I've neglected to do an official ACT clinic post so here it is, better late than never!
After Stockton was diagnosed with autism last May, we went to Omaha each week to have sessions with Leslie, the speech therapist that we met during the diagnosing process. We totally clicked with her and she taught me how to teach Stockton and we made some big strides over the summer. We worked with her while we waited to get a call from one of the more time-intensive autism resources - everything has a wait list and it can take months to years for your name to come up. Leslie knew about the ACT clinic (Autism Care for Toddlers) because they are a satellite office of Munroe-Meyer (where she works) and she has consulted with them in the past, and she said that out of all the potential services in Nebraska we should try for that one because she thought it would be a really good fit for Stockton. I think she may have pulled a few strings because we got a call in early September that there was a spot open for Stockton if we wanted to start coming and on Leslie's recommendation I jumped for it immediately.
I took Stockton to the ACT clinic for his first intake appointment and I was nervous. Stockton screamed and cried when I left him in the big playroom so I could go talk to the head of the program. We talked about Stockton's behaviors and personality, my concerns and goals, and he told me more specifically what ACT clinic is like. It was to be 4 mornings a week, 8:30-12:30 (in Omaha, yikes). I would drop Stockton off, he would work with a therapist one-on-one in a room with other children his age with autism who were working on their own goals with other therapists. Informal play was an important facet of the program - they operate on a work/play/work/play rotation so there's a lot of flexibility. Every hour they have circle time where they all come together and sing songs, eat a snack, do a craft or activity, and then at the end they have a lunch that we pack for them. Periodically we meet with the head therapist to go over progress and future goals.
It sounded good to me, and I got good vibes from all the people and the general setting. Stockton cried a little bit each morning for three days, but got acclimated quickly and started running into the room excitedly to play. I became more comfortable with the setup and started to get to know the therapists and had faith that this was going to be good for us.
You guys. I can't even BEGIN to describe our past seven months at ACT. It is hard to put into words how wonderful it has been. These adults, mostly students at UNMC studying to make this their life's work, care deeply about Stockton and the other children there. They are proud of them, excited to share their progress, and passionately committed to helping these children grow and learn. They celebrate the individuality of each child and each family and are flexible but firm when it counts. Stockton has positively BLOSSOMED under their care. He is crushing the goals they set for him much faster than anyone expected, and his retention is 100% which is incredible. Periodically they go back and test things he learned months ago and he remembers it all. He learned his ABCs (he can identify all the letters), went from labeling only 5 things in a book when he started (car, ball, dog, cat, banana) to being able to label everything, and is working on drawing zigzag lines. His goal in September was to use one word phrases...now he speaks in full sentences. He can ask for anything he wants, identify people around him, and often narrates what is going on in real time ("Natalie go to school. Jack read a book.") He loves sharing his excitement with us, and he is potty trained.
He works with different therapists every day and loves them all. Alex, Claire, Logan, Libby ("Liffy"), Marissa ("Rissa"), and more. They all love him and it means so much to us. They don't want to change these kids and make them "less autistic;" they want to bring out what's lovely about them and encourage their personalities and knowledge to grow and develop in their own ways. They don't "treat" autism, they teach children, and it is an absolutely amazing program. Here's their website: ACT Clinic
This week I got this picture from one of the therapists:
THEY BROUGHT A THERAPY CAMEL TO ACT CLINIC. Yes, there is such a thing as a therapy camel, apparently! Stockton wasn't too interested but Jack liked him. Stockton is with "Liffy" in the picture, by the way. Also, this camel only travels on Wednesdays since it's Hump Day hahaha.
Thank you THANK YOU, ACT clinic. You are changing our lives!