Testimonials... Here's what parents, IDEA Part C early childhood interventionists and IDEA Part C program directors are saying about Pathways Parent Training Program!
We are writing this letter to express our appreciation to the creators of the Pathways program. We are really inspired by your dedicated work in bringing children with autism and their families together for a better and brighter future. We have witnessed countless improvements in our child’s development, social skills, and communication. Overall, your program has opened up a door, not only to our son, but also to us, his loving family. Since we started the program in February of this year, we have seen his anxiety levels go down, he points, he smiles, and most of all he communicates in a more efficient way.
Our son’s name is Emmanuel, but we call him Manny. He started the program with a severe speech delay; it was composed of only 5 words: bye, bus, ball, no, and cat. The rest of the time he would babble, but would not form words or even syllables. Now, he babbles much more while making eye contact, he forms syllables, he makes a variety of facial expressions while babbling, and has added about 10 more words to his vocabulary. Now, he imitates sounds and words occasionally. At 29 months, he is able to label some objects such as cars and animals. What we really love is that he is not only using more words, but he uses them in a much more functional way and looks at us enthusiastically while saying words or labeling objects.
Before Pathways, he displayed lack of creative play. He would align trucks or other objects in rows of two or more, and would spend a lot of time observing the lines. He would get really agitated if this pattern would get disrupted in any way. Daily focused practice has taught us to help him play in a functional way. Now, he uses his toys in an appropriate manner. He rolls them around while making rumbling sounds and honking. He shares his interests in toys and movies with us by pointing and smiling, whereas before he would only play by himself for hours. Before pathways, our son would request for food and drinks by pointing but would not look at our faces. He still requests by pointing to his sippy cup or plate, but now, he looks at us when doing so. He connects much more with us while he is eating in his high chair. He smiles, and even wants to feed mommy. He also pretends to feed his plushtoys.
One of the main things we like about Pathways is that it revolves around a child’s natural environment. We love that we can participate in his therapy and learn skills at the same time. Before, we wanted to force words into his mouth, thinking that one day he will pick up the words and use them. Pathways taught us to turn away from being the lead, and instead let our child lead our daily interaction. We took baby steps to allow our son to start trusting us, to interact with us, and most of all, let him be the guide. Focus practice gives Manny the opportunity to communicate with his family in his own favorite way. At the same time, we learned what is reinforcing to our child. Manny loves to be tickled, therefore we find opportunities in which we can reinforce a good behavior by tickling him. The most rewarding fruit we have received from Pathways is when Manny looks and smiles at us. Pathways taught us to help our son make eye contact by getting in Manny’s line of sight first, then finding activities to encouraged eye contact. Before, Manny would request for food, drink, and other needs by crying without even looking at us. Now, he looks at us and points when he wants something.
Overall, we are ecstatic about the Pathways program. So far, we have witnessed a dramatic improvement in every possible way. Pathways has helped our son be closer to us. He requests to play with us. He bonds with his siblings. He points more. He makes eye contact. We notice daily improvements here and there. Every time we sit for focused practice with Manny, we become closer.
We all know that early intervention is best when the child is young, the younger, the better. I strongly recommend to spread the word out even more, to expose your program to different communities and private services. Give us parents and ECI partners, who are dutifully following your program, the means to help you expand awareness of the benefits of the Pathways program.
We really wish you continue your research and contribution to our precious children. Thank you for everything, you are doing a fantastic job!
