The use of positive reinforcement is a vital component in the replacement and strengthening of behaviors. When implemented correctly and consistently, positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for professionals and family members working with children with autism. Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we work closely with your child and family to educate as well as train you to help your child thrive in all their natural environments.

 

Understanding Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a form of behavioral management known as one of the most effective interventions for children with autism and behavioral issues. It is used within ABA therapy to decrease undesirable or potentially harmful behaviors and increase new and more appropriate behaviors. The use of this reward system, consisting of items or privileges your child finds most meaningful, makes the wanted behavior more likely to be adopted. Ultimately, the goal is for personalized rewards to provide enough encouragement that they eventually result in a new, positive response. If the desired behavior or skill isn’t demonstrated successfully, the reward is not given. The process repeats as often as needed, providing your child time to practice and learn the new target skills and behaviors.

 

Your child’s reinforcer should be something they would crave as a reward to help increase the desire to want to repeat the new and appropriate behavior. Meaningful reinforcers help children with ASD learn to adopt new skills they can use throughout all areas, including life skills. With the help of family, your child’s ABA therapy team, and educators, the consistent use of positive reinforcement helps implement change in maladaptive behavior and strengthens lasting behavioral outcomes.

 

Positive Changes in Therapy

For decades, autism was grossly misunderstood and typically associated with one having a psychiatric disorder. From the ’60s thru well into the ’80s, harsh punishment and abusive treatment were resorted to as a quick, easy, and effective way to create behavioral changes in individuals with autism. It was years before science was able to demonstrate that through positive reinforcement, new behaviors and skills could be successfully learned and replaced with long-lasting effects. ABA therapy brought about a new approach, improving the way a behavioral change in people with autism was handled.

 

Understanding ABA Therapy

ABA therapy examines how your child’s learning and behavior take place. This scientifically validated therapy stresses the importance of repetition and consistent practice of newly learned behaviors across all your child’s natural environments. ABA therapy utilizes positive reinforcement by providing your child with a motivator that is not typically accessible to them. We determine these reinforcers by knowing what is most treasured or motivating to your child, and what they have responded well to in previous sessions and real-life situations. The motivator should always be paired with your encouragement, words of praise, and repetition. Finding a reinforcer they are most likely to strive for, such as screen time, or a favorite snack, will increase the likelihood they will work to adopt more acceptable behavior. Through ABA’s practice of continued teaching using positive reinforcement, the newly learned replacement behavior becomes more natural to them.

 

ABA therapy looks at each child individually to determine strengths and needs across all areas, including:

 

  • Communications skills
  • Social interactions
  • Self-care skills
  • Quality of life
  • Classroom readiness

 

Knowing the Difference Between Positive Reinforcement and Bribes

It’s essential to clear up any misconceptions between a bribe and a positive reinforcer. ABA therapy is not based on the practice of bribing children with behavioral challenges to encourage new behaviors. A bribe is offered before the desired task is performed. Its purpose is to coax a specific action. Reinforcers, on the other hand, are only given to them after the new, desired behavior is demonstrated. Positive reinforcement is particularly valuable in replacing unwanted behaviors with more appropriate responses with your child’s best interest in mind.

 

Your Role as the Caregiver

You play a critical role in your child’s success following ABA therapy session, by understanding the importance of effective behavioral interventions such as positive reinforcement. Your child’s ABA therapy team will create a plan consisting of various goals for your child to work towards. Strategies are introduced during your child’s therapy sessions, demonstrated to you, and meant to be implemented in your child’s natural environments. If there are additional caregivers in need of guidance or training, sessions can usually be arranged to educate them in the use of positive reinforcement at daycare, school, home, or other natural environments.

 

As the primary caregiver, you have invaluable insight your therapists rely on. Your input is vital to determine if strategies and reinforcers are successful in various natural environments. Sharing details on improvements, resistance, and rewards that may or may not be working, will help determine any modifications that may be necessary for successful behavioral change results. Parents are encouraged to keep a notebook of struggles and achievements, as well as questions you may come across. A few helpful tips for caregivers include:

 

  • Keep a list handy of your child’s goals set by you and his therapist
  • Make notes often, including what is working or has been mastered, or obstacles you’re noticing
  • If a reinforcer isn’t working, make a note of what is currently motivating your child
  • Are there activities your child seems to prefer, resulting in more willingness to adopt new behaviors?
  • Don’t forget to take advantage of this quality time together. Have fun, give lots of praise, and explore together!

 

Measuring Success

Through the consistency of effective implementation of ABA therapy interventions, new skills and behaviors will begin to emerge, needing less guidance or the need for reinforcers. Once they can demonstrate the use of the desired action on their own, without prompting or the need for positive reinforcement, it is considered a successfully met goal or a mastered skill.

 

We encourage you to contact our highly trained staff to learn more about helping your child thrive in all their natural environments. For additional information on autism, our programs, and education for your family, we invite you to browse through our helpful resources today.

 

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Family at Valentine's Day

At Blossom Behavior Wellness Center, we are a unique multidisciplinary ABA clinic that places family at the center of a child’s therapy and well-being. Whether there is an ASD diagnosis in your family or not, strong family bonds play a critical role in a child’s development. There are many opportunities to build closer connections as a family every day, and holidays like Valentine’s Day can make them even more special. Lucky for you, Novi, MI is a great town with lots to do.

 

The Best Places for a Family Outing in Novi

Considering that Valentine’s Day is in February, it’s not very likely that you will be able to visit a park for a picnic to reunite with nature. However, this year we’ve had such a mild winter, decent weather is actually a possibility! If February 14th rolls around and that’s the case, seize the opportunity to check out Parmenter’s Cider Mill in Northville. Have some donuts and cider and let the kids climb on the play equipment. Be sure to check out the pond and see if any ducks are looking for a snack! If it’s a little too cold for the cider mill, give Emagine Theatres Novi a visit. Enjoy gourmet concession foods at this highly rated luxury theatre and watch that movie your child has been dying to see in 3D!

 

Create a Fun Valentine’s Craft as a Family

If a family day together at the house sounds more like it, take a note from your ABA clinic and play! Create these heart glitter jars using pink and red glitter, two types of heart confetti, light corn syrup, glitter glue, water, and a plastic jar. When you put it all together, you get a super cute craft that also doubles as a cool-down sensory toy. For something to sink your hands into a little more, try Valentine’s Day playdough! Use flour, salt, cream of tartar, glitter, oil, water, and red food coloring to make this taste-friendly sensory play dough. Cut out shapes, or just mash and smash with your hands.

 

Make Dinner and Dessert Together for Valentine’s Day

After your outing or day of crafts, gather up the ingredients to make a lovely homemade dinner together to enjoy as a family before turning in for the night. There’s nothing like creating a meal together to bring you closer as a family. If you feel like using your hands some more, try this homemade gnocchi. One adult and the kids can make the gnocchi while another adult works on some delicious cupcakes for dessert.  After you enjoy your delicious homemade meal and treat, make sure everyone helps to clean up the kitchen. There’s no better way to end your family day.

 

At Blossom Behavior Wellness Center, we think of ourselves as more than an ABA clinic. We strive to pull from multiple factors in a child’s world to effect positive changes and grow together. Life after an ASD diagnosis can have ups and downs. It’s important to take opportunities to grow together and to build stronger relationships as a family. After all, no one is more influential to a young child than their family.

 

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Celebrate Spring With Sensory-Friendly Events in Metro Detroit

Did you know that Michigan has one of the highest rates of autism in the country? More than 16,000 students enrolled in Michigan’s schools are living with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

 

While it seems like there are always events happening throughout the metro Detroit area for kids, it can often be a process of elimination to find activities that are suitable for children with sensory processing disorders or autism. But it doesn’t have to be an impossible task! Every day, sensory-friendly events exist for the sole purpose of uniting children with special needs and allowing them to feel included in a less stressful setting.

 

Sensory-Friendly Events in Metro Detroit This Spring

From indoor sensory-friendly events that you and your children can enjoy any day of the week to specific outings for children with special needs, we’ve got you covered this spring with a list of family-friendly activities throughout the entire metro Detroit area! We’ve included ideas for little ones as well as older children, so no one is left out of the fun!

