Easily one of the most daunting aspects of a diagnosis of autism is wrapping your brain around the sheer number of therapies your child might require getting them ready for school. While this process can feel lonely and isolating at times, there are plenty of helpful resources, especially in Michigan, that can support you and your child throughout the journey. Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we strive to help make your life a little easier by not only providing ABA clinic services but also by providing you with a list of our favorite resources. That includes our favorite five Michigan-based resources for parents of children with autism. Let’s take a look at all five right now!


  1. Autism Alliance of Michigan
  2. Michigan Alliance for Families
  3. Autism Society of Michigan
  4. Early on
  5. The Arc Michigan


1. Autism Alliance of Michigan

The Autism Alliance of Michigan, or AAoM, is at the forefront of leading efforts throughout the state, not just the Metro Detroit area, to improve the quality of life for those with autism and their caretakers. By helping those affected to gain access to education, ABA therapy, comprehensive services, inclusion efforts, and coordinated advocacy, AAoM hopes to give every Michigan resident with autism the tools they need to navigate the autism journey.


Why We Love Them

The AAoM has a Neighborhood Directory that provides parents and caregivers in Michigan with more than 700 resources that range from finding an ABA clinic, sensory-friendly summer camps, autism-friendly businesses, and so much more!


Not only does the AAoM help to direct you to a licensed ABA clinic for ABA therapy and other essential therapies, but they a program called MiNavigator, a professional case management service that caters to Michigan families affected by autism. MiNavigator has a team of autism specialists on staff that can answer autism-related questions for parents and caregivers. Whatever assistance you need, they have someone on staff that can do their best to help support you and your family!


How Can You Contact the AAoM?

Whether you’re new to the autism diagnosis or have reached a point in your child’s autism journey where you need more assistance or support, you can contact AAoM, and they’d be happy to point you in the right direction or answer any questions you may have. Contact the AAoM through their website and join their monthly MiNavigator Newsletter to stay up-to-date with events, trainings, and other autism-related activities!


2. Michigan Alliance for Families

Do you have a school-aged child with autism and need help navigating the special education system? The Michigan Alliance for Families has a resource just for you, allowing you to connect with local parent mentors that have experience with most of the things you’re probably dealing with. Not only can they help you navigate this sometimes-stressful process, but they can also help you take the appropriate steps to learn how to be more involved in your child’s education, too!

Not only that, the Michigan Alliance for Families also has a vast arsenal of resources for any Michigan family with a child or children with disabilities, whether they be physical or otherwise. From more in-depth information about autism and ASD to referrals to local community resources that will help your child’s specific needs, like ABA therapy, the Michigan Alliance for Families makes it easier for Michigan families to get the care and representation they deserve.


Why We Love Them

Following a diagnosis of autism, it is easy to feel isolated, frustrated, and like no one understands your specific struggles. Thanks to the parent mentorship program at the Michigan Alliance for Families, you are seen and understood. Support is so important, not only for a child with autism but also for their parent or caregiver. By bridging the gap between Michigan parents of children with disabilities, the Michigan Alliance for Families is giving parents a much-needed outlet for discussing treatment plans like ABA therapy, picking an ABA clinic, and so much more!


How Can You Contact the Michigan Alliance For Families?

To get general information or to request support from a local parent mentor, check out the Michigan Alliance for Families website and fill out an information form. You should receive a response in as little as three days!


3. Autism Society of Michigan

The Autism Society of Michigan, or ASM, exists to provide education, respect, and the presumption of competence of all persons. By showing others that individuals with autism or autism spectrum disorders contribute in unique ways in not only their families but in school environments, too. ASM advocates for individuals with autism by making human connections and maintaining a supportive and integrated community through educational resources, workshops, seminars, and other services.


Why We Love Them

One of our favorite things about ASM is its comprehensive list of Michigan-based resources for individuals with autism and their caretakers. From a list of ABA clinics to ABA therapy resources, behavioral therapy, art therapy, and so much more, you can find the resources you’re looking for in your area with the click of a button! You can even breakdown your search results by county to make the search that much easier!


How Can You Contact the Autism Society of Michigan?

To gain more information or to get guidance on a particular question you have, contact the Autism Society of Michigan through their website to let them know how they can help you and your family today!


4. Early On

Early On Michigan is an excellent resource for parents of children under three years old to establish intervention services at an ABA clinic like ABA therapy. Because early intervention is crucial to the success of various behavioral treatments like ABA therapy, programs like this one must exist for Michigan families. Early On emphasizes the importance of both early identification and early referrals to help enhance the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities.


Why We Love Them

Early On was founded on several principles we believe in at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center. First, that early intervention is not only essential but crucial to the success of your child interacting with their peers in various environments. Second, that a parent or caretaker’s role is just as important as a therapist’s role. Without you, there could be no real progress. And by giving you the tools you need to succeed, an ABA clinic can empower you with the guidance and support you need to use everyday activities to promote learning. Early On even breaks these tools down in a logical way that makes understanding them even more straightforward. Let’s take a look below.

