Austin’s Story

Where Austin Started

As the son of co-founders David and Debbie Ide, Austin was Cornerstone’s first client in 2010. “We set out to create a center that we wanted for our own child,” says Debbie. “A place he could thrive, that would accommodate his individual needs. We knew that if we did it right, other parents would want that for their children as well.”

Austin wasn’t new to ABA when he started at Cornerstone and already had made significant progress across all domains. Language and social skills, however, remained significant deficits, as well as life skills that would help him to become independent. He was often anxious, especially with new people and situations so he struggled in social situations. His conversations with other were very limited and he often just quietly repeated his therapist’s words. He demonstrated non-compliance and maladaptive behavior when frustrated.

How Austin Improved

Austin is now 17 years old, and his programming emphasizes social interaction and life skills. Since implementing these programs, Austin’s conversations have improved significantly, especially his voice volume and intelligibility. While he used to become very anxious in social settings, he now excels in these areas, and often leads groups and is a peer model for other clients in life skills programming.

“His anxiety has gone down with peers and even with us,” said his morning therapist, Jordan Baker. “He is more relaxed and is okay talking to us instead of getting frustrated. He has even developed a sense of humor and laughs openly with us!”

His conversations still need some prompting by his therapists, but Austin is learning how to ask more questions and engage with peers on his own. More exciting is witnessing this skill transfer to the community when he interacts with peers when engaged in outside activities, like swimming at the YMCA.

There have been several occurrences when therapist Rebecca Tiekling watched Austin independently initiate conversation and ask to play water basketball with the other kids.

“The last few times Austin has shown great interest in other kids in the pool,” said Becca. “One day he played basketball for about 10 minutes and was independently sharing the ball and shooting baskets!”

Austin also has a “job” at a local food pantry to work on life skills. He volunteers with his therapist to stock food on the shelves for the families that shop there later in the evening. He takes his job very seriously, making sure to stock all of the food in the right place.

In terms of life skills, Austin has had success in other programs in the center, with the goal for these skills to transfer to home and the community. Things like laundry, counting and rolling the money from the vending machine, filing, taking inventory of center supplies and delivering mail and other items are some of the skills that he has mastered with his programming.

“Cornerstone has given him a wonderful base of skills through his programming, and he is getting to use these skills in practical, everyday life situations,” said Hannah Burkholder, MA, Austin’s clinical leader. “He uses his social skills all of the time in the community, from checking in at the YMCA, playing basketball with others while swimming, talking with people at the food pantry, ordering his own lunch at a restaurant, and so many others. Austin is getting to apply what he has learned at Cornerstone out in the community, and he is thriving while doing it.”

Watch a video highlighting his success on our youtube channel by clicking here.