 

Toddler/Elementary-Aged Activities that are Sensory Friendly:

 

  • Chuck E Cheese: Rochester Hills

While on the surface, a visit to Chuck E Cheese doesn’t seem like a sensory-friendly activity, it can be! In addition to putting into practice some of the skills your child has been learning through ABA Therapy, some Chuck E Cheese locations like this one, actually open two hours early on the first Sunday of the month for children with special needs to play in a less stressful environment! Always make sure to call in advance to make sure hours haven’t changed, but this is a great way to experience Chuck E Cheese without all the crowds and noise!

 

  • Play-Place Autism & Special Needs Center: Sterling Heights

Play-Place is a fantastic resource for families with children on the spectrum and their siblings! The unique design allows siblings to play together in a safe space. Not only does Play-Place offer a safe sensory play environment, but it also features a computer café, LEGO room, and a haircut hut! It’s the perfect weekend activity for the whole family! Plus, the Play-Place believes in equipping the entire family with tools for success in navigating an Autism diagnosis and has periodic programming explicitly tailored to caretakers about things like IEPs, ABA Therapy, and more!

 

  • Adaptive Storytime: Sterling Heights Public Library

An open environment for children with autism or any other sensory processing disorders, this unique storytime at the Sterling Heights Public Library is an excellent way for you and your children to engage in a morning full of stories and movement! Perfect for children ages three to ten, registration is required!

 

  • Adaptive Youth Fitness: YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit

The YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit strives to serve the community in any way it can, including offering adaptive fitness classes for children ages four and up. From yoga classes that encourage increased flexibility, cardio-strength workouts supervised by a special needs trainer, one-on-one fitness classes, and fun fitness group classes led by experienced staff, there is truly something for everyone! For weekly schedules and more information, check the YMCA website or contact your local club.

 

  • Count Me In! Special Needs Storytime: Canton Public Library

Funded through the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, this special needs storytime will be filled with picture books, preschool songs, and simple sign language instruction for children and their families or caregivers. Each month will feature a different literary theme. To find out more, visit the Canton Public library website.

 

  • Sensory Hours at Sky Zone Trampoline Park

Allow your child to enjoy the freedom that comes with jumping at the Sky Zone trampoline park, but with a calmer atmosphere. Sensory hours provide a quieter, toned-down experience that children with sensory processing disorders need. Check with your closest Sky Zone Trampoline Park for their sensory hours!

 

  • Sea Life Aquarium: Auburn Hills

Enjoy the full Sea Life Aquarium experience with your toddler from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on select Mondays and Thursdays at Toddler Time! Not only can you save on the price of admission, but it’s the perfect activity for your curious child who loves the underwater world! If you’re looking for sensory-friendly hours, check with the Aquarium, as they typically have sensory-friendly hours an hour before general admission with lights and sounds turned down so everyone can enjoy a walk through the amazing underwater world.

 

Pre-Teen and Teen Activities that are Sensory-Friendly:

 

  • Night to Shine: 2020

Teens and young adults are encouraged to attend this safe and supportive Prom night, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation at Life Bridge Church in Taylor. Teens 13 years old and over with special needs are welcome to attend this free event!

 

  • Adult and Teen Sensory Storytime: Bloomfield Township Public Library

Adults and teens can join in on the movement, music, and art at this adaptive storytime at the Bloomfield Township Public Library. Occurring the second Monday of every month at 11 a.m., this is a unique event that you’ll want to add to your monthly routine!

 

If books aren’t your child’s thing, why not try a sensory-friendly event featuring a new documentary each month? Specially designed for teens and adults with developmental or sensory-processing disorders, each movie is played with the sound down and the lights up, keeping the event inclusive of all! These movies are screened the last Friday of each month at 11 a.m.

 

  • Aspie Teen Social: Autism Support and Resource Center in Burton

Perfect for ASD teens from 11-18 (and their same-aged siblings!) that are independent enough to be dropped off for a social with other teens their age, this event features structured activities and self-selection activities that encourage socialization and fosters the making of friendships. Teens will enjoy a pizza dinner each month, too! The cost to attend is $5 per person. For more information, check out the Autism Support and Resource Center’s website!

 

Activities for Everyone:

 

  • AMC Sensory-Friendly Films: Metro Detroit Theatres

Did you know that AMC Theatres partner with the Autism Society to bring special movie showings in a sensory-friendly environment for families as well as mature audiences?  Lights are up, the sound is down, and aisles are clear for patrons to get up and dance, walk, or sing! Family-friendly movie showings happen on the second and fourth Saturday of each month, and the mature audience showings happen on Wednesday evenings. For more information, check with your local metro Detroit AMC theatre!

 

  • Emagine Theatres: Birch Run, Canton, Hartland, Macomb, Novi, Rochester Hills, and Saline

Voted the Best Movie Theatre for several years running by the Detroit Free Press, Emagine Theatres boasts a luxury movie-viewing experience with reclining seats and gourmet snacks. For families, teens, and children with sensory needs, Emagine Theatres has now started offering sensory-friendly screenings. What is a sensory-friendly screening? Put simply; it’s a movie-viewing experience that puts everyone at ease. House lights will be on during the showing, the volume will be low, audience interaction is allowed and encouraged, and those with food allergies will be permitted to bring in their snacks and beverages to make everyone feel at home. For specific dates, times, and what’s playing this month, check out the Emagine Theatres website.

 

  • SatARTdays: Anton Art Center

The first quarter’s schedule for 2020 is out, and SatARTdays promises to be exciting for everyone involved! Pencil in the second Saturday of each month for a free art event or performance around the metro Detroit area. Open to everyone in the community, these events are the perfect occasion to take your children to practice ABA Therapy techniques and have fun while doing it! For the schedule of events, check out Anton Art Center’s website today!

 

  • Art Explorers Special Needs Art Class: Plymouth

This inclusive art class for children of all abilities focuses on fine motor skills, patience, self-reflection, communication, and sensory processing, all wonderful things to practice in a group environment outside of ABA Therapy! Once a month, children will create a different piece of art and learn to interact with the world around them. Because the Makers ‘N Shakers wants everyone in Detroit to have the ability to interact with the healing world of art, these classes are “pay what you can,” so anyone can join! For more information, check out this website for specific dates and times.

 

Behavioral Therapy in Metro Detroit

If you live in the Detroit area and are interested in learning more about how ABA Therapy can help your child, reach out to us today! At Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we strive to create an all-encompassing center for families, furthering our commitment to the families and children of the metro Detroit area.

 

How Can ABA Therapy Support Your Outings?

ABA Therapy, or Applied Behavioral Analysis, takes a look at your child’s environment and the impact it makes on their behavior. Highly personalized for each child, ABA Therapy is essential in understanding, influencing, and, ultimately, learning to change unwanted behaviors. However, the key to ABA Therapy is utilizing positive reinforcement, not negative. Rewards are often the easiest way to affect change in behavior, not just in children with ASD or autism, but in any child having issues coping with specific environments.

 

ABA Therapy has shown to be beneficial in multiple areas in a child’s life:

  • Self-care skills
  • Home
  • School
  • Social Skills

 

How Can ABA Therapy Help My Child?

Caregivers and parents are essential in reinforcing the work done in ABA Therapy, because you are the second line of defense, supporting your child in environments when these harmful or distracting behaviors come up, often outside of ABA Therapy.

 

Did you know that among other things, ABA Therapy helps your child develop essential social skills like:

 

  • Feeding themselves
  • Potty training
  • Coping Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Social skills with adults, peers, and in group settings

 

A number of these skills are necessary for your child to know relatively early on in life, which is why early intervention is so necessary. It can make the therapy process a much smoother transition for yourself and your child!

 

ABA Therapy at Home

One of the most common questions parents have for therapists is how they can continue to encourage the new, positive behaviors at home and play. Planning playdates and taking your child out into the metro Detroit area and applying the positive reinforcement techniques you and your child have learned through ABA Therapy are two excellent ways to continue the forward progress in a fun way! By picking the right events that cater to your child’s specific needs or challenges will set you up for success and ensure that everyone walks away with a smile on their face and lots of happy memories to look back on!

