New hope for autism treatment at Logansport

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April 20—When it came to finding help for their autistic son, Antonio and Shealey Pena felt like a square peg stuck in a round hole. Autism therapies seemed to be pre-planned with the expectation that clients would adapt to them, not the other way around.

And then they met Beverly Forrey, owner of Hope Behavioral Services, 719 Spencer St.

The difference was that Forrey sat down with the family and asked what their son, AJ, needed help with. She then came up with a plan suitable only for AJ.

“Hope Behavioral Services came and said they had behavioral therapies for him,” Antonio Pena said. “With Ms Beverley and her team, they worked with AJ, they set goals for him. She was asking us what he needed help with.”

It took baby steps, slowly tackling each challenge until AJ figured out how to respond. There was eye contact, recognition of emotions, understanding of personal space. Hope Behavioral Services taught her coping skills and ways to eliminate distractions.

AJ is now a 20-year-old student studying advanced automation and robotics operation at Ivy Tech. He also went from client at Hope Behavioral Services to peer mentor, helping those younger than him learn how to manage their autism.

“It’s a very personalized program,” Shealey Pena said. “We had other facilities we had worked with, but they weren’t as specific. Hope Behavior Services would sit down and say, ‘What are your issues?’ and they would create a plan around that.”

Beverly Forrey opened Hope Behavioral Services in 2010 after earning a master’s degree in special education from Ball State as well as certificates in autism and applied behavior analysis. The clinic started in Kokomo and now has a Logansport location.

She and her staff traveled to clients’ homes and worked closely with families to provide personal care. For AJ, they designed activities that challenged him while teaching him how to handle certain situations and stressors. Because AJ had a problem with food and textures, they cooked with him and had him try new dishes. They would walk around the neighborhood so AJ could learn to deal with sensory issues, such as loud noises or distracting sounds. They went to a gas station and AJ learned how to buy items and interact with the cashier.

“I always want to put the needs of the child and the family first,” Forrey said. “That’s our number one goal. It’s in our mission statement. Of course, we do assessments and we know what goals to focus on, but there are always other things that we don’t see, like home, maybe.”

Hope Behavior Services goes so far as to share its treatment plan with schools in an effort to help their clients, Forrey said.

Part of what made AJ’s treatment so successful was his determination.

“He’s self-sufficient,” his father said. “He wants to succeed, whether it’s academic or social – he wants to succeed. I asked him, ‘What is your worst fear?’ and he said, ‘Having to live with you as an adult.'”

“With Logansport having the clinic here – there was nothing here,” his mother said. “As a parent of a child with a disability, you constantly go to Riley’s or Peyton Manning. I know that even for us, just having services at home or at school, something local, it’s is a blessing.”

“There is a lot more availability for these services,” Antonio said. “The key with AJ is that he never gave up. He never gave up on himself. He never gave up on the program. He never gave up on (us). Everything we gave him instilled, he did it whether he liked it or not. But he knew we were there to make him feel good.”

Word of mouth has spread about Hope Behavioral Services. Forrey said the biggest growth came in 2020, surprising her, as it did during the pandemic. The challenge now is to find enough staff to help customers.

“There is such a need for the service,” Forrey said. “We have over 20 people on our waiting list. Our struggle right now is to get people to work in this field and to know that this field exists. We are training people to work with these children. You only need to be 18 and have a degree to submit an application to become a Registered Behavioral Technician.”

AJ is an active part of the Hope Behavioral Services support system now as a peer mentor. His parents see his dedication to work as he talks about the job with them and also spends his own money buying games to play with the children he works with. He doesn’t buy just any games, they said. He thinks carefully about which child would appreciate the purchases he makes.

“He keeps (the games) in his car and he knows which customers like which games,” Shealey said. “It’s a certain independence. It’s been a big blessing for him.”

“I just think Beverly has such love in her heart for people with disabilities,” she said. “You can see it in her. You can see it in her staff. They really care about me. going through it and the benefits they’re going to get out of it.”

Beverly Forrey and Hope Behavioral Services can be reached at 765-210-1284.

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