Access to Care
Applied behavior analysis center in Wilmington
They may show little interest in socializing with others, struggle with changes in routine, or repeat words or phrases. But specialized treatment can help children with autism spectrum disorder build foundational skills and improve challenging behavior.
That’s according to the Carolina Center for ABA & Autism Treatment, an organization that offers applied behavior analysis treatment for families throughout North Carolina. The center is expanding in Wilmington, offering home-based services while a clinic is built on Racine Drive.
“Opening a new clinic will provide more options for families seeking services that might have been on a waitlist,” says STEPHANIE NEUBAUER, a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) in Wilmington.
Neubauer is working on intake assessments for clients and preparing service materials and parent training modules. The clinic is expected to open in late summer or early fall and will serve children, adolescents, and teens up to age 18.
BCBAs use scientifically backed methods to help clients decrease challenging behaviors and build communication, social, and daily living skills, says GABRIELLA TASSA, a BCBA in Wilmington.
“I’ve had children that are nonverbal, so we work on building their communication skills with other devices – sign language, picture exchange programs,” Tassa says. “We work with decreasing maladaptive behaviors. We work on social skills. We work on life skills, like toilet training, grooming, dressing. We work with a variety of things. It’s individualized to each client.”
Applied behavior analysis is a way to treat clients with neurodevelopment disorders by identifying challenging behaviors, developing interventions, and reviewing changes, according to CCABA’s website. BCBAs work with registered behavior technicians (RBTs) and parents or caregivers to help children.
CCABA works primarily with clients who have autism, as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, language delays, and motor mobility delays, Tassa says.
Treatment is based on referrals, and some clients may need services for six months to three years.
“We provide a lot of intensive services in the beginning, and our hope is to fade out and then transition to that only parent training model, where the parent is implementing what we’ve taught in clinic,” Neubauer says.
But some families may be on waitlists for six months to a couple years, Neubauer says.
That’s why CCABA founder DENISE DECANDIA has been working to expand services and help children thrive.
“There are very few providers in eastern North Carolina able to provide services,” DeCandia says of ABA. “And those that are providing services typically have a very long waitlist.”
Autism affects an estimated one in forty-four children aged eight in the United States, according to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
DeCandia works at CCABA’s operations center in Durham. She started her ABA services in 2006 at a private school in Cary and for military families in the Fayetteville area. Insurance reform in North Carolina allowed her to expand services, and the center opened about a dozen clinics throughout the state.
“That’s always the goal – how do we get the services to the families that need them most and then hold their hand through that process, ensuring they have the highest quality care to allow that child to live an independent life,” DeCandia says.
The Wilmington center will include early intervention services for young learners, a classroom readiness program that prepares children for school settings, and individualized instruction targeting specific behaviors for children based on their communication and social interaction skill needs.
“Our goal isn’t to change the person into another person, our goal is to help them be the best they can be,” Neubauer says. “Everyone is unique, and I love to find clients’ strengths and build on that and use that to help them build other strengths. I’m very passionate about the field.”
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