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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The Early Start Denver Model

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The Early Start Denver Model

Since its inclusion in the DSM-III in 1980, Autism Spectrum Disorder has had an ever-growing number of different therapies attached to it. While parents of children who have Autism are willing to try all treatments that may assist in their child’s development, it can be exhausting to sift through the many options to determine which is the right one for your child to try.

At Blossom Behavioral Wellness, we know that evidence-based therapies are the ones that matter. Just as parents wish the best for their children and it thrills them to see them make progress behaviorally, emotionally, and socially, we at Blossom also celebrate every victory that our clients experience, both great and small. That’s where our specific therapy approaches, all backed by evidence of success, come in to play.

We are here to explain the Blossom Method, the three therapies our clinicians practice to maximize results for all children. They are:

  1. Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)
  2. Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
  3. Direction Instruction (DI)

Each of the above methods has many facets to it, so throughout this blog post, we’re going to dive deeper into the Early Start Denver Model. Our early intervention program uses foundational elements of the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) for infants to 4 years old with developmental delays.

Early Start Denver Model

The Early Start Denver Model, sometimes referred to as ESDM, is a proven-effective therapy option available for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Designed specifically for children ages 12-48 months, ESDM creates positive, fun relationships between children and their therapists and boosts language, social, and cognitive skills.

Parents are directly involved with their children’s therapy during ESDM, which contains three main elements:

  • Play
  • Natural Routines
  • Individualized Activities

Not only do the above steps in the Early Start Denver Model help create and foster relationships between therapist, parent, and child, they also help your child improve their communication and cognitive skills.

The Benefits of Early Intervention

As the name Early Start Denver Model implies, therapists implement the program early in a child’s life. While children with Autism Spectrum Disorder can receive therapy and show improvement at any age, there are widely recognized benefits of early intervention for children with Autism. The goal of many early interventions is to use the high level of brain plasticity during infancy and toddlerhood to mitigate symptoms through changing brain development.

If you don’t yet know what early intervention consists of, look no further! Early intervention is a combination of services that infants, young children, and their family members can benefit from. Services such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Speech and Language Therapy, and Occupational therapy are often included in a child’s early intervention plan to mitigate developmental delays.

Early intervention programs begin with an assessment of your child by professionals in the field. The assessment takes into account where your child is developmentally and, following the evaluation, your child’s care team will create an individualized plan for your child to help them reach cognitive, emotional, and behavioral milestones akin to those that their peers are meeting.

Therapies such as ABA are dynamic, with the interventions included in your child’s care plan changing as your child reaches the goals set by their ABA therapist. When early intervention services are introduced into a child’s life before the age of four, the rate of positive change for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder is much higher. These positive behavioral, emotional, and cognitive changes are more established and long-lasting.

Play within the Early Start Denver Model

One of the main elements of the Early Start Denver Model is incorporating play into your child’s ABA therapy plan. Whether your child is at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center or in the comfort of your home, the importance of play in your child’s development cannot be understated.

Just as individualized therapy differs from child to child, play can look different depending upon the child who is receiving therapy. Some children will benefit from more structured play during their therapy sessions, while others may play better with fewer restrictions in place. The Early Start Denver Model can accommodate differences in play to ensure that it suits the child receiving therapy!

No matter the type of play that your child’s therapist incorporates, the therapist will intentionally focus on building motivation for learning, engagement with others and increasing your child’s cognitive development. Play should work to increase communication, imitation, sharing, and attention. The trained therapists have techniques they are using during play to foster the type of growth mentioned above. They are constantly working to create ample amounts of learning opportunities. On the child’s side of things, it just feels like play.

For example, therapy using elements of Early Start Denver Model may look something like this: a trained therapist is working with a child who struggles to vocalize during play, the therapist may create a play routine, by singing a song while moving the child’s favorite toy through the air and then pausing to encourage the child to vocalize, rewarding attempts to vocalize with social praise and attention.

Natural Routines in ESDM

The Early Start Denver Model works in any environment where the child receiving the ESDM treatment has natural routines to follow. In particular, parents need to continue to practice ESDM interventions with their children during routines taking place in the home, to ensure that what the children learn during ESDM carries over into daily life.

Early Start Denver Model therapies are structured to take into account the child’s natural development. As such, communication, social skills, fine and gross motor skills, and personal independence factor into naturally-occurring activities, such as snack time or when getting ready for the day. The organic nature of ESDM therapy does not typically interrupt a child’s day-to-day life and allows parents to recognize and take advantage of a child’s current strengths to offset areas of weakness.

At its core, the Early Start Denver Model helps parents learn how to talk and interact with their children during daily routines in a way that encourages their long-term cognitive and social development.

Individualized Activities During ESDM

Just as it is essential to facilitate ESDM during typical tasks and daily routines, it is also crucial to recognize how to individualize activities to take a specific child’s strengths and areas of growth into account.

Each child with Autism Spectrum Disorder has differing characteristics, requires different skill-building practice, and has unique parent interaction and cultural variables. As such, it is impossible to provide the same services to all children and expect the same results.

Clinically, studies of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder who have participated in individualized ESDM therapy display fewer and less severe repetitive behaviors, one of the core symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Repetitive behaviors are generally the first symptom to emerge in babies and toddlers with autism. These children have also shown more social and cognitive growth than their peers who did not receive ESDM.

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Sensory Integration and Autism in Occupational Therapy

If your child has recently received a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, you have likely discovered a lot of information regarding the diagnosis, symptoms, resources, and potential therapy options to try with your child. No two children with autism spectrum disorder are alike, which can make identifying and implementing the proper therapy a bit of a trial-and-error process.

While many children with autism will undergo applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, there are a variety of different treatments that can be used in addition to ABA to help your child make real, lasting progress. In this post, we will take you through the basics of occupational therapy, a beneficial piece to intervention for children with Autism, and the importance of sensory integration within occupational therapy for your child.

What is Occupational Therapy for Children with Autism?

