Autism therapy program offered

Tuesday, August 19th 2008, 7:41 pm
By: News 9

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- There's new hope for families who have children with autism. A unique program that starts Wednesday will provide autism therapy training.

This law which passed last session actually requested the University of Central Oklahoma establish a comprehensive autism training program. The school did, and one mom can't wait for classes to start.

Kimberly Ward and several therapists work one-on-one with her son Dayton who has autism.

"I'm fascinated to see how it changes his behavior and all the things we've been able to accomplish with it," Ward said.

Ward wants even more results, however, and that's why she signed up for UCO's autism therapy program.

"I hope he'll be speaking one day," Ward said. "He says, ‘Tickle, tickle,' when he wants to be tickled. I hope to hear the words ‘Mom' someday; that would mean a lot to me."

Through the program, Ward will learn how to address Dayton's social, behavioral and communication challenges and she'll be able to provide therapy for other children.

"My son is the most important, but I want to help the autism community," Ward said. "I want to help my son and lots of children like him."

Almost 30 people have already enrolled, including some grad students.

"To be able to learn more about the ways in which we can help them is something anyone who is starting out in psychology is interested in," program participant Hallie Kasiri said.

UCO is the first regional university to launch such a program.

"The cost of this kind of a program is minimal when you compare it to the benefit of saving a child and a family from going through the pain and agony of the isolation that autism brings to the family and the child," Dr. Mary Sweet-Darter with the UCO Psychology Graduate School said.

Ward said the therapy training will make all the difference.

"It's an answer to prayer; it's the number one thing I want to do," Ward said.

The program begins Wednesday. It takes several classes and a 1,600 hour internship to complete it.

People who go through the program will become board certified behavior analysts. The hope is that some will work in public schools doing assessments and designing services to ensure students' success.