Sesame Street recently announced a new Muppet character, Julia, a 4-year-old with autism, as part of its See Amazing in all Children initiative. Julia makes her appearance on the classic children’s television show on April 10, portraying common behaviors of children with autism and navigating the world with her friends as they seek to find commonalities.
Julia’s introduction to Sesame Street, and advocacy events like the Walk for Autism at Hampton Park in Charleston on April 22, help shine a light on autism. Early diagnosis, coupled with early intervention, can significantly improve children’s development and help them reach their full potential.
One in 68 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of Americans with autism is estimated at more than 3.5 million. What does that mean for South Carolina? According to the latest U.S. Census report, there are approximately one million children in South Carolina under the age of 18, meaning autism may affect as many as 16,000 families throughout the state.
The number of children diagnosed with autism continues to increase each year, impacting more families nationwide and in communities like Charleston. April is national Autism Awareness Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness about early diagnosis and intervention, and the need for inclusion and appreciation of people with autism who play important roles in our lives and communities. April is also Month of the Military Child, and Early Autism Project (EAP) is providing autism therapy services to military families in their homes near Joint Base Charleston.
As a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA), I specialize in providing life-changing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to help Charleston children and young adults with autism spectrum and related disorders reach their full potential. ABA therapy is endorsed by both the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatrics as the treatment of choice for autism.
ABA therapy fosters basic skills such as looking, listening and imitating as well as complex skills such as reading, conversing and understanding another person’s perspective. It also helps reduce behaviors that make it difficult for students to learn. The teaching technique used in ABA therapy involves breaking down a desired behavior into smaller, teachable parts and providing a child with positive reinforcement when he or she engages in the desired, appropriate behavior. Various studies indicate the earlier a child receives ABA therapy, the more gains he or she can make.
The Early Autism Project provides children between the ages of 20 months and 21 years with intensive, research-based behavioral treatment for autism spectrum and related disorders in homes, clinics and schools. For more than a decade, the organization has provided customized ABA therapy programs to teach language, social, self-help, academic, daily living and life skills to children with autism. Treatment plans are developed and monitored under the direction of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or a BCaBA.
In May, South Carolina celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the passage of Ryan’s Law, which requires insurance to cover treatments for autism. The law provides access to ABA therapy to families who might not have been able to previously afford it. Many insurance providers, government payers such as Medicaid and TRICARE for active duty and retired military personnel, and certain companies pay for all or some ABA therapy for children with autism.
For more information, call Early Autism Project at (843) 352-7049 or (888) 227-7212. In addition to serving children in homes, the organization has a clinic located at 1123 Queensborough Blvd., Suite 102 in Mount Pleasant. More information at earlyautismproject.com.
Kelly Talyor is a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) and the Charleston clinic director for the Early Autism Project.