One of the most widely-used therapies for children with autism spectrum disorder is occupational therapy. Occupational therapy is designed to provide children with autism the ability to develop and improve the daily skills required to increase their independence. Occupational therapists working with children will focus on self-care skills, sensory integration (motor planning, self-regulation, to name a few subtypes), learning differences, social-emotional/play challenges, developmental delays, gross and fine motor skills (coordination, strength, crossing midline, etc.), and visual perceptual and processing skills.

Many children with autism struggle with the skills mentioned above. Parents in the autism community may know that their children have difficulty processing sensory input and these difficulties make it very challenging to interact with the world around them on a daily basis. Thus impacting most of the skills addressed in occupational therapy sessions.

What is Sensory Integration in Occupational Therapy?

A new study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders identifies a link between sensory integration during occupational therapy and an improvement in autistic children’s ability to participate in daily activities and interactions.

Children with autism often struggle with quickly and adequately processing sensory information. As such, these children face the challenge of appropriately integrating this sensory information into their daily lives and, as a result, experience barriers to participating easily in everyday life. This study, involving a randomized, controlled trial, showed that sensory integration during occupational therapy alleviates some of these challenges for children with Autism.

How Sensory Integration Fits into Occupational Therapy

When children with Autism have sensory processing difficulties, it can mean they experience extreme sensitivity to things like loud sounds, bright colors, and quick movements, among other sensory input. These stressors cause children with autism to experience anxiety and unrest, and can result in negative or unwanted behaviors.

So, what does sensory integration and work on sensory processing look like in therapy for children with autism? It depends on whether your child is overresponsive, under-responsive, or craving sensory input. If a child is overresponsive to sensory input they can feel panicked, anxious and refuse to participate in tasks that are too intense. They may often demonstrate an emotional response/meltdown[KF1] that can lead your child to avoid sensory input because it can feel far too overwhelming for them. Those who are under-responsive to sensory input are often quiet and passive, not responding to stimuli that others typically respond to. They often disregard stimulation by not responding. Those that crave sensory input will seek out sensory input (which is a normal function), but then craves sensation that never appears to satisfy the child’s desire. This child can appear to be obsessed with sensory input. Oddly the more sensation a “craving” child gets, the more disorganized the child becomes, thus distinguishing the sensory craving from a normal amount of sensory input desired.

Children with autism can present with differing levels of sensory thresholds. Occupational therapists use standardized assessments and clinical observation/reasoning to determine the right interventions to use with each child. Children that display under responsivity, for example, are very under aroused and lethargic requiring more sensory stimulation in session. While a child that is sensory craving and overresponsive must learn how to tolerate intense sensory stimuli without gaining too much input and become overstimulated. Sensory integration therapy requires a delicate balance of sensory input performed by skilled occupational therapists.

Sensory integration during occupational therapy involves exposing children with sensory processing issues to sensory stimuli in a structured environment. The exposure is also repetitive. This process is believed to help your child’s brain adapt over time, allowing them to process and react to different stimuli and sensations more efficiently.

The Role of Play in Sensory Integration

As with other therapies children with autism spectrum disorder may receive, play is a significant factor in sensory processing work during occupational therapy. The use of play not only introduces your child to a range of stimuli, but it also helps to increase your child’s ability to tune out distractions and sensations that may cause them to experience an adverse reaction.

Your child’s occupational therapist will select a game or activity for your child that is uniquely suited to their needs during the therapy session. During occupational therapy, your child may play in a ball pit, use a sensory gym, or play with toys of various sizes and textures. Your child’s therapist will give them verbal cues to ensure that play requires them to move around, touch things, make noise, and engage all of their senses in a meaningful way.

When done consistently, such sensory processing work helps improve your child’s spatial awareness and normalize their experience with different sensory inputs. It can also help your child with social interactions and emotional regulation.

Social and Emotional Benefits of Sensory Integration

Children with sensory processing difficulties tend to struggle with understanding and interacting with the world on a social level. To guard against unexpected sensory input like a loud laugh, a sudden touch, or a bump, your child may hang back and avoid eye contact. It can be challenging for a child with sensory processing difficulties to know how to respond appropriately during a conversation or how to interpret social cues and body language.

Sensory Integration can help build your child’s ability to self-regulate during social interactions, allowing them to better manage their emotions, behavior, and body movements during situations that might cause them anxiety. Practicing typical social interactions during therapy can help normalize socializing for your child and provide them the tools they need to feel confident when interacting with others.

Your Role as a Parent

As the parent of a child with autism spectrum disorder, you will fulfill many roles in your child’s life, from caretaker, to advocate, to at-home therapist. No matter which therapies your child receives, your active participation is key to their progress. Reinforcing the skills and behaviors your child is learning with their therapist is crucial to their ability to grow.

It is unlikely that you will need to attend every occupational therapy session your child has. However, you will need to participate in some sessionsto understand the ‘sensory diet’ your child is receiving and how best to put sensory processing interventions into practice at home. You’ll want to encourage your child when they perform a learned behavior successfully. You should integrate some of the activities your child practices during therapy into their daily routine, to provide consistency and structure to their routine.

The introduction of occupational therapy and sensory integration into your child’s therapy plan will help them improve not only their fine and gross motor skills but also their self-regulation skills. The more reinforcement your child receives at home, the more likely they will be to experience lasting, positive behavioral and emotional change.

To learn more about strategies to support your child and family, visit Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center today!

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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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Generalization in Applied Behavior Analysis

A diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in a child leads to lots of planning, questions, and problem-solving. As a parent, you will receive a lot of information about different interventions and therapies that may benefit your child immensely. One of the most important elements of applied behavior analysis is generalization. You will hear about this particular facet of therapy frequently, from therapists and peers alike.

Before we discuss the specifics of generalization and its importance to ABA therapy, let’s talk through what ABA therapy is and the core components that will make up your child’s play therapy plan.

