Early Intervention Leads to Blossoming Social Skills


Described as fun, outgoing, and a quick learner, Jeremiah has taken great strides since starting with MOKA’s Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy program nearly two years ago.

Early on, Jeremiah’s grandmother, Coretta, noticed that he was not hitting the developmental milestones that a toddler should at a year old. He was not making any sounds, did not respond to verbal cues, and wasn’t interacting with toys. Coretta, a nurse, quickly realized that something was not right and started to do her own research on autism before reaching out to a neurologist for help.

At the age of 2, Jeremiah was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and referred to MOKA through Network180.

“Once MOKA got involved, there was a huge difference,” Coretta says. “What’s impressed me the most is taking this child that was nonverbal and unhappy and seeing a big change where he’s happier and can say words.”

Jeremiah began individualized therapy sessions that are focused on motor imitation skills, listener responding, and echoics. His Youth Autism Specialist Candace Heinlein will say a word and he repeats it back. He also uses a picture exchange communication system (PECS), which allows him to communicate his wants and needs at home and when in session. Through these sessions, his social skills have blossomed.

“He is so sweet and fun to be around,” Candace says. “I look forward to seeing him and the changes that he’s made; he’s starting to get excited when he sees he’s expanding his skills.”

Jeremiah’s progress has been nothing short of a team effort. Candace and a MOKA Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) work with Coretta on parent education and training, a vital part of treatment. The team at MOKA shares what they are working on in-session, so the same consistency can be applied at home and in the community for the ABA therapy to have lasting effects.

Coretta’s advocacy for her grandson’s needs has made a clear difference. She works with Jeremiah’s preschool, daycare, and MOKA to discuss what is being worked on so the skills he is learning in-session are being encouraged in all areas of his life. “It’s just amazing,” Coretta says. “He didn’t interact with toys before and now he picks up right away what to do with them. He is absorbing everything and it carries over into school.”

As his communication skills increase and his personality begins to shine through, Jeremiah continues to flourish into a social, charismatic, and bright child. “He catches on to things extremely quickly and he enjoys learning new things,” Candace says, “his drive will keep pushing him forward.”

“They make sure I am all right and that I get my job done and make sure everything is okay,” Kyren says. “It’s kind of like a stress reliever. It keeps me going about my day.”

Tasha is thrilled Canteen reached out and says they have been a great employment partner. The goal of Supported Employment is to help people get jobs in the community, build positive relationships with co-workers, and above all, be a fulfilled and contributing member of the community. An added bonus is making a nice wage while doing it.

“From the beginning, they were so warm and welcoming,” Tasha says. “And it sounds like they just have a really good company overall. They talked about how they have long-term employees, and that was one of the things that was really attractive to us too.”

Story by Hannah Kater. Photos by Lara Parent.