ABA Therapy for Autism: What You Need to Know with guest Nichole Daher

If you have a child on the autism spectrum, you’ve no doubt heard of ABA therapy. And you’re probably aware of the controversy about whether or not it’s an ethical intervention. Some moms are fans, others are not. In fact, it’s a polarizing topic in the ASD community. On this episode of Brainy Moms, Dr. Amy and Teri interview Nichole Daher, the CEO of Success on the Spectrum. Nichole gets real with listeners about the controversy, shares where it comes from, sets the record straight, and tells us exactly what parents need to look for when it comes to ethical and effective ABA therapy for kids on the autism spectrum. If you have a child with ASD, you need to tune in for this!

Transcript and show notes for this episode:

ABA Therapy for Autism: What You Need to Know
with guest Nichole Daher

Dr. Amy Moore:

Hi, and welcome to this episode of Brainy Moms. I’m Dr. Amy Moore here with my lovely co-host, Terry Miller coming to you today from Colorado Springs, Colorado. We are really excited to welcome our guest today, Nicole Daher. Nicole is an autism mom from Houston Texas who founded Success on the Spectrum. The first comprehensive autism treatment franchise in the United States. The SOS model is transforming the industry by creating healthcare centers that combine a mom and pop feel with the support and training of a large corporation. Because of her pioneering work, Nicole was named one of the top 100 healthcare leaders from the international forum in advancements in healthcare in 2021.

Teri Miller:

Welcome Nicole. I’m so glad that you’re here.

Nicole Daher:

Thank you so much for having me ladies. It’s my pleasure.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Well, I want to hear about your story before we get into all your information. I want to just hear about what led you, your personal story. What led you to starting Success on the Spectrum?

Nicole Daher:

I would hate to call it a trip and fall, but it really was unexpected. My degree is in nuclear medicine technology, nothing to do with ABA whatsoever. When my daughter was diagnosed with autism, it devastated our lives. Everything that you imagine for your kid growing up and going to college and getting married and doing all these things was suddenly maybe not a possibility anymore. Our doctors told us about ABA therapy and how it could help her reach those milestones that she was missing and so I began the hunt to find a clinic that would take her. Houston is a very medical supportive city and even here with all of the medical that we have here, there was not enough. Every clinic that I went to was full. We’re full, we’re full. We won’t take her. We don’t have room.

Nicole Daher:

She’s too old for us. I was frustrated, and as a parent, you want to do anything to help your child. My husband at the time said, well, if she needs this and I think that you can do this, let’s open our own. We did and I was very lucky to have a wonderful team of people who knew exactly what they were doing and helped me build something great. We built an operations manual that was very focused on the quality and not so much on the quantity. We put rules on ourselves to make sure that the quality of therapy was resulting in good progress for the kids. After about nine months, even that long, then my clinic was full and I was the person on the phone saying, I’m sorry, we can’t take your child. We’re full, we’re full.

Nicole Daher:

I hated myself for it. So I opened a second office on the opposite side of town, and I thought I’m doing good in the world and it made me feel so good to get up in the morning. It wasn’t just my daughter I was helping, it was several people’s daughters and sons. Then that clinic got full too. I thought, oh goodness, I can’t do this by myself. That’s when I decided to franchise, surprisingly, there are no other ABA franchises in the country and we now have 25 locations and it spread all throughout the United States and all the two of our franchisees are autism parents.

Teri Miller:

That’s compelling. That means they are invested. That says a lot. Yeah. That they’re not just out there. Oh, I’m a business person, but they’re a business person that’s so invested in helping those kids.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah, absolutely. For our listeners who are not familiar with ABA, could you tell them what that stands for and what that is?

Nicole Daher:

ABA stands for applied behavior analysis and all it is, is a specialized method of treatment or a method of teaching that you can use with, it doesn’t matter if the child has autism or ADD or ADHD or nothing at all. It works very well. It is a method of teaching that is one on one. So it’s like having a private tutor and every child with autism has different symptoms. Some may not be able to talk. Some are not potty trained. Some kids appear to be perfectly normal, but when they don’t get their way, they’ll throw a tantrum and they have behavioral issues. Some can even become aggressive and it’s hard for the typical school system, for a typical school setting if a child does not have a grasp of verbal language. How would a child attend first grade and get anything from it, right? If they don’t understand language, it doesn’t matter if they can’t speak, but if they can’t receive that knowledge, what good is being in school for them?