What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, is a therapy that draws a connection between learning, environment, and behavior in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. ABA therapy is designed to help you and your therapy team understand how your child’s behavior works, how their behavior can be negatively or positively affected by their environment, and how learning takes place for your child.

In children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, applied behavior analysis can help grow their language and communication skills and decrease behavioral problems. Applied behavior analysis is also shown to improve attention and focus, as well as memory and social skills.

How Does ABA Therapy Work?

Applied behavior analysis is a flexible treatment, meaning it can be adapted to suit the individual needs of your child. ABA therapy includes the following major components:

  • Positive Reinforcement: This is one of the main foundational elements of ABA therapy. Your child is more likely to repeat a positive behavior if it is followed by something of value, such as a reward. Over time, this results in a positive behavior change.
    Your therapist will identify your child’s goal behavior. Then, each time your child uses this behavior successfully, either in ABA clinic or elsewhere, they will get a personally meaningful reward. Maybe for your child, it would be watching a particular video or snacking on a type of cookie they enjoy.
  • Antecedent,Behavior, and Consequence: Antecedents are what happen before a particular behavior occurs. They can be verbal or physical. A specific environment or particular thought or action can trigger these behaviors as well. Your child’s response is directly related to the antecedent.
    Consequences occur directly after the behavior in question and may include positive reinforcement or a lack of reaction for an incorrect or inappropriate response.
  • Planning and Assessment: Whether your child’s therapy takes place at home or in an ABA clinic, your child will work directly with a behavior analyst. This specialist is trained to design a program customized to your child’s needs, skills, and preferences. Data is collected in each session so that your child’s therapy goals are consistent, taking into account their progress.

Play Therapy in Applied Behavior Analysis

One of the most common elements in ABA therapy is play therapy. The method of using play during applied behavior analysis helps your child work on social skills and behavior changes. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder deal with short attention spans, sensory issues, and communication barriers. Classroom settings can exacerbate behaviors, as children are expected to sit quietly and respond to their teacher without disruption.

With play therapy, children are encouraged to move freely about and explore their surroundings. This exploration can take place either in their natural environment or an inviting room at an ABA clinic. A setting where your child feels at ease allows them to express their natural behaviors, which are invaluable for your therapist to observe. Your child’s therapist can note responses to reinforce or to work on changing while your child plays naturally in a safe setting.

What is Generalization in Play Therapy?

Your child’s applied behavioral analysis needs to extend beyond the ABA clinic to reach your child in their everyday life. This is where the concept of effective generalization in ABA therapy becomes very important to your child’s goals.

As one of the seven dimensions of applied behavior analysis, generalization’s importance cannot be overemphasized. In broad terms, generalization is the ability to use new skills in other settings and with other people. For your child, this means that positive behavior learned at the ABA clinic carries over into contexts other than the training environment. You will need to be there to help your child practice the skills they have learned in therapy out in public, with non-therapists, with their siblings and other family members. You’ll know you’re succeeding at generalization when your child’s positive behavior change proves durable over time, shows lasting effects, and appears in a wide variety of environments and situations.

So how best to practice generalization outside of the ABA clinic? Your ABA therapist will provide you with many instructions regarding the proper way to reinforce behavior learned in the ABA clinic. But before we get to that, there are several essential terms related to generalization that you should learn.

  • Response Maintenance

Proper generalization should take place in a variety of contexts with a myriad of people who are not your child’s ABA therapist. One of the most important aspects of practicing generalization with your child is response maintenance. Response maintenance is the continuation of a learned behavior after you remove the intervention from the current situation.

Your child may be able to produce the expected responses to their behavior in the context of the ABA clinic and with their therapist. But what happens when you’re in the living room at home? Or when your child is with you at a neighbor’s barbeque? Practicing response maintenance not only reinforces what your child has learned during applied behavior analysis, but it also helps normalize the expected behavior outside of the ABA clinic.

It is essential to test for maintenance over time to be sure that your child has mastered their new skill.

  • Response Generalization

It is one thing for your child to repeat a learned positive behavior correctly. But what about a behavior that is functionally similar to the behavior learned at the ABA clinic? Response generalization occurs when your child shows a positive learned behavior in a novel way and is something that you should look for to gauge your child’s progress. For example, after learning to use a spoon to eat cereal, response generalization would include your child selecting to use a spoon to eat ice cream.

  • Stimulus Generalization

This term applies to your child’s potential inability to discriminate between similar stimuli. Imagine if your child learned to call their father “dad.” Overgeneralization would occur if they called another male “dad,” as well. While their father a man, not every male is their father. Thus, calling another man “dad” is an example of stimulus generalization.

  • Stimulus Discrimination

While stimulus generalization focuses on your child’s ability to discriminate between two stimuli and respond to them differently, stimulus discrimination occurs if your child responds in the same way to two different stimuli. For example, imagine showing your child two pictures. On the left is a cat, and on the right is a dog. If the picture placement never changes, your child may not necessarily internalize what makes a cat a cat. They may only learn to point to the left image.

What happens if you switch the picture placement and ask your child to identify the cat? They may end up pointing to the left picture, which now shows a dog.

Participating During ABA

As the parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, your role will involve practicing and reinforcing positive learned behavior at home, during play. The necessity for parents to practice generalization through play therapy at home can cause some parents to feel anxious or overwhelmed. Some are scared that they will “mess up,” or somehow set their child’s progress back. Worry is a normal response, as working with your child on positive behavior changes is a lot of responsibility!

You will learn strategies and techniques during your child’s ABA therapy sessions, so you will not be entering into your role with no support or understanding of what outcomes you are meant to see. By seeing it in action and noting the effect it can have on his learning, you’ll be able to carry out applied behavior analysis steps in your daily routines.

Actively participating in your child’s sessions not only gives you more confidence and knowledge to carry out generalization outside the ABA clinic, but it also normalizes your role in the process to your child. They will come to respond to the stimuli and rewards you present in the same way they would to their ABA therapist.

