Children's Health Specialties

Children with Down syndrome can benefit from Applied Behavior Analysis

Toni Miller of Detroit is a staunch believer in the benefits of Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA. She’ll tell you it’s not just for kids with autism, but those with other special needs too. Her 4-year-old son Christian is proof.

After her friend’s child with autism benefitted from ABA, Toni Miller wondered,“Could it help my son Christian too?” The Beaumont Children’s HospitalCenter for Human Development assured her that ABA can help lots of children and their families, including her son who has Down syndrome.

 Program graduate Christian Miller puts handprint on the wall.

Explains Toni,“To finally see your child with special needs be able to do what a typical child does, that’s so rewarding.”

Before the program, Christian was uncommunicative. After the first week, he was beginning to speak.

Jamie McGillivary, clinical manager,GIFT of Hope Program says,“ABA works for anybody, but it is quite labor and time intensive. Parents play a key role in the success of our program.”

The 12-week program meets for three hours a day, five days a week. When completed, it totals 180 hours, plus homework.

The GIFT program is held at Beaumont’s HOPE Center in Berkley. There, behavioral specialists work with parents using principles of ABA to teach their children to communicate, play appropriately and interact. Reinforcing desired behavior is a hallmark of ABA.

“Parent training is at the heart of this program,” explains McGillivary.“As the parents become more proficient with their learning abilities, the kids make more gains.”

Going into the program, little Christian had temper tantrums which included head-banging. He did not communicate or interact with others, including his sister. He wouldn’t sit down at the table.

McGillivary spent a great deal of time with Toni and Christian.“He’s come a long way,” she says.“When he began, he was strong-willed, his verbal skills were very limited and he cried quite a bit. Now he’s sweet, compliant and attempts to articulate sounds and uses sign language. His world is dramatically different than last year.”

Toni has seen a remarkable improvement in his behavior and attitude too. He now interacts and plays with his sister. He enjoys learning new things. In addition, his fine motor skills have improved.

“All the gains that little Christian made are secondary to the gains his mother is making. After the completion of each 12-week session, the learning continues in the home,” says McGillivary.

The HOPE Center offers a two-day seminar,“The ABCs of ABA,” at no cost to families. This workshop introduces families to the field of Applied Behavior Analysis and its application to treating children with developmental disorders.

Says Toni,“I can’t say enough good things about the staff. They’re understanding, energetic and supportive. I’m grateful to them for giving me the tools to make a difference in my son’s life.”