Nae Suffriti was all smiles after a recent trip to the hair salon, thanks to a little motivation from Northeast Arc’s Bailey Miller.

“She hadn’t cut her hair in two years, but Bailey helped talk it up,” said her mother, Hayley. “Before, I would have to hold her in the chair.”

Miller is the clinical director of Spotlight, which Nae has participated in for the past two years, attending group sessions three days each week. The program provides Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services to individuals ages 3-22 with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and other related diagnoses. The sessions typically involve group work, encouraging participants to problem solve and take turns.

“We might have them build a village out of Legos so that they’re all working around social skills and functioning as a group,” said Miller.

Spotlight provides a safe and encouraging environment where a sense of belonging is cultivated, differences are celebrated and tolerance is valued. The team creates strong, intrinsic motivation by incorporating participants’ interests into group activities.

“The staff is just wonderful,” Hayley said. “They’re so compassionate and accommodating. Nae has a hard time with transitions, but they give her a lot of options and let her choose. They make her feel like she’s in control and like a superstar when she’s there.”

Nae, a Peabody resident, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder just before her third birthday.

“Often Nae doesn’t express too much whether she’s happy or not,” Hayley said. “I know the Spotlight team has really made an impression because she’s actually telling me she’s happy and she doesn’t want to miss her group.

“And she’s willing to try new things now,” Hayley added. “She’s going to do a gymnastics class, and she’ll even play board games as a family now. The fact that she can play Uno and lose and be OK with it is actually a big deal. Arc has been giving her the tools and confidence to do these things.”

That’s the best feedback Miller could hope for.

“As a whole, the little victories are the most rewarding, like watching them try something new or sustain their attention to a task,” she said.

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