Play Therapy at Home

Implementing your child’s new skills at home doesn’t have to be overly complicated. It can be as easy as playing a simple game to enforce a new behavior they’ve recently learned at the ABA clinic.

A great game to play to reinforce learned behaviors is Simon Says, as it encompasses a variety of elements reinforced during play therapy with your child’s ABA therapist. Simon Says will help your child work toward communicating more effectively. By having your child study your body language and facial expressions during the game, you will see them mimic what you are demonstrating, both physically and verbally.

It is essential for you to remember to reward your child for showing the appropriate reaction during play therapy. Meaningful positive reinforcement will make your child feel proud of their success and, over time, will help solidify their understanding of how to behave given certain stimuli. A high five or verbal praise motivates your child to improve his actions.

Try Play Therapy Outside the Home

When your child’s positive behavior carries over from the ABA clinic to your home, you will feel a sense of pride in your child’s success, and your ability to
support generalization at home. But what happens when you don’t see the same positive carry over, despite your best attempts, at a relative’s house, or school, or in the grocery store?

The purpose of play therapy is not only to reinforce positive behaviors but also to help your child develop the skills to display these behaviors naturally, regardless of the context. If you do not see your child’s behavior generalization when they are outside of the home or ABA clinic, you and your child’s teachers and ASD professionals will want to work together to come up with strategies that can be applied consistently across settings.

For example, you and your child’s therapist may arrange a room in the ABA clinic to mimic a school setting. You will want to include the same toys, activities, room set-up, and rewards into this facet of your child’s applied behavior analysis therapy as they would experience in their classroom. The more similarities you can create between a training and non-training setting, the easier it will be for your child to generalize positive behavior across contexts.

Setbacks in Generalization

No matter how much progress your child makes, there is always the chance that you may see a relapse of behavior. After making strides in generalization, such a relapse can be heartbreaking for both you and your child. Rest assured that, in applied behavior analysis, relapse will occur at one point or another and does not mean that you or your child’s therapist are failing in any way!

Both you and your child must prepare for the possibility of setbacks during generalization. Working with your child’s therapist to identify high-risk situations that may lead to a relapse of behavior is a perfect first step in preparing for a setback. The more you can identify triggers, be they physical, contextual, or verbal, that may cause your child to revert to the previous behavior, the easier it will be to overcome these momentary setbacks.

Preparing your child for setbacks is crucial, as well. If your child is aware that a lapse in behavior can happen and is no cause for alarm, they will be more likely to move on from the setback more easily.

Keep Track of Progress

As you and your child move through ABA therapy together, you will become more used to your role as your child’s supporter, cheerleader, and behavior reinforcer. You will develop a stronger sense of what is working for your child and what could use some fine-tuning. Keeping a notebook of questions you have, achievements you’ve noticed, and struggles for your therapist to weigh in on will help you grow more confident in your ability to assist your child outside of the ABA clinic!

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What is Speech-Language Pathology?

When your child receives a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, you may experience a feeling of great overwhelm. You’ll be provided with information, tools, and resources that are meant to make your life easier. Instead, you may find yourself in a sea of confusion and worry. You are certainly not the first, and you aren’t alone. Our team at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center believes in walking you through each step and sharing all options available to you and your child. From ABA therapy to speech therapy, we are available to help educate you on all the avenues you may have to explore when searching for the services that fit your child’s needs.

Speech-Language Pathology

While not all patients require the same areas of therapy, speech-language is a common area of need. Speech-language pathology (SLP) encompasses a broad range of concerns, including:

  • Swallowing
  • Voice issues
  • Semantics
  • Social communication skills
  • Cognitive impairments related to communication
  • Finding the appropriate words
  • Language impairments

In infants, this may include difficulties feeding, while young children may require speech-language pathology for an array of issues, including cleft palate and developmental verbal dyspraxia.

Speech-language pathology offers therapy that works towards addressing the various challenges one has with language and communication. It can be extremely beneficial for people with autism spectrum disorders. Speech-language pathology improves verbal, nonverbal, and social communication skills. SLP’s overall goal is to help each patient communicate in the most useful and functional way possible. While some individuals on the autism spectrum are unable to speak, others are verbal but have difficulties holding conversations or reading body language and facial cues expressed by others. Speech therapy can help provide the tools and skills your child needs to thrive. Commonly addressed concerns you may see are:

  • Humming or speaking in a song-like way
  • Parroting, or echolalia
  • Robotic-toned speech
  • Babbling
  • No speech
  • Grunting
  • Yelling or shrieking
  • Expressionless tone

Additional Concerns Addressed with Speech-Language Pathology

Children with autism may face other speech-language challenges that can be addressed during speech and ABA therapy. Among them are:

  • Difficulty with receptive language
  • Difficulty with memorization
  • Unable to comprehend the meaning of symbols
  • Relying on parroting as an acceptable form of communication

When Should Speech-Language Pathology Be Introduced?

Early intervention is always the key to success, so the earlier you can begin, the better. Autism spectrum disorder is generally evident before a child reaches the age of three. Various language delays and concerns can typically be recognized as early as eighteen months. ABA therapy and Speech-language therapy both offer the best results and long-term outcomes when implemented at a younger age. Your child will greatly benefit from intensive and individualized sessions to address concerns before too many undesirable behaviors become routine.

Early identification and intervention have shown that two out of three preschoolers who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder have made tremendous improvements. By introducing services early on, such as ABA therapy and speech-language pathology, younger children have demonstrated improvement in their verbal and non-verbal communication skills and their ability to comprehend oral language. Research has even shown that children with autism who make the most gains are those who spend the most time in speech therapy sessions.

The Speech-Language Pathology Process

Your child’s introduction to speech therapy will begin with an evaluation by a certified speech-language pathologist. The pathologist will be assessing your child’s communication strengths and areas of concern. The evaluation process will help the speech therapist create your child’s goals and plan of action for therapy. She will then meet with your child’s ABA therapy team to devise an overall course of action.

