One in 59 kids in the United States has autism, with boys being four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls.
There is no one standard treatment with medication, occupational therapy and nutritional therapy all among the options. These days, some families are turning to an individualized approach, known as applied behavioral analysis.
David Gulacsy and his wife have a busy household, Sara’s the oldest and then twins Evan and William.
“The twin boys was a big deal because it was like how are we going to handle twins?” David said.
As they grew, the twins began to do things out of the ordinary, hoarding their toys and throwing food. So, David and his wife took them for an evaluation.
“And immediately when we went there, it was like black and white to them. It was, 'yep, your kids are both on the spectrum.' Your emotions are everywhere. It’s hard. It was very tough,” David said.
But the Gulacsys were committed to finding help for their family. David found a therapist who practiced applied behavior analysis, or ABA. It’s a structured intervention that helps kids learn new behaviors and skills by repetition.
“I think ABA provides a good step-by-step approach to teaching all of those skills that you might find overwhelming at first,” explained Jaslin Goicoechea, Advance Behavior & Learning, Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst.
David says ABA helped with negative behaviors. Forty-minute temper tantrums became two-minutes-long, and it showed outside of home as well.
“Going to the grocery store, if I said 'William stop,' or' Evan stop,' they stopped. Whereas before they never would have done that,” said David.
ABA therapy also helps the twins with skills they need for academic success, structure that helps the Gulacsys put all the pieces together.
The amount of weekly therapy varies, but by some accounts, children do best when they have more than 20 hours of ABA weekly. Insurance coverage varies, not only by state, but by insurance company. Parents should look for therapists who are board-certified behavior analysts. In most cases, they will have at least a master’s degree, and the letters BCBA after their names.