research

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

 

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

 

1. Autism Alliance of Michigan

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

 

Why We Love Them

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

 

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

 

How Can You Contact the AAoM?

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

 

2. Michigan Alliance for Families

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

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

 

Why We Love Them

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

 

How Can You Contact the Michigan Alliance For Families?

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

 

3. Autism Society of Michigan

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

 

Why We Love Them

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

 

How Can You Contact the Autism Society of Michigan?

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

 

4. Early On

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

 

Why We Love Them

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

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

 

How Can You Contact Early On?

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

 

5. The Arc Michigan

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

 

Why We Love Them

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

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

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

 

ABA Therapy: Defined

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Your Role as a Caregiver

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

 

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

  • Play

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

 

  • Don’t forget positive reinforcement

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

 

  • Take note

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

 

Your Local ABA Clinic at Your Service!

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

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checklist

If you’ve recently found yourself confronted with a diagnosis of autism or ASD for one of your children, it can be a daunting and stressful time as you work to find the right therapies for them. Combine that with the possibility of being put on a waitlist for these ABA services, and it can cause more unnecessary stress. We’re here to tell you that there is hope.

Did you know that 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder each year? But because of this, there are plenty of ABA clinics opening up their doors to better serve the autism community.

 

But First, What is ABA Therapy?

ABA therapy or Applied Behavior Analysis has become a popular option for children with ASD. By combining proven-effective teaching methods and interventions, ABA therapy uses basic behavioral principles to improve or change specific behavior.  ABA is vital to helping your child gain the skills they need to thrive in school and at home, by using data-based decisions to address each child’s needs individually.

 

Now that you know a little more about what ABA therapy is, let’s take a look at the bad news about waiting for these services at an ABA clinic.

 

The Bad News About ABA Clinic Waitlists

If you’re on a waitlist at an ABA clinic, it can be extremely frustrating, not only for you but for your child too! Let’s explore a few reasons why sitting on a waitlist for ABA services are a bad thing for both you and your child.

 

  • Early intervention is critical for success

This means that it’s a much easier process for your child to learn new skills before age 5. While it is not uncommon for them to learn these skills after that, it takes quite a bit more effort.

 

  • Loss of skills

During the wait, your child can fall farther behind their peers because they aren’t receiving the therapy they need to interact with them socially, emotionally, or mentally.

 

  • Increased inappropriate behavior

Similarly, if your child is not receiving therapy services at an ABA clinic, there will likely be an increase in the problem behaviors you are hoping to correct. Getting into a program as soon as you can is vital to effective therapy, which translates into success for your child.

 

  • Long wait times

Did you know that once on a waitlist for an ABA clinic spot to open up, you could be waiting for up to three years? Not only is that frustrating, but it also hinders your child’s potential progress, as well.

 

The Good News on ABA Clinics

However, there is good news in all of this. Instead of being waitlisted, you can find an ABA clinic like Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center that offers both comprehensive therapy services and support services, allowing your child to get the intervention they need as soon as possible! Plus, there are a few other reasons why you should schedule a consultation at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Clinic today!

 

Why Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center?

 

  • We’re community-focused

Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we believe that in-clinic work is essential to overall progress for children with autism or ASD. Still, we know that progress also happens outside the ABA clinic, as well. That’s why we emphasize parent-led interaction and plan community events that allow your child to work on essential social skills in their natural environment.

 

  • We offer comprehensive therapy and support services for every child

Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we are proud to serve the Metro Detroit area. We love helping local families in need of not only ABA services, but also occupational therapy, speech therapy, and counseling. Contact us to schedule a consultation so we can personalize a program of ABA Services and get your child off the waitlist today!

 

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Thriving in group settings like school, work, or church depends on many different factors. However, one of the most important of these is adequate social skills. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that social skills are a common area that behavioral therapists target because increasing these skills allows children to communicate, collaborate, and share with their peers, ultimately creating lasting, meaningful relationships.

 

How Does Autism Affect My Child’s Social Skills?

Social skills are the rules and customs that serve as a guide for our interactions with others. For children on the autism spectrum, these skills aren’t picked up on as quickly because it can be hard for them to read the situation and respond appropriately.

Therefore, in your local ABA clinic, you’ll find that your child’s therapist will work with them on learning social cues in a controlled environment. Not only will this encourage them to determine the appropriate responses in any situation, but it will also allow your child to recreate these positive responses in the outside world with their peers.

 

What is ABA Therapy?

Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, is a highly successful form of therapy that was first made famous in the 1970s. By taking an in-depth look at how each child learns and behaves, often through play, therapists are given a better understanding of how specific environments can affect a child’s behavior.

ABA therapy is an essential building block for a child on the autism spectrum and involves individualizing the treatment plan tailored to your child’s particular needs. Every child is different; therefore, every ABA therapy session is as well, based on each specific child’s strengths and weaknesses. That’s what makes ABA therapy so successful for a variety of disorders.

Below we’ve listed a few areas in a child’s life that can be positively impacted by ABA therapy.

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

 

Both children and adults on the autism spectrum often require intervention when it comes to developing the social skills needed to interact and socialize with others, whether at home, school, work, or anywhere in between. That’s where ABA therapy comes in!

 

How Does ABA Therapy Help Improve My Child’s Social Skills?

