Category: Parenting

Language Activities

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Family

There are many opportunities to enrich your child’s speech and language skills at home. From gestures to word formation, there are plenty of ways to incorporate learning during your fun. Here are five wonderful suggestions for incorporating ABA therapy practices, speech, and language into your plans:

  1. Reading
  2. Family Walks
  3. Play Dates
  4. A Day Trip
  5. Family Game Night

Read with Your Child

Visit the local library to check out new books, order them online, or revisit your own book stash. Reading with your child is one of the best ways to promote speech and language while encouraging early literacy skills. While reading, ask your child questions relating to the story, including:

  • Where are they going?
  • What do you think is going to happen next?
  • Where is (animal, building, or toy illustration on the page)?

Make the book engaging by using different voices for each character in the story. If your child is not yet verbal, encourage the use of gestures or mimicking, as you would with all their ABA therapy best practices. Don’t forget to praise often and utilize their ABA therapy positive reward system to form lasting behaviors.

Child and adult reading together

Go on a Family Walk in the Neighborhood

Walks are a great way to encourage communication while getting in some exercise. As you walk, comment on what you see around you and remember to use ABA therapy strategies, including short phrases, open-ended questions, and various gestures. Enhance communication by building upon their speech and language skills. While outside, start up a scavenger hunt, work with your child to write or draw clues, and create maps to find items. The scavenger hunt targets vocabulary, critical thinking skills, and following directions, while strengthening ABA therapy goals.

Schedule Play Dates

Playdates foster play, functional communication, peer interaction, and social skills. Offer a few activities, including swinging, bubbles, and snacks, while encouraging communication through various speech and language opportunities. During the playdate, encourage imaginative play between children with camping activities in the yard or playing house. Not only are these activities fun, but they target narrative and play skills.

Plan a Day Trip

If you need a change of scenery, plan a day trip to the park, a beach, museum, or zoo. Providing your child with a variety of experiences gives them an enriching vocabulary. It exposes them to various environments and situations and even builds connections to the books they read. Use this chance to discuss behavioral expectations and rely on your ABA therapy strategies.

Have a Family Game Night

Board games, bingo, charades, and card games are interactive and fun. Most games encourage multiple players at a time so that siblings can join in on the fun! Games encourage turn-taking, rule-following, social skills, and understanding directions. What better way to boost your child’s communication skills?

Family playing twister

Treat every opportunity as a learning one. Through consistent ABA therapy practices, you’ll quickly turn each activity into an enriching speech and language one. Visit us for additional resources and to learn about Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center’s all-encompassing services.

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Bullet journal

Daily routines, such as dressing, brushing teeth, eating meals, and getting ready for bed, offer the perfect opportunity to work on life skills, speech, and language skills with children with autism. Repetitive routines build predictable patterns and provide structure while developing vital speech and language skills within your child’s natural environment. Below are some examples of how to target speech and language and implement ABA therapy practices through your family’s daily routines.

Daily Routines with ABA

Dressing Routines

Dressing your child provides an array of opportunities to work on vocabulary words while selecting clothing items and discussing body parts. Use speech and language strategies, including pointing, gestures, modeling words, and repetition. Just as with ABA best practices, modeling and positive rewards are ideal during dress routines.

Describe what you are doing using short phrases and simple language, such as “socks on” or “jammies off.” You can promote communication by giving choices about which clothing item to wear by asking them if they prefer the pink shirt or the purple shirt. Talk about where each clothing item goes while explaining, “shoes go on our feet.” You can also use speech and language techniques to see if your child will complete statements such as “hat goes on our ___.”

Bath Time

Make bath time a fun and educational routine. Create and explain the steps necessary to wash their body and hair. For example:

  • First, we wash our hair with shampoo and conditioner
  • Next, we wash our bodies with soap
  • Then, we have time to play with our favorite bath toys (and offer their favorite toy as a positive reward, following ABA best practices)

Follow this same routine during every bath time, narrating, and modeling what you are doing with simple phrases, such as wash hair and pop the bubbles. Repetition of bath time speech and language is essential in helping your child develop communication skills. You can also be creative by playing games like Simon Says while emphasizing speech and language techniques like touching your nose or showing me your eyes.

Child in a bathtub

Car Rides

The car is another great time to model speech and language for your child while incorporating their ABA therapy strategies. Talk with them about what you are passing by, what you see around you, and use various gestures. Practice self-talk by narrating where you are going and what you will do.  As they progress, take this time to enhance language with further explanation, such as

  • I see a stop sign, and that means we stop.
  • We need to pick up eggs, apples, milk, and bread at the store. Then we are going to the park.

 

Reading Before Bed

Reading to your child is always beneficial, so incorporate it into their bedtime routine as well.  Discuss the images in your book and what is happening during the story. Try to make reading as engaging and fun as possible! Talk about what the characters are doing with gestures and short phrases. Books with repetitive storylines, such as “Good Night Moon” or “Five Little Monkeys,” are a great way to target early language development. When reading these types of books, pause to allow your child to fill in the missing word or use gestures to show they understand what’s next.

Two kids sitting in bed reading

Together, ABA strategies and speech and language tools can create successful routines for children with autism. Be consistent and enjoy the bonding time you have with your child as they continue to learn. If you’d like more information on resources and service, visit our site today and find out how we can offer your family the support you need.

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Child choosing a library book

Motivation plays a critical role in the overall success of your child’s formation of lasting skills and behaviors. Speech and ABA therapies, in particular, strive to find what motivates your child most. By integrating these interests, they strive to gain and hold your child’s attention to introduce and increase long-term learning. Pairing ABA therapy practice with Pivotal Response Training, or PRT proves to be a successful way to enhance the introduction and long-term adoption of new skills and behaviors. PRT recognizes and stresses the importance of each child’s motivation. Capitalizing on your child’s interests provides additional motivation, opening the doors to optimal learning opportunities during the use of ABA therapy strategies. Let’s take a look at:

  • What Pivotal Response Treatment Is
  • What Developmental Areas PRT Targets
  • How PRT Provides Motivation
  • A Look at a Typical PRT Session

Understanding Pivotal Response Treatment

Pivotal Response Treatment is a behavioral treatment that pairs successfully with ABA therapy for children with autism. This type of therapy is play-based and child-initiated, holding the belief that changes in a pivotal response can trigger progress throughout all other developmental areas. While early intervention is always most effective, PRT is most successful during the preschool through middle school years, teaching them to self-evaluate, self-regulate, and gain further independence. PRT goals focus on three significant aspects:

  1. The development of your child’s communication and language skills
  2. Decreasing and replacing disruptive behaviors
  3. Increasing your child’s positive social behaviors

A PRT therapist will focus on the pivotal developmental areas, rather than targeting one specific behavior. By concentrating on pivotal aspects, PRT provides improvements across multiple developmental areas, including:

  • Communication
  • Social skills
  • Learning
  • Behavior

During ABA therapy, PRT focus areas include strengthening your child’s:

  • Self-management skills
  • Ability to initiate social interactions
  • Motivation
  • Responses to various cues at a time, rather than focusing on one specific detail

How PRT Provides Motivation

Motivation strategies are a vital part of PRT and emphasize consistent, meaningful reinforcement. When your child makes purposeful attempts to request a specific item, such as a favorite toy, that toy is their reward. Children receive their reward when making a meaningful attempt, despite making perfect attempts to increase motivation.

