For families facing an autism diagnosis, it is often confusing and frustrating to know where to turn while considering options for treatment and education for their child. One family who received services at The Founders Center recently shared their story.
In 2013, Finley Avallone was almost five years old and receiving special education services in a public-school setting; however, his mother, Jody Avallone, was concerned that he was not making substantial progress. “He was actually regressing,” shares Avallone. “At the time, the insurance laws in Virginia were changing and allowed for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services on our plan.” Avallone investigated several programs in the Richmond area. “I was excited to find out that The Founders Center had an inclusion program. This…was key for me. It was a main goal for my son to have typical peer interaction.”
A few years later, Avallone also enrolled her younger son, Ari, in The Founders Center’s Early Childhood program. Both children experienced challenges with sensory issues and handling meltdowns. Navigating unexpected routines, a common challenge for children on the autism spectrum, significantly impacted their progress in a typical educational setting. With the small class size and increased staffing support, both Finley and Ari could receive the individualized intervention they needed to focus on their goals while participating in music, art, and other activities often found in traditional early childhood programs.
Along the way, Avallone appreciated the direct, frequent communication she received from staff at The Founders Center. One of her favorite things was a daily progress sheet that listed a good thing that happened today. “I actually saved all the daily sheets,” Avallone recalls, “so I could keep a record of how they progressed over time.” She also appreciated the attention to detail offered by the team and her ability to communicate with the Instructional Leader at any time.
Finley is now 8 and Ari is now 5. Both children have transitioned from The Founders Center to traditional general education programs with great success. Thanks to the intensive ABA services that both children received at home and at The Founders Center, they no longer require intensive services at a special school. Ari loves to investigate how things work and has friends at his school. Finley loves getting books out of the library and drawing in art. He is receiving some individualized instruction, but he is keeping up with his 2nd grade class. He is also able to do activities without an aide directing him to the right location in the school. “We are super proud,” shares Avallone.
When asked what advice Avallone would give to other families, she shares, “I had to make hard choices with my career and lifestyle to ensure my sons have ample time for therapy…and [selecting] employers who provide ABA therapy on their health insurance policies. I saw great changes after getting my children in at least 30 hours a week of therapy. I challenge my sons. They might not necessarily like that they are pushed, but they have grown so much because of it.”
If you would like more information about The Founders Center’s educational and behavioral services, you can check out their website or contact them at 804-355-1011.