Texana Children’s Center For Autism Changes Lives

Abrahim, Nora, Karim and Mohammed Shabib. Photo by Nesossi Studios.

Abrahim, Nora, Karim and Mohammed Shabib. Photo by Nesossi Studios.

Meet Abrahim Shabib

By Linda K. Eaves –

April is World Autism Awareness Month created to do just that: bring awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) through the dissemination of education and information. But, what exactly is autism? Autism is a complex developmental disability that causes problems with social interaction and communication. Symptoms usually start before age three and can cause delays or problems in many different skills that develop from infancy to adulthood.

In the case of Nora Shabib, though she didn’t know it at the time, autism entered her family’s life when she began getting e-mails from her son’s teacher early on. The teacher’s concern? Abrahim wasn’t using as many words as an 18-month-old should.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst Rachel Hoffmanand Abrahim Shabib. Photo by Nesossi Studios.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst Rachel Hoffman
and Abrahim Shabib. Photo by Nesossi Studios.

When he was two-years-old, Nora took Abrahim to the doctor for a checkup. He had such a hard time at that appointment; the doctor suggested intervention services. Nora and her husband, Mohammed, thought it was the language delay affecting his behavior – frustration from not being able to communicate.Nora was at home with a new baby, Karim, and attributed Abrahim’s difficult behavior to the “terrible twos.” The couple also has an older daughter, Nawal, and since Abrahim was the middle child, they thought maybe it was middle child syndrome. “We were really struggling,” said Nora.

Although Abrahim was in speech therapy and was improving somewhat, it was obvious there was something going on. “I was reading everything that I could. We knew something wasn’t right, but at that time, we didn’t want to think that it could be autism. It was a very difficult time with a four-year-old and a baby.”

Because he’s a beautiful and happy boy – he laughs, plays and makes eye contact with his mom and dad – Nora and Mohammed didn’t want to believe Abrahim might be autistic. “Just within the last year I still didn’t want to believe. I just recently started talking about it. I was in denial. I’ve come to accept it, and that motivates me to do more for him – learning about autism, going to training workshops and reaching out to other parents.”

Before he was three, Abrahim was getting services through Fort Bend County’s Early Childhood Intervention Project Grow run by Texana. Their speech therapist would come to their home and have therapy sessions with Abrahim.

Mohammed, Nawal, Karim, Nora and Abrahim Shabib.

Mohammed, Nawal, Karim, Nora and Abrahim Shabib.

“She helped me get an Admission Review and Dismissal (ARD) at the public school and talked to me about red flags. She mentioned the Texana Children’s Center for Autism program and the cost. There was no way we could afford it, so I put it out of my mind. Plus, Abrahim didn’t have a diagnosis at the time.”Abrahim went to Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD) for a year and then, Head Start a full day with typical kids. He was diagnosed through The Autism Center at Texas Children’s Hospital and was placed in PPCD a half day with typical kids and a half day in the special education classroom.

Abrahim was also having speech therapy and occupational therapy (OT) privately. Nora and Mohammed had heard about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), which seemed to be the best treatment for early intervention – intensive therapy in a one-on-one or small group setting. ABA is currently the one method proven to make profound changes in autistic children.

“It’s expensive and a lot of insurance companies don’t pay for it,” explained Nora. “I began researching, and I remembered the speech therapist who told me about the program at Texana, so I contacted them.  I was put on a waiting list. I didn’t have any hope of getting in.”

But Nora received a call that they were accepted into the DARS grant program. “Part of it is funded through the government, and we pay a portion based on our income. I feel really blessed to get into this program.”

 Rachel Hoffman: Board Certified  Behavior Analyst

Rachel Hoffman has been working with Abrahim for almost a year. “He’s a bright boy and has acquired many new skills,” she said.

Abrahim loves attention from his teachers, so they focus on providing praise and attention when he is engaging in appropriate behaviors. They remove their attention when he engages in inappropriate behaviors.

When he runs from staff to play chase instead of asking staff to play with him, they simply ignore the action of running off, retrieve Abrahim, and prompt him to ask for chase by saying, “I want chase!” “Once he has asked appropriately, we proceed to laugh and chase him within the safety of our gated playground,” said Hoffman. “Due to his love of chase, we use every opportunity to have a peer play chase with him. His brother, Karim, has been very helpful. Typically, we provide a prompt to his peer, or Karim, to ask him to play chase. They choose who will be the chaser and who will be chased.”

This method has led to the development of other skills. “Abrahim will listen to the instructions of his peers – stand up, come here, let’s go – and he will imitate their actions during group instruction by clapping hands, dancing and vocally imitating. He will sit quietly during a group instruction of ten other peers.”

Recently, Abrahim was included in the bridge program with typically developing peers and autistic children. He’s doing well and acquiring new skills, which indicates his ability to be successful in a less structured environment. “Although I’m sad to see him leave, I’m very excited about his transition into the school district and believe he will continue to be successful,” shared Hoffman.

 Increased Family Happiness

Abrahim has been in the program at Texana for two years. He is more compliant, and his language, literacy and math skills have improved. He is able to label things and ask for them, and his social skills have improved.

“Before, we wouldn’t venture to eat at a restaurant because Abraham would get overstimulated and would want to leave,” said Nora. “Going to the mall and grocery store was an ordeal. If I wanted to accomplish anything, I’d have to plan to have someone to hold his hand. I’d have to call my mom.  Now, we enjoy going out as a family to the park, to eat out or to the mall.  Before Abrahim began at Texana, doing things that people take for granted was a huge ordeal for us. It’s helped our family life a lot. I’m so pleased with his progress.”

For more information about Texana Children’s Center for Autism, visit www.autismspeaks.org or contact Ellen Catoe at 281-239-1497.