Child with teddy bear

What to Expect from PRT Sessions

PRT programs provide individual tailoring to meet your child’s ABA therapy goals and needs. Psychologists, speech therapists, and special education teachers are among the professionals with PRT certifications who will work with your child. Sessions typically include six segments, roughly twenty-five hours a week, focusing on:

  • Play
  • Language
  • Social skills

 

As your child progresses, the focus and structure of their sessions will advance, making parental involvement imperative. As your child continues to practice at home and in all their natural environments, new behaviors will become lasting results.

Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, our team of professionals will work closely with your family, providing everything you need. You’ll find education, techniques, and support services to help your child meet their goals and thrive. To learn more about our all-encompassing services for your child and family, we encourage you to visit our site or one of our centers today.

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Autism and Siblings

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siblings at home

If you’re raising a child with autism, it’s vital to be aware of the effects it may have on siblings and your family dynamic. You will face many moments of strength as well as stress. Raising a child with ASD comes with extraordinary demands. Still, through the help of your ABA therapy team, counseling, and additional family resources, your family can meet the challenges to come and strengthen sibling bonds.

It is common to feel overwhelming pressure and emotions when juggling your commitments at work, home, and family. The lack of hours in your day may make it feel impossible to dedicate ample time to each child, but it is vital to do so, to maintain balance amongst siblings. But know that all parents raising a child with autism feel they often have little time for their other children and respond to their needs as well. Without a plan in place, the results could be lasting, affecting sibling relationships.  You may begin to notice signs of:

  • Tension between your children
  • Tantrums
  • Bickering
  • Isolation
  • Feelings of resentment

Two small children siblings jumping on the bed

Parental Guidance: Nurturing Sibling Bonds

Helping siblings cope effectively through their experiences with a sibling with autism can be manageable and successful with the right tools and practices in place. In fact, research indicates that the majority of siblings of children with autism cope quite well when their parents have put in the time, effort, and care to educate, work with, and encourage a strong sibling bond.

ABA Therapy for the Family

ABA therapy participation is essential for children with autism. ABA therapy strategies and best practices enhance your child’s ability to form new behaviors and long-lasting skills to thrive. Your child’s ABA therapy team will encourage parental participation, providing techniques and knowledge necessary for you to continue their ABA therapy strategies at home and across all their natural environments.

ABA therapy sessions are open to working with siblings and additional caregivers, so take advantage of these opportunities to help siblings feel their involvement is welcome and necessary. Through ABA therapy strategies, your entire family can meet goals while learning to form lasting bonds.

Ask questions often and seek advice from your child’s ABA therapy team regarding sibling bonds.

Working closely with the ABA therapy team can provide insight into:

  • How to talk to young children about autism
  • Guidance in fostering sibling relationships
  • Time management
  • Counseling resources
  • Art therapy and additional creative outlets

 

Family Counseling

Seeking counseling services is tremendously beneficial for supporting siblings of children with ASD. Siblings require emotional support and social guidance from adults to understand their role, place, and needs. While children with autism may experience stress, so do siblings, creating and enhancing the family unit’s challenges.

Children with autism thrive in environments with low stress and calm. Through ABA therapy and counseling, the family learns to work together to create this type of environment. It’s critical to understand the link between stress and anxiety in parents and siblings and your child’s ability to thrive. When family members experience strain, depression, irritability, or rivalry, they create a hostile environment, unable to help children with autism progress. You may see an increase in regression or acting out.

Combatting negative cycles can be manageable through family counseling. Counseling takes the family as a whole into consideration. Family counseling provides an opportunity to view each member as well as their roles in the family unit. Counseling services look for individuals’ unmet needs as well as their strengths in each relationship. Participating in family counseling offers support to parents and siblings, as they work towards achieving an optimal environment for the child with autism.

Often, family counseling begins with strategies to communicate effectively. Counseling provides a safe environment for each family member to talk within a safe space to express concerns, frustrations, wins, and ideas. Counseling provides parents with tools necessary to create a game plan to strengthen the relationships between siblings and their relationships with each of their children individually.

Utilizing family counseling services allow parents to seek guidance in strategies that benefit the entire family unit and strategies that meet each individual’s needs.

Counseling focusses on:

  • Creating supportive environments
  • Cohesion
  • Developing and maintaining individual roles
  • Addressing frustrations while creating solutions for a nurturing environment

 

Discussing Autism with Siblings 

Family counseling and conversations with your child’s ABA therapy team can provide helpful insight into discussing autism with your children. Discussing autism with your children is best begun at an early age while revisiting the subject often. Keep conversations age-appropriate to ensure they can absorb the information. With younger siblings, help them understand various behaviors they are likely to notice with their sibling with autism. Help them understand safe behaviors and when it may be necessary to ask a parent for help. Explain limitations, such as their sibling’s struggles with communication. Help them understand speech and language barriers may hinder their receptive and expressive language, and what behaviors to expect if their sibling acts out in frustration or may not be able to request assistance.

 

Typical Sibling Concerns

Very young siblings will benefit from family counseling and ongoing discussions of autism. They must gain this understanding to ward off fear, anxiety, and confusion when behaviors arise that are not typical of their other siblings and peers. Repetition is critical with younger children, so revisit conversations about autism regularly and stay open to questions.

 

Older siblings experience more interpersonal concerns, including:

  • Embarrassment and explaining autism to friends
  • Their responsibilities in helping care for their sibling
  • Anger
  • Jealousy
  • Loneliness or isolation

 

Enlisting the help of your ABA therapy team and family counseling can support you in talks with your children at various ages and stages. They will provide individual counseling support for each siblings’ needs to work through these feelings.

 

Common Sibling Struggles

It is common to witness sibling struggles due to the nature of autism. Creating sibling bonds can be difficult for young siblings due to communication barriers. They may experience:

 

  • Feelings of failure while attempting to play
  • Misconceptions when their sibling seems to ignore their conversation or attempts to engage
  • Frustration with their lack of play skills
  • Sudden outbursts or tantrums which scare or confuse them

 

Help young siblings by involving them with ABA therapy practices that can make play and interactions enjoyable. Explain the use of ABA therapy strategies, including positive reinforcements, to include them in techniques to work on undesirable behaviors. Teaching them simple tasks and skills offers them a sense of responsibility in the family unit while helping them engage with their sibling successfully.

Research shows siblings learn basic ABA therapy strategies quickly and take pride in learning them. Simple ABA therapy skills may include:

 

  • Simple instructions
  • Encouraging sounds, words, or gestures
  • Practicing eye contact
  • Modeling and repetition
  • Offering positive reinforcements

Two child siblings hugging

Art Therapy for Siblings

While family counseling offers tremendous benefits, art therapy is an exceptional outlet for children with autism and their siblings. Art therapy allows therapeutic release for siblings who may not otherwise be able to express or handle the challenges of autism in the family.  The use of art therapy for siblings offers a way for them to work on self-exploration and expression. Siblings who tend to keep their feelings in can use art therapy to relax, create, find their inner voice, and excel in something of their own. Art therapy encourages the freedom to invent a voice and work through their feelings, whether they understand them or not. Art therapy offers a variety of outlets to express emotions, including dance, song, and writing. Expression through art therapy builds confidence and insight in a creative and therapeutically beneficial realm.

