Local program helps children with autism, developmental disabilities

There is help for families and children with autism or other developmental disabilities. Local resources are available and services are free at ERA Behavioral Solutions.

A community center recently opened in Glendale to bring local children and families together. But in addition to that, for the past several years this program has been doing invaluable work in the community in changing children's lives.

Matthew Pinedo is nine-years-old. Around his fourth birthday, he was diagnosed with autism.

"He was unable to talk, he was unable to do things by himself, it was hard," his mother Lily Cardenas recalled.  

Matthew's mother Lily Cardenas enrolled him into ERA Behavioral Solutions.

"He is more independent- he doesn’t need help to do some things - he still needs a little help, but he can do things for himself. If I say Matthew 'let’s do homework,' he knows what to do. Sometimes he tells me, 'It’s OK. I don’t need help' and for me I feel like so emotional, oh my God that’s perfect," she said. 

For over four years, ERA Behavioral Solutions has been providing in-home services to many families across the Southland. In January 2021,  a community center opened in Glendale.

"The main population we target is kids with disabilities, mainly children with autism and other developmental and neurological disorders and using scientific research strategies we work on increasing their socially significant behavior, while decreasing their inappropriate behavior such as aggression, tantrums and so on," Liana Karapetyan explained. 

Currently, ERA is serving 130 children and 68 children are on the waiting list. And now, as a result of the COVID pandemic, Karapetyan says ERA has seen an increase in children who qualify for the services.

"A lot of children who do not even have a disability started getting services, that’s sad for me to see. Due to the fact that they were basically trapped in their places, parents saw lots of inappropriate behavior - emotional reactions and lack of social skills," she said. 

Karapetyan added as the demand continues to grow, she wants to make sure people take advantage of the services being offered. According to her, the majority of families are not aware that their children qualify for ABA services - clinic or in-home services. 

"By the time they find out, kids are already four or five and the valuable time of early intervention was lost due to the fact that families were not aware about their resources. Any family that does have medical or private insurance, it is covered fully under insurance or medical — once they mention we need behavioral treatment and reach out to us or any organization with ABA services," said Karapetyan.

Getting professional help early on changed both Matthew's and Lily's life.

"In the beginning, I was afraid to hear that 'yes your son has a problem' or 'yes your son has a condition.' It is not a bad thing to look for help. At first I was thinking 'that’s fine I am his mom I can help my son,' but no you need professional help for sure," said Cardenas.

Right now, two therapists come to see Matthew every day, Monday through Sunday, in three-hour shifts. Currently, ERA has a pretty large waitlist, and are looking to hire therapists right now.

In addition to English, the staff speaks Armenian, Russian and Spanish.

Click here for more information on the program

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