At the age of nine, Blaire Calabro was diagnosed with Asperger’s, a high-functioning form of autism. “We knew when she was little that there was an issue,” her mother Betsy said. “But we didn’t receive the formal diagnosis until 1992.”
As a child, Blaire exhibited many traditional autistic traits. She was distracted easily, struggled with understanding innuendos, and did not make eye contact with others, and often ignored people when they spoke to her.
“Blaire was definitely an outsider at school,” Betsy continued. “Although she has always been very successful academically, she couldn’t relate to other kids. She didn’t have friends and was basically isolated from others her age.”
Betsy enrolled her daughter in the Center for BrainHealth social cognition study as a way for Blaire to practice interacting with others. The online setting was a plus since Blaire was already comfortable using computers.
“It was helpful to Blaire that there was a neutral party observing her interactions in the virtual world that provided immediate follow-up,” Betsy said. “Every week after the intervention, we had a topic to discuss on our way home to Houston, and I could reinforce what she had learned.”
After five intensive weeks in the program, Blaire showed dramatic improvement in understanding another’s point-of-view, introducing herself to persons she did not know, and starting and maintaining conversations.
“As a teacher, reading specialist, and parent, I believe the social cognition intervention at the Center for BrainHealth shows great promise,” Betsy said. “It gives children and young adults the ability to practice social interaction in a non-threatening, non-stressful environment. Blaire feels more confident interacting with others, and the intervention improved her self image.”