Art therapy helps children learn to visually express themselves by recording their experiences on paper, canvas, or other mediums. Siblings can use art therapy to share their feelings, perceptions, and fears without judgment. Art therapy offers a sensory-based, non-verbal outlet in a safe environment. By bonding with their therapist, siblings find a safe haven to explore and share freely.

Since art therapy is simply another form of non-verbal communication and self-expression, encouraging even the youngest of siblings to participate is beneficial. As with non-verbal children with speech and language difficulties, art therapy does not require strong verbal communication skills. Young siblings learn to articulate their feelings through drawings and paintings, while conveying struggles, wins, and varying emotions.

The use of art therapy also provides self-regulation for siblings who find themselves battling frustrations or are unable to find proper channels of expressing their jealousy, anger, or sadness.

In fact, neurobiology finds art therapy helpful to siblings, providing:

  • Elevations in mood
  • Increases in sensory integration
  • Improvements in the ability to self-soothe
  • Calming effects
  • Enhancements in critical thinking and problem-solving skills

 

Similar to play therapy, art therapy encourages storytelling. Storytelling through drawings or construction of art pieces is therapeutic as well as telling. During an art therapy session, therapists can understand emotions and experiences through the child’s work.

Establishing social skills through art therapy is possible through expressive art therapy projects. It teaches siblings to appreciate the differences between people and learn to accept another person’s perceptions.

 

The Data on Siblings’ Social and Emotional States

Although research on the social and emotional state of siblings of children with autism is not extensive, we still have valuable data across various factors, including:

  • Age
  • Birth order
  • Gender
  • Temperament
  • Personality
  • Parental involvement and modeling strategies
  • Informal and formal supports and resources available

 

Research by Debra Lobato, (Lobato, 1990) notes a significant factor in a sibling’s positive outlook, involvement, and bonding is due to their parents’:

  • Modeling
  • Acceptance
  • Ability to adjust
  • Reactions

 

Siblings report learning compassion, patience, and tolerance from their parents while having ample opportunities to help them work through difficult situations. Siblings also attribute their successful relationships with siblings with autism to:

  • Self-confidence
  • A better understanding of their sibling’s disability
  • Well-developed coping skills
  • Positive responses from parents and peers toward the sibling with autism (McHale et al., 1986)

 

Common Struggles Siblings May Face

It is essential to prepare for ongoing struggles and difficulties between your children. Some siblings may experience negative feelings towards a sibling with ASD. Siblings of children with autism may report difficulties with social situations, anxiety, and depression due to the nature of autism and its limitations to their sibling’s ability to bond.

 

Sources of Sibling Stress

Parents should be aware of a sibling’s feelings of:

  • Embarrassment around peers
  • Jealousy of a parent’s time parents with their sibling with autism
  • Frustration over being the target of aggressive behavior
  • Attempting to make up for their sibling’s deficits
  • Concerns over their parents’ stress
  • Concern over their responsibility for their sibling or roles in their future caregiving

School-aged siblings may experience difficulties with attention, language, learning, or mood, and will benefit from counseling and additional school support services. ADHD tends to be most prevalent. One study shows that forty-three percent of siblings may be at high risk for at least one area of clinical concern.  Apart from autism, symptoms of ADHD are the most prevalent, occurring in 13 percent of the high-risk children.

 

Top Parenting Tips for Helping Siblings

We want your family to succeed by helping your children form healthy bonds and a strong sense of self-esteem. Following these helpful parenting tips can help you achieve that: 

  • Discuss autism often, keeping lines of communication open and honest, using developmentally appropriate and consistent information about their sibling.
  • Create a plan for family and individualized time. Spending one-on-one time with each child is imperative.
  • Praise and reward all your children for their achievements and efforts. It can be challenging to see a sibling receive positive reinforcements relating to their ABA therapy practices and not understand why.
  • Include siblings in ABA therapy sessions, strategies, and progress to heighten understanding.
  • Allow siblings to have choices in their involvement with care. Forcing responsibility or non-age appropriate duties will only increase resentment.
  • Ensure a safe environment, including their private spaces and their belongings, as some children with autism can have destructive behaviors, including biting, hitting, breaking, etc. Help them learn redirection and response strategies in these events.
  • Offer siblings time to explore and work through their feelings.
  • Listen and acknowledge their feelings without judgment. Give them a voice and validation.
  • Share your own experiences and emotions, as appropriate.
  • Help siblings learn affective methods to cope and manage emotions – offer counseling and art therapy for optimal assistance.

 

While it may be a steep road, you are not alone. Our team at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center is here to support your family with resources, support, ABA therapy, and all-encompassing services to help your family unit thrive. Visit us today for information on all our therapies and services.

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Heat-Safe Sensory Activities

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Dandelion

We know how anxious your child is to get out of the house to explore and burn off energy, but protecting them from the damaging effects of heat is crucial. Planning heat-safe sensory activities will help keep your child safe and healthy through these warmer temperatures. Our team has an array of heat-safe sensory activity ideas for you to enjoy with your child while continuing ABA therapy practices to help them continuing forming and strengthening new skills and behaviors.

Outdoor Art Therapy

There’s nothing more fun than a little outdoor art! Incorporating sensory activities can be as simple as pulling out the sidewalk chalk to work on fine motor skills. Spend time drawing, coloring, and work on letter and number recognition. Explore with different chalk sizes and shapes to help them explore texture.

Artistic sensory activities also include:

  • Paint with ice cubes
  • Paint with water and paintbrushes
  • Create a collage with items you find on a nature walk or in your yard

Child with leaves

Sensory Activities and ABA Therapy Strategies

You can’t have good old fashioned outdoor play without a little mess, can you? If you’re not keen on the clean-up it may entail, limit the mess by utilizing those ABA therapy strategies to model acceptable behavior and include positive reinforcements. Pull out the sand table or a large tub and fill it with rice, sand, or other fun exploratory sensory activities, including:

  • Jello surprises: place fruit pieces or small figurines in various Jello colors and let your child “dig” into the cold Jello to find them
  • Frozen oobleck provides tons of sensory play opportunities and lots of fun and laughter. Freezing it into molds makes it cold and squishy; a great way to experiment in the heat
  • Mud play is another favorite. Toss in a few hidden treasures, or thicken up your mud and practice drawing or writing
  • Shaving cream, especially with the addition of color, provides limitless sensory fun and is inexpensive and easy to handle
  • Dinosaur digs in the dirt never get old. You can also use buttons, beads, pasta, and other fun “gems” you find around the house.
  • Turn on the sprinklers and let your child run through the grass and cool down
  • Making and playing with slime, with or without tiny objects inside, is another go-to sensory activity kids love. Add in a little coloring and essential oil.

 

Heat Safety

Before you step outside or head for the park, make sure you prepare for your time in the sun. It’s easy for kids to lose themselves in play, and they typically won’t stop to let you know when they feel they’re overheating. Children with autism may not be able to communicate their discomfort with the heat, so it’s imperative to stay alert, aware, and proactive. Remember, children do not sweat as much as adults, producing heat rapidly without the ability to cool down quickly.