  • Intervention: according to the team at Early On, this comes from the day-to-day caregivers of the child, like parents. By providing practice, encouragement, and guidance, you can help your child succeed.
  • Service: this encompasses the professional activity that happens between your Early On provider and you. It allows you the confidence that you have the interventions necessary at the ready for those moments at home or during playdates when you need to redirect your child’s behavior.


How Can You Contact Early On?

If you think that your young child may have a developmental delay, you can contact Early On for a referral for services that might help, like ABA therapy. For more information or to ask more questions about their services, check out their website!


5. The Arc Michigan

The Arc Michigan ensures that people with developmental disabilities are valued and that they and their families aren’t excluded from community activities because of their limitations. By helping residents (and their families!) with things like employment, education, forming meaningful relationships, and living independently in their community, The Arc Michigan is fulfilling dreams, one Michigan resident at a time.


Why We Love Them

One of our favorite things about The Arc Michigan is that they have multiple chapters across the state, available to serve individual communities better and more precisely. For instance, The Arc Detroit chapter covers the cities of Detroit, Highland Park, and Hamtramck, helping you find services like ABA therapy and ABA clinics in each of those cities.

All five of these Michigan-based resources are there to help you navigate your child’s autism diagnosis, from understanding how to advocate for your child, to the importance of ABA therapy, as well as finding other autism-related resources for your family, like a licensed ABA clinic.

Speaking of ABA therapy, let’s take a closer look at how it can change the way your child learns and behaves, both in school and at home!


ABA Therapy: Defined

Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we believe that ABA therapy, or Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy, provides the basis for our therapists to look at how your child learns and behaves. More often than not, a reward system specific to your child encourages your child to replace an unwanted behavior with a desired one. Not bribery by any means, instead your child will receive the reward once the response is adopted, making it more likely to be repeated more often in the future. Children learn at different rates in ABA therapy, which is why your ABA clinic must take a personalized approach with each child, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. As such, something that motivates one child (even sibling to sibling), may not motivate another, so your ABA therapy team getting to know your child on a personal level is vital.


How Can ABA Therapy Make A Difference in My Child’s Life?

To prepare your young child for success in school, we believe intervention must start early, so not only can your ABA clinic work with your child on daily life skills but social skills and classroom readiness skills, too! A few of the skills you can expect your child to work on throughout ABA therapy are listed below. Let’s take a look.


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


By working on these skills and more throughout their ABA therapy sessions, your child will not only be more confident and comfortable, but they’ll also be ready to adapt to their school environment better.


Your Role as a Caregiver

We alluded to it before, but we firmly believe that to get the most out of your child’s ABA clinic and ABA therapy sessions, parental participation is vital. No one knows your child as well as you do, so by providing insight into their behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses, your child’s therapist can better coordinate their care plan. You are your child’s most influential advocate, and we value your opinion. Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we strive to be an ABA clinic where your whole family can feel comfortable, included, and understood.


So, how can you continue the progress from your ABA clinic at home? Let’s take a look at a few ways below.

  • Play

Often, we hear that parents don’t know if they are using ABA therapy skills correctly at home and are unsure how to proceed. Have no fear! A lot of the progress we make in the ABA clinic is thanks to play therapy. This is a genius concept, especially for young children, because they have no idea that the game they’re playing is building social skills at the same time.


  • Don’t forget positive reinforcement

Whether your child responds to hugs, high fives, or special treats, remembering to compliment and reward desired behaviors while at home or out and about around town is key to keeping the momentum from your child’s ABA clinic going. This will also motivate them to keep repeating these behaviors with you consistently outside of the ABA clinic, too!


  • Take note

One of the other essential things you can do for your ABA therapist is keeping a running list of things that happen outside of the ABA clinic. Whether you have questions about specific things you want to save until your child’s next session, or you want to keep a list of achievements and struggles, taking a few detailed notes can help your ABA clinic know what skills still need fine-tuning.


Your Local ABA Clinic at Your Service!

Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we want to help you and your family work through an autism or ASD diagnosis as seamlessly as possible. We accomplish this by providing support through intensive programs and individualized services for children up to age eight like ABA therapy, Occupational Therapy, and counseling. Plus, for children six to 12 years old, we offer after-school peer groups and services, as well. From the initial diagnosis to every year in between, we’re here to help you and give you the tools and confidence you need to help your child thrive. Contact us today to schedule a consultation or with any questions you may have!

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Benefits of Art Therapy for Children with Autism

Art is a natural way for all children to explore and express themselves. Through drawing, painting, and creating in general, children learn about their emotions, cope with situations, and are encouraged to explore social interactions. Children with autism process the world differently and require more help in understanding and developing many of these skills.