Nicole Daher:

These teachers are not one on one. There’s five kids in a classroom that looks like a zoo. It’s chaos. It’s difficult. These kids never really make quick progress, but if you have a one on one private tutor that is using nonverbal communication to teach a skill, it works. We reward with reinforcement and we track data. So every time we’re teaching a child a new skill, let’s say for example, the color blue. We’re teaching you the color blue and we have all kinds of toys in front of them and we say point to the blue toy. Every time they point to the blue and they get it correct, we mark it down. Every time they point to the red by accident, we mark it down and we actually track their progress. You can see these graphs of the right answers being made over and over and over again, until we decide that skill is mastered and we move on the next skill.

Nicole Daher:

We can do that with potty training and verbalizing and accepting no, and asking for help instead of throwing a tantrum. If they don’t have verbal communication, we teach them sign language or how to use an app to talk, or how to point to pictures, to get what they want instead of crying, because it’s a more appropriate behavior and it teaches them to function in the real world. One day, they can have a job and live on their own.

Teri Miller:

Right.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So talk a little bit more about the type of positive reinforcement. What does that look like?

Nicole Daher:

Positive reinforcement means we never have punishment if they get the answer wrong. In fact, usually if they get the answer wrong, we just pretend like it didn’t happen. Almost ignoring it, but every time they get the answer correct, we reward and each child is different because each child wants something different. Some like hugs, some like high fives, some like M&M’s, some like to do the happy dance. We have a ton of toys and play equipment in our centers and we say, if you get the question right, well, we don’t tell them. But if you get the question right, then we take them to go play and it builds this subconscious association that establishes a desire to do the right thing. So if a child normally throws a fit to play with Legos, if he asks for the Legos, we always give it to him no matter what. Then we tell him how good he is at asking nicely and we give him high fives and we have popcorn and we do the happy dance.

Nicole Daher:

It is scientifically proven that positive rewards build more change in behavior than punishment, because not only does it establish what is the correct behavior, but also it builds that subconscious desire to do the right behavior.

Teri Miller:

Right. OK. I want to take it back a little bit to your personal story. Just for our listeners, I don’t know. I love story. I love getting into the nitty gritty of what’s really happening. What was this really like? So let me just ask a couple of questions. So your daughter, you said, was this your first born child, your first child?

Nicole Daher:

She’s actually my stepdaughter.

Teri Miller:

Oh, okay.

Nicole Daher:

Not many people know that. I raised her from very young and so yes, it was my first experience as a parent. I had no idea what I was doing at all, much less with the special needs on top of it. I was lost.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. So how old was she when you started seeing things that were concerning? How old was she when you saw concerns? What did you see and then how old was she when you started getting help?

Nicole Daher:

It was funny because she seemed normal as an infant and was starting to talk and babble, and she made eye contact and did all of those things. Then she got very sick. She got pneumonia, was in the hospital. She was in the ICU, she was on a vent. She had got all kinds of antibiotics and all kinds of medicine and after she left the hospital, she was no longer speaking. With line of toys in a row and would no longer make eye contact. At first, we feared she had lost her hearing that she was deaf because you would call her name and she wouldn’t even turn and acknowledge that a sound had been made and she did before. So it was a very abrupt, almost regressive autism that happened. Sometimes it happens that way, where a child is normal. I don’t like that word, but normal for a period of time and then something switches and their behavior changes.

Nicole Daher:

Some kids are just always that way. Autism is a deformity or abnormality of the brain. Nobody knows what causes it to trigger. We know that it is genetically… You have to be genetically disposed, sorry I lost my English. You have to be genetically dispositioned to get it just like high blood pressure or high cholesterol or anything else, but something triggers that gene to turn on. Sometimes it can be trauma and sometimes we don’t know what it is, but it was drastic change and it was very obvious in our case.

Teri Miller:

How old was she when that happened?

Nicole Daher:

18 months.

