TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Six-and-a-half-year-old Jeremiah Cortez’s words were limited until he started speech therapy at the Capper Foundation.

“Jeremiah was 16 months old when I first noticed that his speech was delayed,” said Maria Cortez, Jeremiah’s mother. “We weren’t using as many words, as other kids his age were. As a mom, I was very concerned. So I came to Capper and walked in and asked to talk to somebody.”

Capper Speech-Language Pathologist Lakyn Habiger said Jeremiah needed help to get started with language education.

“When he began, he was only saying a few words and didn’t really understand a lot of the language concepts,” Habiger said. “So it was really difficult for him to participate in those age-appropriate activities.”

When he was three-and-a-half years old, Jeremiah was diagnosed with autism and development disability. This qualified him for Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy.

“I look at [the child’s] behaviors in learning,” said Linda Burgen, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst at the Capper Foundation. “So a child who has difficulty learning, it’s the behaviors they show me, that I then interpret to help them learn. I work mainly with the parents, but I would have Jeremiah come in. By just talking to him, watching him play, I can interpret where his errors were being made, and for the therapies, I would talk with his mom about skills that would help address those issues.”

“We benefitted from it,” Maria said. “We were doing the same things he was doing in speech [therapy], sequencing, and also took care of things at home, like biting his nails, and trying to sleep in his own bed. Those were all things ABA covers.”

Between speech and ABA therapies, Jeremiah’s communication skills have improved leaps and bounds.

“Jeremiah has grown so much in the last three years,” Habiger said. “He is now putting sentences together, telling stories.”

Maria said she sees the progress in her son as well.

“He has done great so far, and we are just hoping to keep progressing,” Maria said. “You find your resources for your child and be that active role. Be the advocate.”

Jeremiah is now in first grade, and his mother reports he’s a teacher favorite for his social and communication skills in class.