 

Tips for Success Outside of ABA Therapy

When you leave your therapist, it’s easy to feel like you may not be “doing it right.” Still, by following a few pieces of advice from trained therapy professionals, you can make sure you are doing what’s best for you and your child every time you take them to activities in Detroit. Keeping a record of results, like things that did and didn’t work, will prove helpful to you and your child’s therapist, and it will be essential to see how far you’ve come and how much progress you and your child have made from month to month. Here are a few tips you can think about as you start planning your outings this spring!

 

  1. Have fun

Above all, this should be your first goal. Make sure whatever you choose to do, it’s something your child enjoys. You don’t want every outing to feel stressful, or as work, it should be an opportunity for one-on-one bonding time with your child or a memorable family outing!

 

  1. Note what positive reinforcement techniques motivate your child most

Keep track of what does and doesn’t work so you can share with your child’s therapist during your next visit. This information is essential to learning more about your child, helping them succeed outside of therapy.

 

  1. Make a note of what activities your child prefers

This may seem obvious, but taking note of the kinds of activities that your child loves will help you plan events and outings that they’ll enjoy and will likely want to repeat. This desire to be at these events will likely spark the desired behaviors you’re working towards in therapy, which is a step in the right direction!

 

Let us know if the team at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center and our team of trained therapists and loving staff members can support you on your family’s journey!

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As the time nears for your child’s school transition, there are several ways you can begin to prepare. Following your request for your child to be evaluated for special education services, you’ll want to start your preparations for your child’s IEP meeting. Our team has put together some helpful tips to help you navigate through the IEP process successfully.

 

What is an IEP?  

The Individualized Educational Plan, or IEP, is a document developed for any public school child who qualifies for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, or IDEA. It aims to identify necessary accommodations for your child to thrive in the least-restrictive school environment. A multidisciplinary team meets to determine your child’s eligible disability and need for services in the public school setting.

Who Will Attend the IEP Meeting?

There are individuals required to be present at your child’s IEP meeting, including:

  • Parent: You provide unique and valuable information that sheds light on your child’s areas of concern, needs, and strengths.
  • Child: When a class or school transition is necessary, your child may be included in the IEP meeting, if appropriate.
  • General education teacher: At least one of your child’s teachers will be present to provide insight into your child’s successes and needs in the classroom.
  • Special education teacher: A trained educator who has experience working with children with disabilities will be present to help all members plan your child’s accommodations and offer ways to implement them.
  • An interpreter of results: This person is responsible for relaying and interpreting your child’s evaluation results and utilize them to help develop the best instructional methods.

Additional members may include:

  • A language interpreter, if needed
  • Representatives from school transition service agencies, when applicable
  • Any person(s) with knowledge of or expertise surrounding your child and invited by the district or parent, for example, Speech Language Pathologist, BCBA, Occupational Therapist, Social Worker, Counselor.

What the IEP Covers

The IEP is meant to ensure your child receives the required services and support necessary to succeed in the school. It is a written document that should be revisited yearly but can be modified at your request for a new meeting at any time.

The IEP documents will include:

  • Relevant information about your child’s:
    • Disability
    • Strengths
    • Needs
  • Comments or clarifications
  • Observations and evaluation results, including state and district academic exams
  • Additional requirements or concerns involving:
    • Social skills
    • Language development
    • Physical therapy
    • Behaviors
  • Measurable Goals that are attainable within the school year
  • Methods of evaluating goals

Special Education Services

Your school district is required to provide your child with the services and tools needed to reach their goals and objectives in the least restrictive classroom possible. The IEP will also state:

 

  • When services begin
  • Where they will take place
  • How often they are to be provided, including the length of sessions

 

If necessary, it will also include:

 

  • Strategies for behavior management when interfering with learning or the learning of classmates
  • Assistive technology
    • Any and all devices or services needed
  • Accommodations in the general education classroom if applicable

 

By preparing in advance, the IEP should be a smooth and more easily understood process for your family. Plan to attend with a list of questions you’ve compiled, medical records, previous school or service records, and any additional files of information you believe to be relevant to your child’s meeting. Our knowledgeable team at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center is here to help you prepare for your child’s school transition and IEP preparation needs. Visit us to find out how we can help.

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Counseling Therapy and Other Self-Care Ideas

As the parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, you are a living, breathing superhero. You take on the roles of your child’s support, teacher, caregiver, friend, advocate, and so many more during your daily life. There is no shortage of new information about Autism Spectrum Disorder to take in, new behavior and academic plans to review, and new milestones and joys to celebrate with your child.

When you are caring for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of never considering your feelings, mental health, and need for self-care. You may even find yourself feeling guilty for wanting to take some time for yourself to relax and recharge.

The truth is that, though your child is your number one priority, it is just as important to take care of yourself. Living with and loving a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder has many joys attached to it, butcan also be quite challenging. Parents of children with Autism need to consider their self-care and mental health to be the best caregiver and support system they can be for their child and the rest of their family.

Read on for ideas about self-care for busy parents, including the merits and importance of counseling therapy.

Autism 101

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects an individual’s actions and their ability to interact with others. It also affects communication and learning, requiring the individual to receive therapies to mitigate the effects of the disorder. About one in every 68 children in the United States gets a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder per year.

You have likely heard Autism referred to as ‘a spectrum’ due to the range of symptoms that individuals with Autism may experience. While there is no known cause of Autism Spectrum Disorder at this time, current research shows the likelihood that both genetics and environmental factors play a role in its origin.

Children with Autism benefit greatly from therapies and interventions designed to work on behavior, learning, self-expression, and self-advocacy. Behavior programs are designed to address difficulties in social skill building, attention, anxiety, and challenging behaviors. Education and learning programs focus on learning, reasoning, and ‘whole life skills,’ including improvements in fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

What Therapies Entail for Children and Parents

After receiving a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, your child will likely receive recommendations for several potential therapies from professionals in the field. One of the most widely-recognized treatments for children with Autism is applied behavior analysis or ABA therapy.

ABA therapy is designed to bring into focus how a child’s environment affects their behavior. Using a reward system that is meaningful to the child receiving the treatment, ABA works to replace undesirable behaviors with more positive responses. As a parent, you will be responsible for helping to promote and reinforce the skills your child learns with their ABA therapist in other social settings, including school, relatives’ homes, etc.

This responsibility is not to be taken lightly, as improvement relies on your putting the skills and reinforcements your child learns in ABA into practice outside of their therapy sessions. Continuing to apply what your child learns during ABA will not only assist your child in forming permanent positive behaviors, but it will also provide you the confidence and knowledge you need to guide them both at home and beyond.

The Importance of Self-Care

The responsibility of continuing to reinforce your child’s ABA therapy at home carries with it feelings of fear of inadequacy or error, both of which can cause anxiety and make you doubt your effectiveness. Self-care is an excellent way to mitigate these feelings and get yourself into a more healthy, centered headspace.

Some parents may feel guilty for considering taking some time for themselves when they have devoted so much time, love, and attention to their child and their care. But giving yourself a break can improve your ability to connect with and support your child! When your mind is centered, you will be better able to give your time and attention to your child, who needs your support most of all!

Self-Care Ideas

As the parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, you cannot overlook the importance of practicing self-care and taking time for yourself. If we never take time for ourselves to relax, unwind, and recharge, we run the risk of burning out, becoming short-tempered or having a full mental or emotional breakdown.

Self-care looks different for each of us, so the first step in figuring out proper self-care is to discover what makes you feel calm, centered, and happy. Since the parents of children with Autism lead busy lives, it’s also essential to find a self-care activity that you can easily fit into your daily schedule.

If you’re not sure where to begin with self-care, we have a few easy suggestions for you to get started on your self-care journey:

  • Go for a run or light jog – the endorphins you’ll experience from moving your body will elevate your mood and make you feel less tense.
  • Meditate for ten minutes – allowing your brain to relax and letting go of persistent anxious thoughts can help you feel more centered during your day.
  • Enjoy a healthy snack – choosing to eat an apple over a bag of candy will not only benefit your body, but it will also keep your mind alert and your anxiety level stable.
  • Set up a recurring coffee date with a close friend – there is nothing quite as unique as the power of human connection during stressful times, so enjoy the company of a loved one when you need to unwind.
  • Start a journal – writing down your thoughts can help you feel less burdened by concerns or stress. It is also a great way to keep track of things that bring you joy!

