New program for autism arrives in Mesa County

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A new, intensive treatment program for children with autism has arrived to the Grand Valley. Strive, formerly known as Mesa Developmental Services, has launched Skills, which is based on applied behavior analysis (ABA) techniques.

Patti Hoffman, board-certified behavior analysis at Strive said the program is focuses on reinforcing good behavior and replacing negative behavior.

"We frequently see children with autism start to develop self injuries, things like head banging or hitting themselves, and what we want to do is understand why is that happening, what's the purpose of that behavior and then how do we teach the child to do something different instead? We call that a replacement behavior," Hoffman said.

Strive is the first organization to offer ABA programs in the Grand Valley.

Krystal Kitzman's two-year-old son Eilam has autism and takes part of the Skills program. She said having programs like Skills on the Western Slope is life changing.

"It's relieving because my husband and I had concerns that we were going to have to leave, but now we don't," she said.

Strive is also able to do medical diagnoses of autism which is something that has never been available in Mesa County before. Hoffman said in the past, families and children with autism would have to travel to Denver to get a medical diagnosis for autism. Now, Strive will hold quarterly diagnostic clinics in partnerships with the JFK center.

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