By setting up opportunities for your child to try out newly learned social skills in a controlled environment, your ABA clinic can aid in positively reinforcing the good behaviors they are working to have your child repeat in broader social settings. Because social skills rely on interaction with others, we created an intervention group called BLOOMS, that is focused on building those much-desired peer relationships while also working through group skills needed to ready your child for the classroom.

 

A few social skills that ABA therapy can improve on are:

  • Interactive play
  • Initiating conversation
  • Turn-taking
  • Following directions
  • Social communication
  • Rule following
  • Coping skills
  • A reduction of problematic behaviors
  • Appropriate eye contact
  • Identifying and understanding social cues

 

Your Local Detroit-Metro ABA Clinic

Here at Blossom Behavior Wellness Center, we believe early intervention is critical for children with autism or ASD. We’re committed to providing the highest quality therapy for your child, and we only use proven programming and interventions shown to make an impact on a child with autism or ASD. Contact us today to learn more about how an ABA clinic can help impact your child’s social skills, readying them for the classroom and beyond.

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Benefits of Art Therapy for Children with Autism

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

 

According to the American Art Therapy Association:

 

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

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

 

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

 

Understanding Autism

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

 

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

 

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

 

Seeking Treatment Through Art Therapy

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

 

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

 

Assessing Your Child Through Art

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

 

 Strengthening Positive Behaviors Through Art

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

 

When Art Therapy Meets ABA Therapy

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

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

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

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

 

Success in Art Therapy: One-on-One Sessions

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

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

  • Painting
  • Scribbling
  • Manipulating tissue papers with his fingers

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

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

Success in Art Therapy: Group Sessions

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

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

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

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

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Sensory Meltdowns vs. Behavioral Issues

While it’s often mistaken for a child throwing a fit, misbehaving, or having a tantrum, this is not the case with a sensory meltdown. To properly recognize the difference and respond appropriately, training and education are vital. Let’s take a look at sensory processing and where the meltdowns may stem from.

 

Understanding a Sensory Meltdown

A sensory meltdown is the fight or flight response one has to sensory overload. Sensory processing issues result from the inability to process information taken in through any one or more of your senses. Children may experience a sensory meltdown when there is a change in their routine or environment, or they are unable to handle a transition. You may also find meltdowns follow sensory overload due to their inability to:

  • Handle new situations
  • Effectively communicate their needs and wants
  • Self-regulate

 

Recognizing Fight or Flight

Our bodies are wired to recognize dangerous situations and respond in a way that attempts to keep us safe. Our Sympathetic Nervous System sets a quick, involuntary reaction into motion to do so. When a child has difficulty processing sensory information, the environment can appear to be a scary or threatening place, setting off a sensory meltdown while shutting down to all other input. The brain becomes unable to

reason or respond while in fight or flight mode. The ability to begin recognizing small signs pointing to a meltdown is critical since many behaviors are mistaken for bad behavior. Many common fight or flight behaviors include:

  • Spitting or biting
  • Running or escaping from a situation
  • Hiding under something
  • Kicking and hitting
  • Covering their ears or eyes in avoidance
  • Resorting to shut-down mode; not speaking or responding
  • Avoiding eye contact

 

Responding to Sensory Meltdowns with Occupational Therapy

Once the behaviors are recognized as sensory processing issues, the ability to react appropriately becomes more effective. Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, our team of occupational therapists collaborates with the therapy team and with you and your family to teach various techniques to help in the event of a sensory meltdown. Combined with our ABA therapy, we will work with you and your child to adopt acceptable coping mechanisms to help regulate your child through these difficult situations.

 

Collaborating with Occupational Therapy and ABA Therapy

ABA allows us to work with your child to replace an undesirable behavioral response with a more desirable one. Occupational therapy works with your child to addresses sensory processing difficulties that could be the underlying issue of behavioral responses. Occupational therapists collaborate with ABA therapy to help them identify sensory concerns and utilize sensory strategies for preventing meltdowns. Possible strategies for responding to sensory meltdown effectively are as follows:

  • Model deep breathing exercises and have your child breath with you
  • Try not to talk in a way that adds to their sensory overload; use shorter phrases and a quiet voice
  • Maintain control of the situation through a calm, steady voice. Becoming upset or frustrated with or at them will only escalate the response
  • Find a quiet spot, so your child’s environment is free from overstimulation
  • Provide dimmed lights, soothing music, or weighted blankets to help them calm down. Experiment to find what may work well for your child in these moments
  • As your child begins to calm down, acknowledge their feelings and emotions to demonstrate you understand while helping them to label their emotions

 

Our goal is to work together as a therapy team through effective sensory strategies to help your child learn the most effective ways to respond to and deal with sensory processing overload. Through these sessions, we strive to help create smooth transitions for your child, whether it’s a new daycare, school readiness, academic pressures, or social and emotional situations in general. Find out more about our programs and therapies and how we can support your child.

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

 

Understanding Positive Reinforcement

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

 

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

 

Positive Changes in Therapy

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

 

Understanding ABA Therapy

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

 

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

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

 

Knowing the Difference Between Positive Reinforcement and Bribes

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

 

Your Role as the Caregiver

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

 

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

 

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

 

Measuring Success

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

 

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

 

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What You Should Know About an IEP

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 in Sensory Integration

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

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

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

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

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