Best wishes, Eduardo and Anahi
"Before we began services with Renee and Michelle, Griffin was in a dark place, all by himself. He never acknowledged nor cared to play or interact with anyone. He had no words, never pointed, and LOTS of inappropriate behaviors like crashing, stemming, and screaming. When Michelle and Renee started working with Griffin, they began pulling him out of his world and into ours! They taught us how to connect with Griffin. Now Griffin has joined our family and we can't keep him quiet! Like a typical 4 year old, Griffin is now asking questions, playing with others, and will even ask for help when he needs it. He knows how to express his emotions verbally without all the behaviors. He gladly gives lots of hugs and kisses, and says those long sought after words...'I love you Mama!' There is no doubt that Pathways changed the quality of life for Griffin and our family! Words can't express our appreciation for Pathways and we will be forever grateful for their dedication to Griffin!" ~ Griffin's Mom
"Pathways has been an absolute life-changing experience for our son and our family as a whole. It has actually become a way of life for us. Before starting this program, it seemed that we were headed in a downward spiral with our son with regard to his behavior and development. We noticed a positive difference in him within days of beginning this program, and his improvement has only progressed. We look forward every week to our next step in the program. Words cannot express our appreciation for being able to participate and benefit from such a wonderful program. We will forever be grateful!" ~ Garrett's Mom
"ECI screened my son for Autism and I started looking for services. There were many choices and forms of therapy to choose from, but I didn't want my son treated like a robot and bribed to learn how to do basic functions in his life. My husband and I thought long and hard about what our son's next step would be. I researched many interventions but most of them were clinics or offices where you take your child and he receives therapy with you sitting in the waiting room. When I found out about Pathways (and they come to your home) I was intrigued and decided to make an appointment with them. It was the best thing I ever did for my son and our family. It is not even a year and my son is a totally different kiddo. He is on a path to having a normal life with all of the strategies and interventions that Pathways has shown our family. My son has become a social butterfly and my family and I are confident that he is going to be just fine! If you have any doubts about what is the best for your child who has Autism, please give Pathways a chance. It will be the best thing you can do for your child and your family." ~ Luca's Mom
"Pathways has equipped our family with a research-based and practical behavioral plan specific to our son. Always seeking positive outcomes and building on our successes week by week. Renee and Michelle's decades of experience have enabled them to implement techniques that have resulted in dramatic improvements for us in the areas of obsessive/repetitive behaviors, communication, social skills, sensory needs, toilet training, feeding, self-care and more. My questions and concerns are always readily addressed as his needs and/or behaviors change. We now understand how to reinforce positive behaviors and minimize those that are less than desirable." ~ Kristi
Case's doctor suspected he may have autism at his 18 month checkup. She gave us absolutely no hope, direction or options. We were heartbroken, angry and scared to death, until we found Pathways!
We cannot express our gratitude to Michelle and Pathways! She has guided and instructed us on what to do to best help him. He has been completely transformed from being unaware that we are even in the same room, to actually interacting with us and understanding what we say. He is a much happier kid, and because of that, we can't thank her enough! We look forward to watching him continue to learn and grow!
There is no doubt in our minds that Case was given to us for a reason! Now it's our job to help him figure that out and we will do whatever it takes! We love our little guy with all our hearts and cannot imagine life without him!"
A Memoir of Autism
A testimony to silence. The pages are filled with words unspoken yet remain blank at things said. Ignorance proof reads the truth of our reality while social stigmas edit the activities of our daily life. The hard-back binding of our story is as rigid as our routines and fortified with the strength of our conviction to be heard. This is our memoir of Autism.
The complications that Forrest suffered in utero and at birth means he is subject to an array of obstacles whose specifics remained unclear and unpredictable. In the first year, we weren’t faced with too much that couldn’t be reasoned out with “baby logic”, or that didn’t fall within the realms of what we perceived to be normal issues or that raised alarm in his pediatrician. He was happy, healthy and we had nothing but time. Then everything changed. He wasn't the same happy, energetic son we had always known. He was in a constant state of anxiety. He whined continuously and roamed aimlessly around the house as if he losing a game of hide-n-seek with his peace. Mealtimes became exponentially more difficult and caused him to lose a significant amount of weight, further threatening his health. He had developed extreme aversions to certain things, displayed an incredible need for routine and sameness, started suffering from separation anxiety, but above all, he wasn’t talking. Not even babbling. If he wasn’t giving voice to his anxiety with inconsolable screaming and crying, he was silent. To this very day, the only way I get to hear my son call me “mom” is through his broken cries searching for comfort. Every milestone Forrest missed became the standard unit that Hannah and I would measure ourselves against as parents, a quickly deteriorating confidence that was rejuvenated with the referral to Early Childhood Intervention. Our referral to ECI was bittersweet. Hannah and I were torn between being grateful for such a promising resource and heartbroken at our need for such services. We were devastated that the adversity that Forrest faced constituted this magnitude of help and were ashamed as parents for not already being what he needed. Hannah and I navigated the emotional landmines of our internal conflict with Forrest’s progress as our only heading. I remember the day I received the call regarding our referral. It was late afternoon and we had just gotten home from grocery shopping when my phone rang. In the midst of the chaos of having just arrived to the house with an armful of groceries and a grumpy Forrest, I became frantic at learning that the nature of the call was to schedule an evaluation with ECI. I immediately lost any concept of a calendar. I fumbled over my words thinking out loud; trying to formulate an answer. The unfamiliar voice belonging to the unknown number explained that an Early Intervention Specialist (EIS) and a Speech Therapist (SLP) would come to our home to discuss Forrest’s development while observing him in his natural environment and that this initial visit normally lasted about 2 hours. It was with that information that i was able to pinpoint a date and time and with no further questions the call was over.