Goals that may be included in your child’s plan include improvements in his spoken language and learning various nonverbal skills that will help him communicate more effectively. These skills may include:

  • Sign language
  • Basic gestures
  • Utilizing alternative methods like
    • Drawings
    • Photographs
    • iPads and other available technology

Strengthening Your Child’s Skills

Similar to the practices you are familiar with in your ABA therapy sessions, speech-language pathology aims to enhance the skills your child already exhibits while introducing new skills. The strengthening of skills may include:

  • Matching various emotions with the correct facial expressions shown
  • Understanding body language
  • Strengthening the muscles in his mouth as well as his jaw and neck
  • Developing clearer speech sounds
  • Responding to questions
  • Matching the various picture with their correct meaning
  • Using a variety of technology tools, such as a speech app on a phone or an iPad
  • Improving and strengthening the tone of his voice

The Potential Issues with Assessment

If your child is of school age, or you are planning ahead for school readiness, there are a few additional obstacles to be aware of. As a parent, you will need to decide to enroll your child in a school-based speech-language therapy environment or seek speech-language pathology therapy through a private practice.

Typically, a school speech pathologist will work with a team that includes your child’s teachers, social workers, and counselors in the school environment. What you’ll want to keep in mind is all school-based speech-language therapy programs are run under the rigid guidelines of your state. This creates strict rules regarding funding, the assessment process, and qualification eligibility. Currently, qualification for in-school speech-language pathology therapy requires a student to meet his state’s designated criteria on speech standardization and language testing. Unfortunately, many of these requirements result in students being assessed in a less than an adequate time frame. There are also concerns about a child’s needs being undermined by the state’s criteria.

If you do choose to take the school SLP path, be sure to become familiar with your child’s rights to services and the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process. Your child may receive speech therapy services in school as part of their IEP. Speech therapy is added into your child’s IEP as a related service and is provided to your family as part of his plan and goals at no cost.

If your child is not yet school-aged, he may be eligible to receive speech-language pathology services through your area’s Early Intervention program. Early intervention is available in your state to children under the age of three. Children who do not display the typical signs of growth and development as other children their age may be referred for assessments and services. Early intervention services are either free or offered at a low cost based on your family’s size and income.

Often, parents look into the option of private speech therapy to meet their needs. With a private therapy option, students are much more likely to qualify for speech-language pathology services. A private pathologist offers a broader array of availability, as it is a paid service.

A Deeper Look Into SLP

Speech-language pathology is often thought to be an area of services provided to those who need help with pronunciation or stuttering. A closer look will give a bigger picture of all the areas that are encompassed.

Strengthening Social Skills

The strengthening of social skills through speech-language therapy is a primary area of focus for many children with autism. Autism typically impairs social communication, general communication skills, and cognitive skills. Social skills therapy sessions focus on learning and strengthening your child’s social communication and desirable interactions. This is a wonderful opportunity to implement ABA therapy practices to enhance these wanted interactions. Your child may work with a therapist in a one-on-one environment or participate in social group therapy sessions.

Social skills groups allow your child to learn and strengthen the ability to read the gestures, expressions, and body language of his peers. It encourages social interaction and cooperative play. Through group therapy sessions, your child will learn to form relationships, strengthen eye contact, work through conflict, and form appropriate and acceptable social behaviors. Your child’s ABA therapy skills are utilized often, helping to reinforce the use of new and relevant skills and behaviors.

Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC)

Many young children with autism have found great success using pictures, photos, and drawings, or incorporating technology to communicate. This is often a very successful alternative to verbal language. Known as Alternative Augmentative Communication, or AAC, therapists, may introduce a variety of tools, including PECS, or Picture exchange communication system, speech output devices, and sign language. Alternative Augmentative Communication may be considered for your child after the assessment stage. The speech-language pathology therapist will help you and your child become familiar with the device and methods that seem most beneficial to your child’s goals. AAC can help your child:

  • Broaden his communication skills and options
  • Develop or increase independence
  • Increase and strengthen social interactions

The Role of Your Speech Pathologist

A speech-language pathologist is an essential member of your child’s team of therapists. Working closely with his ABA therapy team and additional therapists, they may be the central member on the team. A speech pathologist specializes in treating a variety of language and communication issues and speech disorders. Speech pathologists are often the first to recognize a child with autism and help implement the process of early intervention, diagnosis, proper referrals, and treatment plans. After your child has been officially diagnosed with autism, a plan to enhance your child’s communication skills and quality of life will be made and implemented by your therapist.

Just as with your child’s ABA therapy team, the speech-language pathologist will work closely with your family, his additional caregivers, school, and other professionals.

General Goals During Speech Therapy

While each child with autism has a unique set of strengths and areas of concern, there are also very general goals that may be addressed during your child’s therapy. To provide your child with the tools he needs to communicate successfully, his therapist may put a focus on areas such as:

  • The ability to articulate words well
  • Communicate effectively, both verbally and nonverbally
  • Comprehend both verbal and nonverbal communication
  • An understanding of others in a variety of settings with limited cues needed
  • The ability to initiate communication without the need for prompting from others
  • Knowing the appropriate time and place to use verbal communication
  • The development of proper conversational skills that are understood by others
  • The ability to exchange thoughts, feelings, and ideas
  • Able to communicate in various and meaningful ways to form relationships with others
  • Learn to enjoy communicating, playing, and interacting with others in their environment
  • Learn the importance of and how to self-regulate

20 Questions You May Want to Ask

Are you still feeling a bit overwhelmed? Our team has compiled a list of their top twenty questions you may wish to ask when visiting speech therapy offices and evaluating options. This helpful list will guide you and help you determine your needs, priorities, and how well your family may fit with the therapist, you are considering.

