New Jackson autism center hits close to home for council member

Published: Mar. 11, 2019 at 11:24 PM EDT
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The ribbon is cut on a new center in Jackson that provides therapy to children with autism.

Parents are excited about the added support.

Among them is a community leader who is opening up about her journey parenting an autistic child.

Seamus Carter is seeing new heights in his potential.

The 8-year-old is the son of Jackson City Council Member Colleen Sullivan and the first child in the county to undergo Applied Behavior Analysis, also known as ABA Therapy.

“Social skills, it helped with fine motor, gross motor, it helped with routines,” said Sullivan.

“It helped with transitions. They are just so many areas of life that most people umm aren't even aware that we were able to address through ABA.”

Seamus started off non-verbal and didn't have the ability to express his needs or feelings.

“When we eventually did get communication it was sort of labeling, a lot of mimicking and repetitive speech”, Sullivan explained.

“It wasn't functional, by any means and so through ABA we were really able to get to the point where he can answer questions, he could tell me how he felt, when something hurt, or even just what happened when he was places that I wasn't like school.”

ABA is approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics to be the most effective therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorder.

It increases the ability to communicate, function and socialize through repetitive steps and rewards progress with fun activities like games and sports.

“Applied Behavior Analysis therapy is evidence-based and it's built on positive reinforcement and breaking down complex task into small manageable task that are constantly reinforced”, said Centria Healthcare Chief Strategy and Growth Officer Rick Loewenstein.

Children can now work on their skills in a social and individual settings at the Centria Health Center in Jackson.

Up to 40 percent of children who undergo intensive ABA Therapy can enroll in classes with peers the same age.