. Thanks to ChildServe, Isaiah’s family has had more time to focus on building up their relationship.
“Isaiah is loving, smart, full of energy, determined, and loves to play outside blowing bubbles, catching bugs, or playing in water,” said Presha. “Thanks to ChildServe, we understand Isaiah better, and he understands himself and what’s expected of him. This has been a learning experience for everyone, and ChildServe has done a tremendous job of walking beside us in our journey. Every time I talk to someone about ChildServe and how they have impacted our family, I tear up. I have not had one single instance where we’ve been treated like anything other than family-from the moment we walk in the door until we leave.”
ChildServe improves the health and well-being of nearly 5,800 children each year through specialized clinical, home, and community-based programs and services. We serve children with developmental delays, disabilities, injuries, and other special healthcare needs.