Getting an Early Start
A comprehensive autism learning center comes to the Springs.
A child with autism, if diagnosed early and treated, often can start school with others their own age.
It wasn’t that long ago that many people didn’t know what autism was. Now, it’s a common diagnosis in children: one in 59 have some level of autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Four times more boys than girls are diagnosed with the affliction. So is the incidence of it really getting worse, or are professionals just getting better at diagnosing it?
The causes and rates are a matter of controversy, says Rachel Fox, who holds a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis (ABA) and is a board-certified behavior analyst working for InBloom Autism Services, which just opened a learning center in Colorado Springs. “Honestly, I think we’re getting better at diagnosing it, but I also think there’s an increase in incidence.”
Early signs include “a lack of eye contact, a high rate of self-stimulatory behavior, and lack of communication of any kind,” she says. Those signs can present themselves at one year and diagnosis often starts by age two. “If a sibling has signs already, it can be diagnosed earlier.”
Fox says the only proven effective treatment for autism is ABA, the primary treatment offered by InBloom, which has also opened a center in Denver. In simple terms, she explains how ABA works: “We look at behaviors we want to increase, including toileting, handwashing, dressing, social skills, engaging in conversation, academics, and attention, while simultaneously looking at behaviors we want to decrease, such as self-injurious behavior, aggression, running away, and self-stimulation. We try to treat the whole child.”
Autistic children can’t always communicate their feelings or needs, she says. “Some have zero words, and their only form of communication is maladaptive behavior. The spectrum ranges all the way up to savants, who are highly intelligent but lack social interaction,” Fox says.
How long does treatment last, typically? “It can range from six months to five years or longer, depending on the level of impact,” she says.
InBloom, which has centers all around the nation, is housed locally in an 8,000-square-foot space that includes private treatment rooms for one-on-one therapy, a large play space for supervised interaction, and small classrooms for transitioning to a school setting. No matter which environment the child is in, each child still works one-on-one with a therapist who targets the child’s specific needs, Fox says. A child who is diagnosed early and gets treatment often can start school with others his or her own age, she adds.
As InBloom’s clinical integrity officer, Fox works with Joseph Creager, the regional director of operations. Creager, who served as a medic in the military and worked in pediatric home care before coming to InBloom, oversees both Colorado centers. InBloom also partners with local complementary services, such as speech, occupational, and physical therapy providers, Creager says.
Many insurance plans cover the treatment although he notes that the coverage, like most insurance, can be plan-specific. It’s also a Medicaid provider.
“Colorado Springs is a community that we feel connected with. It is also a community that has an overwhelming need for quality ABA services,” Creager says.
“Too many children are falling behind in Colorado Springs. Services are being offered too little, too late. We provide comprehensive ABA services to early learners in order to get them to a place where they can learn from their environment before they start school,” Fox says. “The sooner services are started with children, the more access they have to those services, and the better quality of services that they receive can all contribute to changing a child’s life.”
InBloom Autism Services
1079 Space Center Drive / 888.754.0398 / inbloomautism.com