January 8, 2016, the day of our appointment had arrived and even though a general idea of what our evaluation would entail had been offered, our unfamiliarity with the process in which we found ourselves left us to our own devices and our expectations painted by our demons. It is the privilege and right of every parent to dote on and brag about their child’s accomplishments, big or small. These sentimental and pride filled moments, regardless of impossibility or inevitability, serve as pillars in the joy of parenthood...but this was not the conversation we were preparing to have. Instead we spent the morning plotting timelines, reciting concerns and supporting them with examples sourced from our most precious and vulnerable memories. His childhood rendered into an eye spy mosaic of qualification.
When they arrived, I was immediately relieved by the energy with which they surrounded us. It was not cold and clinical as I expected but rather genuine and supportive. They took the time to get to know us as individuals and as a family instead of making us feel like uncredited sources for their documentation. We sat at the table delivering our stories to them at lightspeed while they patiently sifted out the pivotal and operation details they needed to draw their conclusions. Forrest was 18 months old but was estimated to be 6 months behind developmentally. By the end of it all, Forrest had qualified for services, our schedule was made and our goals outlined. It is with absolute certainty that I am able to identify having our goals outlined as the single most important and useful tool his therapist could have provided us. Up until this point I gauged time in missed milestones, watching and knowing that Forrest was falling further and further behind. My google history revealed endless searches for overcoming developmental delays, at home PT/OT exercises and speech therapy tips and trick, a graveyard of desperation. Everything I knew about developmental skills and the building block on which they’re found had been syphoned from parent magazines, Pinterest articles and pediatric handouts but I still lacked having a working knowledge of the sequential application of everything I had read. Frustrated at this vicious cycle, I implemented everything that I had read and learned, at the same time, hoping to catch some traction on closing his developmental gap, and that turned out to be the most chaotic decision I had ever made. After his goals were outlined I instantly felt relived, as if I didn’t have to catch him up to every missed marker all at once. Those goals were my beacon as a parent if I ever lost sight of what I needed to be doing for him. They say that parenthood doesn’t come with an instruction manual but ECI comes pretty close.
Forrest was scheduled to receive biweekly visits from an SLP and an EIS , opposite of each other. The first few sessions served as a period of acclamation for Forrest to his new teachers. They allowed most of the interaction to be on his terms and played alongside him, gaining a solid baseline for his capabilities and ideas for areas of growth. I, however, would not be afforded the same grace period; They were curious about our daily interactions and surrounding circumstance and asked for demonstrations and/or examples. I met their tidal wave of intense inquisition enthusiastically and anxiously awaited any advice or insight they might provide. It was now clear to me that this was going to be just as much of a learning experience for me as it was going to be for Forrest.
