She first battled medical setbacks after being born 3 months premature. Now 9 year old Ava of Bossier City is overcoming yet another even more mysterious diagnosis - autism.
"She was 2 and a half pounds," say Ava's mother, Carrie Bullock. Ava was delivered 3 months early to save Carrie's life. And at 15 months ago, Carrie says she first noticed signs, indications that something else might be wrong with Ava.
"Tiptoeing and hand flapping. Those were 2 red flags," adds Carrie, although an official diagnosis of autism didn't come until age 3. Ava was not talking, either.
"When I got to the point of acceptance, there is our reality, we focused on - not the mystery of it - but the work we have to do", adds Carrie.
That work involved researching how to make the best life possible for Ava. The Bullocks were led to the Educational Center for Autism at Evangel.
"When Ava started, she was not potty trained and she wouldn't eat. She couldn't be in a group with other children. But here we are 2 and a half years later and she's the most social student we have," brags ECA director Kelly Rouse.
Rouse explains they teach their students the core subjects as well as daily social and language skills. It's a program called Applied Behavioral Analysis.
Instructor Kelsey Long often works with Ava. "It's actually the only proven research to be effective with children with autism."
Long explains they teach the students how to order food at a restaurant, how to brush their teeth and numerous other basic skills many of us take for granted.
Long adds, "Our minds are focused on the science and data and principals of ABA."
With less than one third of all students with special needs going on to graduate from Louisiana public high schools, the Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White is pushing for an overhaul of special needs programs. Instructors at the Educational Center for Autism feel confident their approach works well with children with autism. They add they are seeing positive results every day from all of their students, including young Ava.
"She is our Ava angel and we know she's going to change the world," says Long.
ECA's annual fundraiser is Saturday morning at 9 at the Shreveport Community Church on Buncombe Road. It's a 5k run and walk along with horseback rides and carnival-type booths. Click here to pre register for the run or walk.
Monday, September 1 2014 2:00 AM EDT2014-09-01 06:00:48 GMT
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