Pewaukee firm helps West Bend boy overcome autistic fears

By Gay Griesbach - Special to Conley Media

May 9, 2019

PEWAUKEE — A four-and-a-half year old West Bend boy who virtually ignored visitors and silently led parents to what he wanted now tells jokes, laughs, shows curiosity and emotion.

His parents credit the change to Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy he’s undergone for the past 18 months at the hands of technicians from the Wiebusch & Nicholson Center for Autism.

His mother was resistant to therapy after her son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, but then technicians began to work with him.

“When I saw the difference in him I changed my mind,” said the mom, who asked that she and her son not be identified.

WNCA Associate Director S. Jennifer Nicholson said ABA breaks skills down into measurable teaching units that allow children to experience success with small gains that build into larger skills.

The Pewaukee-based business provides ABA therapy for individuals with autism spectrum disorders throughout southeastern Wisconsin.

Nicholson, who is a board certified behavior analyst, became a certified teacher for children with autism in 1998.

In 1999 she moved from Kansas to Wisconsin to administrate an in-home program for children with autism. Along with licensed psychologist Christopher Wiebusch, they established the Wiebusch and Nicholson Center for Autism in 2004.

Skills taught range from toilet training and dressing to socialization, behavioral control, adaptive coping and academic skills.

Intensive in-home therapy usually requires technicians to work with a child between 25 and 35 hours per week.

“The number one reason kids don’t get the help they need is because there is a shortage of technicians, not enough people for the job,” Nicholson said.

WNCA is always looking for applicants.

The boy’s father said at the age of 15 months, his son still hadn’t made a sound. They took him to a speech pathologist and three months later ended up at WNCA.

Although WNCA does not admit to or identify its clients, the father said his son was diagnosed as being on the low to moderate spectrum of the disorder and began receiving services about three months later.

“He started with one word — ‘bubbles’ — and kept working. It’s been almost two years and he’s done a 180,” the father said.

Nicholson said children begin at a spot on the spectrum — from mildly impaired but able to function to moderate or severe. Children on the severe end of the autism spectrum can be nonverbal and have great difficulties learning and functioning, but that does not mean they are incapable of learning.

While it isn’t a hard and fast rule, with help Nicholson said many children can improve their place on the spectrum.

There is no proven cause and no known cure for autism.

About 1 in 59 children were been identified with ASD in 2014 according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. In 2006, those numbers were 1 in 110 for the same number of monitoring sites.

Nicholson could not say for sure whether an increase in screening and diagnosis or an increase in the actual disorder is responsible for the rise of numbers of children with ASD.

Information from the CDC states that Autism Spectrum Disorder occurs in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, but is about four times more common among boys.

For more information on Wiebusch and Nicholson Center for Autism, check online at