  1. How many people will be working directly with my child, and who will they be?
  2. How many patients does each therapist typically handle at one time?
  3. What is your experience with working with children with autism spectrum disorder?
  4. Where do you offer SLP services for children?
  5. Will I be able to watch my child’s sessions?
  6. How are my child’s goals determined?
  7. How involved can parents be in the SLP process?
  8. What will a typical session look like for my child?
  9. How do you measure progress?
  10. How often is progress measured?
  11. How often are goals changed?
  12. What can we do to practice at home?
  13. Will a speech pathologist train parents?
  14. Will my insurance cover your services?
  15. Do you have a waiting list?
  16. How often will my child’s session take place?
  17. How is school readiness incorporated into his therapy?
  18. How do we transition our child when he is school-aged?
  19. How often will he participate in group social skills therapy?
  20. Will his ABA therapy skills play a role in his speech therapy?

Understanding the critical role speech-language pathology plays in your child’s treatment is essential. Through early intervention, persistence, and plenty of parent involvement, your child will soon thrive with the language tools he is given. For more information on Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, our ABA therapy and Speech therapy services, contact us today.

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Why Is Data Collection Important in ABA Therapy?

There are many components in providing effective therapy for a child with autism. One very critical part is the collection of data. Records of your child’s behavior changes and newly introduced skills help track his progress within each of his carefully designed goals. Therapists, educators, caregivers, and you as the parent, each have a unique insight that provides a valuable, overall picture of his accomplishments and struggles. Our team wants to help educate you on the importance of data collection and what your role as the parent means.

ABA Therapy + Data Collection

Before your child begins ABA therapy, he will undergo assessments to evaluate his areas of strength and areas which need improvement. Individualized goals are created according to his results. Goals are based on:

  • Skills that need to be modified
  • Skills that need to be introduced
  • Behaviors that need to be modified
  • Behaviors that need to be replaced

ABA therapy sessions then provide the opportunity to work towards meeting his individual goals. Goals may be created in several areas,including:

  • Self-help skills
  • Coping skills
  • Verbal and non-verbal skills
  • Social skills
  • School readiness
  • Aggression or self-harming behaviors
  • Motor skills

Data is recorded during each session to monitor improvements made, strategies that worked well, or changes that may be useful for the next session. Ongoing data collection is critical in individualizing and modifying each child’s ABA therapy plan to help them thrive.

Why is Data Collection So Important?

Regular and ongoing data collection is vital in evaluating the progress your child makes towards his various goals. Critical decisions regarding his goals and therapy sessions are made based on this ongoing data collection. Your child’s therapists will collect their data during sessions but value and rely on your data collection as the parent. As a parent, you can provide insight into your child’s progress while in his natural environments. Your recordings shed light on continuing growth that his therapists aren’t able to witness. Your collection of data can show his team what may be working and what isn’t. It allows his entire ABA therapy team to make the necessary adjustments accordingly. Data collection may even lead to the discovery of why particular behaviors are occurring. Through the collection of your data, your child’s therapist can take an in-depth look into why specific patterns of behavior may have formed in the first place.

What You Should Know

As part of your child’s support team, you should expect to be in the loop at all times. The ABA therapy center you choose to work with must provide you with the knowledge you need to understand the ins and outs of the data collected. Before beginning, you’ll have the opportunity to meet with them and learn how to collect data. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as:

  • Who will be collecting data during your child’s ABA therapy sessions?
  • Who else on the team will be responsible for collecting data in various settings?
  • What type of data will be collected?
  • What type of data would the team like you to collect?
  • How often will data be collected and analyzed?
  • When will the analyzed data be shared with and explained to you?
  • What does all of this data mean?
  • How often will the collected data result in modifications to your child’s goals?

How Do I Collect Data?

Collecting data provides invaluable information, but it doesn’t need to be an elaborate task. The focus is to help your child thrive, not bombard you with busywork. Think of it as providing snapshots of your child’s day that will help further his progress in ABA therapy. Create a few checklists to get you started and use them to get familiar with the process. If your child is working on self-care skills, create and keep checklists in areas that these skills are likely to be performed. When a new skill or behavior is completed successfully, such as brushing his teeth without assistance, check off a box.

Talk with your child’s therapist about additional information they may wish to see. She may want you to track dates or the frequency of a behavior. The duration of a behavior may be another valuable piece of data to track. There may also be instances where more in-depth information is necessary for you to record. Note what was going on in his environment before a tantrum. How did he react? What calmed him down? Providing this information is hugely beneficial in:

  • Helping to form new behaviors if needed
  • Noting if he has made progress with a skill already introduced

The ABA therapy team uses various methods in the collection of data, including:

  • Permanent Product: Data is collected based on the outcome of your child’s behavior instead of the actual behavior as it’s occurring.
  • Duration Recording: The collection of data is based on the length of time that the particular behavior occurred.
  • Latency Recording: Data is recorded according to the length of time it took from the given instructions to the beginning of the behavior.
  • ABC Data: ABC refers to recording data on your child’s antecedents, behaviors, and the consequences that go with the behavior.
  • Frequency or Event & Rate Recording: Data collection that will track the number of times a particular behavior occurs. When the rate is recorded, a specific time frame is designated, and the number of times the behavior occurs is then noted.
  • Time Sampling Recording: Instead of recording data consistently, data is collected periodically.

Helpful Resources

Do you need a bit of data collection inspiration? Our dedicated team at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center has put together a few useful sites. Take a look through a wide variety of tracking sheets, checklists, and data form options that will help you stay organized and track the information you need:

  • Cindy’s Autistic Support: a wide range of data collection materials for all your tracking needs
  • My Easy Bee: a packet of data collection forms you can easily customize

We’re here to help provide you with the services, resources, and tools your family needs. To learn more about our ABA therapy services, contact us today.

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Understanding Behavioral Therapy

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Understanding Behavioral Therapy

Understanding the role that behavioral therapy plays in a child with autism’s life is essential. We know the overwhelming amount of information you must sort through, and we don’t want you to do it alone. While all your child’s therapy sessions and appointments are essential, understanding the necessity of behavioral therapy has many benefits. It will help you process exactly how behavior is linked to his communication skills, social skills, and the reasoning behind positive reinforcements during ABA therapy.

