It’s been a long journey for Melody O’Connor. During the winter of 2022, her beloved daughter, Angeleena O’Connor, was arrested. It’s not easy for a mother to see her child diagnosed with Autism in such circumstances, and it takes a lot of courage to handle the situation.

Melody recalls in a somber tone that she had to call the police over 40 times in the last four years. One of the incidents turned violent when Angeleena grabbed a steak knife and held it to her face. Melody understands that these actions were not intentional as her daughter had medical conditions since childhood. To protect the safety of her daughter and her, Melody was left with no choice but to make the difficult decision to call the police.

It became more challenging for Melody to control

Angeleena is her world, and she adopted her when she was just 10 months old. Melody fondly remembers the days when Angeleena’s aggressive outbursts were manageable, and she could easily calm her down with a hug or carry her out of public places. However, as Angeleena grew older and stronger, it became more challenging for Melody to control her violent episodes. “She’s my size now and she’s extremely strong,” Melody shared with a heavy heart.

At a young age, her daughter was found to have microcephaly, and her brain was smaller than normal. In 2020 she was officially diagnosed with Autism by a psychologist, in addition to anxiety, bipolar disorder and intermittent explosive disorder.

Melody tries to find appropriate care for her daughter

Prior to Angeleena’s arrest in the winter of 2022, Melody made multiple attempts to find appropriate care for her daughter. She even reached out to hospitals and other treatment facilities, but unfortunately, she was met with constant rejection due to various reasons.

Some facilities expressed concerns about housing her with older children for fear of her becoming a victim, while others were worried about her potentially harming younger children. “It was always something” Melody recalls, expressing the frustrations she faced.

DAAY Court or the detention alternative for autistic youth

Until one day, she discovered a unique court program in her community called DAAY Court or the detention alternative for autistic youth treatment court.

This program, located in Las Vegas and conveniently close to Melody’s home, was initiated by Judge Sunny Bailey in 2018 with the goal of helping juvenile offenders with Autism who are at risk of entering the criminal justice system. Its purpose is to address their behaviors and provide them with the necessary support to avoid getting trapped in the vicious cycle of the criminal justice system as adults.

The DAAY Court addresses battery and sex-related offenses in kids with the help of various professionals. The focus is on addressing psychiatric needs, behavioral modification, socialization, and parent training. Judge Bailey presides over the court.

It’s a unique program that received recognition from Governor Joe Lombardo, allowing it to get more funding. The program has helped 86 children graduate and is now available in other jurisdictions. Angeleena’s mom, Melody, along with two others, attest to its positive impact.

Key strategies Judge Bailey uses in DAAY Court

One of the key strategies Judge Bailey uses in DAAY Court is the ABA positive reinforcement, rewarding children who meet goals between appearances. This approach has had positive results, with the kids’ buy-in and progress being monitored regularly. The court team works together in both in-person and virtual settings to ensure that the children’s confidentiality is respected at all times.

In case of unsure Autism, the court has professionals ensure a proper diagnosis, and success rates are high when family cooperation is present. The court follows ABA’s strategies for children with Autism, including obtaining a proper diagnosis and gaining the support of family members. High success rates are seen when parents cooperate with court orders and appointments.

For Angeleena and her mother, Melody expressed that the DAAY Court program has made a significant impact on their lives. She believes that without this program, Angeleena would not be with her today or even alive today. This is something she is certain of and deeply grateful for.

Changing lives for the better

Through advocacy and quality treatment, the DAAY Court program has been able to change lives for the better. This is not just limited to the court system but also extends to organizations like the Nevada Autism Center. Our dedication and commitment to providing effective ABA treatment for those with Autism has played a crucial role in helping children like Angeleena achieve success through the DAAY Court program.

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