Counseling Therapy

While you may draw comfort in the art of meditation, or in baking delicious cookies to share with friends and family, or in going for long bike rides, these activities are sometimes not enough to ensure that you are mentally and emotionally at your best. For many of us, and especially for those parents of children with Autism, working with a counselor or therapist can be extremely beneficial.

But what do we mean when we say counseling therapy? Just as there is an incredible amount of information out there about Autism Spectrum Disorder, there are many resources and pages of information regarding different types of counseling therapy. If you have received counseling therapy before, you may feel more at home in your search for an appropriate therapist at this stage in your life. If you have never previously received counselin therapy, it can be daunting to figure out who to see and what sort of treatment is right for you.

At its core, counseling therapy is the process in which an individual sits down with a licensed professional for talk therapy. You will work through any emotional, behavioral, mental, physical, or social issues you may be experiencing that are hindering your ability to live your life as you would like to. Therapy is designed to assist individuals with not only talking through their problems but also with learning to think in new ways, respond to circumstances more effectively, and combat depression, anxiety, fear, and a myriad of other emotions.

We suggest counseling therapy as a method of self-care because we know how much of your time, attention, and emotion you give to your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder. They are at the center of your world and, as such, you carry with you their joys, fears, victories, and failures as if they were your own. By taking care of your emotional and mental health through seeing a counselor, you will be sure to be able to support your child and yourself through your child’s diagnosis and beyond.

The Benefits of Counseling Therapy

The benefits of counseling therapy for parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are innumerable, but we have selected a few of the top benefits to dive into:

  • Counseling therapy helps you understand and accept the diagnosis

When your child receives a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, it can be an unbelievably daunting thing to wrap your mind around. You will experience feelings of guilt, worry, fear, and grief as you navigate the first few weeks and months. When you are experiencing complicated emotions like grief, counseling therapy can be a lifeline for you, helping you with acceptance and moving forward post-diagnosis.

  • Counseling therapy shines a light on ways to better your parenting

Parenting a child with Autism can look quite different from parenting a neuro-typical child. You may find yourself overwhelmed and confused when considering the sensory issues you must keep track of, the educational accommodations to be made, and the therapeutic decisions that best suit your child’s specific needs. Finding a counselor who specializes in working with families of children with Autism is crucial to your ability to navigate the anxiety you may be feeling and prioritize things to reduce your worry.

  • It can help you and your partner become closer

The diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder affects both fathers and mothers alike. Your partner will likely mirror the stress and anxiety you feel, and this mirroring can cause tension between parents. A counselor who understands the sort of pressure that parents of children with Autism are under can assist the couple with navigating such stress while remaining a connected team. Bear in mind that this can take time – counseling therapy is not an immediate fix, but will be beneficial to your relationship in the long run.

  • Counseling therapy is wonderful for stress management

To stay mentally and physically healthy, both for ourselves and for our children, we need to manage our stress correctly. Whether you see a counselor to assist with a brief rough patch or schedule sessions more consistently, a counselor will help you manage your everyday stressors along with the stress that comes from having a child with Autism. With a licensed professional there to provide you a listening ear and techniques to overcome your anxieties, you will be more able to tackle your days with confidence.

How to Find a Therapist

Finding a therapist that not only specializes in what you are seeking help with but also whom you connect with can seem like a daunting exercise. A simple internet search will return hundreds of options for therapists within fifty miles of where you live, many of whom focus on particular areas, like depression, eating disorders, or PTSD. So how should you begin your search for your perfect therapist?

We suggest starting by asking someone you trust if they can make a recommendation. Asking your child’s ABA therapist or another member of their professional care team is an excellent place to start, as they have likely networked with therapists who specialize in working with families of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Your child’s primary care physician may also be able to make a recommendation for you.

If you are unable to find a therapist through word of mouth, you can reach out to your health insurance company for assistance. Many insurance companies have online resources available for subscribers to search through local therapists and counselors that accept your coverage.

When all else fails, an internet search can help you narrow down therapists in your area who have worked with parents of children with Autism! Try and identify at least two to three potential therapists to reach out to, as some may be unable to take on new patients.

Parents of children with Autism often feel as though they should be strong enough to handle all the stressors that come their way. Still, without counseling therapy or another preferred self-care practice, they may find themselves overwhelmed and burned out. No matter what method of self-care you choose for yourself, integrating the practice into your daily life will work wonders for your mental and emotional well-being.

Take care of yourself and, when you have questions or need advice, know that Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center is here for you!

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Differentiating Play During ABA Therapy

One of the most essential aspects of ABA therapy is the way it can be tailored to meet a child’s specific needs. The one-on-one attention and individualized plan your therapist will provide your child is designed to help them reach their goals and learn new life skills. A significant part of differentiating ABA therapy is using forms of play that your child will find meaningful and respond to.

Processing an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis can be a big undertaking, and figuring out what’s best for your child in terms of therapy can feel daunting as well.

The Basics of ABA Therapy

Though you may have done your research or have met with an ABA specialist already, we thought we could start with a brief rundown of what ABA therapy entails.

ABA, or Applied Behavioral Analysis, is designed to take an in-depth look at how learning and behavior are connected and to provide you a better understanding of how an environment can affect your child’s behavior. ABA is designed based on B.F. Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is the idea that appropriate responses can be taught by controlling what consequences stem from specific actions taken by your child.

The building blocks of ABA therapy include:

  • Antecedent: the events or circumstances that happen immediately
    before a behavior
  • Behavior: the action taken as a result or in conjunction with the
    previous precursor
  • Consequence: the events that immediately follow the target behavior
    and are contingent on the behavior

Using a system of rewards that are personally meaningful to your child, ABA therapy facilitates desired behavior through positive reinforcement. It works to change your child’s behavior for the long term. ABA therapy also involves generalization, the process of carrying positive response into situations and environments outside of the ABA clinic with individuals other than your child’s ABA therapist.

ABA therapy is expansive, covering a wide variety of skills, including:

  • Social skill building
  • Self-care skills
  • Behavior in the home environment
  • Behavior in other social settings, such as the classroom

ABA and Positive Reinforcement

Both in and out of the ABA clinic, one of the central tenets of ABA therapy is the concept of positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement works to encourage specific behavior in your child by presenting them with a reinforcing stimulus following their desired action. When the incentive or reward is something meaningful to your child, it is much more likely that your child will present the same positive behavior in the future.

Much like ABA therapy in general, the rewards used as favorable reinforcement will look different for different children. Basic examples of rewards used for positive reinforcement include:

  • Verbal praise for completing an essential, necessary task, like homework or picking up toys
  • A small cash allowance for every passing grade received on a report card
  • A favorite piece of candy for politely introducing oneself to a new acquaintance

ABA and Changing Behavior

ABA therapy is, by far, one of the most popular interventions available to children and people with autism. But as a parent of a child newly diagnosed, you may be concerned about how going to the ABA clinic can help change or modify your child’s behavior for the better. It is ok to be skeptical!

The use of a reward system includes various items or privileges your child responds to well. By individualizing rewards, your ABA therapist is creating a behavior system based on the rewards that will eventually result in a new, positive outcome. However, if your child does not present the expected skill or behavior, inside or outside the ABA clinic, the reward will not be given. Over time, your child will learn and adapt to the expected skills and behaviors.

Play Therapy in ABA

The benefits of play as an aspect of ABA therapy cannot be understated. Whether your child is at the ABA clinic with their therapist or with you and your family at home, introducing play into their sessions will have positive effects on their behavior.

What constitutes play therapy? Much like the rest of ABA therapy, play will look different for different children. For some children, play therapy may seem
like a simple goofing off session. For others, play therapy may be more structured and formal.

No matter what it looks like, play therapy is all about interacting with others cooperatively and competitively. Play therapy also includes communicating needs and wants, strategizing, interpreting the intentions of others, and taking turns. It’s the perfect way for your child to improve social skills and their ability to practice self-advocacy.

As the parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, you can feel confident in your ability to practice play therapy with your child, as play therapy does not need to take place solely in an ABA clinic. With the right coaching, you and other notable figures in your child’s life can play effectively with your child at home, at school, and in different settings.

