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Your Dollars @ Work: Start Early, Start Strong

The Start Early, Start Strong program from Easter Seals Southeast Wisconsin, funded by an Autism Speaks Family Services Community Grant of just under $25,000, serves to equip parents of children waiting for therapy with knowledge, gives them access to a network of other parents of newly diagnosed children, and introduces them to a single resource for their questions and concerns.

*Note: The application for the 2015 Community Grants cycle opens this Monday, February 23rd!

In Milwaukee County, there are over 100 children that have been recently diagnosed with Autism but will likely wait up to two years before they will receive a waiver from the county that will enable them to receive Autism therapy. Many of these children come from low-income families that do not have commercial insurance or other resources to pay for Autism therapies.

The two years that some young children are required to wait for services comes at a critical time in their development. It is so important that these children get the therapy they need so that they are ready to learn alongside their typically-developing peers in school. 

Parent training is a key piece of Easter Seals Southeast Wisconsin’s in home Applied Behavior Analysis program. The biggest benefit of the Start Early program is that families have access to current, research based information on how to begin teaching their child skills. In addition, parents learn that all behaviors serve a function, making it not only easier for them to manage problem behaviors, but also to understand why they are occurring.

The program includes 20 hours of education/ training sessions for parents plus a one to one parent/child Pivotal Response Training with facilitators following the parent education session, as well as one 1 consultation per month after training for up to 2 years.

Participant Success Story

A mother began Start Early, Start Strong having received an Autism diagnosis only one month prior. Her son, Tommy* was 2 ½ and was only saying a few words. Her main goal for the Start Early program was to learn how to increase Tommy’s communication, and how she should interact with him when he engaged in self-stimulatory behaviors.

She noted that he always liked to spin objects, was particularly interested in doors, and would sometimes repeat similar sounds over and over. During the Start Early program, mom was taught techniques and strategies for increasing communication utilizing principles of Pivotal Response Training (PRT). The Behavior Analyst showed her how to create opportunities for her son to be motivated by communication and how he would best imitate our language.

In addition, she learned to identify and implement redirection techniques for Tommy’s self-stimulatory behaviors, and was offered suggestions as to changing the behaviors to be more appropriate. During this time, there was an increase in Tommy’s language and 3 new words that he had not said prior to the Start Early program. He engaged in more appropriate toy play, and provided staff with eye contact in 13 instances in the last session up from 3 in his first session. His mother expressed huge gratitude for learning more about autism, and how to best facilitate communication with her son. (*Not actual name) 

Download the Parent Training Start Early Resource Guide here! You can also download chapters separately by clicking the links below:

Find more resources from Easter Seals Southeast Wisconsin here!

Your Dollars @ Work is a blog series highlighting the important work of past recipients of Autism Speaks grants to give you a glimpse into how your donations are changing lives of so many in the autism community! Check out previous entries here

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.