Merel De Regt
School Psychologist, ABA Therapist

Ding Chen Chen’s parents had serious concerns; their son showed a strong aversion to social interactions, had not developed normal capacities for communication and seemed consumed by several unusual preoccupations. It was clear almost immediately after his arrival at The Essential Learning Group that Ding Chen Chen was contending with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We are well equipped to intervene in cases of ASD, so we devised an Individual Education Plan, which included work in our creative garden program as well as additional, at-home support.

Ding Chen Chen did quite well under our guidance. He learned to express himself when he needed something. Instead of grabbing or throwing a tantrum, he had begun to communicate his needs. In time, he also learned to feed himself rather than to depend on caretakers to feed him. Chen Chen’s family participated in each step of the process, making adjustments to his surroundings at home and to his daily routines in order to support the work we were doing each day at The Essential Learning Group. The Ding family was rightly proud of everything their son had accomplished to date, but was still wrestling with the implications of raising a child with ASD.

They consulted a local physician who offered an opinion that Chen Chen’s ASD had been the consequence of unwholesome conditions in early childhood, but that if he were allowed to join his peers in a normal classroom environment, he would eventually ‘snap out of it.’ This is doubly discouraging: the best of what we know about ASD does not explain definitively what causes it, and there is no reason to believe that Chen Chen’s condition is in any way linked to some negligence on his parents’ part. Further, it is highly unlikely that Chen Chen would undergo the kind of miraculous transformation that their doctor had described.

The Ding family has not yet opted to end Chen Chen’s treatment at The Essential Learning Group, and our collaboration with the boy’s family continues to aid him in his progress. Chen Chen now travels to a typical school for afternoons, and we are hopeful that he will benefit from some inclusion in the life of a typical classroom. We hope that continued progress by small, incremental victories will persuade his family to remain with us. We know they are proud of their child and committed to his progress, just as we are.

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