Utah, BYU Football Players Get Hands-On With Autism Through Kids On The Move
OREM, Utah – Members of both Utah and BYU football got together on July 22nd with Kids on the Move to gain a better understanding of autism, and how the organization helps families treat their children. Devin Kaufusi, Hayden Erickson, and Karene Reid with the Utes, joined up again with Tyler Batty, Kade Moore, and Puka Nacua with the Cougars for a hands-on experience with Kids on the Move during their “Water Day”.
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Before the players were released with the children to play, they were given a rundown of what is involved with Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy and how Board Certified Behavior Analysts (ABCBs) and Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) work together to implement the treatment while also gathering valuable data. The players were then led out to Kids on the Move’s lawn area to hang out with the kids and observe the RBTs as they worked with the children during “Water Day”.
Utah And BYU’s Positive Impact On Autism
Last Friday was only the third event the players have been a part of and COO of Kids on the Move Ryan Erickson says they have already noticed some positive developments. One of the biggest milestones the players have helped with is elevate the conversation around autism and what Kids on the Move does. As a result Erickson says they have seen an increase in applications to be an RBT and they have met their original hiring needs goal when they first invited the players out to see what they were about.
“We’ve been onboarding people, usually about seven or eight a week for several weeks in a row,” Erickson said. “We haven’t done that in a long time. If you combined June and July, we’ve been able to hire I believe around 40 RBTs which is really great. Now we are in a position where we have enough RBTs to handle the needs of the children we already have in the program. We have enough RBTs but we are still hiring because there are so many more kids who need our help that aren’t getting it right now.”
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Each child in Kids on the Move’s ABA therapy program need anywhere from 15 to 30 or 40 hours a week of one-on-one time so being able to meet that demand is huge. However, there are still kids out there dealing with autism that Kids on the Move haven’t reached yet, which means the goal has moved again.
“Our projections for this year say we will probably want around 130 or 135 RBTs,” Erickson said. “We are little below 100 right now so there is some growth that needs to happen there. Some of the stuff is very specialized and it’s all about the children- making sure they are progressing. There is a standard there to make sure whoever we bring in is properly trained and we’re willing to pay for the training. However, they need to be a good fit with the kids.”
Understanding Autism Better
Unsurprisingly, the players from Utah and BYU were great with the kids and clearly made their days. Asked about the experience afterward and the consensus was they were a little surprised by the amount of time and detail it takes to help children with autism.
“One thing that stuck out to me with today’s experience was how impactful the help is when these kids receive it,” H. Erickson said. “We were able to see kids who were just starting with RBTs and Kids on the Move, and kids that have been here for a couple of years. It’s crazy to me how much of a difference there was. To me they were just normal kids, and it didn’t seem like they needed any special treatment. They were just loving kids having fun. It was an awesome experience to see that.”
Nacua chimed in about how fast-paced the environment was as well as the kids involved in it.
“Seeing all of the RBTs out here with iPads gathering all the notes and information that is needed to help determine progress is a lot,” Nacua mused. “We were out there for like 30 minutes doing Water Day with them and the energy with which they move and how quickly a mood can change or how something can trigger an action for them. Seeing how they operate here and just the community they have to support all of these kids.”
Reid was amazed at just how big of a community it takes to give a child with autism every advantage they need to be able to lead a relatively normal and happy life.
“I didn’t realize how much you need a community to help raise these kids,” Reid said. “I can’t imagine the load for these parents to put time into other places in their family. I just had a kid three weeks ago and so I feel like I would do anything for my kids, so I can’t imagine how grateful these parents feel.”
Why Help Matters
While Kids on the Move is focused on helping children with autism, that aid give extends far beyond that parameter. Yes, the biggest portion of what Kids on the Move does centers around the actual child with autism, but they also help parents manage the load because more often than not they have other children with needs at home as well.
“The help we provide here is so important because you’re educating the families not only on how to help their child who has that disability, but if you think about it, most people here in Utah have way more than one kid,” Erickson said. “The time it takes to help these children with autism, and then add in the parents that maybe have three other kids and what do they do to provide for them? You start to feel guilty about not giving enough attention and time to the other children because the demand from the autistic child is so high. We do a lot of parent education on how they can handle situations and how you can be a great parent for each of your children. That’s why we push to help these families because the progress they make when they get into ABA therapy is so important to the long-term success of the child.”
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Batty really put that idea into perspective talking about how common autism is in the Utah community and why it matters to have people trained up and able to understand those needs better.
“I think one of the most impactful things I’ve learned since getting involved with Kids on the Move is how many kids this affects,” Batty said. “Especially here in Utah. I didn’t realize how prevalent it is- one in 42 kids. If you look at your average class size of elementary, junior high or high school- at least one of those kids suffers from autism so I didn’t realize how many people we probably come across daily that may have been through the program here at Kids on the Move or know someone or have a family member who has been diagnosed. That has been super-eye opening for me is to see how large the need is for therapy and help within the autistic community.”
Love What You Do, Results Will Follow
Another thing all of the players openly expressed was how much they have enjoyed their experience raising autism awareness and getting to know the people it affects. In fact, Kaufusi stated working with Kids on the Move has been one of his favorite activities he’s been involved in during his college career.
“This has been my favorite thing I’ve done as a college athlete that I’ve been involved with,” Kaufusi said. “It’s a high need and I love working with kids and families. This is right up my ally. Being able to come here and spend the little time we do spend has been awesome. I think it’s been a delight.”
Moore agreed noting that knowing they have helped to decrease wait times for treatment for kids who really need it has been rewarding.
“I think there are tons of acts of service your team will do, or certain people will be asked to do,” Moore said. “Things like this, especially when there are people on waiting lists trying to help their kids out and being able to spread this organization so that word gets out and people come work here. It means more and more kids can come and get help. It’s something that I think all of us feel happy about, that we can help families and those parents who would try to do anything for their kids.”
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