Teri Miller:

Oh my goodness. Yeah. So devastating. I mean, what a devastating experience there’s huge change, that huge turnover. So 18 months you started to see these changes and then how long was it? How old was she when you began to seek help?

Nicole Daher:

Well, my husband’s a doctor or my husband at the time was a doctor and he knew what to do and we spoke to the pediatricians. At first we put her in a few daycares. She got kicked out of several because they don’t know how to handle a child that is different. These daycares don’t have specialized training. It’s not their fault. I didn’t blame them for it. Seeing how the daycares just didn’t work, we really started seeking with ABA therapy and we did put her in sometime when she was two and the progress was amazing. She started speaking again. She was learning eye contact, her tantrums reduced. When she was diagnosed, it was moderate severe. Present day, she is 15 years old. She’s attending 10th grade high school. Her teachers do not know she has… Well, at least we didn’t tell them she has autism.

Nicole Daher:

She has no special accommodation. You wouldn’t know unless you had good knowledge of what autism is and could kind of see the ticks. I mean, I can see it’s very obvious to me and she’ll always have it and it will always be a struggle for her to learn new skills. She struggles with a lot of things like multitasking and making friends, but ABA rocked our world. It brought back all the things that we lost and she was happy again and that’s all I care about. I just want her to be proud of herself. I want her to be able to be independent when I’m not around anymore to care of herself. It scares me. It scares the life out of me. ABA did that for us.

Teri Miller:

Wow.

Nicole Daher:

It’s been fantastic.

Teri Miller:

What an incredible success story. That’s so great to hear.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah. So-

Teri Miller:

You’re…

Dr. Amy Moore:

Oh, go ahead.

Teri Miller:

I was going to say you’re at your center right now because I can hear kids talking and stuff in the background. Yeah. Yeah. That’s okay.

Nicole Daher:

Lots of kids here today. It’s playtime right now. So you’ll hear them squealing and laughing.

Teri Miller:

Okay.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Is ABA the standard of treatment in autism?

Nicole Daher:

It is the golden standard. I do want to warn parents out there that may be struggling with their child’s diagnosis. There are so many people out there that want to take advantage of your vulnerability. There’s no magic pill that can cure autism. There’s no essential oil that can cure it. There’s no diets that can cure it. There’s no surgery or stem cell research that has cured autism and there’s a lot of people who, I would pay anything to give her just half a chance as living a happy independent life and it’s hard. ABA is the only thing. You put in the hard work. You learn the lessons. It is the only thing with the lasting effect that will scientifically proven to show progress and help these kids learn to become independent and more fulfilled.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So what types of skills can ABA improve or address?

Nicole Daher:

It really works with any skill because it is just a method of teaching. What we focus on with the younger kids a lot is language and communication and that could be verbal or verbal. Gestures, social skills like how far away do you stand from someone? How do you make eye contact with them when they’re talking to you? How many questions is too many questions? How to stay on topic during a conversation? Friendship skills are huge. Children with autism tend to be loners, they don’t know how to interact with others. So they prefer to be alone and so we positively reinforce social interaction and make it an enjoyable experience for them so that they are able to seek that out. How to pick your friends wisely, how to keep your friends and maintain those friendships.

Nicole Daher:

How to be nice to someone, how to take turns. We do a lot of potty training, even for older kids. We have 7, 8, 9, 10 year olds that aren’t potty trained and not able to attend a school just because of that and so we’re able to help with toileting issues. We have a lot of feeding programs for kids who will only eat chicken nuggets and they will eat no vegetables because it’s a sensory issue. It’s a texture thing. We do a lot of work with food. We pair positive thoughts. We associate positive thoughts with food. So we play with food and we get to like food before we ever put it in our mouths. So their broccoli is not scary, it’s not icky. It’s fun because we put googly eyes on it and we painted with it and wouldn’t it be funny if you just did a [inaudible 00:15:44]. Broccoli’s delicious.

Nicole Daher:

We use that positive reinforcement to create a happy, I mean they’re kids and the work for overcoming autism is very difficult and hard. Not just on the kids, on the parents too, but they’re still kids and we want them to have a happy childhood and we want them to be excited to come into the clinic every day and be with their friends, just like they would, if they were attending an actual school and hopefully one day we help them transition into an actual school.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah. So how long is the therapy? How often is the therapy? What does that look like?