Directive and Non-Directive Play Therapy

You can practice two very distinct types of play therapy at home, in the ABA clinic, or at school. They are:

  • Directive play therapy

A guided approach to play therapy. During directive play therapy, a therapist or parent engages the child more often and directly throughout the play. They might make suggestions or try to move the session along.

  • Non-directive play therapy

Non-directive play therapy is the polar opposite of directive play therapy. It involves a more unstructured type of play. During non-directive play therapy, your child is left to guide themself during playtime. There are very few boundaries during this type of play therapy, and your child will be expected to work through problems and roadblocks on their own.

Floor Time in ABA Therapy

You may have come across the term “floor time” as you’ve researched play therapy and interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder. This type of play therapy involves the child, parent, and therapist all working and playing together. Floor time consists of both directive and non-directive approaches, allowing your child to experience the perfect blend of independence and structure during the session.

Just as you will differentiate other aspects of your child’s ABA therapy, you and your child’s therapist will come up with a plan to differentiate your child’s play therapy and floor time as well. The session may begin with little to no direction, which will allow your child to determine the initial play activity. As the session progresses, you or your child’s therapist can prompt your child to choose a new toy to play with, communicate in some way, or take another action that will make the session feel a bit more directed.

Key Goals of Floor Time During Play Therapy

During floor time, your child’s therapist will be on the lookout for your child to fulfill six specific goals. These goals are:

  • Your child demonstrates an understanding of the mechanics of the game
  • Your child actively engages with the therapist in the ABA clinic or with you
  • Two-way communication between you and your child or your child and your child’s therapist is displayed
  • Your child becomes aware of their specific wants and needs within the game
  • Your child makes a gesture to communicate these wants and needs during the game
  • Your child can calm themself downshould they become upset

For each child, achieving these six goals will look very different, but your therapist will likely structure the floor time session to maximize the likelihood that your child will reach these goals.

First, your child’s therapist will allow your child to lead the session. When given autonomy, some children may choose to play with blocks while others may gravitate toward dolls or toy trucks. Your child may opt for a simple board game. The possibilities are endless, but the options for play will be toys or games that your child has expressed interest in playing with in the past.

As the session progresses, introduce toys and activities to make floor time more complex and dynamic. For example, your child’s therapist may add a dollhouse to your child, where they may have only been playing with individual dolls before. The introduction of a new, related toy allows your child to display their understanding of how dolls and dollhouses are connected.

During floor time at the ABA clinic, you and your child’s therapist should be on the lookout for your child’s ability to show an understanding of how to play with the specific toys presented, communicating with you about the game, and asking pertinent questions.

Play Therapy at Home

As crucial as productive play therapy is at the ABA clinic, it is just as essential to practice play therapy and floor time at home. Carrying play therapy over from the ABA clinic to your home is a critical element in generalization, or your child’s ability to respond to stimuli and present the same positive behaviors across multiple environments.

So how best to enact a play therapy session at home? As we’ve mentioned, play therapy will look different for every child. As such, it is vital to recognize the type of play that your child will respond to best. Does your child like arts and crafts? Does your child enjoy music and dancing? Maybe they enjoy board games more than other toys. Once you have an understanding of how best to play with your child, you can introduce play therapy in your home.

Think back on how you have seen your child’s therapist carry out a play therapy session with your child in the ABA clinic. Start with a non-directive approach, allowing your child to select the toy or game that you’ll use for the start of the session. Reward your child for accurately describing the rules of the game or appropriately using a toy. As the session progresses, introduce new, more complex toy and game options and gauge how your child responds.

Remember to take notes during the session to share with your child’s therapist! The intel you provide will help your child’s therapist continue to fine-tune your child’s ABA therapy.

Recommended Toys for Child with Autism

If you are wondering if there are specific types of toys that you can purchase to aid in your child’s ABA therapy, wonder no more! There is a myriad of toys that you can use to support your child’s developing fine and gross motor skills, social skills, and communication skills. There are even toys designed to help your child better understand cause and effect.

When introducing play therapy and floor time into your child’s daily routine at home, consider adding in a toy that is specifically designed to work on one of the skills noted above. We recommend toys considered to be “fidget” sets. These toy sets include items that offer different textures and features for your child to explore and interact with. Fidget sets can consist of stress balls, koosh balls, and tangle toys.

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder can also benefit from playing with smart tablets explicitly designed for use in ABA therapy. There are a variety of ABA-specific applications and games you can download for your child to use on the tablet. As your child uses the tablet, you’ll see an improvement in your child’s behavior in no time. A tablet also functions as a reward during other points in your child’s therapy session.

Empowering Every Child

Play therapy is just one aspect of ABA therapy, but it is crucial to giving your child a sense of autonomy and the opportunities to learn and grow while having fun at the same time!

At Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we believe that every child and family in the special needs community should feel empowered and supported on their journey of learning and growing. Blossom’s team works collaboratively with every family to provide children with Autism Spectrum Disorder with the highest quality ABA therapy possible. Check out our services page for more details on the individualized sessions and intensive programs Blossom offers. You and your child are sure to find a supportive, collaborative environment at Blossom!

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Keeping Kids Entertained Indoors in Cold Weather

If you’re here in the Detroit metro area, you know the true meaning of cold weather. You also know how many days our children are sometimes stuck indoors due to the chilly temperatures. Whether you’re here in the wintery mix of Detroit or trying to stay warm in other parts of the country, we have something for every family to benefit from. So, how do you keep things fresh and engaging when the kids are forced to stay all day indoors? Our team at Novi’s Blossom Wellness Behavioral Center has put together some of our favorite indoor activities.

Bring the Outside Indoors

When they can’t be outside, what’s the next best thing? Bring the outdoors in! Be sure to set the ground rules first. Limit activities and behaviors that could cause accidents and designate off-limits areas in the home that aren’t play-friendly. If misbehavior is a concern, don’t forget to review rules, use positive reinforcements, and utilize additional strategies he may be working on during ABA therapy sessions.

Trampoline Fun

Is your child a fan of trampolines? Consider investing in a small indoor trampoline to help beat the winter blues. Your child will get exercise, burn energy, and have tons of fun! It’s also an excellent way for children with autism to meet many of their sensory needs.

Soothing Swings

There are also options for indoor swings that are a perfect way to stay productive indoors. Many of our families here in Novi have had great success using indoor swings in the winter to help meet the various needs of children of all ages. While we understand it may not be cost-effective for everyone, it’s a fantastic option for children in need of vestibular movement. It may just outweigh the initial cost concerns for you. If you’re tool savvy, you may even consider installing your own DIY swing in your home. Just be sure to put your child’s safety first if this is the route you choose.

Indoor Camping

Even if your child hasn’t been camping, you can turn this “trip” into a learning adventure. Pull out books or photos of camping trips. Share stories of your experiences or what you think camping may be like. If your child is already participating in ABA therapy, use strategies he’s been working on to help enhance this experience. Strengthen communication and efforts to work together and follow directions. Build a fort, grab some sleeping bags, and turn it into an afternoon of learning and exploration.

Device-Free Time

Devices and tv might be a regular activity in your home, so we love encouraging you to think outside the box. Stock up on a few board games that are developmentally appropriate for your child. Board games help promote communication, social interactions, and fine motor skills. They offer an excellent chance for you to work with your child on several skills he’s strengthening throughout his ABA therapy sessions, and it’s a wonderful way to bond.

Our team here at the Novi center is full of indoor ideas that will help you continue the work you’re doing to help your child thrive. Being stuck indoors shouldn’t be a gloomy situation! Make the best of the cold weather and reinvent indoors with your child. When you’re ready to venture out, we’d love for you to stop by our center. If you’re not in our area, visit us online to find weekly tips and resources for your entire family!

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What is Occupational Therapy?

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What is Occupational Therapy?

The field of occupational therapy encompasses many medical issues and methods of treatment. As a parent of a child with autism, it’s helpful to understand why you have received a referral for occupational therapy, how it will benefit your child, and how it is incorporated into his ABA therapy. Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of OT.