Follow some of these best practices for outdoor play in the sun and follow through with ABA therapy strategies to keep activities safe:

  • Keep your child full of non-sugary fluids
  • Dress them in lightweight clothing
  • Incorporate water play when possible
  • Limit outdoor play to 30 minutes during sweltering weather
  • Designate cool-down breaks
  • Bring wet cloths to cool down
  • Pack an umbrella in case shade isn’t available

 

We know families want to spend more time outside during warmer months, especially now, but you need to do so safely. Make preparations before heading outdoors and monitor your child closely. Remember to have fun and enjoy these sensory activities with your child as they play, learn, and explore and don’t forget to use each opportunity to practice their ABA therapy goals. We invite you to visit us to find more parenting resources and services we offer to help your child thrive.

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Child hands on a window

While there are many strategies that help children with autism thrive, parents who continue learning with natural environment teaching at home help ensure successful, long-term outcomes. Implementing ABA strategies into your child’s natural environments is vital, but it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. Using NET strategies to bond, enhance creativity, and strengthen various life skills, while making each moment a learning opportunity, is invaluable. Now that we’re in the midst of the summer months, there is an array of activities you can engage in with your child outdoors while encouraging skills and behaviors through ­­­­­­­NET.

 

What is Natural Environment Teaching?

Natural Environment Teaching, or NET, is one method of providing ABA therapy in your child’s natural environment. It allows children with autism to practice and enhance skills, behaviors, and abilities in real-life settings and their clinical settings. The use of NET is beneficial for children on the autism spectrum as a means of helping them enhance generalization skills. Generalization skills help children learn to take the skills they acquire in one setting and apply them to others. This may include taking their clinical ABA sessions to a school or daycare environment, playgroups, or new, unfamiliar environments.

 

Why is Natural Teaching Essential for Children with Autism?

NET provides children with the tools they need to learn, practice, and incorporate new skills. Skills may include:

  • Self-regulating their emotions
  • Developing language skills
  • Enhancing social skills
  • Strengthening bonds with caregivers and peers
  • Developing motor skills

 

Natural Environment Teaching incorporates ABA strategies, including using your child’s interests as motivation. NET encourages the use of less structural play to:

  • Build bonds
  • Teaching socially acceptable skills
  • Introduce new behaviors
  • Encouraging expressive language

NET becomes essential in teaching acceptable ways to behave in a variety of settings, from your home to the grocery store. By helping your child learn to generalize these skills successfully, they will also be ready for unfamiliar settings and situations in the future.

Kids playing hide and seek

Summer Activities for NET

So, how can you incorporate natural environment teaching during the summer months? It’s the perfect time to be outdoors, so utilize what you already have at home and make your own teaching moments. Children love water play, nature walks, and sidewalk chalk drawing. Try incorporating these activities while getting some fresh air and developing new lessons.

  • Practice patience while playing a game with the family. Waiting and taking turns is a difficult skill for all children, but a vital one.
  • Discuss the world around you as you walk through your neighborhood. Ask open-ended questions. Discuss what you see, hear, and smell. It’s a wonderful time to work on vocabulary and communication.
  • Play hide and seek with outdoor toys your child loves. Hide a ball or bottle of bubbles and work on language skills as they try to­­­ locate them. Use plenty of adjectives and prepositions while emphasizing areas your child may struggle with.
  • Invest in or create a water and sand table. Work on sensory issues, add toy cars, dolls, or shovels to the mixture. Develop their sensory, fine motor, and communication skills while they explore.
  • Bubbles or a bubble machine provide hours of fun, from learning to blow and strengthening facial muscles to chasing bubbles and enhancing communication.

Girl chasing bubbles

There’s a whole world of learning opportunities waiting for you just outside your door. Take advantage of the summer weather and create exciting adventures with an educational twist to continue to strengthen your child’s skills. For more free resources on implementing ABA strategies at home or learn about our all-encompassing services, visit our site today.

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little girl in grass

Now more than ever, providing your child with therapeutic techniques at home is essential. As we work towards staying in and schools, daycares, and activities require us to remain at home, it’s essential to carry out practices to ensure your child’s progress. Your child’s team of ABA therapists equip you with the tools and resources you need to continue strategies in your natural environments, so put them to use in creative ways during these times. Our team of professionals has put together several ABA best practices, tips, and strategies to help you implement engaging therapeutic techniques and ABA strategies at home to develop various skills through:

  • Reading
  • Cooking
  • Art
  • Outdoor activities

 

At-Home Therapeutic Techniques: Developmental Progress and Benefits

We know that children are naturally creative, as well as curious. As parents and caregivers, it crucial to provide a safe environment with plenty of opportunities for children to explore this creativity. Doing so fosters essential developmental progress for children across varying abilities. Areas of developmental progress through at-home therapeutic techniques and ABA strategies include:

  • Sense of self; boosts in self-confidence
  • Emotional and behavioral regulation
  • Facial and social cue recognition
  • Imagination and symbolic thoughts
  • Enhancements in fine motor skill

Continuing your child’s ABA practices at home using everyday items in their natural environment offers an enriching, multisensory experience. With a little imagination, you’ll begin to look at your typical household items as learning tools and opportunities to help your child flourish.

 

Therapeutic Techniques for Developing Communication

Are you familiar with the “one-up” rule? It’s a helpful method we like to recommend to parents to improve their language skills at their child’s level. For instance, if your child’s typical speech includes communicating with one word, parents should attempt to use two to three words when engaging in ABA type strategies, such as play routines, with their child. When you keep language at your child’s zone of proximal development, it helps reinforce their attempts at communication while working towards expanding and building upon their vocabulary. This method is particularly helpful during therapeutic techniques involving activities such as cooking or reading, where your child can try to name or label various items. These activities allow parents to model and assist them while increasing their grammar, vocabulary, and overall conversational and social skills.

 

For children not yet using single words to communicate, parents may still use the “one-up” method by utilizing one to two words during these therapeutic techniques. Rely on your ABA training to model labeling, use repetition, and make use of the familiar objects in their natural environment. Providing positive reinforcements and an abundance of praise will help strengthen your child’s ABA goals during these activities.

 

While you may understand your child’s communication styles, keep in mind that it may be more difficult for others, including their therapists, educators, or other caregivers. That’s why continuing ongoing ABA strategies at home are crucial. Continuing the development of their communication skills daily is imperative. While it may be easy for you to anticipate your child’s needs, make it a point to incorporate therapeutic techniques into your daily routine to strengthen their communication skills rather than being too quick to supply them with what they want or need. While being at home may create a decrease in structure and routine, it is vital to stay on top of it. Practice ABA strategies and incorporate them into every opportunity.

