When Misty Woolridge's son Matthew should have been learning to speak, she knew something was wrong.
“He had very little words in the beginning or social interaction, and not a lot of eye contact,” she said.
But since undergoing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy at the Treatment and Learning Center for Children with Autism in Tyler since 2010, the now 4-year-old has made much progress, Mrs. Woolridge said.
“It's priceless to have people who you trust with your children with special needs, to help you with this new path you've been thrown onto,” she said. “If you could see my child now, you wouldn't be able to tell a difference from another child.”
Matthew will go into pre-kindergarten this year.
ABA is the only therapy approved by the surgeon general, said Alison Sterken, division director for autism services with the center, and the center has been growing since they moved into a new building in 2010.
Pediatricians are beginning to screen for Autism Spectrum Disorders, Mrs. Sterken said. According to autismspeaks.org, autism affects 1 in 88 children.
Although ASSIST Autism Foundation closed this week, there are many resources for parents of children with autism, Mrs. Sterken said.
“These parents give up so much,” Mrs. Sterken said. “They are so devoted to their child being healthy and happy. They're a joy to work with.”
Mrs. Bodeman said that getting her son to the car without a meltdown before was nearly impossible, but he's done much better since receiving ABA therapy at the center.
Many parents also participate in the center's outreach program, which teaches parents how to incorporate at home what their children are learning in therapy. Mrs. Bodeman and Mrs. Woolridge say they've benefited from the program, and about 10 spots are still available, Mrs. Sterken said.
Mrs. Woolridge and some of the other parents are involved in a program called Defeat Autism Through ABA (DATA), which raises funds for the center. The group has a half marathon scheduled for April at Bergfeld Park; their last race raised $30,000 for the center. Visit tylerrunforautism.org for more information.
“We're so passionate that we want to help other children,” Mrs. Woolridge said.