Nicole Daher:

That all depends on the child. We only give them what they need because the goal is obviously for them to be transitioned into a mainstream school, mainstream setting and live their life as normal as possible. So if a child is very severe, they may stay with us until they’re 18 and we help them with job skills and independent skills and self care skills as a teenager, until they go into the real world and they may never attend a typical school. The average child stays between five to seven years and the best age to start ABA is just as early as possible. So if we get a two year old, it is very likely we can mainstream that child into kindergarten, first grade. If we get a child and they start ABA for the time when they’re seven, eight years old, it may take a little bit longer.

Nicole Daher:

A child’s brain is so malleable and if you’re exercising that muscle, it will grow properly and they make more progress if you start younger.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So is it all day? Is it an hour a day? I’m just trying to get a [crosstalk 00:17:29].

Nicole Daher:

Yeah. Most kids do attend all day. Monday through Friday, 8:00 to 4:00 in replace of school. Some children that are what is called high functioning, but have behavioral issues that are unable to really fully participate in a mainstream school, they may come to us Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and go to school Tuesday, Thursday, or vice versa. But most kids do attend full time.

Teri Miller:

So I want to ask about kind of a controversial topic, but I think some listeners, especially if our listeners right now are aware of autism, struggling with it in their own family, trying to look for answers, there’s a lot of kind of bad press or fear or concern about ABA that can be found very quickly when you just Google that term. So talk to us a little bit about the dangers of ABA therapy and what you do differently or how you see it differently.

Nicole Daher:

Absolutely. Fantastic question. ABA is relatively new, as far as medical field goes. ABA is only about 50 years old. When they first started implementing this type of therapy with children, it was not a positive reinforcement based system. It was more of, I’m going to teach you how to do something and I’m going to force you to do it and then we’re going to call it a job well done because you did it. It caused a lot of trauma in children. I’ve had clients come up to me present day and say that they left one ABA clinic to come to mine because they were doing a food program at the other place and to get them to eat broccoli, they would shove broccoli in the kids’ mouth, cover their mouth and pinch their nose so they couldn’t breathe until they swallowed and yay! They ate broccoli. I got him to broccoli today.

Nicole Daher:

That is the child to want to eat broccoli. In fact, you’re traumatizing that child and they never want to see broccoli again in their lives and that’s not the point. The point is not to force broccoli into their stomachs, it’s to get them to want to try new foods. Sadly, because it is such a relatively new industry, there are bad ABA clinics out there and they exist and it’s important for all moms to know this present day, bad ABA clinics exist. There is no regulation. We have guidelines from the certification board guidelines, but not a single person will ever walk into my clinic and check and see if we’re actually doing what we say we’re doing. Insurance companies will never come into my clinic and look around and see if we’re actually doing what we say that we’re doing.

Nicole Daher:

They can look at these progress graphs and say, oh, this kid ate broccoli, progress, tick being made, keep doing what you’re doing, but they don’t know how we’re doing it. My specific clinic, obviously I took great lengths to make it a very positive reinforcement. A child is never forced to do anything. We are very, what is called trauma informed. We don’t do any program without a child’s parents permission and if it ever shows any lack of progress, we immediately stop what we’re doing and we try something else. It’s very difficult, especially if you’re new to autism, and your child is freshly diagnosed and you don’t know what you’re doing. There is no way from doing a tour, walking around a clinic that you can tell good ABA from bad ABA, unless you know the right questions to ask. One great way you can tell a high quality clinic from not is actually there’s one organization.

Nicole Daher:

One, which is really sad. There should be many more, but it’s called the BHCOE, the behavior health center of excellence. They are an auditing company. You have to voluntarily submit your company to this accrediting body. You pay them a ton of money. They come in and they rip apart your operations manual. They look at every piece of paper that you have. They look at your admissions form. They look at your operations manual. They come and they sit and they watch hours and hours and hours of therapy. They do interviews with parents. They do interview with your staff. They do interview with all the administration and then they score you harshly and they give you an accreditation. If you meet a certain score, you can get a one year, two year, three year. Obviously the higher you score, the longer your accreditation lasts. So for parents who are out there looking, I highly recommend you find a clinic that does have this accreditation to make sure that somebody else has gone in to verify if they’re actually doing what they say that they’re doing.