 

Therapeutic Techniques for Reading with Your Child

Reading with your children at home is always a fantastic way to bond while strengthening an array of skills from language to auditory. Dialogical reading is an inherently therapeutic technique for children with autism. Dialogical reading is a method that puts more emphasis on language learning opportunities and engagement in children’s books rather than on each individual text. This method of reading opens up more opportunities for conversation and interaction. Parents use books to engage with their child by:

  • Talking about and exploring the pictures
  • Asking them open-ended questions
  • Expanding on their responses
  • Creating an exciting way to learn from each story
  • Encouraging eye contact

 

To make the most out of therapeutic techniques at home, use books that make noises, offer sensory pieces your child can manipulate and touch, and pictures with intricate details allowing them to explore rather than just sit and listen as you read to them. Successful strategies to use while reading with your child include the use of ABA strategies with:

  • Labeling
  • Mimicking sounds
  • Descriptive words
  • Asking questions
  • Making open-ended statements

 

Here’s an example of simple dialogue you can try with your child using a story of a puppy as an example:

  • Point to the image of the puppy on the page while asking, “what is this?”
  • If your child can say “puppy,” take the next step by expanding on their answer: “Yes, it’s a tiny puppy.”
  • Continue to expand using descriptive words, sounds, pausing for answers they may know, and referencing the images often. “The puppy is white.” “The puppy says woof.”

 

This method provides a beneficial extension of your child’s ABA strategies and therapeutic techniques by exposing them to additional vocabulary, allowing opportunities to participate in the story actively, and creating a fun, engaging experience with parents and family members. Reading books with your child from an early age also supports their school readiness, sensory skills, and social skills. Reading together using these therapeutic techniques also encourages children to:

  • Develop print and letter awareness
  • Learn about objects, people, animals, and activities they may not have exposure to
  • Develop their memory by recalling what was on a previous page and recalling the ending of books you have previously read together

Woman and child reading together

Therapeutic Techniques for Cooking with Your Child

Cooking is always a fun way to incorporate your child’s ABA strategies at home. Cooking activities offer several opportunities to use therapeutic techniques to develop:

  • Language skills
  • Fine motor skills
  • Help with sensory issues
  • Social skills

 

There are so many creative ways to use cooking as a therapeutic technique with your child. Take advantage of the different textures, tastes, smells, and vocabulary that go along with your cooking activity to make it educational and full of expressive and receptive language. Use vocabulary words that include adjectives and verbs to describe the senses they use and their actions as you move through each step of your recipe. Talk about what each ingredient feels, smells, tastes, and looks like. Continue to discuss what you are doing with each ingredient, modeling along the way. Utilizing all those ABA therapy tools will come in handy. Additional techniques to incorporate include:

  • Comparing and contrasting the ingredients you are working with
  • Categorize your ingredients
  • Use this time to work on prepositions, including behind, on top of, under, in, on, next to, etc.

 

Cooking also provides an opportunity to work on your child’s cognitive skills and executive functioning, including the sequencing of steps while following recipes. Discuss what the recipe calls for you to do first, second, next, and last. Work on problem-solving skills by making suggestions on ingredients that may have substitutions if you don’t have them or how to go about cleaning up spills and messes along the way. Think of various open-ended questions that will allow your child to hypothesize, such as what the food tastes like or looks like when complete? And don’t forget to include your child in the planning process, from listing, gathering, and shopping for ingredients, to pre-heating the oven and gathering cooking utensils.

Child and adult cooking together

Therapeutic Techniques for Art with Your Child

There are many practical tips for keeping your children busy at home while using therapeutic techniques to extend their ABA practices. While Art Therapy is successful at your child’s ABA clinic, it can be just as successful and incredibly rewarding at home.

Art offers a form of expression and language without the need for strong verbal communication skills. It’s a universal language that offers a more stress-free environment for children with autism to explore, create, and thrive. For children who have difficulty with connection, expression, and communication, art may be a powerful tool to use to overcome some of these challenges.

 

As with your child’s routine ABA strategies, art offers scaffolding opportunities. With the freedom to create and explore through painting, drawing, or molding, children feel less pressure to communicate verbally. This strategy opens the lines of communication through bonding, developing eye contact, and eventually, further social interaction. Using art at home as a therapeutic technique paves the way for developing your child’s communication skills, behavioral expectations, and meeting their ABA goals.

 

Creating engaging ways to explore with art every day at home doesn’t have to be time-consuming.  Slice up some fruit and vegetables to create paint stamps, paint with ice cubes, or practice letters in shaving cream. There are endless ways to bring therapeutic techniques from the ABA clinic to your home, using fun and inexpensive ways to provide new, creative experiences. A few of our favorites include:

 

  • Use safe essential oils, powdered drinks, gelatin, or juices to paint. These items add color, scents, and texture for your child to explore. These household items may make great additions to your playdough and slime recipes!
  • Explore various sensations through touch using warm and cold temperatures while painting or sprinkling in some rice grains and finger paint with your blends.
  • Adding sand to ready-made finger-paints or glue provides additional sensory play with art supplies.
  • Paste a collage of wrapping tissue, cotton balls, and other objects you find both inside and out. A quick nature walk in your yard or around the block provides an excellent source for leaves, twigs, and flowers.
  • Have fun ripping paper, shaking bottles of varying liquids, or toss together some dried beans in cans and make a musical instrument.

 

If your art project’s goal is to create a specific end product, only bring out the necessary materials and provide short, precise prompts to help with instructions. Narrate, and model what you and your child are creating and praise often. However, as a successful therapeutic technique tool, art is more about the process of artmaking than the result. Allow your child to scribble, paint outside the lines, and thoroughly enjoy the process.

Toddler finger paints

Therapeutic Techniques for Playing Games with Your Child

Children love games, and it’s a chance for parents to strengthen their bond while enhancing their child’s learning in the process. Make each game a learning opportunity for your child. Our team has put together a list of our favorite suggestions to enhance social, emotional, language, and motor skills right in your home:

 

Hide and Seek Toys

Using pieces of your child’s favorite toy, hide them throughout the room. The toy could be a train track, puzzle, or a car ramp. Have your child practice asking, “where is it?” then explain to them where pieces may be hiding. Use descriptive words and phrases, such as “behind the couch” or “under the table.” When your child finds a piece, further the conversation by asking, “what did you find?” or “where did you find it?” Be sure to offer praise often and utilize your ABA strategies with these therapeutic techniques.

 

I Spy Outdoors

Who can resist a little game of I Spy? And this is a wonderful time to spend outside, getting fresh air and exploring nature. Use this time to venture out while enhancing communication through narrating what you spy. Discuss the colors, sizes, shapes, and textures you spy. Have your child do the same.

 

The Role of the Parent in Implementing At-Home Therapeutic Techniques

When you provide opportunities for your child to experience a multisensory creative experience at home, you are gradually exposing them to what may otherwise be a difficult one for them to process. Bring ABA strategies into your home to offer these experiences and develop critical life skills, including coping and self-regulation.

 

Your role as the parent offers guidance while promoting confidence and resiliency. The praise and encouragement parents offer is invaluable and can eliminate the anxiety children feel when meeting new people or trying new experiences. When necessary, provide them with additional help, including guiding hands or manipulating materials. Make adjustments to avoid overstimulation and assistance in redirecting inappropriate behaviors. They will soon not require the same level of additional help, but it will always be your role to continue the praise and constant conversation.

