I remember when I first met with Dr. Smagner and his team in 2009. Our 2 1/2 year old daughter barely understood a word spoken to her. She also drew circles obsessively on any surface she could find, threw toys rather than played with them, and screamed at her baby sister incessantly. She had been in Early Intervention for 6 months and the amount of things she still didn’t know and couldn’t do seemed overwhelming.
Within the first week of starting ABA, the therapists had Sonja looking in their general direction and copying simple actions, something she hadn’t achieved in months of other therapies. What our daughter has learned from CEAS in her 4 years since then could fill volumes. Every aspect of development was covered, from speech to patterns to potty training to math and reading, to name a very few. In my opinion, however, the most valuable thing Dr. Smagner’s team has done for our daughter is provide her with tools to learn on her own. They have taught her how to attend to directions (both in individual and group settings), to ask for help, to be patient with herself when she doesn’t understand something, and to manage negative emotions in more appropriate, productive ways. They also help her minimize or redirect distracting behaviors that interfere with her learning. These are skills that have helped and will continue to help her learn in more general settings at school, at home, and in the community.
One quality that I really appreciate about Dr. Smagner and his team is their optimism about what my daughter can do and learn. I’m ashamed to admit that they had more confidence in my daughter’s abilities than I did. Sometimes I doubted whether she was ready to learn certain concepts or skills. Invariably, I would be proved wrong. That’s not to say that some things didn’t take a long time to learn. But the team challenged her in ways I never would have, and she has surprised me every time.
A lot of what makes CEAS distinctive is in their years of experience. They create cohesive, highly skilled teams, from the program manager down to the line therapists. While they have an established curriculum, they also maintain flexibility based on the child’s strengths, as well as specific family needs. They include the parents in decisions and team meetings according to the parents’ comfort level. I really appreciate the collaborative nature of the parent/therapist relationship they strive to maintain.
The road is not easy and there were times, especially at the beginning, when she would rather have colored on walls or torn up books all day than learn. But the things she has learned to do have brought her incredible joy and satisfaction; she has really come to love learning both in and out of the therapy setting. When my daughter wants to read to me or asks to play with a train set, I am reminded how much she has grown and how much happier she is now that the world makes more sense to her.