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy helps individuals learn,strengthen, and accomplish tasks, behaviors, and goals they need and want to thrive. It is the only life- long therapy and has been an effective method for helping people with autism, and various mental disabilities perform normal daily activities independently. It was in practice long before ABA therapy and even before autism spectrum disorder’s official identification. Occupational therapy is implemented to improve the quality of life and skills training for those with disabilities. OT may be used with various cognitive, sensory, or physical concerns, including loss of skills or memories due to accidents or illnesses. As the approach and methods have evolved over the years, occupational
therapy has become a relied upon method to help teach and strengthen the necessary skills and quality of life of those with autism. Its holistic approach focusses on adapting the environment or the task at hand to the individual and his needs. It can also help develop or improve:

  • Motor skills
  • A sense of accomplishment
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-confidence
  • Learning
  • Social interactions

Additional Areas Addressed

Occupational therapy benefits an array of medical concerns, including:

  • Mental health issues
  • Behavioral issues
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Congenital disabilities
  • Learning problems
  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
  • Orthopedic injuries
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Developmental delays
  • Post-surgical conditions

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

There is often a misconception of what the role of an occupational therapist entails. Since occupational therapy encompasses such a wide range of medical concerns, an occupational therapist is trained to address many tasks, behaviors, and skills. A therapist may work on fine motor skills to address grasping, holding, and releasing writing utensils, toys, or silverware. They help with various self-help skills, including:

  • Brushing teeth
  • Dressing
  • Bathing

They also help in areas of improving hand-eye coordination and learning to develop positive ways to express emotion and deal with anger. The occupational therapist also has the responsibility of evaluating the need for special equipment. The use of braces, a walker or wheelchair, or various communication devices may be necessary. Tasks such as using a keyboard or iPad may be challenging and require the therapist’s instruction.

They often address attention and social concerns, as well. Although some of these responsibilities seem to be similar to those of a physical therapist, physical therapy focuses on gross motor skills, pain, strength, and range, while occupational therapy addresses the fine motor skills, sensory processing, and perception areas.

You may also find that some occupational therapists are licensed ABA therapists. With the many similarities that overlap the two practices, this is not surprising. Professionals specializing in occupational therapy utilize many forms of treatment. They may choose to use play therapy to introduce a child to a variety of useful toys. Aside from play-based practices, they may incorporate real-life daily living situations, educational scenarios, and participation in social activities to help build necessary skills.

An occupational therapist may need to help a child who is struggling to write his name. The child may have various underlying concerns that need addressing before he can accomplish the name-writing task. Areas of struggle may include muscle weakness, visual memory, and eye-hand coordination. These are all obstacles an occupational therapist is trained to recognize and work on to correct the root issues.

How Will My Child be Observed?

Children learn through play, and the best observations take place in a child’s natural environment. Much can be learned from watching a child’s play skills or observing him in his school setting. Your insight as his parent is also beneficial in painting a picture of your child’s daily routine and environment interactions. His therapist will then evaluate your child’s abilities and make comparisons to the typical development of children in his age range. His therapist will also assess and address any concerns in areas of social skills, psychological, and environmental factors that may influence his ability to function at his best. Occupational therapy evaluations are extremely helpful in understanding why and how a child struggles with specific tasks.

The Role of the Parents

Just as with ABA therapy, occupational therapy goals and treatment plans rely on your input. Since you can provide the most insight into your child’s environments, behaviors, and progress, your data is vital to his team. Goals may also be adjusted based on the feedback you can provide your child’s \ therapist. If you have not yet begun ABA therapy, your child’s ABA therapy team will give you the tools and training you need.

Pairing OT with ABA Therapy

The evidence-based success of ABA therapy has proved to be tremendously beneficial in helping individuals with autism learn new skills and replace undesired ones. Today, you will often find various treatments paired with ABA therapy as a practical and complementary approach to improving all skills, behaviors, and quality of life.

Occupational therapists concentrate on environmental factors and tasks that are specifically related to the goals being addressed. An ABA therapist will evaluate the behavior, then find and address the root cause or causes of the unwanted action. They look at both the environment and the many factors that could be influencing this behavior.

Occupational therapists work well with ABA therapists and can assist each other in a variety of ways. Some occupational therapists prefer to use an
applied behavior analyst as a consultant during sessions and team meetings to coordinate changes or new services needed. In some instances, the most beneficial approach is to combine OT and ABA therapy for the benefit of the individual.

Occupational therapy provides benefits to ABA therapy that can directly impact the progress of the patient. Occupational therapists can effectively help children who have sensory difficulties. Sights, smells, tastes, sounds, touch, and movement can all be incredibly difficult for children with autism to process. Children with autism may not have the skills to understand and react appropriately to specific sensory stimulation. For children with autism to process sensory information, hypersensitivity (or hyposensitivity) to stimuli needs to be addressed first.

Occupational therapists use their observations and the data they collect to create a plan that best suits the replacement of specific behaviors. Children who exhibit undesirable behaviors or anti-social type behaviors may be experiencing trouble processing and understanding the sensory information in the current environment. Occupational therapy provides sensory activities that can be practiced and implemented in various settings, including therapy sessions. Even simple activities, such as jumping, dancing, or doodling, can help a child process sensory information more productively.

Benefits for Your Child

While both therapies have the same goal in mind for your child, they share many other values. During the assessment and diagnosis process, OT and ABA consider the multiple natural environments of your child. They are both based upon the individual skills, behaviors, and needs of your child and base his treatment plans and goals on his strengths and areas in need of improvement. Occupational therapy and ABA therapy believe strongly in emphasizing the functional aspects of your child’s behaviors and their outcomes rather than theory. Observations of your child are a vital component of both therapies.

The two complement each other when paired together. Your child’s therapists may work together, each contributing their unique view on the same issues while occupational therapists can break down a scenario and evaluate the physical obstacles that are challenging your child. His ABA therapist can provide insight on how to use positive reinforcement practices to motivate new behaviors and skills needed for that same situation. Together, they can provide invaluable insight to help your child succeed. A cross-disciplinary or multi-disciplinary center can be a beneficial choice for your child’s needs. Behaviors and skills may be learned or improved much quicker, and observations made in this type of environment can be incredibly beneficial for each therapist.

Occupational Therapy and School Readiness

One primary goal occupational therapy works towards during sessions is to prepare your child for school readiness. If your child is currently attending school, the goal becomes to help support him and his ability to participate and engage in various tasks and activities with his teachers and peers. Introducing, developing, and maintaining new skills helps your child work towards his goals. An evaluation will help determine the developmental milestones your child may or may not have met yet. This helps his occupational therapist create developmentally appropriate goals to work towards.

To help ensure the best learning environment for your child, sensory issues are often a priority goal for children with autism. Occupational therapy, with the help of ABA therapy practices, focuses on individual sensory-processing difficulties that may interfere with your child’s learning. Working to remove barriers will help your child develop the skills to focus on the school environment.

Sensory Integration

Many therapists choose to pursue additional training in sensory integration. Particularly helpful when working with children, sensory integration therapy assumes that a child is either “over stimulated” or “understimulated” by his environment. The goal of sensory integration therapy is helping to improve the brain’s ability to process various sensory information. This provides the child with the opportunity to be able to function more successfully throughout their day.

A Sensory Diet

An occupational therapist may prescribe your child a sensory diet lifestyle or treatment strategy designed to help manage sensory processing dysfunctions. It’s a daily activity plan designed specifically for children with sensory integration difficulties. The goal of these activities is to incorporate sensory activities throughout the day to help improve his focus and attention span. Providing these activities that are spread out throughout your child’s day will help keep arousal levels up. The sensory diet lifestyle works towards improving the nervous system feel more organized and in control. This helps your child’s attention span as well as performance level.

A therapist with sensory integration training will be able to assess your child’s sensory diet needs and create a daily plan that is tailored to him. While most people naturally and unknowingly learn to use all their senses to understand their environment better, autism makes this problematic. Each child processes in his unique way, so each sensory diet will be unique to his individual needs and environments.

Sensory Diet Activities

Activities can be made up of various sensory and physical activities. They are used to:

  • Help your child deal with sensory-motor needs
  • Decrease the impact a sensory dysfunction may cause
  • Reduce issues with attention, behavior, learning, and skill development
  • Act as a treatment strategy when behavior is an issue, or low attention span is interfering
  • Act as a preventative strategy tool in cases where your child will be exposed to known triggers such as environment

They may include white noise, visual cues for instructions, swinging, or playing with sand.

