Malachi’s Story

Where Malachi Started

Malachi’s sense of humor is one aspect of his personality that his afternoon therapist, Kenzi, adores. He often plays hide-and-seek with his toys, shrugging his shoulders to pretend he does not know where they went. When he thinks something is funny, such as The Five Little Monkeys song, his entire face will light up with a smile.

When Malachi started therapy in 2014, his personality could not shine because he was unable to communicate. He started in level 1 of the VB-MAPP, a behavior assessment. He did not have any consistent signs or verbal language to be able to ask for items. Due to this barrier, Malachi would become upset and often engage in tantrums or self-injurious behaviors.

There were also issues during group time. Malachi had a group desensitization program to make group time a less aversive environment to him.

How Malachi Improved

Malachi started imitating ASL signs almost immediately. Malachi now uses over 30 signs consistently to ask for what he wants and to label items. He can also fill-in-the-blank with different songs and phrases. Malachi can pair sounds with his signs, usually attempting a vocal approximation of the entire word. One of the first words Kenzi heard Malachi say was “bubble” when they were playing with the bubble machine.

“He can express what he’s feeling, and he doesn’t have to internalize everything,” said Kenzi. “It has really helped his family to understand what he wants and what he needs because he can ask for things now.”

With the increase of his signs and vocals, his tantrums and self-injurious behaviors have significantly decreased in intensity and duration. Malachi would also put his hands or fingers in his mouth when he would become upset – which used to happen nine times a day on average – but now this behavior has been less than one instance per day.

Not only will Malachi use signs and vocal approximations to tell people what he wants, but he also uses them as a way to interact with others. Malachi uses a specific sign every time he sees his therapists or his clinical coordinator. For Kenzi, the sign he uses every time he sees her is “swing” because it is his favorite activity to do with her. He associates the sign “monkeys” with group time because he remembers that they do the motions to the song The Five Little Monkeys. Group is no longer an issue for Malachi – he now looks forward to interacting with his peers.

“I feel like Malachi is at a stage in his progress where he has become a little signing sponge,” said Stephanie Dille, BCBA and Sign Language Coordinator. “You can constantly look into his eyes and see the wheels turning, especially when he’s seeking the sign for a specific item, object or activity. I am so excited to be a part of his progress.”

To watch Malachi’s progress, watch our youtube video by clicking here.