BrightBloom Centers Provide ABA Therapy in Delaware

A Wilmington couple's quest to find programs for their autistic son inspired them to launch behavior centers for families throughout the state.

Having a child with special needs can be challenging, and when you’re not able to find the services your child needs to thrive and succeed, some hurdles can seem insurmountable.

When Marcus and Diliana Henry’s son Alex began missing developmental milestones at around 9 to 12 months old, they were concerned. Their pediatrician recommended an early intervention program designed to enhance the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities or delays, but by 18 months, Alex was further withdrawing and disconnecting from his surroundings.

His parents continued to seek answers, but it wasn’t until Alex was 3 that he received a definitive diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While the Henrys were relieved to finally have a diagnosis, Alex had begun to exhibit severe behavioral challenges like aggression and self-harm, which limited his socialization and learning.

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Around that time, the Henrys heard about an intervention program called applied behavior analysis, or ABA therapy. Since it wasn’t available in Delaware, they frequently traveled to Broomall, Pennsylvania, to get Alex the services he needed. The stress sparked an idea.

“We knew Alex would need ABA therapy long term, so we began talking to therapists and other professionals we met through Alex’s treatment network to see if we could put together a program in Delaware,” Diliana Henry says.

Marcus and Diliana Henry, pictured here with their son Alex, opened three Delaware-based therapy centers to bring help to local children with autism.
Marcus and Diliana Henry, pictured here with their son Alex, opened three Delaware-based therapy centers to bring help to local children with autism. By Joe Del Tufo.

In fall 2014, the Henrys opened what was initially known as the Brandywine Center for Autism in Wilmington. Alex was their first client.

“The results of the ABA treatment and the impact on our home life has been remarkable,” Henry says. “Alex is thriving in middle school and is learning to read in an autistic classroom. Our family is happy, and that’s what we want for our clients—a happy, harmonious home life.”

The Henrys’ first location eventually became BrightBloom Centers, providing services in Wilmington, Middletown and Milford in Delaware, and Swedesboro, New Jersey. In addition to addressing behavioral skills, ABA focuses on improving social skills by using interventions based on principles of learning theory.

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ABA therapy helps children on the autism spectrum by increasing social abilities—completing tasks; communicating and learning new skills; reducing behaviors like self-harm; implementing self-regulation; and teaching children to transfer learned behaviors to new environments.

BrightBloom therapists collaborate with other service providers involved in a child’s holistic treatment plan, such as speech, occupational and physical therapists, to focus on all their needs. Once a child transfers to the school environment, the BrightBloom team works with teachers and other school staff to ensure a successful transition into the classroom.

“When everyone works together, your child benefits,” Henry explains.

Brittanie Wisseman, whose two sons attended BrightBloom in Milford, says she is extremely grateful for the services the centers provided for her family.

“As parents, we felt very included in the process. We worked with a well-rounded team, which included BrightBloom, outside therapists and ourselves, as parents. BrightBloom made sure we had everything we needed at home to consistently continue our boys’ treatment plans and had regular meetings with us to determine if anything needed to be revised. [They also] showed us data to demonstrate where our kids were excelling and identify areas we needed to work on, and made sure we felt successful in the community, not just at home or at the treatment center, which was a huge part of the plans’ success.”

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In addition to working closely with parents, BrightBloom provides training programs for clinicians seeking career development. Direct care staff, also known as registered behavior technicians (RBTs), have access to ongoing training and certification, including the opportunity to become supervisory clinicians, or BCBAs, once they’ve completed their master’s degree along with the necessary fieldwork and board certification examination.

“We’re committed to supporting our aspiring clinicians who can make the step from direct care staff into a BCBA position within two to three years,” Henry says. “We support them through their schooling, provide tuition discounts and offer fieldwork experience and exam preparation so they can step into a role that offers them more responsibility and provides them with a fulfilling career.”

Through these centers, the Henrys have not only helped their son and countless other children with autism and developmental delays thrive and succeed but have also found a sense of purpose.

“We want to share a simple message of hope with other parents,” Henry says. “You are not alone on this journey, and we can help.”

For more information on the BrightBloom Centers or ABA therapy, visit the organization’s website.

Related: Integrative Health Care Is Growing in Popularity in Delaware

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