In a community like Naperville, many of us know a family that has a child touched by autism.
With one in 88 children affected by autism spectrum disorder, early intervention therapy can improve the child’s outcome and finding the right therapist is the key to that success.
Kiya Olson, 36, of Romeoville, knows that all too well.
In 2005, Olson started Autism Service Providers & Beyond Therapy Pathways in her home. Since then, ASPB has grown to include five staff members and an office space in Naperville.
Olson knew she wanted to work with children at an early age.
“When I was 12, I got my first babysitting job watching a family with five children,” Olson said.
It was that experience that lead her down the path to her career. After receiving a master’s degree in developmental psychology, the Naperville Central High School graduate returned home to start her dream.
After working as a developmental therapist and behavior consultant for Little Friends, Olson wanted to do more for kids.
“I know what works and wanted to be able to do more without the constraints you have when you work for someone else.”
She started with a few referrals and small contracts, and grew her business from the ground up.
ASPB services are offered through in-home visits and include Developmental Therapy for early intervention, Applied Behavior Analysis and Relationship Development Intervention.
Olson believes in empowering the parents of the children she works with.
“It is a parent-driven therapy. I teach the parents how to use the time they are already spending with their children to work on specific goals,” Olson said.
She shows them how to incorporate therapy into everyday tasks.
Amy Tausk, 39, of Clarendon Hills, and her son Braden, 7, have worked with Kiya and her staff for five years.
Braden started with the early intervention program and is working on ABA therapy. Tausk is very happy with her son’s progress and credits Olson for his success.
“Most ABA programs are very rigid, but the program at ASPB is a lot more fluid,” Tausk says.
She explains that every child on the spectrum is different and needs a program with flexibility.
“If I tell Kiya that my son is struggling, she creates a new therapy program for him,” Braden’s mom said.
Tausk’s son receives 15 hours of therapy a week, and Tausk is grateful to be a stay-at-home mom. Although therapists visit children in day care, Olson explains that children with special needs are not successful in regular day-care programs.
“DCFS ratios of staff to children are too high for a child with special needs,” she says.
As a former day-care worker, Olson says staff often are not trained to engage a child that has special needs.
Olson says Naperville has a need for a therapeutic day-care facility for children with ASD and hopes to expand the services of ASPB to include one. Unlike regular day-care centers, where special needs children are visited by a therapist, ASPB would integrate the therapy into its curriculum.
Olson estimates the average therapy for ASD kids range between $3,000 and $6,000 a month and working parents pay an additional $1,000 to $1,200 for day care. ASPB’s therapeutic day care, slated to open this fall, would be available to children up to kindergarten.
That would make the parents of Olson’s practice even more happy.
“My son loves working with Kiya and the other therapists,” Tausk says. “He views his therapists as his friends.”