Nicole Daher:

Another way that you can tell high quality is how many kids they put per behavior analyst. ABA is one on one, and you can have one technician with a child at all times, but one behavior analyst oversees several technicians. Some of the biggest companies, very large companies in the country. Their standard is to put about 30 to 40 kids on one analyst. When you’re thinking about there are 40 hours in a week, and you have 40 technicians that you need to oversee to make sure that they’re implementing therapy right, you can spend one hour a week with each person if you don’t take back on breaks. It’s too much. You cannot justifiably say that these people are being supervised and trained and doing the right things, that they’re not shoving broccoli down a kid’s throat in the back room when you’re somewhere else. At my company, Success on the Spectrum, our entire franchise operates on a [inaudible 00:23:18] of 12 full-time kids per analyst.

Nicole Daher:

So you have several hours per week to watch each technician working with each child. In addition, we have cameras in every single room on record all the time and we offer parents a viewing room where they can come in and sit and watch their child all day long. [crosstalk 00:23:40].

Teri Miller:

That is key. That is great. Yeah.

Nicole Daher:

As far as I know, we’re the only company that does this. It leads you open to a lot of complaints. If a parent sees something that they don’t like, they will complain and maybe they’ll write you a bad Google review and maybe they’ll Sue you because they saw you traumatizing your child. So a lot of companies choose not to be transparent, but for me if my staff is my analyst and I are busy and we’re not watching every single camera at all times, which is impossible. If a parent comes up to me and says, I saw something, let me go and fix this. This will never happen again and to me, this makes me a better company for having caught the mistakes and corrected them rather than hiding them and pushing it under the rugs and getting away with it. It’s very rewarding to see the parents who come in and they say, wow, this is amazing. They’re learning, watching at the same time and they’re little behavior therapists and technicians at home with their own kids. It gives really good consistent instruction across the board to the kid.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Right. Well, I appreciate that. Yeah. I appreciate you giving our listeners such an in depth response to that controversy and not just the highlights. That’s certainly a comforting distinction that you’ve made and I think that, that’s super educational for our listeners who are wondering why are there these internet articles about ABA being abusive or unethical? Well, because there are clinics who are abusive and unethical and so you have to be an informed consumer and an informed parent and ask the right questions. I appreciate you outlining that for our listeners.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

What is the difference between autism awareness and autism acceptance?

Teri Miller:

Yes.

Nicole Daher:

Autism awareness was a parent led movement that started sometime in the 70s. It was to obviously spread awareness about the existence of autism, because back then just like ADD and ADHD kind of started, it was just the bad kid. Oh, he just needs to be spanked. Oh, he’s just throwing a tantrum because this, this, this not because of a brain deformity. IT started out as that and then big movies came out like Rainman, where you have a very severe, almost savant level person with autism and that spread a lot of awareness. However, not every child with autism is severe and not everyone is savant and super smart and can count [inaudible 00:26:38] do math in their head and all these things. So autism awareness was meant to say, it could be a child that looks normal and can speak and can tie his own shoes and can attend school, but will absolutely lose it when he has a jacket on, because he doesn’t like the way that it feels.

Nicole Daher:

Autism looks different for everyone, it depends what part of the brain is affected. Is it the sensory part? My daughter when bright light flashes, she covers her ears. Like why are you covering your ears when there’s light, but that’s just the way that her brain is wired, she can’t help it. It’s an immediate reaction. Everybody looks different. That movement kind of spread awareness that autism existed and it made you recognize that this kid was different and that’s all great and good, but it didn’t teach anybody how to treat a child with autism. Everybody knows that if a person is in a wheelchair, that is a physical disability, and you should open the door for them if they need help. But nobody knows what to do with the child with autism when they’re throwing a tantrum. The autism acceptance movement is actually autism adult led. It’s not by the parents. It’s actually by autistic people themselves.

