For individuals with autism, some skills, such as everyday communication or safely crossing the street, do not come as naturally as they may for others. At “Every Piece Counts,” (EPC) an Applied Behavior Analysis agency based in Livingston, clinicians provide both clinic- and home-based services for families in order to help bring success.
Many times, an individual with autism is led to engage in challenging behaviors out of frustration for not being able to express a particular need. “When somebody learns how to communicate that want or need—whether it be through a vocal communication or visual communication device—and you see that challenging behavior decrease,” remarked Kim Donaghy, EPC’s clinical director, “that’s a powerful moment for everybody!”
The primary focus at EPC is to assist with and work on characteristics of autism, such as language, communication, social skills and any interfering behaviors that arise. Individuals are guided along the process to help express given needs. EPC also focuses on prerequisites to learning, building safety skills in the community and at home, and working on self-care. For example, they provide ways to help clients with home routines or learn how to brush their teeth.
Joe Schuck, current owner of EPC, is a business professional who chooses to work in the healthcare industry as he finds it “rewarding when you can make a difference.” EPC started in 2016 with home-based programs only. In February 2020, Schuck bought the company after being inspired by his wife, an ABA specialist with a master’s in special education. He saw the positive impact her work made on individuals with autism, and wanted to be involved, so he bought the company and added the clinic-based component.
“Being able to use resources towards helping people within our community is meaningful,” said Schuck. It is important to provide high-level services to families, and he makes sure that clinicians at EPC are experienced, caring professionals who are passionate about what they do.
Donaghy, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) brings over 15 years of experience working with individuals with autism ranging from 17 months to 21 years old. Her varied work with school, home and clinic programs is an asset to the agency.
Quality over quantity, believes Dongahy, sets EPC apart. “We offer effective and purposeful services that don’t overwhelm the client or family,” she said, “and therapy hours are recommended according to deficits we see, or skills needed to be successful.”
EPC is also unique in the ways in which it focuses on staff support and parent involvement. EPC offers administrative support to clinicians, and administers both staff and parent training. Services are intently tailored towards each individual family’s needs. “This is a collaboration,” Donaghy added, “and we want to make sure that what we are teaching is meaningful to that family and child.”
ABA is particularly effective for individuals with autism, Donaghy believes, because it is a scientific approach that breaks down large skills into small, teachable units. “The skills we teach are tracked by data collection to ensure that our clients are successful and continually learning new skills.” It allows clinicians to evaluate teaching procedures, program materials and client progress more consistently. It also helps one understand how behaviors change, or how they are affected by the environment in which an individual lives.
Since schools have gravitated towards remote learning during COVID-19, the clinic opened at an opportune time. “More families have found our services to be helpful,” said Schuck, “as individuals can come to the clinic to receive support that they might otherwise have found in school.” EPC strictly adheres to COVID-19 regulations.
EPC’s services are funded through clients’ private health insurance. The clinic program is geared towards children from the time of diagnosis until ages 5-6, while the home program is intended for individuals from the time of diagnosis through age 21. Both programs provide one-on-one support, and the clinic, which serves as a different learning environment, also offers “small group instruction.” Donaghy added that “The ‘Fun Room’ is soundproof because of all of the laughing that goes on!”
For individuals with autism, Donaghy explained, ABA is typically a lifelong intervention and way of learning. Sometimes, though, clients either develop enough skills and don’t need as much support, or their parents have the tools to give support once their children have grown out of the program.
From big successes and small ones, Dongahy said, “I’m happy for the client, but also love seeing the impact that it has on the families.” Many families start therapy without hope, and “when we offer tangible hope that their child is going to grow and learn how to function with their family and community, I know it has hit home.”
For more information, the office can be contacted at (551)237-4646 or via email at [email protected].
By Chaya Glaser