Treating an autistic child in our Developmental Disabilities program

January 20th, 2010
Sean is a High Functioning Autistic. He has been meeting with Orlando for about a year.

Treating an autistic child in our Developmental Disabilities Program

Joellyn could hear her young son laughing in his therapy session as she sat outside the room. She smiled. “Sean doesn’t laugh at home that much,” she said. “But Orlando has a way of getting him to laugh here.”

Orlando Villegas is a therapist at Southwest Counseling Solutions and the director of its Developmental Disabilities (DD) Program. He has been treating Sean for a year. Sean is six years old and has been diagnosed with High Functioning Autism.

“Sean is very bright,” Joellyn said. “But he obsesses about order and is prone to meltdowns. For example, Sean will throw a fit and refuse to sleep if anything in his room has been moved the slightest bit during the day. He won’t eat the food on his plate unless it’s arranged in the exact pattern that he wants.”

Sean has a phenomenal memory. He knows by heart every episode of SpongeBob Squarepants and can tell you exactly where he was and when he saw each episode for the first time. He can recite hundreds of Pokémon cards verbatim.

“He is an interesting an intense kid,” Joellyn says. “But all his tantrums cause me to burnout so quickly.”

“In our DD Program, we firmly believe that family is the most important therapeutic element,” Orlando says. “Human contact makes all the difference and we strive to make family situations less stressful and more connected.”

The DD Program provides therapy and coordination of services for children, youth and adults who are experiencing cognitive deficits, cerebral palsy, autism or any other conditions that appear before age 22 and result in significant functional limitations.

The program’s main goal is to provide the best possible services to individuals with developmental disabilities by promoting conditions so they can live healthy and fulfilling lives and realize their strengths. The DD Program is currently treating 55 individuals.

“We not only work with the disabled person, we help the family learn about the disability, strategize with them about how to cope, facilitate needed services and resources, and provide opportunities for family members to get respites from the demanding responsibilities of caregiving,” Orlando said.

“The program has truly helped Sean and our family,” Joellyn said. “Last year, Sean suddenly started drawing very sad pictures of flowers dying. He wouldn’t talk to me about it, but Orlando got him to talk. Sean said that the flowers represented himself and he was sad because his father had told him that he didn’t want to see him anymore. After Orlando talked to Sean about the issue, his mood improved.”

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