Nicole Daher:

The movement is more geared towards stop trying to fix us, stop trying to cure us, stop trying to make us change into a normal person and blend in with normal people and accept that we are different and that allow us to live amongst you. Just like someone who maybe is deaf and mute and they use sign language as the means of communication, a person with autism could maybe use the handy dandy phone or tablet app to communicate what they want to order or what they need purchase. This movement is wonderful and well and good. There was a lot of controversy around what to call autistic people. The parent led movement wanted people first language where you say a child with autism and not an autistic child and the autism acceptance movement is saying, we are autistic. It’s part of who we are. We’re not ashamed, call us autistic. That’s fine. I actually asked my daughter, I was like, well, how do you feel? Would you rather me call you a person with autism or would you be embarrassed if I said, my kid is autistic or my autistic kid?

Nicole Daher:

She was like, I am not a person with a lesbianism. She brought up all these examples of how language is used. She’s like, no, I am autistic. She wants to be called autistic. She’s not ashamed of it and we’ve always been some people have brown hair. Some people have yellow hair, some people have curly hair. Some people have straight hair, some be of autism, some people don’t. She’s at this level of acceptance where this is a part of who I am and will always be a part of who I am and she’s not ashamed of it and she has accepted it and will tell people that she’s autistic herself. This is the level of acceptance I think that we want the public to be in, that if you see a child with autism throwing a fit, it’s not just a bad kid that needs to be spanked. It’s maybe they need help, I should ask them what they need.

Nicole Daher:

It’s a way of living as one world. One big happy world.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I love that.

Teri Miller:

Yes. I love daughter’s story in this and how so much of her experience is shaping not only what you personally are doing, but I mean, this ripple out effect that you’ve created a franchise so that this can be duplicated and it’s based on those real life experiences. So valuable.

Nicole Daher:

Yeah. My ultimate goal is one, to spread the availability of therapy, because there’s not enough. In fact, if you add up all the providers in the United States and all the children with autism in the United States that need the therapy, we only meet 33% the demand. So even with 100 clinics in Houston, there’s still not enough to accommodate how many kids need it. So that’s one of my goals is to actually have the availability of the therapy. Two, by creating a standard, by creating the guidelines, by creating the guidelines for quality versus quantity. I hope that I can drive out or at least get the bigger companies that are out there that are not good therapy that maybe are not trauma informed. If I can get them to compete with me and make them a little bit better just for the sake of me being next to them, that’s a job well done too.

Nicole Daher:

I’m hoping I can help more kids that way instead of just my little town, make it as standard across the country.

Teri Miller:

Right.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So we need to take a break and let Teri read a word from our sponsor LearningRx and when we come back, I want you to talk about the franchising opportunity and I want you to be able to speak to moms who are saying, “Hey, I want to do this in my community.”

Nicole Daher:

No problem. Thank you.

Teri Miller: (Reading sponsor ad from LearningRx)

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Dr. Amy Moore:

We’re back talking to Nicole Daher from Success on the Spectrum. So Nicole, talk to us a little bit about where we can find your existing clinics, how we can find out where they are and then for moms who are listening right now and saying, how can I get involved? Talk about those opportunities as well.

Nicole Daher:

Yes. If you would like to find a Success on the Spectrum center in your area, you can go to our website, http://www.successonthespectrum.com. It is long. It is a mouthful. I know, and we do have a location [inaudible 00:33:55] and we are currently located in several states. Most of our clinics are in Texas, but we have New Jersey, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, and Virginia so far. We are spreading pretty quickly. If you are interested in information on opening your own clinic, you can visit our sister website, sosfranchising.com. Both of these websites have links to each other. So if you forget one or the other, you can find them. Essentially you go through an interview process with us. There are lots of savvy business people who see the industry as booming and who have lots of money and want to open lots of clinics to make profit, but that’s not exactly who we’re looking for.

Nicole Daher:

We are looking for people who uphold our reputation for high quality, who really have the intent of our purpose at heart, who share our mission and our passion to help children. We’re a little bit selective and you interview with us. We help you get a start-up loan. We help you start your LLC. We train you. You don’t have any background necessary. You don’t have to have any degrees necessary. Owning a business is not difficult and we can teach everyone to do it the right way and to avoid costly mistakes. Our operations manual is already fully created. All of our onboarding processes for all the employees are on video format with quizzes at the end, so that there’s uniformity across all centers and it makes running your business very streamlined and very clean. We help people run successful high quality ABA clinic.

