Eric’s Journey into autism
In 2004, Eric began working with children with autism at a therapeutic day school and residential treatment center when they first began their autism program. Eric started by working as a classroom and residential counselor for children and adolescents with emotional and behavior disorders. Then, when the autism program opened, Eric was asked to provide Therapeutic Crisis Intervention to help keep the kids and staff safe. He was also charged with the task of helping two very scared children with autism become acclimated to their new school in a new state where everything was unfamiliar to them. During the first day, Eric observed behaviors he had never seen before, from heart breaking self-injurious behaviors to highly aggressive tantrums that lasted hours. That night as Eric tried to fall asleep, the image of that 10 year old girl banging her head into the classroom’s hard wood door replayed like a movie reel. It was then that Eric dove into autism, later discovering that what came to him naturally when working with these kids was actually supported by his later research into various intervention models.
It was also during this time that Eric worked as an ABA therapist for a number of families as part of already established ABA teams. Eric received training in Lovaas Discreet Trial Teaching from the program consultants and by a consultant from the Lovaas Institute.
Eric began to bring ABA strategies into the DIR/Floortime oriented residential setting and Floortime into the home-based ABA programs. Eric saw that blending these two models along with other teaching strategies offered far greater possibilities to help kids with a diverse range of needs.
Two years later, Eric was accepted to the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago and earned a Masters degree in School Social Work. Eric interned at both primary and secondary schools providing individual and group social work services primarily to children receiving special education services. At the high school level, Eric’s facilitated several group for children with autism, asperger’s, ADD/ADHD and non-verbal learning disabilities. Eric also provided individual and group services to at-risk teens.
At the primary school, Eric had the opportunity to work closely with the school social worker who was working on her Doctoral Dissertation focusing on using music to achieve joint attention for children with autism.
Eric’s clinical research thesis focused on teaching self-awareness and self-determination to children with disabilities. This continues to be a pillar of Eric’s clinical practice.
Continuing the Journey
After graduate school, Eric returned to residential treatment and was hired to be Clinical Program Manager for one of the agency’s group homes. Eric created, implemented and oversaw clinical programming for 10 boys ranging in age from 10-23. He also designed and built a state of the art multi-sensory room inside the group home. In addition to providing direct care staff with innovative and meaningful training on Floortime, Sensory Integration and teaching daily living skills, Eric also taught CPI (Crisis Prevention Institute) classes as a Certified Instructor.
Seeking to focus on clinical interventions, Eric spent the next year as a Consultant and ABA/Behavioral Therapist in a private ABA clinic providing children, families, schools and camps treatment, coaching and consultation. Eric provided ABA therapy and consultation as a team leader and team member. He worked with clients as young as 18 months providing intensive Early Intervention and as old as 12 helping to improve social cognition. Eric’s work within this interdisciplinary team of Behavior Analysts and Educational Specialists helped Eric evolve his clinical practice into what he is calling Eclectic Behavioral Therapy.
Over the course of the year Eric refined his clinical skills implementing effective interventions in the school of Applied Behavior Analysis and Verbal Behavior. As he honed his skills and advanced his knowledge of ABA/VB, he began reintegrating other approaches including DIR, CBT and Music-based Therapy.
In the world of Early Intervention, involving and teaching parents how to be therapists, or at least provide therapeutic environments for their children, is considered a crucial step in improving outcomes for their child(ren). As Eric involved parents in the ABA based parent coaching called, Pivotal Response Training, it became clear that helping parents implement these strategies requires more then modeling, teaching and coaching. Eric found that when he provided parents with brief psychotherapeutic interventions and cognitive behavioral strategies to focus on their thoughts and behaviors, parents were then more available, responsive and successful in applying behavioral strategies at home.
The Road Ahead
At the end of November 2009 Eric began charting a new course best described in his mission: “To provide individuals, families and communities living with autism, asperger’s, add/adhd, learning disabilities, cognitive disabilities or other developmental disabilities opportunities to learn, grow, heal and experience life to their fullest potential.”