Early Intervention Leads to Success

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At just 4 years old, twins Marwah and Safa are showing remarkable progress in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. They were referred to MOKA through network180 after testing confirmed their autism diagnosis.

Their mother, Khadija, suspected they had autism early on. “I noticed they were delayed in speech and did not like certain sounds,” says Khadija. It was then that she reached out to their doctor for testing, which led her to enroll the 2-year-old twins in MOKA’s Youth Autism Program.

Upon entering the program in 2019, Marwah and Safa began high-intensity early intervention sessions. Early intervention not only gives children the best start possible but also maximizes the positive impact on the mental, emotional, and physical development and skills of the child. Each twin’s session is guided by an individualized Behavior Analysis Plan that takes into account their goals and needs.

Marwah and Safa have made notable strides during their time with MOKA. Previously, they lacked functional communication skills including the use of words. Now, the twins are using a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) to communicate their wants and needs.

In order to use PECS, each twin looks through a book and picks out a photo that shows what they want or needs. Then they exchange the photo with the Behavior Technician to get what they want. The pictures change as Marwah’s and Safa’s interest grows.

“Being able to indicate those things at home is critical in telling their parents what they want,” says Miranda Workman, Youth Autism Program Supervisor, and Board-Certified Behavior Analyst. The twins have also begun to say “hi mom” and “hi dad,” words that Khadija notes show the significant progress they have made.

In addition to increased verbal skills, the twins have made impressive progress with imitation, matching, and play skills. Gaining these skills has helped Marwah’s and Safa’s personalities to emerge.

“Marwah is more assertive. She shows a lot of interest in physically engaging with others,” Miranda says. “Safa is more laid-back. She likes to sit down and play with toys or watch her sister.” Both twins are also very sensory-oriented. They like hugs, tickles, being spun around, and swinging.

They each very quickly grasped the skill of imitation. “Imitation is foundational because we imitate in our everyday life; it is a hard skill to teach and they learned it quickly,” says Miranda.

Knowing that her sister loves ice chips, Marwah learned through observation that she can get ice chips from the freezer for her sister. The twins also enjoy brushing their doll’s hair, feeding it, and patting its back, much like their mom does at home with their younger sibling.

“It is very rewarding to see Marwah and Safa learn skills they once didn’t have,” Miranda says. “Knowing how important these skills are to them, that you are teaching them foundational skills they will use every day is really big. Having a child enter the program that doesn’t communicate at all to being able to tell me what they want throughout the day is a huge part of why I do my job.”

Story by Hannah McLouth. Photo by Lara Parent.