Reaching Potentials: One of the first in So. Florida to use intensive therapy for autism

BOCA RATON, Fla - "What is this," therapist Joan Quevedo-Martinez asks as she holds up a flashcard of a chicken.

"Chick.. chicken," says her six-year-old student.

"Awesome," she replies.

It's a one-on-one session at the Reaching Potentials program in Boca Raton.

Clinical director and behavior analyst Jean Bachrach helped start the program  in 1995, making it one of the first organizations in South Florida to use the Applied Behavior Analysis method to teach those on the autism spectrum.

"Everything is based on getting them to some point in the future that they can live a more normal life," she said.

Under this system, therapists break learning skills into small steps, and add lots of positive reinforcement.

But the key is intensive therapy, anywhere from 25 to 40 hours a week.

"If you can give the child early intervention now  and you can give them the treatment that they need now, they're not going to need that treatment later on," said Bachrach.

The individual therapy applies to group lessons too.

"Even though we do things in a group, everything is still one-on-one until the child is able to learn better in a small group," she said.

But it comes with a price.

"It's very intensive, it can be very expensive," said Bachrach.

A 40-hour-a-week program starts at $30,000 a year. Some insurers in some cases have started covering part of the cost.

"We're still nowhere near where we want to be in terms of having all children have access to this therapy," said Bachrach.

The method is based on scientific research, and it has its success stories.

"It's possible to have them attend and graduate from college, and we have had some of our clients attend and graduate college," she said.

While that can be the long-term goal, the immediate objective is to give the youngsters a chance to reach their potential by treating them at an early age with concentrated therapy.


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