Once acquaintances had been made and we were able to settle into what our therapy sessions would consist of from then on out, I was absolutely amazed at the differences in style between the two sessions despite them being governed by the same dynamics; play based, same goals and shared obstacles. SLP visits were geared more towards free play and focused on animating Forrest, his actions or his toys with sounds or short phrases or labeling objects. EIS visits however, were much more task oriented and included things such as stacking, sorting and looking at books. It wasn’t long before we saw the effects of such synergistic therapy. On Mother’s Day that same year, Forrest started signing “more” and “please”. I do not have words enough to describe how overwhelmed Hannah and I were at the opportunity for communication with our son and on such a special day. Two simple words: “more” and “please” became the best gift we could have hoped to received and became our reason for celebration that Mother’s Day. We saw an increase in babbling, his problem-solving skills and a migration from his rigid notions of destructive play to something much more cooperative. He was finally making progress.
September 20, 2016 was the day Forrest was officially diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and even though we weren’t surprised at his diagnosis, it was still hard to hear. The few minutes we were given to process what we had just learned and to prepare ourselves for the other half of the conversation was made clear to be nothing more than an observation of social etiquette when it his “high functioning” diagnosis was used as reason to continue prematurely. The last 30 seconds we had before our lives changed forever were dismissed for us. The vast majority of the conversation to follow fell on deaf ears, the only sure thing I was able to process was that the doctor was recommending ABA therapy as it was becoming the standard for individuals with Autism. We looked to our EIS for answers and found comfort. We were told the methods behind ABA were, and are, controversial but that is was a relatively new form of therapy and such was the price for being so. Our EIS offered several routes of education and contributed her own wealth of knowledge to the conversation. I spent weeks doing research, talking to members of the Autistic community, and doing some hard thinking before I decided that ABA therapy, in the capacity that I understood it, was not for us. Shortly after arriving at this decision, I was informed that ECI would soon be certifying select employees in ABA techniques and these services would follow suit of those already being given: In the natural environment, family participating and a much more forgiving schedule.
December 16, 2016 was our very first Pathways session and we were fearless. Coincidently enough, the EIS who had been with us since our very first day was one of the select few to be certified and would now be guiding us through our next journey. The Pathways Program is an ABA based therapy that specifically addresses communication and socialization skills of individuals with Autism driven by the idea of positive reinforcement. Pathways took a completely different approach to reaching Forrest than his EIS and I had been taking thus far, and while we had seen some improvement, it had all but ceased and Forrest had slammed face first into a major wall of regression. The details of the units we have covered thus far are far too extraneous to try to outline on this particular occasion but the effects and progress I seen in my son are unparalleled. We have seen more progress in areas of profound importance in the past 3 months with Pathways then we did the 11 months of therapy prior. Our moments of reckoning was when we watched Forrest run up to a boy in his class and gave him a hug , on his own accord.
Pathways is finding the peace my son lost so long ago and is giving it back one unit at a time. For me, Hannah and Forrest Pathways has redefined the gift of life. ~ Forrest's Mom
Renee and Michelle REALLY GET IT by understanding that infants and toddlers learn best within context of relationships and natural environments and routines. Early childhood service providers and Pathways fit perfectly by following; coaching, teaching, developmental focus, working in the natural environment, focusing on everyday activities and routines. Best of all, families have reported progress in a short period of time. ~Anisha, Program Director, IDEA Part C Early Intervention Program
The Pathways program has helped me when working with children with autism and their families. In my years of working with children with autism, I have found that using ‘a more traditional speech model’ has not been as effective and I felt that something was missing from my treatment plan. The Pathways program has filled in some of those missing pieces. Pathways is a specific step by step program that addresses foundational prelinguistic skills, social interaction skills, and behavior. The program utilizes the principles of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) in the home setting within the context of the family’s daily routines. It has been a joy watching the children build a deeper bond with their parent/caregiver and to see them learn how to better focus and attend, interact in more meaningful back and forth exchanges, and learn how to request and imitate others. ~Lori, Speech Pathologist, IDEA Part C Early Intervention Program