 

Make this a special time for your family. Take advantage of the extra time you have together, bonding, interacting, and strengthening skills and behaviors. Providing your child with a low-stress environment full of creative ways to learn will help them form lasting behaviors and skills. Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we offer families the support, services, and resources your family needs to succeed. To learn more about our all-encompassing centers or to find additional tips and strategies, visit us today.

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schedule for kids

Routines can be the backbone of day to day life for anyone. This is particularly true for children with autism. Creating a consistent daily schedule is essential for children with ASD to thrive and cope in any environment. Routines, especially when pairing with ABA strategies, help reduce tantrums and stress, while fostering a sense of order in your child’s life.

Research Support for Routines

Research supports the importance of consistency in daily routines for children of all developmental levels and learning abilities. Strengths in their social-emotional health show a 47% increase over time when they experience structure and consistency in their daily routines. Daily routines also support:

  • A reduction in power struggles
  • Improvements in cooperation
  • A stronger parent-child connection
  • Ownership of their activities and skills

Routines can help your child adapt and transition to even the slightest change. What may seem natural to a typically-developing child may present an array of challenges for a child with autism. These may include:

  • Visiting a new place, whether a park, store, or doctor
  • Transitioning between activities or tasks
  • Tasks out of order, including a different mealtime
  • Trying new foods
  • Visitors, whether planned or not
  • Leaving your house
  • Canceling an activity, even if due to illness or weather

Don’t forget to praise or reward your child for being flexible with changes. Implementing ABA strategies you and your child learn will go a long when introducing additional changes to your daily routine.

The Importance of Routines and Daily Schedules for Autism

Children with autism often have difficulty making sense of everyday life, including movements, sounds, and actions. The world, through their eyes, can be confusing and chaotic. Routines help them establish order in their lives as they learn what to expect and when they can expect it. For them, a predictable and reliable routine creates a safe space where they can feel more secure. Repetition tends to come naturally to them, so learning best through family routines should come as no surprise. They offer the benefit of lowering your child’s stress, providing an environment that allows them to learn and form new skills, habits, and behaviors more quickly. It’s a powerful tool and useful in continuing to incorporate ABA strategies every day.

Children with autism tend to thrive in environments that foster structure, predictability, and patterns. While all children experience diverse challenges and situations, consistent routines can help alleviate these challenges and support their goals. Through predictable routines, children learn to cope with anxiety-inducing situations. When an unfamiliar situation presents itself-creating changes in their daily norm-they are better able to adjust and feel more secure.

Your child will come to depend on knowing what to expect next at any given time of day, in each natural environment. Their patterns help decrease challenging behaviors, should unfamiliar events arise. Implementing routines provides your child with a comfortable and secure surrounding to return to after adjusting to a new situation.

The use of daily routines also helps your child understand that completing any task, including those they resist, will offer the reward of moving on to the next task. By combing the use of visual schedules, positive reinforcements, and ABA strategies, your child will continue to strengthen skills while adhering to their comfort zone of daily routines.

Creating a Successful Routine

Creating routines for your child does not need to be an overwhelming task. Providing such a structure for your entire family is beneficial. Follow these handy tips to help you get off on the right foot.

Calendar

Create a Basic Routine

Begin with a simple list or outline. Identify each task your child must complete each day, and those you would like your child to complete. This list should include waking up, meals, self-care, school, play, and therapies. Think about how long each task will take, organize them by the time of day, and importance. Be sure to account for your family’s needs as well. This will give you an overall guideline when developing your final daily schedule.

Now think about how you can turn this daily routine into an engaging visual for your child. What does your child respond to? Perhaps it may be drawings, cut-outs of images, or photos of them working on tasks.

Now, combine your efforts and create your first daily routine chart. You can utilize a large family calendar or hang a chart on your fridge. The more your child sees and interacts with this visual cue, the more success you will have.

Stick to Your Routines

Life gets hectic. We know this. But we also know how crucial it is for your child to stick to a consistent daily routine to thrive. With today’s technology, there are also plenty of helpful tools to help you accomplish this:

  • Set a timer on your phone
  • Create calendar reminders for therapy sessions and doctor appointments
  • Keep mini timers in necessary areas, including the bathroom for monitoring brushing teeth and washing hands
  • Set controls on devices to limit screen time during free-play or reward activities

And make this a fun task! Choose different tones, songs, or animal noises for each alert. Perhaps your child’s favorite song signals it’s time for free-play, or a specific bell tone alerts them for meals. Over time, your child may even start transitioning tasks on their own after hearing each auditory cue.

Alarm clock

Use Positive Reinforcements

Implementing ABA strategies will help your daily routines tremendously. Positive reinforcements will provide priceless motivation as you begin to introduce your household’s daily routines. It can be as simple as rewarding your child’s behaviors or completions of tasks with a sticker chart. You can also use this opportunity to practice goals and ABA strategies your child is working on during therapy sessions.

Communicate and Maintain Consistency

Communication is key to establishing routines, especially in the beginning. Be sure to refer to your visual schedule often throughout the day. These visual cues will help strengthen the importance of each task and the time you designate for them. Talk with your child about each task before, during, and after. Maintaining these patterns will soon become second nature, thanks to your consistent use of ABA strategies.

Use your ABA strategy toolbox often. Guide your child with prompting, modeling, and plenty of repetition. Praise them for completing tasks, attempts without tantrums, and for moving on to the next task on the schedule when it’s time.

As you continue to maintain consistency, your daily routine will become easier to maintain. As your child adapts, gradually add new tasks to the visual calendar with their help. These new changes can help your child strengthen flexibility and coping skills in the process. Be sure to practice ABA strategies to enforce new additions to the day.

Make Fun Routines with Visual Schedules

Visual schedules help reinforce your child’s routines by making them inviting, fun, interactive, and relatable. Think of the various ABA strategies you and your child use to incorporate play therapy when strengthening behaviors and learning new skills. Implementing daily routines should follow the same approach to enhance long-lasting behaviors.

Visual schedules are particularly useful for children who cannot read or are visual learners. We know through the use of ABA strategies that using visual cues can increase the success of learning new tasks, so why stop there? Creating a fun, visual schedule together can be just as helpful in establishing your daily routines.

There are several ways your family can adopt visuals to implement daily routines:

  • Poster boards for the wall
  • Colorful, interactive digital planners on an iPad
  • Scheduling apps on devices, particularly those for families of children with autism
  • Large flashcards which you can post to a wall, or keep on a ring or in a binder
  • Many of these tools help you continue the use of ABA strategies while helping your child and family
  • Focus on the task at hand
  • Visually see what task comes next
  • Motivates them to complete a current task to move on to a more desirable task
  • Check off items and track progress
  • Receive notifications of appointments and task reminders by alarms and sound
  • Stay on task with visual countdown timers
  • Utilize spoken texts for children who do not read or have difficulty reading

The Use of Social Stories

Social Stories are an excellent tool for children with autism and can introduce new environments and activities into your daily routines. Through the use of stories, you can introduce various social situations and help them learn and adopt socially appropriate behaviors and responses in any given environment. Social stories, or story-based interventions, help you implement basic ABA strategies you may currently be working on, to encourage acceptable behavior. Social Stories work well in combination with ABA strategies and across various therapies to replace socially inappropriate behaviors with desirable ones, including tantrums in a grocery store, or to adapt to playgroups.