According to the American Art Therapy Association:


“Art therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.

Art therapists are master-level clinicians who work with people of all ages across a broad spectrum of practice. Guided by ethical standards and scope of practice, their education and supervised training prepares them for culturally proficient work with diverse populations in a variety of settings. Honoring individuals’ values and beliefs, art therapists work with people who are challenged with medical and mental health problems, as well as individuals seeking emotional, creative, and spiritual growth.”


Through a combination of ABA therapy and art therapy, they can experience self-expression, develop and enhance a variety of skills, and experience multiple sensory stimuli in a safe, welcoming environment. Through the benefits of visual and tactile opportunities, introducing art therapy opens many possibilities for your child to grow.


Understanding Autism

Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is generally diagnosed by age three and is typically characterized by:


  • Difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Social deficits
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Intellectual delays
  • Physical health concerns
  • Issues with motor coordination
  • Lack of attention and self-regulation


Children with autism tend to have trouble adjusting to change and do better with routines and familiar environments. Difficulties with various behavioral and sensory issues are also common characteristics.


Seeking Treatment Through Art Therapy

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


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


Assessing Your Child Through Art

Art therapy can offer a wide variety of assessment opportunities in a relaxed and engaging environment. Your child can be observed improving fine motor skills while enhancing their ability to focus and improve their sensory processing. Cognitive development and behavior are also areas of assessment easily seen through art therapy. It offers an environment that is less over-stimulating than other activities and provides routine, structure, responsibility, and less distraction.


 Strengthening Positive Behaviors Through Art

Art therapy offers children with autism a fantastic way to improve their behavior skills. Studies have shown that children with autism exhibit fewer behavioral problems after engaging in artistic activities, mainly when using one-to-one art therapy sessions. It has been noted as a valid form of early childhood intervention for children with autism for years. It offers an opportunity to express themselves better, use their imagination, and encourage abstract thinking. Art activities provide an incredible chance to facilitate their cognitive development while helping to build and strengthen their visual-spatial skills.


When Art Therapy Meets ABA Therapy

Through the use of ABA therapy, our highly trained team works with children to learn to replace undesirable behaviors with preferred behaviors. By incorporating the family through education and hands-on training during their sessions, it helps them thrive in all of their natural environments.

Art therapy and its practices offer an antecedent- based intervention, or ABI, for children with autism. Much like ABA therapy practices, ABI offers an evidence-based practice that relies on introducing stimulus changes before an undesirable situation occurs. It also allows for similar positive reinforcements in the form of selecting favorite art activities or allowing them to make individual choices during the session.

Aside from ABA therapy, the introduction of art therapy to enhance the development of social skills in children with autism has been used as a successful alternative. Cooper and Widdows (2004) proposed that children with ASD, who tend to be more visual and concrete learners, can better communicate their feelings, emotions, and wants through art-based activities that seem to match their learning styles. In fact, they pointed out that it is easier to engage children with ASD in various art activities because they are allowed the chance to:

  • Feel more comfortable expressing themselves through art
  • Feel more accepted by their peers
  • Reduce stress and anxiety by focusing on creativity rather than verbal communication


Success in Art Therapy: One-on-One Sessions

While additional studies are ongoing, and a variety of variables still need to be introduced, art intervention studies are continually giving us insight into how it is helping children with autism make great strides in many areas.

In one study, researchers Evans and Dubowski (2001) examined the effects that art therapy offered a seven-year-old boy with autism. In total, twenty-seven art sessions, lasting thirty minutes each, were provided over two years. During these weekly sessions, his art sessions involved:

  • Painting
  • Scribbling
  • Manipulating tissue papers with his fingers

The study showed an increase in the child’s attention span and an enhanced ability to follow the therapist’s instructions. Towards the end of their two year period, the child began predicting the sequence of events during many sessions.

A separate study by Emery (2004) introduced art therapy intervention for seven months with a six-year-old boy with autism. The results were remarkable. By the middle of their seven months of sessions, he was already displaying considerable conversation skills. He began engaging with the researcher in a far less mechanical voice. It was also noted that his paintings became more concrete and showed his home and school life. He began engaging more in various tasks in his environments and even started making jokes.

Success in Art Therapy: Group Sessions

Group sessions, even as small as two students, have shown promising strides as well. Adding a social component into their sessions fosters interaction, and improves self-esteem. Improvements have been noted in areas of:

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

It’s important to note that social success can not wholly be contributed to group art sessions. While it presents ample opportunity, social and verbal skills must also be an area of focus during their meetings with routine therapists and ABA therapy work. It does, however, increase the chances of improving their verbal and social skills.

Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we are dedicated to providing your child and family with the tools you need to succeed. We invite you to explore the various therapies and programs we provide for all your family’s needs.

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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 in Sensory Integration

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 sessions to 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 down should 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 for Data Collection

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


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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