LIVONIA, Mich. (WJBK) - River is almost 4 years old and spends much of his day at Autism Spectrum Therapies in Livonia.
It may look like playtime, but what you may not realize is the amount of learning that's happening in between the jumps and the rides. They're using a therapy called Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA. The analysis piece of it is recorded on devices.
"It can't just stop at the center or when they leave the house," says River's mother, Jennifer Cohron. "It's all day, every day, all night."
The therapists make house calls. They follow through on what starts there and goes home with families to continue that therapy.
And not just that. The other piece asks the parent to do more than just pick up and drop off the child. It teaches them how to be involved with the therapy at the center and at home. It also asks them to track progress.
"Where their weak spots are, where they may have struggled a little bit," Jennifer said. "And then you can see the progress as they go up and go up."
While this type of therapy is done in Michigan, it's the first place that follows through with the therapy at home or wherever the child goes.
"He has gained a tremendous amount of skills and that would not have been accomplished if we didn't have mom present during the session, observing what we are doing," said Scott McPhee, Autism Spectrum Therapies Michigan.
Tracking it has also been key. Jana Thompkins has a 17-year-old son Nicolas. He wouldn't eat anything except for a few staples. Applied behavior analysis fed a need that changed her son forever, years ago.
"Just imagine a kid who has never eaten his own birthday cake," said Thomkins. "Who wouldn't eat pizza, who wouldn't eat pasta. All those foods that kids love. And then finally seeing him accept new foods."
McPhee says this type of therapy, following kids into their homes, has been amazing to watch.
"We wanted to increase his repertoire of play skills by introducing different toys and teaching them how to play with those various different toys," he said.
"These ladies and gentlemen have help me so much with learning how to teach my child what he needs to know," Thomkins said. "It's been quite a ride."
If you're interested in learning more about ABA therapy, click here.