My parents began doing respite and foster care for children with developmental disabilities when I was 11 years old. We looked after many children, some in wheelchairs, some with behavioural difficulties, feeding difficulties and more. I remember all of these children fondly.
During secondary school, I completed work experience at the local special school. These experiences led me to want to become a Learning Disability Nurse, but as I waited to start my university course, I began working in an adult’s challenging behaviour unit and then as an ABA therapist. Also Dan, a 4 year old with autism and challenging behaviour needed a respite family. We began providing respite and I began work as an ABA therapist. Dan then stopped going home due to a complex situation within his biological family. Dan needed a long term home and ABA was opening my eyes to how you could actually teach functional skills to individuals with developmental disabilities. That was it, I cancelled my university place and began a degree with the Open University.
Following my degree I started my Masters in Positive Approaches to Challenging Behaviour at Cardiff University. We also set about fighting to get Dan a full time ABA home based programme and eventually succeeded. Aged 7 by the time we started, not toilet trained, no appropriate communication, severe challenging behaviour, disturbed sleep, no cooperation to do anything; every day was a struggle for all of us. But within months he began to use sign language, his challenging behaviours decreased, his appropriate behaviours increased, he was transforming before our eyes. The therapy was fun, engaging and made him happier than we’d ever seen him!
We tried using ABA to teach him speech, but only managed to teach him 3 sounds, so my search began for prompting techniques that may work with him. We travelled to London, to Orlando to anywhere we needed to! At the age of 12, I had found the right combination and he began to develop speech! Unbelievable! I showed everyone the progress on YouTube on my channel Risca27. Then the requests began coming in for support from other families. I was only just getting ready to sit my Board Certified Assistant Behaviour Analyst exam, but people were asking for me to consult to their programmes. Skybound evolved from here! Crazy really!
I am so incredibly grateful for the amazing people who have supported me along the way and who make up our wonderful team of dedicated professionals, but more than anything, I am so thankful to the families, schools and local authorities who have trusted us to help them to do their best by the children.