From the moment you find out you’re going to be a parent or a grandparent, you wish for one thing — a healthy baby. And most of the time, that’s what you get.
But once in a while, your dreams are momentarily sidelined by an unexpected illness, disease or disability. When it comes to autism, the symptoms can be sneaky and hard to identify until your baby is older.
Even for the most optimistic parent, an autism diagnosis is heartbreaking. You have a beautiful, sweet baby diagnosed with a life-long disability. Your heart aches, your brain is frantic …
In honor of Autism Awareness Month, we are introducing you to a local business in the Lake Travis area that works tirelessly to support autistic children and their families, Cultivate Behavioral Health & Education.
Recently, the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE) awarded Cultivate with a 3-Year Accreditation, which means the organization is a top behavioral service provider in the country. And they’re located right here in the Lake Travis area!
What does Cultivate do?
Cultivate provides ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy, serving children with autism and other developmental disabilities. They help children at every age, starting at 2-years-old up to autistic young adults in their 20s.
In addition to providing ABA therapy for autistic children, Cultivate works closely with their families and collaborates with schools to ensure success in every aspect of their lives.
What is ABA therapy?
There’s always been a massive misconception about ABA therapy. Right off the bat, the words “Applied Behavioral Analysis” sound too scientific or rigid or cold, but the approach is thoughtful, warm and caring.
ABA therapy is all about helping autistic children overcome behaviors that can limit their success. Things that are easy for most of us are not as easy for a child with autism.
ABA therapy helps them learn appropriate social interactions, so they can communicate and engage with the world around them. Plus, it teaches them self-help skills they need to be as self-sufficient as possible.
Behavior applies to everything
If you think about children and behavior, it’s not just about what we tend to say a million times a day as parents, “sit still, be quiet, put that down, keep your hands to yourself, stop kicking your brother …”
In ABA therapy, the word “behavior” doesn’t carry a negative connotation. It’s not thought of in terms of good or bad. It’s more like behaviors are building blocks.
So how can you teach the right behaviors that will ultimately build the brightest future possible for a child with autism?
After all, the behavior is critically important because it’s how we respond to everything in our world — how we behave standing in line at the grocery store, walking down the street, ordering food at a restaurant, meeting new neighbors, or buying a candy bar at a gas station.
Now imagine how difficult your day-to-day life would be if all of this learned behavior didn’t naturally pop into your brain.
What does ABA look like?
Behavioral therapy at Cultivate looks pretty cool. Cultivate has large roomy offices with basketball hoops, games and toys, all designed to be therapeutic.
Children come in for sessions with “Cultivators” — BCBAs (board certified individuals trained to provide and supervise behavior analysis) and RBTs (Registered Behavior Technicians) — and they work towards goals outlined in a custom treatment plan. Cultivate also offers in-home therapy services.
Let’s say an autistic child struggles to communicate with back-and-forth conversations or, in contrast, talks at length, but doesn’t take social cues from others. The BCBA will work with that child in a dynamic, play-based setting to teach new, more appropriate behaviors.
It requires a steadfast commitment to patience and understanding on the part of the BCBA which is another reason the Lake Travis area is lucky to have Cultivate nearby because Cultivate has 10 BCBAs in Austin.
Supporting families strengthens the community
For Cultivate founder and CEO, Rob El Fattal MS, BCBA, his mission is on autism awareness. “The journey for a family with an autistic child is much harder than anyone can imagine,” he says.
“We have a new family we’re working with that moved 4,000 miles away from their friends and family specifically for ABA therapy. They didn’t move to Austin for work or pleasure — they moved here to help their young son who was recently diagnosed with autism,” explained Rob. “That’s what these families do.”
Rob and his staff of Cultivators have a unique vision when it comes to ABA therapy. He explains, “we’re competing against who we were yesterday as we look to become who we’ll be tomorrow. We never settle for mediocrity, and we innovate until we arrive at a solution that works.”
In honor of Autism Awareness Month, like this post on our Facebook page to celebrate all of the professionals in the Lake Travis area who are supporting our autistic children and the families that love them so dearly.