Does it Work?

Children with sensory processing disorders have difficulty processing and choosing the appropriate actions and responses based on the information from their senses. It’s a skill that can create tensions and challenges. Even the smallest tasks can trigger anxiety, behavioral problems such as tantrums or outbursts, or difficulty succeeding in the school environment.

Although every case is different, you may see the effects of your child’s sensory diet take place quickly. The activities can restructure your child’s nervous system. This happens over a period of time and helps him tolerate different environments, situations, and sensations that are disturbing or distracting to him. These activities help your child regulate and increase attention span and make him more alert. He will learn to become better equipped to handle stress, new situations, and transition more smoothly.

Our knowledgeable team here at Blossom Behavior Wellness Center focusses on providing your family with the information you need. We understand how overwhelming this entire process can be. That’s why we want to help educate and support you on this journey so that you may make the best, informed decisions for your family. Visit our blog for more resources or if you’re in the Detroit area, contact us today to learn more about our services.

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Four Holiday Tips for Families of Children with Autism

The holidays can tend to be a bit stressful for all of us. With the hustling around, family engagements, and crowded stores, it’s a lot to manage. If you’re a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, the holiday season can present a whole separate set of challenges. Whether this is all new to you, or you’re searching for new strategies to try, our team here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center is happy to share our top four holiday tips to help lessen the stress and anxiety the season may bring.

  1. Be mindful of holiday sights and sounds
  2. Anticipate the holiday crowds
  3. Plan and prepare for events, gatherings, and travel
  4. Continue to implement strategies from your applied behavioral analysis sessions

While it’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of the holidays, families need to keep in mind that even the little things can be overstimulating for a child with autism. Easing into the season and making small changes over time can help make this portion of the year more enjoyable for the entire family.

Holiday Decoration Mindfulness

One of the joys for many people is the festive sights and sounds of the season. So many of us look forward to the carols and stores with holiday tunes, or the twinkling of lights and decorated windows around town. But for children with autism,the over-stimulation tends to cause more stress and anxiety.The sudden changes become too overwhelming to process, and the festive decorations have now become worrisome triggers. If your child has difficulty adjusting during this time of year, know that you aren’t alone. The challenges you may encounter are far from rare. Your family’s ABA clinic can provide many helpful suggestions and solutions to help make the changes as smooth as possible.

If you’re a decorating kind of family, don’t feel you need to stop this wonderful tradition. There are several ways to help your child ease into it. Start slow and early, allowing yourself plenty of time to gradually decorate your home. Choose a particular area of your home to begin, keeping the lines of communication open at all times. As you may recall from your child’s applied behavioral analysis sessions, introducing, discussing, and repeating new skills and routines for your child is very beneficial. Some of our families have had great success with:

  • Keeping a photo album of your decorated home and bringing it out each year before you begin decorating
  • Adding daily decorating events to your family schedule or calendar. If you have not yet started one, your child’s ABA clinic will have many fantastic ideas and examples to help you start a visual calendar to help your child’s structured routines
  • Encourage your child to participate in the decorating process. Familiarizing him and creating a “job” to assist with the various decorations and changes will help lessen his anxiety
  • If you know your child has a sensory sensitivity to blinking lights, jingle bells, musical or moving items, make changes accordingly
    • Choose not to use décor that may be a trigger
    • Use the décor in another area of the home
    • Spend time introducing the décor to your child, allow him to play with, handle, or observe the decoration in advance and gradually progress according to his acceptance

Anticipate Holiday Crowds

Children with autism thrive on structured routines and familiar environments. During this time of year, you’re bound to encounter crowds, whether you’re gift shopping or running to the grocery store.

  • When possible, try to stick to your regular shopping and
    errand routines, avoiding a disruption in your child’s structured schedule
  • If outings or events are necessary, try to plan around days
    and times that may be less busy, if at all possible
  • Talk with your child about the additional people and traffic
    you may encounter during the holidays to help ease anxiety
  • Try to avoid locations that may have sights and sounds that will
    over-stimulate your child
  • Watch for signs of anxiety or over-stimulation. Have a quiet
    place in mind in case it’s needed
  • Implement strategies you’ve learned from your time at your ABA clinic when tensions arise, or undesirable behaviors emerge. Using positive reinforcements can help deescalate many situations

Plan and Prepare for Holiday Events, Travel, and Gatherings

If your family tends to travel, attend holiday events or parties, you are likely working outside your child’s comfort zone. Preparing him in advance will help ease the stress and anxiety of the changes in the routine, environment, and social engagements.

  • Sessions will be invaluable in these situations.Continue to use positive reinforcements to encourage wanted behaviors
  • Utilize your family calendar to prepare him for upcoming activities, gatherings, and travel plans
  • Continue to have discussions about the upcoming events.
    Discuss all aspects, including:
  • Who will be attending?
    • Where will the event be?
    • What will the environment be like?
    • Are there sights and sounds to prepare for in advance?
    • How will this affect his regular schedule and routine for the day?
  • Use visuals whenever possible. Sharing images, books, or past
    photographs can help prepare him for travels or reuniting with family and friends he has not seen in some time
  • Try a few dry runs of the event or simulate the trip.
    Role-playing, as you’ve likely learned or observed during ABA clinic sessions,can help lessen the fears and anxieties in these situations. The more preparation you provide, the easier it will be to adjust or cope as needed
  • When traveling, involve your child in the packing process, so
    he knows all his usual necessities will be going with him. Be sure to pack
    favorite toys, snacks, and soothers as well
  • When you reach your destination, spend time getting him settled and acquainted with the environment. Designate a room or area he can visit if he needs time to himself. If he hasn’t practiced or learned self-coping skills during his applied behavioral analysis sessions, talk with his team and ask for help or advice to prepare for the trip

Continue to Use Applied Behavior Analysis Techniques

As you’ve noticed, ABA clinic strategies are useful in every situation you will encounter this season. By continuing these strategies throughout the holidays, you’ll encourage him to use his newly learned skills and replacement behaviors. Applied behavioral analysis approaches will help ease the changes throughout the holidays and help provide you with the necessary tools to minimize behavioral issues, encourage social interactions, and strengthen communication skills.

For more tips and resources, we’d love for you to visit our blog for weekly updates. Our ABA Clinic is here to support your family in any way we can. We wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season!

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Understanding the Impact of Early Intervention

As a parent or caregiver of a young child, you may come across questions or concerns regarding your child’s behavior and development. While it may be easier to tell yourself he’s just a late bloomer; they’ll catch up, it likely won’t provide you peace of mind. If you’ve found yourself noticing signs that are raising flags, it’s certainly worth a call or trip to your child’s pediatrician. At Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we are dedicated to offering early intervention services to children with autism spectrum disorders and other challenges. We are firm believers in the tremendous impact early intervention and ABA therapy have on a child’s development and want to help you understand why.

What is Early Intervention?

Early intervention is a combination of services and supports available to infants and young children, as well as their families, who have a developmental delay and/ or disability. Common services provided during early intervention are ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), Speech and Language Therapy and Occupational Therapy. Through Early Intervention, a team of professionals will begin by assessing where your child is developmentally. At that point, the team will come up with a plan to teach the skills they need to catch up with their peers. This is especially important to do while they are young before their brains are fully developed and they have created strong patterns in behavior.

Early intervention has continued to make an enormous difference in the lives of children with various delays and disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder. When services such as ABA therapy are introduced at an early age, preferably before the age of four, the rate of success for long-lasting change is much higher. Early intervention can make a significant difference in your child’s life by:

  • Modifying behaviors early, before they have become difficult habits to change
  • Teaching new skills and routines
  • Increasing independence

Finding Early Intervention Services

Early Intervention services come in many different shapes and sizes. Intervention services like ABA can be found through private providers. With a diagnosis, often insurance providers with cover these services. However, there are also early intervention services and programs that are publicly funded and offered at the state level. If your child is eligible to receive services, they are free of charge within these systems or are provided at a significantly reduced cost. More information on early intervention services by state can be found here.

