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Springfield native says therapy lets son with autism's singing shine

Springfield News-Sun - 10/18/2017

Oct. 18--A Springfield native wants local leaders to take steps to create an environment where kids and adults with special needs can thrive.

Monica Chadha Piper, a Catholic Central graduate, is aboard certified behavior analyst. Her teenage son, Shawn, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2.

She spoke this week to the Springfield Rotary Club about Applied Behavior Therapy, a method that she said has helped her son to blossom. She went back to school to study the form of therapy after her son was diagnosed and received a master's degree in the field.

"ABA is the one that we saw really brought a lot out of him," Chadha Piper said in her presentation.

She now lives in Frisco, Texas, but her parents, Amrit and Shashi Chadha, still live in Springfield. She said she wanted to share what the therapy has done for her family with her hometown.

In ABA, a therapist works with a child breaking down tasks into incremental steps, she said. When a child learns a new step, they're rewarded.

"They learn things in very small incremental steps and you reward them for each small step until they reach a larger goal," she said.

It can take several months for a child with autism to learn a task like washing your hands, she said, but the therapy worked for her son.

"He still needs a little bit of help but for the most part he's doing it by himself," she said.

The therapy has also allowed Shawn's talents to shine. He has done well in music therapy, can sing in perfect pitch, she said, and has sung at several charity and sporting events recently. He sung the national anthem and "God Bless America" at Rotary.

"It's fun to see him blossom," she said. "Kids with special needs have a lot to offer and contribute. They have gifts that we don't always necessarily know they have."

The ABA therapy often can be paid for by insurance, she said. Springfield can create an environment for these children to thrive, she said.

"I want us as a community to find them if we can and nurture them," she said, "and try to help as many kids and adults with special needs as possible."

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