What is Behavioral Therapy?

Behavioral therapy focuses on working with the parent and child to teach techniques that will replace an unwanted behavior with a positive one. Providing your child with an alternative reaction or response to negative behavior is shown in ABA therapy as it is at our own ABA clinic here in Michigan. Using positive reinforcement helps to encourage and strengthen the likelihood of the wanted behavior becoming adopted. It tends to be an effective form of intervention, as it spans throughout many areas of your child’s life.

Finding a Fit

The reality of autism is that there is no master blueprint for this intervention. While there are many types of behavioral therapy, each child’s experience is unique. It is going to take patience and flexibility from your family as you all work together to find a plan that works for him. Your child’s therapist will design an individualized plan which will require close monitoring and adjusting. Long-term therapy has been proven to improve the behaviors of children with autism by focusing on skills, including:

  • Self-care
  • Communication
  • Social living
  • Play

ABA Therapy

Finding an ABA clinic that fits your needs is imperative. You will be an enormous part of your child’s therapy; learning techniques from your therapist and implementing them at home and in his various natural environments. Your therapist will help you and your child break down skills for your child to practice through repetition, praise, and positive rewards. This form of therapy tends to build a strong foundation which your child will continue to build on. Finding an ABA clinic that feels like the right match for your family is vital.

ABA has been a well-researched and widely used behavioral therapy for more than five decades. It is a well-structured intervention approach and many times, where children start. Along with ABA, behavior therapies to meet additional needs are also offered, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

    Works well for children with mild symptoms as they learn to start recognizing their triggers and reactions. They learn ways to choose an alternate, more appropriate action or response.

  • Verbal Behavioral Therapy:

    This form of therapy helps non-verbal children to communicate effectively with intent. The therapist chooses a particularly stimulating motivator for your child that will help him begin to understand that utilizing language will bring him a wanted result.

  • Social Skills Groups:

    A beneficial way to help your child engage with others, practice communication, and reinforce positive learned behaviors. The therapist will be there for guidance in helping your child determine and use the desired behaviors he has learned.

As Michigan’s preferred ABA clinic, we invite you to come and explore our center. Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center is all-encompassing, and our dedicated team is here for you. If you aren’t in the Michigan area, we still strive to be a reliable resource for your family. You’ll find answers to many of your autism-related questions, helpful tips, advice, and events on our blog. Visit us now for a more in-depth look into ABA for your child.

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Debunking Five Myths About ABA Therapy

ABA therapy has been used successfully with children diagnosed with autism for decades. If your child has recently been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder) ASD, we’d like to help support you in your search for information. As you continue to educate yourself on the various therapies available to your child, we’d like to clear up a few misconceptions that have been formed about ABA therapy. Our dedicated team has put together a list of the top five myths surrounding ABA therapy:

The Myths:

  1. ABA therapy Only Works for Individuals Diagnosed with Autism

  2. ABA therapy Isn’t Really a Scientifically Based Treatment

  3. ABA Mistreats Children by Using Bribes, and Manipulation

  4. Punishment is Used in ABA Sessions

  5. All You’ll Do in ABA therapy is Play

What is ABA Therapy?

Let us first help you understand the core of ABA therapy.Applied Behavioral Analysis is a form of therapy that strives to understand your child’s environment and the effects it may have on his behaviors. ABA therapy includes evaluating how your child’s behavior and learning take place in these environments. Based on the use of a reward system personalized for each child, ABA therapy’s goal is to understand, positively influence, and change undesirable behaviors. Through the positive reinforcement process, a child can then replace unwanted behaviors with newly learned behaviors. Rewards are different for every child since they are determined by what is most meaningful to him. Through positive rewards, your child is encouraged to use new behaviors to help him thrive in his environments. With the help of caregivers, parents, and others in his life, ABA therapy can help him develop new life skills and form lasting changes. Together, as a support team, you’ll help reinforce the use of positive behaviors and replace potentially harmful or distracting behaviors that hinder his ability to learn. ABA therapy covers multiple areas in your child’s life, including home and school environment, self-care skills, and social skills.

The Myth:

ABA Therapy Only Works for Individuals Diagnosed with Autism

The Facts:

ABA has been successfully used with a wide range of disabilities, disorders, and social issues. The methods behind ABA are not built around any one specific type of treatment. Focus is on the individual and what is meaningful enough to him to promote the repeat occurrence of newly learned behaviors. This means the use of ABA can be beneficial when applied to an array of issues, including:

    • Speech-Language Pathology
    • Addictions such as gambling and smoking
    • Academics

The Myth: ABA Therapy Isn’t a Really a Scientifically Based Treatment

The Facts:

Since the 1950s, ABA has been a field of study; showing astonishing success by the 1970s. The NIH (National Institute of Health) promotes the early intervention of ABA therapy; as it has been successful with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. ABA supports, encourages, and relies on the participation of the child’s family and caregivers. Studies have shown impressive achievements and lasting changes in children with a strong and active support system. ABA therapy is hailed as the most well-established behavioral treatment for individuals with ASD and is supported by:

      • The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder
      • NIH
      • U.S. Surgeon General
      • The National Standards Project

The Myth: ABA Mistreats Children, Uses Bribes, and Manipulation

The Facts:

Positive reinforcement should not be confused with a form of bribery. A positive reinforcer is given after the wanted behavior has been used; to reinforce the likelihood of repeating the desired behavior. ABA therapy uses these meaningful reinforcements to address the behavior, while a bribe is typically addressed directly towards the person beforehand, to elicit a specific response. ABA is a scientifically proven form of safe, effective therapy for behavior replacement in children.

