Autism Awareness Month – St. Croix’s Island Therapy Solutions Starts Life Skill and Job Training Program for Adults with Autism
April is Autism Awareness Month. In recognition, we interviewed Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Lindsy Wagner and Program Coordinator Andrea Purdome of Island Therapy Solutions about a new program to help adults with autism in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Island Therapy Solutions will host the “Light It Up Blue at Brew: Shine A Light on Autism” event tonight (Tuesday, April 25) from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Brew STX on the Christiansted boardwalk. This awareness month event is open to the St. Croix community, especially those who want to learn more about autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
St. Croix-based Island Therapy Solutions is focused on removing the negative stigma associated with mental health. Particularly in the Caribbean community, where historically these issues are ignored or hidden within families, the team at Island Therapy Solutions offers effective solutions in a comfortable environment.
The most recent program Island Therapy Solutions has introduced to the USVI community is the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Strategic Transition Enrichment Program (STEP). It is especially for adults with autism who have finished high school and want to gain meaningful employment. The program shares time between the clinic setting at Island Therapy Solutions, where adult learners gain independent living skills; and career training at Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital. In the hospital setting, ABA STEP participants are job shadowing in a variety of positions including door greeter, gift shop, cafeteria and laundry. The adult learners have a 1:1 support staff ratio, so ABA therapy is customized to their skill level.
According to Island Therapy Solutions, the goal of ABA STEP is to support adult learners in living happy and fulfilled lives. They hope to teach social, leisure, independent living, community and vocational skills to young adults with autism.
According to Dr. Lindsy Wagner, the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) approach is considered the industry gold standard for treating individuals with autism. She credits 2014 legislation for paving the way for ABA in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Dr. Wagner and her team have an overarching plan for the USVI community, which began by engaging young children with autism. As of January, the ABA STEP program allowed them to continue their progress with adults. The idea, according to Dr. Wagner, is to close the gap between children now receiving treatment, and adults in the community who didn’t have services available in their adolescence. Currently, ABA STEP is offered exclusively on St. Croix, but they are in the process of extending the program to St. Thomas.
Island Therapy Solutions provides this overview of the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) approach (summarized):
• Initial stages include interviews / observations / assessments to identify the function of patient’s problem behavior
• Behavior Analyst develops an individualized treatment plan
• Registered Behavior Technician is trained and supervised in the implementation of that behavior plan
• Based upon on-going data collection, plan is altered by Behavior Analyst as needed until deemed effective.
• Following behavior change, focus becomes transferring control to naturally occurring contingencies (i.e. everyday life).
• Ultimate fading out of services
The adult learners in the ABA STEP program are job shadowing at St. Croix’s hospital in a volunteer capacity. Island Therapy Solutions is seeking other businesses in the community to participate in the program for job placement opportunities. Representatives of businesses interested in participating or learning more can contact Island Therapy Solutions at FrontDesk@IslandTherapySolutions.com.
Additional resources on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA):
Island Therapy Solutions is a comprehensive therapy solution for the U.S. Virgin Islands community, serving both pediatric and adult patients. The main office is located in Gallows Bay on St. Croix, along with shared medical offices on St. Thomas. They specialize in occupational therapy; speech therapy; psychological services; psychiatric services; counseling services; and applied behavior analysis. The Island Therapy Solutions team includes more than 22 health professionals offering a wide range of services. They may be reached at (340) 719-7007.
AeroMD is pleased to share the latest healthcare news in the Caribbean community, particularly positive new program offerings like ABA STEP. We are honored to partner with Island Therapy Solutions to provide air ambulance memberships to their entire team, as the only service with dedicated medevac aircraft on the ground in the USVI. Click here for affordable membership options with AeroMD.
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