Social Stories and Social Cues

Children with autism often misunderstand or struggle to read social cues. Social cues include eye contact, body language, facial expressions, and gestures. Social Stories offer a way for children to learn how to behave in various social settings by describing settings and what typically occurs in each setting. Through engaging stories, your child can learn to pick up on cues they may usually overlook.

ABA Strategies Help Children Cope with Changes

ABA strategies and continuous therapy continue to be an effective treatment in:

  • Building routines that reinforce positive behaviors
  • Breaking down resistance to changes
  • Easing into transitions

Your child’s sensory and verbal communication deficits make it more challenging to process and understand new situations. Implementing ABA strategies can help your child learn to cope with changes in their regular routines. One of the main characteristics you may notice with your child is limiting and repetitive patterns of activities, likes, and behaviors. They tend to be inflexible, anxious when facing changes, meticulous to the point of specific needs for:

 

  • Toy placement
  • A favorite book
  • Use of particular items including towels, clothing, dinnerware
  • Particular foods and the order they must eat them in
  • Specific words, or the repletion of them

For many children with ASD, deviations from their preferences can trigger the onset of tantrums or anxiety. Adhering to their routine can become obsessively imperative. Changes throw a wrench into their safety net, causing disruption, chaos, and meltdowns.

ABA strategies, including positive rewards and modeling, help ease their resistance to change. In many cases, the implementation of ABA strategies is a significant focus in helping children with autism adapt and adjust to new environments and situations that interfere with their typical daily routines. When implementing ABA strategies correctly, routines can become a powerful tool in introducing new people, environments, and activities.

 

Working Through Change

Reinforcing your child’s routines can help them reduce their reliance on them. While this may sound counterproductive, think of it this way – using ABA strategies, such as repetition and rewards, helps a new skill or behavior become a long-term, second-nature habit. Routines offer a similar result. As your child develops a sense of predictability in their routine, they develop security and trust. Nurturing these characteristics sets them up for more successful transitions when a new twist presents itself in their typical routine. Coping skills step in as you communicate changes in schedules. Utilize your visual schedules to prevent traumatic reactions to changes in their daily routine. Talk about it beforehand when possible, reassuring your return to their schedule upon completion.

 

One helpful way to communicate these changes is with backup images or cue cards. If a doctor’s appointment arises unexpectedly, temporarily replace the visual card for that hour with one demonstrating a trip to the doctor. Discuss the change, pointing out the usual activity that follows the appointment. Allow as much preparation as possible for changes in schedules and utilize your ABA strategy tools when possible to help them make a smooth transition. While these visual tools may begin to seem monotonous to you, they help your child make sense of the changes occurring.

 

Through proper training by highly-skilled professionals, you and your family can learn how to create effective routines while incorporating individualized ABA strategies across all their natural environments. Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we offer an all-encompassing clinic which focusses on family-centered therapy practices and the whole child. We know the importance of creating structure and routines to help your child thrive while meeting your entire family’s demands and goals. We invite you to learn more about our therapies, programs, and free resources today.

 

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Child holding colored pencils

Art is an exciting and natural way for all children to explore and learn to express themselves. Through various avenues, such as painting, drawing, and building, children learn to read and explore emotions, develop coping skills, and experience social interactions. While children with autism process the world differently, art allows them to learn how to understand and develop skills they may struggle with. Through a combination of ABA therapy and art therapy, your child can experience multiple sensory stimuli in a safe environment.

Child painting with watercolors

What is Art Therapy?

According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy engages the mind, body, and spirit through the use of integrative methods in ways that are distinct from verbal articulation alone. Art therapy also supports your child’s personal and relational ABA therapy treatment goals by improving:

 

  • Cognitive skills
  • Sensorimotor functions
  • Self-esteem and self-awareness
  • Emotional resilience
  • Insight
  • Social skills
  • The ability to reduce and resolve conflicts and distress
  • Executive functioning skills – a set of mental skills, including working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control.

 

Seeking Treatment Through Art Therapy

Implementing art therapy offers an array of possibilities for children with autism. Art provides a way to help them develop their imagination and understanding of the world around them. Expression through art offers an alternative way to build or enhance their communication skills. It’s also useful in meeting various goals, including:

 

  • Enhance visual skills
  • Define fine motor skills
  • Encourage social skills
  • Improve behavioral issues through integrating ABA therapy
  • Develop sensory integration
  • Decrease off-task behaviors
  • Increase learning opportunities

 

Art Therapy Enhances Communication Skills

Children with autism struggle with the ability to communicate effectively, read cues, and express their basic wants and needs. Using art therapy, in combination with ABA therapy, provides an alternative way for your child to build or enhance their communication skills. Through art, they can form meaningful bonds with their therapist and caregivers while learning to explore a new, less intimidating expression method.

Art therapy provides a way to help your child develop their understanding of the world around them. They benefit by exploring and expanding their imagination and expression. Your child’s therapists will help them learn to find other ways to use receptive and expressive communication through:

  • Symbolism
  • Kinesthetics
  • Sensory exploration
  • Perception

Child recreating a painting

Art Therapists

Art therapists are master-level clinicians who complete education and training under strict supervision to serve their needs best. While they work across many areas, your child will receive focus on their strengths and challenges set by their ABA therapy team. Children with autism typically have their sessions focused on their medical and mental health issues, emotional, communicative, and behavioral growth.

While there is an array of settings for art therapists to work with your child and family, you will typically find art therapy services in:

  • ABA therapy clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Private practice
  • Psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities
  • Community clinics
  • Crisis centers

 

Strengthening Positive Behaviors and Executive Functioning

Art therapy offers children with autism a way to replace and strengthen their behaviors. Art therapy has been in use as a successful form of early childhood intervention for children with autism for years. Studies show children with autism exhibit fewer behavioral challenges after engaging in artistic activities. It offers an opportunity to increase cognitive function through expression, by enhancing their imagination, and encourages abstract thinking. Enhancement of executive functioning skills includes strengthening their working memory and flexible thinking through concentration and attention to detail during art sessions.  Art activities also provide an incredible chance to facilitate cognitive development while helping to build and strengthen their visual-spatial and fine motor skills.

 

Combining Art Therapy and ABA Therapy

Through the use of ABA therapy, children learn to replace undesirable behaviors with new skills and behaviors. ABA therapy relies on modeling, repetition, and the use of positive reinforcements. For children with autism, combining ABA with art therapy offers an antecedent-based intervention or ABI. Similar to ABA therapy practices, ABI offers evidence-based practices that introduce stimulus changes prior to undesirable situations occurring. This method allows the use of similar positive reinforcements, such as selecting their favorite art activities or allowing them to make various individual choices during therapy.

The combination of ABA therapy with art therapy dramatically enhances the overall strengths of your child. They become more independent and begin to develop appropriate social skills. Children with ASD also tend to be visual and concrete learners, allowing the introduction of art therapy to help them better communicate emotions, feelings, needs, and wants through art-based activities that match their learning styles. Art therapy reduces stress and anxiety levels by focusing on your child’s creativity rather than verbal communication difficulties. When they feel more comfortable expressing themselves through art, they feel a level of acceptance from their therapists, caregivers, and peers.

