About the Series “Autism: Life After Diagnosis – A Road to Service”
ShineLight was created with the distinct purpose of providing a brighter life and future for individuals with autism. As you can imagine, life with services can dramatically improve the quality of life for individuals with autism, which is why early intervention is key. My name is Nikki Giovanni Creecy and I am the Founder and CEO of ShineLight. I have created a blog series entitled “Autism: Life After Diagnosis – A Road to Service” to help individuals with autism as they navigate life after diagnosis and to provide autism information for parents near Durham and beyond.
If you have not yet read the introduction to “Autism: Life After Diagnosis – A Road to Service”, I encourage you to do so before proceeding.
This six-part series will cover the following topics:
- Part One: What treatment options are available to your loved one with autism?
- Part Two: How do you qualify for supplemental income? Here, we will discuss the process for being declared disabled in the state of North Carolina as well as applying for social security.
- Part Three: How to qualify and apply for Medicaid in North Carolina.
- Part Four: The difference between behavioral and medical health care and whether Medicaid will cover the services for your loved one.
- Part Five: What are Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) services?
- Part Six: What is an Innovations Waiver is, why it is necessary, and how to apply for these services. We will also explore the importance of applying ASAP after the diagnosis due to the high demand and long waitlist associated with services.
A Little Bit About Me | Nikki Giovanni Creecy
I am a local, born and raised in Fayetteville, NC, and I have more than two decades of experience in serving individuals with autism. In 2006, after eight years of working with the Autism Society of North Carolina, my vision and leadership led me to create ShineLight, Services and Support for People with Autism. As Founder and CEO of ShineLight, I am committed to hiring and employing cutting-edge methodologies and uniquely qualified staff to provide the very best residential, community, and employment support for individuals with autism. When I’m not involved in my work, I can be found singing in my church choir, teaching Sunday school, and making music as Nikki Giovanni Worship.
Part One: What Treatment Options are Available to Your Loved One with Autism?
While there is not a proven-treatment method shown to cure autism, there have been several interventions developed to help individuals with ASD lead healthy and fulfilling lives. These interventions may help reduce autism symptoms, improve cognitive ability and daily living skills, and maximize the ability of your loved one to function and participate in their community. There are several behavior and communication approaches that help people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by providing structure, direction, and organization.
Services Behavior and Communication Approaches
ABA therapy is likely one of the first interventions you will encounter as you search for autism information for parents near Durham and the surrounding areas.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) – ABA encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative behaviors to improve a variety of skills. In ABA, the person’s progress is tracked and a measured approach is taken in order to assess progress.
There are several different types of ABA therapy, including:
- Discrete Trial Training (DTT) – A style of teaching that uses a series of trials to teach each step of a desired behavior or response. Lessons are broken down into their simplest parts, and positive reinforcement is used to reward correct answers and behaviors. In discrete trial training, incorrect answers are ignored.
- Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) – This is a type of ABA for very young children with ASD, usually younger than five and often younger than three. EIBI uses a highly structured teaching approach to build positive behaviors (such as social communication) and reduce unwanted behaviors (such as tantrums, aggression, and self-injury). EIBI takes place in a one-on-one adult-to-child environment under the supervision of a trained professional.
- Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) – This is a type of ABA for children with ASD between the ages of 12-48 months. Through ESDM, parents and therapists use play and joint activities to help children advance their social, language, and cognitive skills.
- Pivotal Response Training (PRT) – PRT aims to increase a child’s motivation to learn, monitor their own behavior, and initiate communication with others.
- Verbal Behavior Intervention (VBI) – VBI is a type of ABA that primarily focuses on teaching verbal communication skills to individuals with autism.
More Treatment Options and Autism Information for Parents Near Durham and Beyond
Assistive technology, including devices such as communication boards and electronic tablets, can help people with ASD communicate and interact with others.
An example of assistive technology, the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) uses picture symbols to teach communication skills. The person is taught to use picture symbols to ask and answer questions and to engage in conversation.
Other individuals may use a tablet as a speech-generating or communication device.
Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-Based Approach (also called “Floortime”)
Floortime focuses on emotional and relational development (feelings and relationships with caregivers). It also focuses on how individuals with ASD deal with sights, sounds, and smells.
Occupational therapy teaches skills that help people with ASD live as independently as possible. Skills may include dressing, eating, bathing, and learning how to relate to others.
Social Skills Training
Social skills training teaches people with autism the skills they need to interact with others, including conversation and problem-solving skills.
Speech therapy helps to improve verbal communication skills and provides a way for people with autism to express themselves. Gestures and picture boards are used for those that may have difficulty using speech as a means for communicating.
Dietary treatments have been developed to address Autism symptoms. When searching for autism information for parents near Durham and beyond, there is some anecdotal evidence to support the use of a limited diet to help reduce the symptoms of autism. Such changes can include removing certain foods from a person’s diet and using vitamin or mineral supplements.
Dietary treatments are based on the idea that food allergies or lack of vitamins and minerals cause symptoms of ASD. Some parents feel that dietary changes make a difference in how their child acts or feels.
If you are thinking about changing your child’s diet, it is important to first consult with a doctor or registered dietitian in order to be sure your child’s diet includes the necessary vitamins and minerals for their growth and development.
A 2017 systematic review of 19 randomized control trials found little evidence to support the use of dietary treatments for children with ASD.
There are no medications that can cure ASD or treat the core symptoms. However, there are medications that can help some people with autism with behavioral or social functions. For example, medication might help manage high energy levels or quell an inability to focus. Medications can also be used to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and behavioral reactivity.
Medications might not affect all children in the same way. It is important to work with a healthcare professional who has experience in treating children with ASD. Parents and healthcare professionals must closely monitor a child’s progress while on medication to be sure that any negative side effects do not outweigh the benefits of the treatment.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine Treatments
To relieve the symptoms of ASD, some parents and healthcare professionals use treatments that are outside of what is typically recommended by pediatricians. These treatments are known as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments.
CAM treatments refer to products or services that are used in addition to, or instead of, traditional medicine. They might include special diets, dietary supplements, chelation (a treatment to remove heavy metals such as lead from the body), or mind-body medicine. Many of these treatments have not been studied for effectiveness and are purely anecdotal.
ShineLight Provides Autism Information for Parents Near Durham and Beyond
ShineLight was created with the distinct purpose of providing a brighter life and future for individuals with autism. ShineLight serves as a guiding light for individuals and their families by leading the way in residential, employment support services, and community advocacy. Our service areas include: Fayetteville, Wake, Sampson, Scotland, Duplin, Wayne, Lenoir, Greene, Wilson, Edgecombe, Durham, Johnston, Cumberland, Hoke, Robeson, and Bladen Counties. Contact us today.