by Stephanie Vavilala, Ed.D, BCBA, LMHC, RPT-S
It’s Autism Awareness Month, or what we call AWEtism Awareness Month. There are many ideas and concepts about autism that may be completely foreign to anyone not immersed in the autism world. This special month sheds light on all things autism!
We are Awetism Wonderland, an autism center located in St. Augustine, right off of I-95 and International Gold Parkway. Our AWEsome kids come to our center for a variety of needs including our academic program and therapies including ABA (applied behavioral therapy), Anat Banial, physical/speech/occupational and so many more that are essential in helping people living with AWEtism.
What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopment disorder that impacts how someone relates and communicates with the world around them. Because the spectrum of how it affects people is so vast, there isn’t one specific symptom that you can pinpoint that everyone with autism has. Many people with ASD have difficulty with social interactions, have repetitive behaviors (referred to as ‘stimming’), obsessive about things they are interested in, and impulsive behaviors.
At Awetism Wonderland, we embrace the “awe and wonder” of AWEtism by approaching therapies and academics through the concept that people with AWEtism see the world differently through processing what comes into their senses differently. Many traditional AWEtism therapies, applied behavioral or “ABA”, take a corrective or squashing approach in hopes of extinguishing the undesired behavior in order to try to make the child behave like more of a “neurotypical” child. Instead, we fully believe in embracing who the child is and where they are to guide their therapies to helping them achieve success in whatever they’re looking to achieve success in.
Through our approach to ABA therapy, we put a heavy focus on life skills that can be replicated at home, school, or elsewhere so that children on the spectrum can gain more independence. This could look like anything from brushing their teeth or combing their hair to cooking themselves a simple meal.
One of our primary focuses is also on academics. While we are not a school, our academics program was created to support families of children with ASD. It can be very difficult to navigate the public school system, so many parents choose to home school. Unfortunately, many parents find themselves frustrated from not being equipped to teach someone with ASD, much less be a teacher at all. Our academics program caters to each individual students’ pace and differentiated academic needs. We start with a free academic assessment to determine accurate student placement as the foundation of their individualized education and understanding their current academics and learning style.
Academics are addressed in a comprehensive and cohesive manner with all components the clinic has to offer to provide an all around functional approach for the child’s life. Our classes take place in a small group setting with individualized academics, social skills infused within the academic group settings, and in collaboration with all of the other therapeutic providers treating the child so as to support a common plan with shared goals.
If you’re interested in our center, check out our website atawetismwonderland.com. Together, we can help your AWEsome kid to thrive!