Eligibility for Services

Determining if your child qualifies for services is based on several criteria. An evaluation will be completed to assess your child’s various skills and abilities. As the parent, you can reach out with concerns and request an evaluation even without a doctor’s referral. For children that are under the age of three, the request for an evaluation and information on services can be made by calling your state’s early intervention service line If your child is over the age of three, you will want to reach out to one of your local public elementary schools for service and evaluation information. Local public schools offer early intervention programs under their special education pre-school programs beginning at age three. If you see signs that your child may be behind, and you don’t have a diagnosis yet it is possible for you to seek out early intervention services privately, although you should keep in mind that insurance may not cover these services without a diagnosis.

Be Proactive: Additional Measures You Can Take

As your child’s parent or primary caregiver, your concerns, no matter how small, are valid. You know him best and will always be his most prominent advocate. Call your pediatrician and ask for a developmental screening for your child if you have concerns.

What is Developmental Monitoring?

Developmental monitoring is observing your child’s growth and the changes that have occurred over particular segments of time. It looks at whether your child is meeting developmental milestones. Milestones are recorded for:

  • Playing
  • Learning
  • Communication
  • Behavior
  • Motor skills

A missed milestone may be a sign there is an issue. Your pediatrician will be able to schedule and perform more in-depth tests if necessary. A list of signs to look out for can be found here https://www.autismspeaks.org/learn-signs-autism.

What to Expect From a Developmental Screening

A developmental screening will take a more in-depth look at your child’s development. You will be asked to provide valuable information about your child, usually in the form of a survey, then in conversation with your pediatrician. Your doctor will have access to an array of tools used during developmental and behavioral screenings. They may range from formal questionnaires to checklists. Questions about your child’s development will include:

  • Language
  • Motor skills
  • Cognitive skills
  • Behavior
  • Emotional health

Developmental screenings do not necessarily have to be performed by your child’s doctor or nurse.Professionals in healthcare, the community, or school settings are trained and able to assist you with a screening.

Your child should be seen for a developmental screening if you continue to have any concerns after monitoring. However, it is important to mention that some pediatricians conduct developmental screenings as part of their well-child visits. Do not be alarmed if you did not request one. It may be a thorough but very routine practice at your doctor’s office.

Recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, developmental and behavioral screenings should be done for all children at their well-child visits when they reach the ages of:

  • Nine months
  • 18 months
  • 24 or 30 months

What is a Developmental Evaluation?

You will not receive a diagnosis for your child based on a developmental screening. It can, however, indicate whether your child is on track developmentally or if it is time for a specialist to be consulted. If one of the developmental screening tools used indicates an area of possible concern, a formal developmental evaluation would be your next step. The formal evaluation is a more in-depth study of your child’s development. You will likely be referred to a trained specialist,such as a:

  • Developmental pediatrician
  • Speech-language pathologist
  • Child psychologist
  • Occupational therapist

The specialist’s role is to observe your child and implement a structured evaluation. You and all caregivers will be asked a variety of questions, to get a clear understanding of your child, how he behaves and learns in his natural environments. The results of this formal evaluation are what determine whether he could benefit from early intervention services.

The Impact of Taking Steps NOW

Taking early action can have an enormous impact on your child’s development.You can see what a lengthy process it can be, so acting now is in the best interest of your child. Studies have shown the effectiveness of early intervention is more significant when you can begin at a younger age. Introducing services as early as possible offers the most potential for success in areas including:

  • Communication
  • Self-control
  • Play
  • Self-care skills
  • Social/emotional development
  • Cognitive development
  • School readiness

Early Intervention and the Brain

We know that a child’s brain is rapidly developing from infancy to age three. Neural circuits, or connections, in your child’s brain, are laying the foundation for his health and wellness, behavior, and learning. Each of your child’s experiences before he reaches the age of three has a critical impact on his brain’s development. As he becomes older, it is more difficult to change the connections that have been formed. During these first three years, we can help strengthen a child’s development through:

  • Balanced nutrition
  • Providing a safe and nurturing environment
  • Positive social and emotional experiences
  • Reduction in environmental stress, such as extreme poverty, or abuse in the home

Early Intervention Effects on the Family

Early services benefit your family as well as your child. You will be provided with the tools and support you need to understand better, communicate with, and work with your child to meet their goals. Through education, training, and coaching, you will be armed with the knowledge necessary to work with your child in his natural environments. Support for your family helps reduce stress, provide additional resources, and work together towards common goals for your child.

What is Part C?

Part C is the Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities Act. Part of IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), Part C was created to address the need for education and services for young children with developmental delays. It was added to IDEA in 1986 in order to:

  • Offer early intervention to preschool-aged children
  • Reduce the potential risk of further developmental delays
  • Prepare young children for school while reducing the need and expense of special education services
  • Protect children with any medical condition that could potentially lead to developmental delays
  • Encourage and build partnerships between all necessary programs and agencies to provide services,rather than act alone

Making the Most of Your Wait

As you can imagine, being a publicly funded state program can have its limitations. You may be faced with quite a wait time until you can start your child’s evaluation process and/or start necessary intervention services. While we know this can be frustrating, there are steps you can take while you wait:

 

  • Monitor and document his progress:

 

 

    • If you haven’t already taken this step, now is a great time to start. Keep a journal of your concerns, a typical day’s schedule, and any relevant information worth noting. Track milestones and progress as well as new ideas you may have implemented whether successful or not. Documenting is beneficial not only for you but for his doctors and therapists as well.

 

    • Find a support group:
      Finding other families with similar concerns can be a great comfort. Support groups offer additional resources, parents who can provide valuable insight and information as well as friendship. Reaching out to find support and answers can help alleviate stress as well as offer advice, tips, and strategies for you to try.

 

    • Play:
      Have you noticed your child struggling with a short attention span? Does he seem to experience sensory issues? Is communication difficult or spark frustration and outbursts? Engaging in play with your child offers you the opportunity to bond with him while working on a variety of skills. Play gives you the chance to observe your child in a natural, relaxed environment while you engage. Explore with him. Communicate with him both verbally and non-verbally while you encourage him to do the same. Turn playtime into a teaching opportunity time[KR5].

 

  • Be Proactive:
    While you wait for your official evaluation, we recommend calling around to different early intervention service providers. The evaluation process can take a long time so the sooner you start researching services the better.

The Role of Play in ABA Therapy

Just because it looks like play doesn’t mean that’s all there is to it! Trained therapists use play therapy to introduce and practice new skills with children with autism and various developmental delays. Play is a form of language most children tend to understand at any level. This offers a fantastic opportunity to model new skills and behaviors in a way that is natural and relatable to your child. ABA therapy and play provide a unique teaching environment that has been very effective for children with autism. And once a session is over, you’ll also be leaving with a new set of skills to enable you to continue the work at home in his natural environment.

What is ABA Therapy?

Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA, is an effective and scientifically validated form of therapy used successfully with children with autism. ABA therapy provides a clearer understanding of how your child’s natural environments can affect his behaviors. The use of ABA therapy allows us to examine how behavior and learning take place more closely. This form of therapy focuses on using positive rewards; a system of reinforcing the recurrence of new and preferred behavior through meaningful privileges or items. ABA therapy’s goal is to replace undesirable behaviors that may cause your child harm or interference with his ability to learn.

How Does ABA Therapy Work?

Positive reinforcements used in your child’s ABA sessions are individually determined for each child. They are used as a form of motivation in creating behavioral change because they are meaningful to him. The reinforcer, or reward, is given only after the new behavior has been completed, to replace an undesirable behavior with a wanted action. ABA therapy relies on the participation of the child’s parents and caregivers. Not only can parents and primary caregivers provide valuable information to the therapists, but they can also implement strategies in between each session and provide feedback. By continuing strategies learned during your child’s ABA therapy sessions and practicing positive reinforcement in his natural environments, new behaviors are more likely to be long-term. Working closely with your child’s therapist and the team will help reinforce these new behaviors and increase the chances of change.

The benefits of ABA therapy span several critical areas of your child’s life and are vital in helping him achieve his potential. These areas include:

  • Self-care skills
  • Social skills
  • Communication skills
  • Home environment
  • School environment

Our highly trained staff is available to answer your questions and address your child’s wellness needs. Our team is here to educate and support your family. Together, we can help your child reach his full potential. Reach out to us today!

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