Proud Moments ABA employees Marilu Worlitzky, left, and Jennifer Chafey praise a student for a job well done during a game Tuesday at the Proud Moments clinic on Golf Course Road in Albuquerque. The student, name withheld for privacy, had the job of identifying types of objects on cards – for example, things people eat with or things that fly. (Argen Marie Duncan / Observer)

A new clinic just across the Rio Rancho city limits provides one-on-one therapy with individualized plans for children diagnosed with autism to give them tools to succeed in the community, at school and at home.

Proud Moments ABA, which has clinics in 13 states, opened its third Albuquerque location in the Westside Medical Pavilion, just behind Lovelace Westside Hospital. That clinic started serving families in September and had a grand opening earlier this month.

Marketing Director Sarah Baca said the centers give intensive early intervention services in the form of Applied Behavior Analysis for children diagnosed with autism. Children ages 18 months to 5 years spend 20-40 hours a week getting therapy in the form of various games and activities at the clinic.

Baca hopes to eventually expand clinic hours to serve school-age children. It’s currently open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Families can also arrange for less intensive at-home services, with no cap on age and flexible schedules. Baca said Proud Moments has quite a few clients in Rio Rancho.

Applied Behavior Analysis is an evidence-based treatment for autism. West Side clinic director Kayla Flowers said it’s the gold standard.

Proud Moments uses it to address independent living, communication, socialization and behavior, with no less than one therapist per student.

“I think the important thing to recognize is it’s not cookie-cutter,” Flowers said. “Every child on the spectrum is different.”

A student, name withheld for privacy, at Proud Moments ABA walks on a trampoline in the West Side clinic’s playroom Tuesday. The playroom encourages socializing. (Argen Marie Duncan / Observer)

With ABA, therapists set goals for each child and break those goals into simple steps. They use activities such as story time, music, games and imaginative play to help children reach the goals.

They even do potty-training, Baca said.

Proud Moments has a psychologist who can do diagnostic evaluations so families can get a diagnosis and access ABA faster than through many other entities.

The West Side clinic has 21 registered behavior technicians and four board-certified behaviorists who work on site, plus others who rotate among locations or provide telehealth services.

“It takes a really patient person and that’s what we have here,” Flowers said.

Proud Moments employees want to come to work and change the lives of their students and the children’s families, she said.

Flowers said the West Side clinic is taking new students and can serve up to 40 children there, plus at-home students. The other two Albuquerque clinics have full enrollments, so leaders are looking at opening two more locations in the South Valley.

Proud Moments’ goal is to have children graduate from the program.

“We always want to give them the tools to be successful at school, in the community and at home,” Baca said.

Technicians and analysts also work with students’ parents so they understand their children’s needs and how to help them make progress at home.

“Continuity of care is everything,” Flowers said.

Proud Moments never shut down during the pandemic and doesn’t close during school breaks because of the importance of routine for students and their families, Baca said.

Baca said most health insurance will cover the therapy. If a family doesn’t have insurance, Proud Moments will work with the parents to find a doable financial option such as a payment plan.

“We really don’t want the cost to be a barrier to being able to access services,” she said.