Teri Miller:

I’m curious, you were talking about, I think you said earlier you were talking about something, however many number of your franchise owners are actually parents of kids with autism struggles and just curious about how often happens. I imagine that maybe a parent is in a state here in Colorado, we’re in Colorado. I could imagine a parent, a listener hearing this and thinking, well, goodness, there’s no center around me. This sounds amazing. I want to make this available. Then how often does it happen that, that parent has some business skills? They can pull this together and they open a center to satisfy the need that they have for their own kid and like your experience to be able to then spread that to others. Is that how you’ve seen some of that expansion happen?

Nicole Daher:

It’s a lot of how I’ve seen the expansion happen and we really… 2020 was a terrible year for everybody and we didn’t really push the sales of franchises that year. So this year 2021, we sold 25 clinics.

Teri Miller:

Wow.

Nicole Daher:

All that to our autism parents. So it’s happened 25 times this year and I expect it to happen 25 times more next year. I do have to say as an autism parent who runs a business like this, it supports your family so much, not only as a CEO, do you have the ability to leave whenever your child needs help or go to every soccer game and ballet recital and parent teacher meeting because you are your own boss, but financially it supported our business. I mean, having a child with special needs is very expensive and you need stability and you need to keep that insurance going and you need all of these things. This business offered that to me, but at the same time, being an autism parent is lonely. You can’t take your child to events and birthday parties and vacations and things that normal families get to do and you lose touch with your friends that can do these things.

Nicole Daher:

It’s difficult, but having this business… Even my parents, I’m scared to let my child watch my parents. I’m afraid she’s going to eat them alive. They’re just going to give her whatever she wants and the house will be on fire when I come back. So knowing that I have 25 registered behavior technicians that I trust with the keys to my office can also come and babysit for me. So me and my husband can go grab a bite to eat, that’s amazing. So the lifestyle that owning the business offered me is just as good as the life that the company is giving the kids that [inaudible 00:38:26]. So it’s very rewarding, all in all.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Who would be the ideal franchisee? What characteristics, skills?

Nicole Daher:

The ideal franchisee is a person, not necessarily a parent, but a person who has a very close connection with autism. That is aligned with the mission to help kids. Who is not going to say, no, you can’t have this toy because it’s expensive even though the child needs it to learn a specific skill. You’ve got to be able to sacrifice a little bit of profit to give the children the progress that they need and the money will always follow after. We love very organized people, because it is a business. We teach you how to run payroll and do your books and keep your due performance reviews for your employees, but you have to have that personality that you have good time management and you get things done. So we ask questions to kind of figure out because it’s not going to work well for you if you’re very disorganized and chaotic and can’t stay still for more than five minute.

Nicole Daher:

You’re not going to make a good CEO and you won’t be successful. We wouldn’t want anyone to be in that position anyway. So we help figure out what works best for both of us.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Seems smart. Yeah.

Nicole Daher:

Absolutely.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Is there anything that you’d like to leave our listeners with that you haven’t had an opportunity to say?

Nicole Daher:

Autism parents, we’re all in the same boat. You are not alone. You can find companionship. Your child’s future is not all lost. It is not doom and gloom. As long as your child is happy, life is good and we can help that happen. We do lots of parent training to help you be more comfortable in your own self and that I think saved me a lot with not just my child was struggling, but that I was struggling too. Having that parent training gave me my power back, so to speak and it did. It empowered me as a parent and it empowered my child and as a growing person and you’re not alone. If you need help, just like you would want your child to ask the help you can ask for help too.

Teri Miller:

Beautiful. Thank you. Yes.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So thank you so much to our guest today, Nicole Daher from Success on the Spectrum. Thank you for sharing your story, for all of this amazing information. Listeners, if you would like information about success on the spectrum and Nicole’s work, you can visit successonthespectrum.com. You can also find her on Facebook @SuccessontheSpectrum and we will put all of that in the show notes.

So thank you so much for listening today and if you liked our show, we would love it if you would leave us a five star rating and review on Apple podcasts. If you would rather watch us, we are on YouTube. Please follow us on social media @thebrainymoms. So, look, until next time we know that you’re busy moms and we’re busy moms so we are out.

Teri Miller: See ya!

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