When Kim and Jay Brant of Indianapolis went for their 30-week ultrasound, the doctor delivered devastating news. Their son, Bowen, had massive tumors in his heart — a hallmark sign he would be born with the rare genetic disease tuberous sclerosis, which causes benign tumors to grow on vital organs.
Once born, the tumors growing in Bowen’s brain caused the most trouble, sparking epilepsy around age 1. Over the next two years, Bowen underwent five brain surgeries to stop the seizures. “It’s taken a huge toll on his development,” Kim says. “After we got the seizures under control, we knew we needed to pursue a new way for him to learn.”
Doctors diagnosed Bowen, who turned 3 in March, with autism. His parents decided he needed more than his present six hours per week of speech, physical and occupational therapy. “I’m not saying they didn’t have an effect, but they weren’t helping him to progress to a level we knew he was capable,” Jay says.
Kim and Jay researched various therapy options, talked to their medical team and toured many facilities. Eventually, Kim stumbled across Access on 86th Street in Indianapolis. They enrolled Bowen in full-time therapy at Access in October 2015 — just one month after his last brain surgery — and are thrilled with Bowen’s remarkable progress. “Access has turned a dark situation into one of promise.”
Access President Alysia Fuhrmann, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, oversees Bowen’s care and worked with other Access therapists to develop a treatment plan. The clinic specializes in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a widely recognized and effective treatment for autism and other diagnoses.
What were Bowen’s primary challenges?
KIM: He wasn’t talking, not communicating very well, his motor skills weren’t that great — he was just behind on about everything.
ALYSIA: Bowen had very limited communication skills. He knew some sign language but didn’t use the signs functionally. He engaged in a lot of repetitive behaviors, like opening and closing doors, and had some minor aggression when denied something or couldn’t communicate his needs.
What are some goals you’ve set for Bowen?
ALYSIA: We immediately gave his some more signs to improve his communication. Before he started, his parents heard him say words randomly. We’re trying to capture that and build upon his language. We’re working on vocal language, so he turns when we say his name, repeats sounds we make, and follows commands. He’s making progress very quickly.
KIM: Before, he wasn’t very vocal. In the last few weeks, he’s started mimicking sounds, which is a great first step. They helped him pick up some more sign language, so he doesn’t get so frustrated.
Why did you choose Access Behavior Analysis?
KIM: We’ve always known ABA therapy was an option, but we didn’t know much about the programs available in Indy, or any details on how it would work. When researching ABA places in the area, we found Access Behavior Analysis through a Facebook group for local moms who have children with special needs. We had gone on a few tours of other facilities, but when we left Access, we both were very confident this was the best place for our family. They would help Bowen meet his potential. Meeting Alysia and touring Access Behavior Analysis provided us with hope, and I could tell they were passionate about what they do.
JAY: It just felt right. That’s a huge understatement — we felt a massive sense of relief. For us, the other places didn’t feel personal or comfortable. We feel really good leaving our son, who’s never been out of our watch, to spend the day with this group of wonderful people.
What does full-time therapy entail?
KIM: He goes to the Access Behavior Analysis therapy clinic five days per week. Access Behavior Analysis doesn’t ask you to fit into their schedule; they fit into your schedule. Bowen is at the clinic because socialization is a huge part of his program. Eventually, we’ll have therapy sessions in our own house. Right now, he works with two main therapists and a speech-language pathologist/behavior analyst on staff at Access Behavior Analysis, who all work with Alysia to create and revise his treatment plan and goals.
ALYSIA: We do whatever is best for the child. We provide some support in schools, while some children learn better in the clinic. Our goal is to help the family reach their goals, whether it be attending church without issue or take your child with special needs for an enjoyable day at the museum. We can teach the child in any environment and cater to each family’s needs. Individualized, one-on-one treatment is what sets us apart.
JAY: They offer to work with our extended family, babysitters, anyone who cares for Bowen — they address the whole family.
ALYSIA: The more peer involvement, the better off the child will be long-term. We don’t want the child to regress when they stop our program. We want to give parents and caretakers the skills to move forward. For Bowen, it’s important to increase his leisure activities so he’s not focused on things like opening and shutting the door. He didn’t have the skills to play with toys, so he works with peers like my own 3-year-old son to learn.
How has Bowen responded to treatment?
KIM: Bowen made a new sound today when I asked him if he wanted to go to school, making the “s” sound. They throw him a party at Access every time he accomplishes something. He goes straight in after giving me a big hug and says a quick bye. He truly loves it there.
JAY: We have to understand it’s a process and it’s not all going to happen overnight. Access Behavior Analysis gives us reports on Bowen’s progress every day, and they get so excited about the little achievements. That helps give us perspective.
ALYSIA: Each child is different, but Bowen loves praise and tickles. Some like bubbles, while others get their favorite food. Positive reinforcement is our biggest tool. In ABA, that’s how we teach.
While Bowen still attends horseback therapy and continues sessions with his First Step therapist, his parents say his time at Access Behavior Analysis has been the most beneficial, despite initial doubts the Access therapists could achieve the six-month goals they set when they created Bowen’s plan. “We looked at the timeline and I kind of laughed,” Kim says. “I told them I’d throw them a party if they achieved those goals. I guess I better get planning!”
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