No, not ABBA, the beloved Swedish(?) band who charmed us all with hits like "Dancing Queen" and "Fernando." I loved ABBA in high school. I admit I still listen to them sometimes. The picture below was taken on a cruise that we went on with Janelle and Michael two years ago. Janelle and I are striking a classic ABBA pose. I made her do it.
So what does ABA have to do with the band ABBA? Nothing, I just felt like writing about ABBA. ABA is Applied Behavior Analysis. It is the type of therapy Franny is getting at school. I've had lots of friends and family members ask me what it is, so I thought I'd blog a little about our experience with Franny and include some links for those who might be interested in learning a little more about it.
ABA is the most widely accepted treatment for autism. We have been SO pleased at what it has been able to pull out of our daughter. She started receiving this therapy in our home at age 2 1/2. At that time, she had about 15-20 words and very intense negative behaviors. I had given up trying to run errands with Franny, and we were basically just staying inside. If we did dare to go out, we knew we could pretty much count on her making a very big scene (screaming, kicking, scratching, etc.). Within a few weeks of starting her ABA program, Franny's behaviors had gone way down, and she learned how to count to 10. She also acquired quite a few words very quickly. Since then we continued to see improvements. And now we see progress daily; a lot of them are gradual and very small- for example, yesterday when she would say "bus" when she saw a big yellow bus headed towards the school. Yesterday, orange juice was simply called "juice." Today when I picked her up from school, she said "school bus" about 5 times, and when we got home she said, "I want orange juice." It is great to hear her putting words together on her own. With the home program, she had a wonderful team of implementors, mostly Truman students, working with her for 20 hours a week under the direction of a talented and very knowledgable consultant from MU named Melinda. On Franny's first birthday she started school at the Early Childhood Program through the school district here in town. She now attends school from 8-3 everyday and has someone who works with her 1:1 all day. Melinda is still over Franny's case and helped with the transition into school. I trust her completely and I am so glad to have her. Also, Franny just LOVES one of her paras named Chrissy. She is so good with Franny. We love her school and the people who work with her so much that we are not willing to leave Kirksville and pull her away just yet. So Bobby will be doing his rotations here and then we may move to St. Louis in a year. We feel so blessed to be in this area where Franny is getting so much attention and intervention. It astounds me that we were led to this sort of random town for medical school. Please don't misunderstand me- we love it here, even aside from Franny's school. I know that Heavenly Father led this family here not only for Bobby's education, but for Franny's as well. We are so blessed to be here.
Here's an example of Franny's ABA therapy. She is working with Chrissy here in the video. Chrissy says: "I love that she'll work for a crumb." I wanted to explain that Franny works for a small piece of cookie as a reinforcer to perform the tasks the para requires of her. I told the school I was worried about sugar intake so they are REALLY GREAT about limiting the amount of sweets she's getting. This program is called "Imitating Actions" and Chrissy is asking Franny to pick up the pitcher, pretend to pour its contents into a cup and then pretend to drink it. When Franny completes the task, she gets a bite of cookie and applause from everyone in the room. This footage was taken at our monthly consult when Melinda comes to watch Franny and help monitor her progress.
Here's some video of Franny walking into school this morning. It's probably really boring footage for anyone other than me, but I just think she looks so cute and small walking into school with her backpack.