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


What is an IEP?  

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

Who Will Attend the IEP Meeting?

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

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

Additional members may include:

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

What the IEP Covers

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

The IEP documents will include:

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

Special Education Services

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


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


If necessary, it will also include:


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


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

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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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Counseling Therapy and Other Self-Care Ideas

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

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

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

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

Autism 101

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

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

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

What Therapies Entail for Children and Parents

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

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

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

The Importance of Self-Care

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

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

Self-Care Ideas

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

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

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

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

Counseling Therapy

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

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

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

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

The Benefits of Counseling Therapy

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

  • Counseling therapy helps you understand and accept the diagnosis

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

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

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

  • It can help you and your partner become closer

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

  • Counseling therapy is wonderful for stress management

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

How to Find a Therapist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sensory Integration and Autism in Occupational Therapy

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

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

What is Occupational Therapy for Children with Autism?

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

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

What is Sensory Integration in Occupational Therapy?

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

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

How Sensory Integration Fits into Occupational Therapy

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

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

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

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

The Role of Play in Sensory Integration

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

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

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

Social and Emotional Benefits of Sensory Integration

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

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

Your Role as a Parent

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

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

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

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

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Differentiating Play During ABA Therapy

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

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

The Basics of ABA Therapy

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

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

The building blocks of ABA therapy include:

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

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

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

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

ABA and Positive Reinforcement

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

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

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

ABA and Changing Behavior

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

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

Play Therapy in ABA

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

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

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

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

Directive and Non-Directive Play Therapy

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

  • Directive play therapy

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

  • Non-directive play therapy

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

Floor Time in ABA Therapy

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

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

Key Goals of Floor Time During Play Therapy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Play Therapy at Home

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

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

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

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

Recommended Toys for Child with Autism

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

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

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

Empowering Every Child

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

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

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What is Occupational Therapy?

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What is Occupational Therapy?

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

What is Occupational Therapy?

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

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

Additional Areas Addressed

Occupational therapy benefits an array of medical concerns, including:

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

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

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

  • Brushing teeth
  • Dressing
  • Bathing

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

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

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

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

How Will My Child be Observed?

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

The Role of the Parents

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

Pairing OT with ABA Therapy

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits for Your Child

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

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

Occupational Therapy and School Readiness

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

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

Sensory Integration

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

A Sensory Diet

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

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

Sensory Diet Activities

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

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

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

Does it Work?

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

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

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

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What is Speech-Language Pathology?

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

Speech-Language Pathology

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Concerns Addressed with Speech-Language Pathology

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

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

When Should Speech-Language Pathology Be Introduced?

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

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

The Speech-Language Pathology Process

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

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

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

Strengthening Your Child’s Skills

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

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

The Potential Issues with Assessment

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

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

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

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

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

A Deeper Look Into SLP

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

Strengthening Social Skills

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

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

Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC)

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

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

The Role of Your Speech Pathologist

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

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

General Goals During Speech Therapy

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

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

20 Questions You May Want to Ask

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

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

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

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Why Is Data Collection Important in ABA Therapy?

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

ABA Therapy + Data Collection

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

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

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

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

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

Why is Data Collection So Important?

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

What You Should Know

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

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

How Do I Collect Data?

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

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

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

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

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

Helpful Resources

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

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

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

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Four Holiday Tips for Families of Children with Autism

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

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

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

Holiday Decoration Mindfulness

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

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

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

Anticipate Holiday Crowds

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

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

Plan and Prepare for Holiday Events, Travel, and Gatherings

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

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

Continue to Use Applied Behavior Analysis Techniques

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

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

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