The Power of Self-Expression

The challenge is understandable. After all, most people would get frustrated if they couldn’t communicate. And five-year-old Zion Ayoola is no different. Unable to hold a conversation or ask for what he wants, he has often gotten upset, with the result being bad behaviors.

“If he could express himself more clearly, he wouldn’t have the behaviors,” his mom, Oluwaseun Awonuga, said.

Zion smiling After about a year at Damar ABA Autism Services in Avon, the bad behaviors have reduced considerably because the Damar team is helping Zion learn to communicate. Oluwaseun said Zion now tells her when he wants something. He repeats words she says to him. And she sees the impact in his behavior.

It’s not that Zion was previously non-verbal, Oluwaseun said. He would talk, and she would often hear him singing. He just wasn’t able to communicate what he had on his mind. She could tell when he was getting upset, she said, because he would grind his teeth.

“You had to try to figure out what it actually was that was bothering him,” she said. “Now he asks for things … ‘I want bread,’ ‘I want this,’ ‘I want that.’ All these changes have come since he started going to ABA at Damar.”

The IU Health nurse said she also has seen other progress in her son. For example, while he has a good relationship with his older sister, in the past he hasn’t wanted to play with anybody. That’s changing. “He’s coming out of his shell,” Oluwaseun said. “Once in a while I see him standing beside other kids or watching them.”

This kind of progress will be especially important as Zion prepares for his next big step: kindergarten.

Zion smiling The Damar team has been guiding Zion toward that transition, working with him on communication, social skills and basic life skills. Oluwaseun is encouraged by his progress, as he is growing more independent and leaning less and less on adults. But she’s not rushing into anything. If he’s not ready for school this coming year, she’ll wait one more year so he’s fully ready for the transition.

She’s confident he’ll get there. Having gone to Damar ABA Autism Services to observe Zion’s therapy sessions, Oluwaseun has been impressed with how much he’ll do while the therapists are working him. In fact, she said, he sometimes will do more for them than he will at home. But she doesn’t mind. She’s just happy with the way Zion is learning, growing and, especially, communicating.

“I see him overcoming a lot,” Oluwaseun said. “It’s definitely getting better.”