    • Many myths describe food as a form of bribery or manipulation throughout ABA practices. It is important to remember that each plan is individualized and tailored the child’s needs, abilities, and personal motivators. Early intervention is encouraged, so working with young children is common, even here in our Detroit based Center. Many times, food is the most meaningful motivator for a young child. It is also an effective reinforcer with children who have limited or no language. As with all positive reinforcement practices in ABA therapy, it is given after the wanted behavior and accompanied by praise, encouragement, and support.

The Myth:

Punishment is Used in ABA Sessions

The Facts:

While there was a time in the early stages of ABA therapy when punishment was used, positive reinforcement to encourage behavior changes has long since been the standard practice. Only in severe cases of self-harm, for example, would punishment be considered. It would then be paired with positive reinforcement practices to address the dangers of the unwanted behavior that needs replacing.

The Myth:

All You’ll Do in Therapy is Play

The Facts:

Play is a much broader term than many realize. We see firsthand how early intervention brings many young ones to our Center here in the Detroit area. It is a well-known fact that young children learn best through play and exploration. Since ABA is a form of therapy centered around the child’s behaviors in their typical environments, we encourage a very healthy amount of play.

    • Play therapy allows the child and caregivers a chance to bond. It offers a chance for many children with social or speech difficulties to learn how to read and use non-verbal cues and express themselves. Through play, many opportunities to address unwanted behavior can arise; offering the chance to work on ABA strategies in your child’s natural environment.

Detroit’s Preferred ABA Therapists

We hope this has answered some of the questions you’ve had about ABA practices. If you live in the Detroit area, we encourage you to come and learn more about our services and commitment to the needs of families in the Detroit-metro area. At Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we believe an all-encompassing Center is most beneficial to our family’s needs. If you’ve found us but live beyond the Detroit area, we encourage you to visit our site often for resources, education, and support. Our highly trained staff is here to provide your family with the information you need to make the best-informed decisions for your child.

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How to Become a Registered Behavioral Tech

Working with families and children with autism and other special needs is a rewarding job. Through Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA therapy, you can help children meet their maximum potential, working with them to learn new life skills while reinforcing positive behavioral skills. Families rely on you and their team of therapists for support, guidance, and training. This helps them continue to use ABA practices throughout the child’s natural environments when they leave your sessions.

The Behavioral Technician Path

If you’re interested in becoming a Registered Behavioral Technician, entering the ABA field as a Behavioral Tech is an excellent way to get started. A Behavioral Technician is an entry-level position which will allow you to become familiar with the practices and foundations of ABA therapy. With a high school diploma and little to no experience needed, you’ll gain insight, experience, and invaluable training.

The role of a tech includes assisting in implementing strategies to help the child create behavioral changes and learn new life and social skills. Techs work closely with the child, their family, and his team of therapists. A tech is not responsible for developing his ABA goals or assessments but will assist in helping the team implement the individualized plan. Your duties may include:

  • Collecting and recording data
  • Assist therapists with assessments
  • Assist with parent and additional caregiver training
  • Work with the child to help implement his behavioral plan

A Registered Behavioral Technician Career

Taking the next step to becoming registered provides many incredible benefits. A Registered Behavioral Technician, or RBT, opens many doors. It offers more career opportunities, higher salary, and more responsibility in the child’s plan. A Registered Behavioral Technician is a paraprofessional whose responsibilities may include:

  • Assessment
  • Measurement
  • Skill acquisition
  • Reduction of behaviors
  • Documentation
  • Reporting

Registered Behavioral Technicians implement behavior-analytic services, including ABA therapy, while under the close supervision of a BCBA-D, BCBA, or BCaBA. Yearly recertification is also required as a registered tech.

Who Else Can Become a Registered Technician?

Those who meet the requirements and will be working with children, clients, and/or families needing assistance with various developmental behavior needs are eligible and encouraged. This includes:

  • Parents
  • Educators
  • Case managers
  • Home health providers, including daycare or afterschool care staff

Meeting the Requirements

In accordance with the BACB, Behavioral Analyst Certification Board, several requirements must be met before becoming an ABA Behavioral Technician, including:

  • Minimum age of 18 years
  • High School graduate or equivalent
  • Submit a background check within 180 days of your Registered Behavioral Technician application
  • Completing 40 hours of required training
  • Passing the RBT Competency Assessment
  • Passing the RTB examination
  • Ethics and Professional Conduct instruction and assessments

Meeting the Required Training

You’ll be happy to learn there are a few routes to explore to meet your needs while working as a Behavioral Technician.

  • Agency Training Programs:

    Various agencies create their own training programs. Supervisors accept new hires and candidates from within to train in-house; meeting the requirements of the BACB. You may also seek out an external agency that provides this required training.

  • Traditional Course Programs:

    Some companies offer online options, while others hold in-person classes. Applying to a University is another option you may want to consider.

  • Training + Program:

    You can now find programs that offer your training within their RBT program. This option will provide you with your necessary training certificate for your RBT application.

An additional option offered to those who are already working in Behavioral Techs positions makes exceptions for those who meet the following criteria:

  • Completed 40 hours of qualified training
  • Meet all other RBT requirements
  • If training was before January 1, 2015, you might be eligible. You need to demonstrate adequate training was completed, all requirements were met, and you can successfully carry out duties as outlined in the RBT Task List.

Your Competency Assessment and Exam

After you’ve completed your 40 hours of training, a direct observation assessment is scheduled for you to show you are competent in all RBT Task List areas. Once you have passed this assessment, you may move on to your examination. Passing your RBT Exam is your last step in becoming a Registered Behavioral Technician.

Whether you’re interested in learning more about becoming an RBT to help others, or because you’d like to educate yourself and family, you’ll find there are many benefits. Blossom is proud to be an employer who helps our employees become registered behavior technicians. We believe in helping our staff further their education, experience, and careers. Blossom will assist with tuition reimbursement if an employee decides to further their career path towards becoming a BCBA, OT, SLP, or Counselor. For more information on ABA therapy services in the Detroit area, contact Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center today!

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