A Love for Dinosaurs | Organization for Autism Research

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ABA therapy is often an essential part of a child’s with autism’s treatment plan. Through weekly visits, and shared successes, ABA centers often take up a big role in the daily lives of families with members on the autism spectrum. Action Behavior Centers has chosen to share some of these success stories with the OAR community. Here, a mother fondly remembers how her son’s love for dinosaurs led him to speak in public for the first time.

Even six years later, Deb Tracy* remembers exactly how it felt to hear her son’s doctor deliver the news of his autism diagnosis. She knew deep down that Evan’s development was much different than what she’d seen with her first child, but “no parent can truly be prepared for the initial sting of an autism diagnosis,” she tells Action Behavior Centers, her family’s autism therapy center. “You realize your child’s life is going to be much different than you’d expected or hoped for them.”

Evan* will soon turn nine, and Deb says the past few years have been filled with challenges, learning experiences, and triumphs. She shares a special victory of Evan’s below:

My son Evan is mainly nonverbal. Some days he talks more than others, but there aren’t many topics he’s comfortable talking about with people. One of his “safe” topics is dinosaurs. If anyone shows Evan a dinosaur toy or picture, he’ll immediately know its scientific classification: brachiosaurus, velociraptor, megalosaurus, you name it.

When Evan was six, we decided to take him out to the Museum of Natural Science in Houston. He doesn’t always do well in these kinds of public settings, but we figured all of the dinosaur exhibits might put him at ease. We were trailing behind a guided tour in the museum (we wanted to give ourselves a healthy distance from the throng of museum-goers), when the tour guide, known as ‘Raptor Rich,’ pointed out a creature and asked if anyone knew what kind of dinosaur it was. Raptor Rich specializes in kid tours at the museum and loves talking about dinosaurs.

To our surprise, Evan piped up. “Triceratops!” he announced. “They have three horns.” Raptor Rich smiled, asking Evan his name and how old he was. He quietly said his name and then held up six fingers. Raptor Rich praised him for being a dinosaur expert, and Evan responded: “I love dinosaurs!”

My husband and I were thrilled. We’d never seen Evan speak up in a crowd before, and even though the conversation exchange was simple, Evan didn’t usually carry on conversations with adults he didn’t know. It may not seem like much to people with regularly developing kids, but for us, it was a victory.

Deb is active in local autism support groups in Houston and says she enjoys sharing her experiences with others in the autism community – especially those who are coping with new diagnoses. She likes to show them that an autism diagnosis doesn’t have to be as daunting as it might seem at first.

“Sure, it’s a whole different ballpark than raising a child without special needs,” she says, “but it’s a very special kind of journey. I wouldn’t change a thing in my family.”

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals in the story.  

About the Author

Action Behavior Centers provide ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder. With centers located around Texas, the goal of the ABC therapy team is to help children on the spectrum reach their highest potential.

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