 

Assessing Your Child Through Art

Art therapy and ABA therapy pair well together for assessment purposes. Art offers a wide variety of assessment opportunities in a safe, relaxing environment. Observing your child’s progress includes noting improvements in fine motor skills while demonstrating the ability to focus and improve sensory processing. Cognitive development and behavior are also areas of assessment easily seen through art therapy. It offers an environment that is not over-stimulating while still providing structure, modeling, and opportunities for language and communication strengthening.

 

Art Therapy: Group Session Benefits

Group sessions continue to show valuable benefits for children with autism. By adding a social component to art sessions, they experience and learn to thrive in social settings requiring interaction. Children learn to recognize and read social cues, develop self-esteem, and express their needs. Additional improvements include enhancing:

  • Focus
  • Eye contact
  • Verbal skills
  • Social skills
  • On-task behaviors

Art therapy offers tremendous benefits to help your child thrive across all areas. At Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we believe in providing an all-encompassing approach to meet the various needs of your family. From ABA therapy to art and speech, we are here to provide you with the tools you need. We invite you to explore our resources, and if you are in the Michigan area, allow us to help your family navigate this journey.

 

 

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Children coloring together

Summer camp offers a positive experience for children with autism. It provides an enriching environment for your child to continue ABA therapy practices while expanding social, communication, and overall general life skills. However, finding the best fit for your child’s goals and needs can be overwhelming and will require some thorough research on your part. Allow us to help guide you through the basics of finding a summer camp to accommodate your family’s needs best.

Child eating a smore at summer camp

 

Summer Camp Benefits

Children with autism tend to thrive with consistent routines, making summer camp a fantastic opportunity to continue their growth. Transitioning into a summer camp offers your child additional time to work on  ABA therapy services in a natural, enjoyable environment. Your child will learn to strengthen skills by focusing on speech therapy, social skills through art therapy, and additional group activities. Summer camp is a wonderful way to reinforce ABA therapy practices while allowing your child to explore, experience, and flourish.

 

Research suggests children with autism thrive in intensive, year-round ABA therapy.  Maintaining consistency helps prevent regression in the skills and progress your child has been making. Summer camps offer a setting for all children with autism to continue ABA therapy practices outside the clinic or classroom. Camps allow exposure to sports, creative activities, animals, and nature.

 

Summer camps offer an environment of peer models for your child to learn from. They provide children with high-functioning autism a chance to interact with typically developing children in all-inclusive camp settings. Their social interactions strengthen their communication skills through the ongoing use of speech therapy tactics during activities like art therapy, physical fitness activities, and other group activities.

 

Summer Camp for Social Skills

Children with autism typically prefer solitary activities rather than interacting with others. They often experience difficulty engaging with and cooperating in group settings. While reading social cues and communicating their wants and needs are challenging, summer camp helps strengthen these necessary life skills. By continuing ABA therapy practices in a summer camp setting, children continue to work towards creating life-long skills.

 

Integrating Art Therapy

When searching for a high-quality camp, inquire about their art therapy curriculum. Art therapy offers tremendous benefits, including increases in:

  • Executive functioning skills
  • Sensorimotor functions
  • Self-esteem and self-awareness
  • Cognitive skills
  • Insight
  • Social skills

 

Art therapy offers a safe environment for your child to experience sensory exploration and express themselves without the pressures of verbal communication. Art therapy opens a whole new avenue for your child to enhance their creativity while developing a better understanding of the world.

 

Integrating Speech Therapy into Summer Camp

By integrating speech therapy practices in conjunction with art therapy, your child learns to read cues, express wants and needs, and develop or strengthen overall communication skills. Speech therapy best practices during summer camp activities help promote various methods of communicating with staff and peers. Activities may address speech therapy concerns, including humming, parroting, or yelling, while replacing these behaviors with more effective language skills.

 Finding the Right  Summer Camp

To help you begin your research, the American Camp Association offers a list of accredited summer camps which will maintain focus on your child’s ABA therapy goals. Before researching your summer camp options, make a list of must-haves. Do you prefer a more relaxing setting for your child to focus on social interactions? Perhaps you prefer a camp offering extra speech therapy. You’ll be able to sort through hundreds of recommendations and specify these wants and needs when exploring the ACA site.

 

Summer camps are not a one-size-fits-all, and your selection should support your child’s ABA therapy goals to provide the most successful experience. Camp programs include:

 

  • Inclusive Summer Programs – An inclusive program that will integrate typically developing children and children with special needs. Children with various strengths and abilities are welcome, while staff, therapists, and activities offer challenges and support for everyone’s needs.
  • Specialized Summer Programs – Summer camps for children and teens with autism and other special needs offer a more direct ABA therapy These camps work towards the continuous development of your child’s goals, preventing the regression summer breaks may bring. Specialized summer camps use tools, including speech therapy methods, to enhance successful social interaction with peers and staff during activities.
  • Extended School Year Programs (ESY) – If your child is of school age, their school may recommend a summer camp program if they feel your child is at risk of regression over the summer. ESYs vary in each school and state, but their overall design is to help children with autism continue to work towards their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) using ABA therapy tools and practices.

 

Trustworthy Recommendations for Summer Camps

As with any program, reach out to your support group and other families for recommendations. Ask about their experiences, including success stories and struggles. Talking to other parents who have children with autism will give you great insight into your local programs. Your child’s therapists and special education teachers can also provide recommendations and guidance according to your child’s strengths and struggles. Finding a high-quality program from trustworthy sources is invaluable.

And don’t be afraid to ask the camp for parent references. Programs should be willing to accommodate your needs and answer all your questions to ensure a proper fit. Prepare a list of questions and inquire about their methods, priorities, and best practices. You may wish to include questions from our staff’s helpful list to ensure alignment with your child’s summer goals:

 

  • What licensure does your camp have? Does your staff have ABA therapy training?
  • Do you provide speech therapy, art therapy, ?
  • What credentials and qualifications do the rest of your staff have?
  • If an inclusive program – what is your camp’s philosophy regarding integrating children with special needs into the general population of campers?
  • What structures and activities are put in place to help integrate campers?
  • What does your camp’s daily schedule of activities include?
  • How does your staff communicate with each family to provide progress, updates, tips for home, and respond to questions?
  • What are your medical and emergency protocols?
  • If the camp is specialized – what is your philosophy on encouraging socialization and skill-building? How do your activities and staff support these goals?
  • Do you offer scholarships, grants, or other financial assistance?

 

Financial Considerations

While finances are indeed a significant factor with summer camp, there may be help. Keep in mind, all programs and states vary. Some summer camps offer grants and scholarships to ease the burden for your family. Your child’s ABA therapy clinic may also provide grants or have resources to offer you in your search. Don’t forget to enlist the help of:

  • Your child’s school district
  • Local community clubs, including Kiwanis, Rotary, and Lions
  • The Autism Support Network – you’ll find an interactive list of various organizations that offer local grants to families.

 

Summer camp provides an incredible experience for your child while strengthening the skills and behaviors they learn in their therapy and school settings. From art therapy to speech therapy,  summer programs can offer your child continuous growth during the summer months. For additional resources, contact us today and allow our team to assist you with your child’s summer needs.

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