Comprehensive Early Autism Services (CEAS) offers home-based behavior therapy designed to help families impacted by autism. The therapists serve children ages 2-12 and aim to help them thrive within their family and among their peers using Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA therapy.
ABA, which has been used to treat those with autism since the 1960s, is a way of reinforcing positive behavior to create meaningful changes. By examining how a child interacts with their environment, therapists can help them learn things that were once limited by their autism.
“We are basically teaching our clients any number of behaviors that they need to learn to function in their home or the community. This can include bathing, using the restroom, playing together or cooperating,” says Jenny Llorca, clinical director at CEAS. “We work on academic skills too. We can break down the skills they need for math and reading, almost like a tutor, as well,”
ABA therapy is the only scientific research-based therapy available, she says. In 2013, Michigan representatives passed legislation requiring ABA services to be covered, in some part, by medical insurance including Medicaid.
“It is shown that 20 to 40 hours of therapy helps children with autism to make gains to succeed. We work really well alongside other therapists such as speech, occupational and physical therapy,” Llorca says, adding that most of CEAS’ therapists work with each client about 25 hours per week.. “With the mandate that insurance covers ABA therapy, parents don’t have the financial burden of paying for it out of pocket like it used to be.”
Once a child has an autism diagnosis, doctors will often provide referrals for ABA therapists. The recommendation can also come from speech therapists, teachers or others who feel a child could benefit from the personalized services. Llorca says the therapists from CEAS meet with parents and talk about the approach they would use and how their child can benefit from the services.
The therapists spend several weeks just getting to know the child, Llorca says. They get to know their favorite games, activities and even favorite snacks.
“Once we have developed a trusting and positive relationship with them, we can begin to teach skills slowly, mixing in plenty of opportunities to be rewarded for things that are easy for them or skills they already have. We don’t want everything to be challenging for them,” Llorca says.
Therapists start off very hands-on, she says, then they slowly fade into the background and reduce services so the child can thrive on their own.
“We come to the clients’ homes. We present parent training and work with the child in their home or out in the community,” Llorca says. Therapists have even worked with clients in environments such as social groups, like Cub Scouts. “We grow with the child and go with the child. We want to get the children further out into their natural environment so they can progress academically and socially with their peers.”
While completing her Masters degree at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Llorca began working at CEAS in Illinois and has been with the company ever since. She says she saw the strides her first client made using ABA therapy and was hooked on helping more families. CEAS expanded into Michigan five years ago, when the insurance mandate went into effect. CEAS serves families in the metro Detroit area, but also across Michigan in Lansing and Grand Rapids, as well.
“At CEAS, the behavior therapists are supervised and check in regularly so we can ensure that the client is making progress. Our therapists take time to sit with families, talk with them and help them figure out what they really need to help their child thrive. We aim to create a really supportive and caring environment,” Llorca says.
The therapists work with parents, doctors and other therapy providers, along with insurance companies to develop a list of goals. Llorca says the plan gets reevaluated every 6 months to determine what goals have been mastered and make sure the client is progressing. Parents get a weekly update from therapists on their child’s progress, as well.
“We are constantly making sure that we are developing and growing with the staff and kids. Some of the kids we have been with since they were very little. We watch them grow and change and it means so much to us,” Llorca says.
For more information on the services provided by CEAS, visit the Comprehensive Early Autism Services website to set up a consultation.