“His language was coming along. He was playing peek-a-boo and he would hide and toss things off the table and say ‘uh oh!’” said Krystal Ketner, Michael’s mom.
Krystal says that all changed when he was 15-months-old. Suddenly, her little boy stopped talking.
At 2-years-old, doctors diagnosed Michael, with autism – a developmental disability that affects his social and communication skills.
“It was something I looked up on my own. I was afraid that’s what it was. But you always want to hear something different. Maybe it could be more easily treated. And I’m just being too worrisome,” Krystal said.
Some of the specialists recommended Krystal explore Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for her son, a science-based approach to treating autism.
ABA is an intensive, often one-on-one treatment method that is beneficial for individuals with autism.
Michael, now 17, works with his tutor, Sonia Thomas every day after school, for up to six hours at a time.
Krystal Ketner describes the ABA methodology as breaking down tasks into simple, systematic steps.
“We’ve taught him how to use utensils, how to drink out of a cup, how to sit at the table, how to respond to him name: very, very basic things,” Ketner said.
Charla Hutchinson is assistant director of A Bridge to Learning in Lexington and oversees dozens of children’s progress in using ABA in North Carolina.
“I don`t set out to cure autism, that`s not my purpose,” Hutchinson said. “The research is very clear: It doesn`t promote a cure, it does promote effectiveness.”
Sara and Damian Eastwell got their son, William, involved in ABA as a toddler. Now 10, the couple has seen tremendous growth, especially in William’s ability to connect.
“There was a point where he didn`t even know if we were in the room or not. He was shut off from us,” Eastwell said, describing his son before he started ABA. “We`ve been allowed to connect with our own son, which is the most important thing.”
There is no cure for autism. Both families say they’ll continue using ABA as a treatment as long as it keeps working.
“No matter whether the progress is slow or it comes very quickly, we rejoice in all of the progress that he’s able to make,” Ketner said of Michael.