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Interacting with peers is part of the process in helping students reach their personal best at Ability. Another is interacting with staff. Dillon’s attendance at Claremont Center’s after school program highlights the positive strides made by a participant, under the guidance of AbilityFirst staff members.


When Dillon joined the afterschool program in October of 2017, he brought with him a can-do attitude. He naturally tends to take on daily and long-term tasks with total commitment to accomplishing them, even when it comes to facing challenges. As someone living with autism, struggling with anxiety has been one of his biggest challenges. At one point, he would scratch at his skin in reaction to feelings of anxiety. He scratched so much that he was not able to join his friends in the pool during the group’s weekly swim time.


Staff stepped in to help Dillon overcome his struggles. They noticed that when Dillon becomes anxious, he is open to discussing the situation and reflecting on it. They also noted that he is willing to do whatever is needed to improve the situation. Observing these traits in Dillon, staff felt they could help him by employing positive reinforcement. They gave Dillon a schedule and explained to him that he was missing out on time in the pool because of his scratching. Seeing the schedule and explaining to him that if he scratched at his skin, he couldn’t swim, helped him reduce his anxiety and he eventually stopped scratching himself. And just like that, Dillon’s anxious behavior stopped, and he was able to get back in the pool. With the help of observant staff, he recognized the link between behavior and consequences, and quickly overcame his anxiety. Now, he is back to enjoying his favorite pastime:

“I love going in the pool!” says Dillon.

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