Mother of autistic twins holds soap fundraiser for ABA therapy

(R-L) ABA therapist Donna Duthrie playing with 4-year-old twins Violet and Theta in the Ippolito home, St. George, Utah, June 4, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Amber Ippolito, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – From her kitchen Amber Ippolito creates craft soaps while in another room her 4-year-old twin girls play with Donna Duthrie, an Applied Behavioral Analysis therapist. Theta, one of the twins sits on the floor by Duthrie as they talk and spell out words on a small board and play with various toys, while Violet remains quiet while sitting on the couch nearby.

They may be twins, but they’re both so different, Amber Ippolito said of her daughters. Theta is hyper and talkative, while Violet is quiet and non-verbal in her communication, and rather sneaky at times, their mother said.

The Ippolito twins were diagnosed with a severe case of classic autism when they were 3, Amber Ippolito said. It helped open her eyes more to the behavioral quirks her children exhibited, she said.

You love your kids so much, you’re kind of in a state of denial,” she said, describing the initial shock that followed the news.

Following the diagnosis, Amber Ippolito and her husband began to learn more about autism as they did online research about severe autism. “The prognosis is pretty bad,” she said.

Eventually, Theta and Violet were accepted into a pilot program that provides Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA therapy, through Autism Therapy Services. They started the program in December 2013, and that is when Duthrie began to appear at the Ippolito home.

Since December, both Amber Ippolito and Duthrie said they have seen significant changes in the twins’ behavior. “We’re seeing milestones,” Amber Ippolito said.

For Violet, Duthrie said she has improved in communication by learning to sign more. Theta has learned to focus and listen better. Overall behavior for both girls has also improved, Duthrie said.

“We’re been so lucky,” Amber Ippolito said.

While the twins have benefited from Duthrie’s visits, so has their mother. She said Duthrie helped get her over the “funk” she felt following the twins’ autism diagnosis. As well, she has learned ways to help her girls.

She’s followed through with everything,” Duthrie said.

After June 30, Duthrie will not be returning to the Ippolito home. The current program stops at the end of the month.

Paul Day, owner of Autism Therapy Services, said the program that has benefited the Ippolito family and others with autistic children is a pilot program funded through public and private means through the Autism Treatment Account, Utah Autism Medicaid Waiver and PEHP.

The Ippolitos applied for the Medicaid waiver for next year, but unfortunately were unable to receive it. Still, Amber Ippolito remains optimistic thanks to the recent insurance reforms passed by the state requiring many insurance companies to provide coverage for autism treatment starting in 2016.

“It will be interesting to see how it works out,” Day said. He anticipates the insurance reform will help increase ABA services in Utah. For a state that has the highest rate of autism in the country according to the Center for Disease Control – one in every 54 children – it seems somewhat ironic that the services aren’t as widespread as they could be, Day said.

Day, a Board-Certified Behavioral Analyst with 20 years experience, opened Autism Therapy Services in Washington County in 2012. The company helps around 15-to-20 families a year, and depending on the services needed, the therapy gets expensive.

Having an ABA therapist in a client’s home for 15-20 hours a week for a year can range from $27,000-to-$30,000, Day said.

Though the ABA therapy is largely geared to young children, ABA therapists also help train the parents of autistic children in what they can do to help with their child’s continued development.

“(Amber Ippolito’s) been really gung ho,” Day said, adding that she got a sense of what the program has done for her own children.

“I know I’m going to fight and advocate for my kids,” Amber Ippolito said.

Basket of soaps created by Amber Ippolito, St. George, Utah, June 2014 | Photo courtesy of Amber Ippolito, St. George News
Basket of soaps created by Amber Ippolito, St. George, Utah, June 2014 | Photo courtesy of Amber Ippolito, St. George News

Soap fundraiser

As a way to give back to the program that has helped her children, Amber Ippolito has taken something she likes doing – namely making craft soaps – and has turned it into a fundraiser for Autism Therapy Services. Specifically, money raised through purchases of the soaps will raise funds for educational toys used in ABA therapy.

Amber Ippolito said she likes anything artistic and liked the idea of making the craft soaps. “You’re getting to do something that makes a difference that you like doing,” she said.

Baskets of the craft soaps are currently being sold a four locations around St. George. “The community is really good – people care,” she said.

Those locations are:

  • Dixie Nutrition, 406 W. St. George Blvd., St. George,
  • Carousel Kids, 1330 W. Sunset Blvd., St. George
  • Mail-N-More, 784 S. River Road, St. George
  • Stapley Pharmacy, 102 E. City Center St. St George

The soaps are $5 a bar, and 100 percents of the proceeds go to Autism Therapy Services. Individuals can also donate directly to the fundraiser here.

For additional information, email annabellewhitewater@aol.com.

Soaps and materials used for the fundraiser were donated by Debbie May, owner of Wholesale Supply Plus.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc., 2014, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • R. Neuman June 8, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    thank you so much Mori for coming out to the house. Amber and Donna are so happy. If you can, can you mention the soap making supplies were donated from owner Debbie May of Wholesale Supplies Plus? Debbie May made this whole thing take off from her generous soap supply donation. Thank you once again

  • r.neuman June 8, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    thank you to ImagePro Printing in Cedar City who bought a basket of 20 soaps and gave them to their employees.

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