The Pathways Program has been a complete transformation for me personally when working with children with autism and their families. Before being introduced and trained in this program I often found myself at a loss as to how to provide effective interventions for these toddlers. Although we were seeing some results with the "traditional" course of treatment (Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Specialized Skills Training) these results were minimal. I have now been implementing Pathways with some of our children that have been diagnosed with autism or who have red flags of the spectrum disorder. I can without a doubt say that the progress has surpassed my expectations. I have now learned an innovative approach to teaching parents how to interact with their child, which in turn has provided new opportunities for these children to learn! Parents are now feeling less anxious about playing and teaching their child. I will also admit that I, as a provider, feel more enabled and confident in my service delivery. I am a firm believer in the Pathways Program and its ability to alter the lives of the children and families that we serve! Not only has the Pathways Program delivered amazing progress for these children but it has also restored the families’ faith that their child has a fighting chance! We are actually altering the brain functioning of children with autism and empowering their parents to succeed! ~Rhonda, Interventionist, IDEA Part C Early Intervention Program
The Pathways Program has truly become the most important breakthrough for me in working with children with autism or autistic characteristics. Before Pathways, working with children with lack of eye contact, lack of tuning in and disinterest in the social world was our biggest challenge. Typical strategies used with our other children were not as effective and progress was slow. When the Pathways Program was introduced to our ECI program, I was immediately impressed with its thoroughness, attention to detail, practicality and evidence based strategies. Pathways gives us the tools to target the core deficits affecting these children and helps us rewire the brain to appreciate social interactions. Pathways allows us to guide our ECI families step by step as children learn to attend to activities, enjoy social play, use eye contact, turn to their name and use words socially to communicate their needs. I am excited to be a part of this program and grateful to be effectively prepared to help these children. ~Rachel, Interventionist, IDEA Part C Early Intervention Program
I have been given the privilege to be trained for Pathways, and it has been an exciting experience as parents are now expressing hope for their children. Pathways has taught me how to be able to respond to the parents who have expressed concerns and questions, on why their child displays challenging behaviors. In return, I am able to provide them with strategies in helping them focus, not so much on the why, but on how to help them change their child’s behavior. Pathways has helped me have a better understanding of Autism, as well as how I can provide the knowledge to parents to help them understand it too. A Pathway parent mentioned to me that other family members have seen a change with their child’s behavior, as he has shown improvement in following direction and is more attentive when doing activities, compared to other times that they have visited the family. Hearing this gives me a sense of accomplishment, especially because with Pathways, it has added to my knowledge on how to empower our parents on how to help their children that are in the Autism spectrum, and it helps us show another perspective of Project Ninos, since we now have the tools to help these families. ~Liliana, Interventionist, IDEA Part C Early Intervention Program
Since my participation in the Pathways Parent Training Program, I have observed how increased parent involvement has had a positive impact on children who display characteristics of autism. The uniqueness of this Pathways program incorporates the teaching practices of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and profound parent involvement into a child’s daily routine. Parents are coached to use daily opportunities to teach and reward their child for their performances. This behavioral intervention does not only provide parents with an effective resource, but it also increases a parent’s confidence to improve their child’s social and communication skills. Since utilizing the pathways training program with my clients, I have seen the decrease of characteristics of autism. I have witnessed a young boy go from lacking joint attention, no eye contact and limited toy play, to now participating in social games with family members, imitating sounds, gestures and words, and using eye contact to request for objects. I am extremely grateful for Pathways Program! Rene and Michelle have provided us with a very valuable tool to reduce cascading effects that autism can have on a child. ~Angela, Interventionist, IDEA Part C Early Intervention Program
The Pathways Program has helped me as an Early Intervention Specialist in being able to help families use the tools necessary in order to create connections with their child. Pathways has been able to prepare me with any obstacles that I might face with families who seek answers to their questions about their child’s needs. Using the tools that Pathways has taught me, I have been able to coach and guide my families in being able to understand the unique characteristics that their child has and how to be able to get those first glances and first words. Pathways has been able to break down the skills helping parents to understand what Autism is and how to use these skills in ways to create those lasting connections. Renee and Michelle developed a wonderful program that really answers those questions that parents have. Pathways has been able to guide parents in the right path to get inside their child’s world. ~Jennifer, Interventionist, IDEA Part C Early Intervention Program