During a recent return visit, Rische reunited with Marie and picked up where they had left off in their friendship.
among other things, the social skills that can help the person function as normally as possible. It is that level of early intervention that Marie missed out on, Rische says. But the sense of what might have been didn’t stop her from designing the program that would, as DiVittorio says, become a “difference maker in Marie’s life.” That difference began with a relationship. “I realized what Marie needed was a girlfriend; it was the kind of attention she had never had,”
Then, once PECS was introduced, Marie’s progress exploded. Armed with a book of picture cards held in place by Velcro, Marie learned to ask for coffee, to specify cream or sugar, and—for the first time in her life—to make verbal sounds such as “c-c-c” for “coffee.” Developed a decade ago as a way of helping children with autism learn to communicate, PECS is widely used with children and adults with an array of communicative, cognitive, and physical disabilities. It
“Our staff was so impressed with what Jaime was able to accomplish with the techniques she used that they have asked to be trained themselves so that they can use the same methods with other people they care for.” Rische says. She began by showing Marie that it could be fun to have a friend to sit with, to share a cup of coffee with, to be silly with. She complimented her clothes, brought her fun hats to wear, and danced to Beach Boys music with her. In a few weeks, Marie began seeking Rische out.
has proven particularly valuable—a claim backed up by extensive research—in encouraging nonverbal patients to initiate conversation and to express their desires and feelings. Marie’s book, which Rische compiled based on PECS protocols, includes pictures that represent many of the
things that are part of her everyday life: banana, Reese’s Pieces candy, chair, shoes, car, hug. It has been instrumental in bridging the communication gap between her and the staff who care for her. The story of Rische’s success with Marie has not been met with surprise by faculty at The Chicago School. Breakthroughs of this type are what the field of applied behavior analysis is all about. Sometimes considered painstakingly laborious by those who are looking for quick fixes for complex behavior issues, the data—which meticulously tracks responses to minute changes in environmental stimuli—offers indisputable evidence of what works and what doesn’t work. Marie is what Rische refers to as “a shining example” of the effectiveness that behavior analysis can have on those with other developmental disabilities. Born with severe cognitive impairments, she was institutionalized in early infancy, and remained in that setting until the deinstitutionalization movement of the late 1970s. At her current home, Blue Cap, she lives in a Community-Integrated Liv-