Category: Parenting

Children coloring together

Summer camp offers a positive experience for children with autism. It provides an enriching environment for your child to continue ABA therapy practices while expanding social, communication, and overall general life skills. However, finding the best fit for your child’s goals and needs can be overwhelming and will require some thorough research on your part. Allow us to help guide you through the basics of finding a summer camp to accommodate your family’s needs best.

Child eating a smore at summer camp

 

Summer Camp Benefits for Children with Autism

Children with autism tend to thrive with consistent routines, making summer camp a fantastic opportunity to continue their growth. Transitioning into a summer camp offers your child additional time to work on  ABA therapy services in a natural, enjoyable environment. Your child will learn to strengthen skills by focusing on speech therapy, social skills through art therapy, and additional group activities. Summer camp is a wonderful way to reinforce ABA therapy practices while allowing your child to explore, experience, and flourish.

 

Research suggests children with autism thrive in intensive, year-round ABA therapy.  Maintaining consistency helps prevent regression in the skills and progress your child has been making. Summer camps offer a setting for all children with autism to continue ABA therapy practices outside the clinic or classroom. Camps allow exposure to sports, creative activities, animals, and nature.

 

Summer camps offer an environment of peer models for your child to learn from. They provide children with high-functioning autism a chance to interact with typically developing children in all-inclusive camp settings. Their social interactions strengthen their communication skills through the ongoing use of speech therapy tactics during activities like art therapy, physical fitness activities, and other group activities.

 

Summer Camp for Social Skills

Children with autism typically prefer solitary activities rather than interacting with others. They often experience difficulty engaging with and cooperating in group settings. While reading social cues and communicating their wants and needs are challenging, summer camp helps strengthen these necessary life skills. By continuing ABA therapy practices in a summer camp setting, children continue to work towards creating life-long skills.

 

Integrating Art Therapy

When searching for a high-quality camp, inquire about their art therapy curriculum. Art therapy offers tremendous benefits, including increases in:

  • Executive functioning skills
  • Sensorimotor functions
  • Self-esteem and self-awareness
  • Cognitive skills
  • Insight
  • Social skills

 

Art therapy offers a safe environment for your child to experience sensory exploration and express themselves without the pressures of verbal communication. Art therapy opens a whole new avenue for your child to enhance their creativity while developing a better understanding of the world.

 

Integrating Speech Therapy into Summer Camp

By integrating speech therapy practices in conjunction with art therapy, your child learns to read cues, express wants and needs, and develop or strengthen overall communication skills. Speech therapy best practices during summer camp activities help promote various methods of communicating with staff and peers. Activities may address speech therapy concerns, including humming, parroting, or yelling, while replacing these behaviors with more effective language skills.

Finding the Right  Summer Camp

To help you begin your research, the American Camp Association offers a list of accredited summer camps which will maintain focus on your child’s ABA therapy goals. Before researching your summer camp options, make a list of must-haves. Do you prefer a more relaxing setting for your child to focus on social interactions? Perhaps you prefer a camp offering extra speech therapy. You’ll be able to sort through hundreds of recommendations and specify these wants and needs when exploring the ACA site.

 

Summer camps are not a one-size-fits-all, and your selection should support your child’s ABA therapy goals to provide the most successful experience. Camp programs include:

 

  • Inclusive Summer Programs – An inclusive program that will integrate typically developing children and children with special needs. Children with various strengths and abilities are welcome, while staff, therapists, and activities offer challenges and support for everyone’s needs.
  • Specialized Summer Programs – Summer camps for children and teens with autism and other special needs offer a more direct ABA therapy These camps work towards the continuous development of your child’s goals, preventing the regression summer breaks may bring. Specialized summer camps use tools, including speech therapy methods, to enhance successful social interaction with peers and staff during activities.
  • Extended School Year Programs (ESY) – If your child is of school age, their school may recommend a summer camp program if they feel your child is at risk of regression over the summer. ESYs vary in each school and state, but their overall design is to help children with autism continue to work towards their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) using ABA therapy tools and practices.

Children playing a game at summer camp

Trustworthy Recommendations for Summer Camps

As with any program, reach out to your support group and other families for recommendations. Ask about their experiences, including success stories and struggles. Talking to other parents who have children with autism will give you great insight into your local programs. Your child’s therapists and special education teachers can also provide recommendations and guidance according to your child’s strengths and struggles. Finding a high-quality program from trustworthy sources is invaluable.

And don’t be afraid to ask the camp for parent references. Programs should be willing to accommodate your needs and answer all your questions to ensure a proper fit. Prepare a list of questions and inquire about their methods, priorities, and best practices. You may wish to include questions from our staff’s helpful list to ensure alignment with your child’s summer goals:

 

  • What licensure does your camp have? Does your staff have ABA therapy training?
  • Do you provide speech therapy or art therapy?
  • What credentials and qualifications do the rest of your staff have?
  • If an inclusive program – what is your camp’s philosophy regarding integrating children with special needs into the general population of campers?
  • What structures and activities are put in place to help integrate campers?
  • What does your camp’s daily schedule of activities include?
  • How does your staff communicate with each family to provide progress, updates, tips for home, and respond to questions?
  • What are your medical and emergency protocols?
  • If the camp is specialized – what is your philosophy on encouraging socialization and skill-building? How do your activities and staff support these goals?
  • Do you offer scholarships, grants, or other financial assistance?

 

Financial Considerations

While finances are indeed a significant factor with summer camp, there may be help. Keep in mind, all programs and states vary. Some summer camps offer grants and scholarships to ease the burden for your family. Your child’s ABA therapy clinic may also provide grants or have resources to offer you in your search. Don’t forget to enlist the help of:

  • Your child’s school district
  • Local community clubs, including Kiwanis, Rotary, and Lions
  • The Autism Support Network – you’ll find an interactive list of various organizations that offer local grants to families.

 

Summer camp provides an incredible experience for your child while strengthening the skills and behaviors they learn in their therapy and school settings. From art therapy to speech therapy,  summer programs can offer your child continuous growth during the summer months. For additional resources, contact us today and allow our team to assist you with your child’s summer needs.

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Adult and child doing homework

Whether you’ve been part of the autism community for years or are just beginning your journey, you may find that you are underrepresented as a dad. While that may be the case now, there are many fathers in the autism community that aim to change that, one voice at a time. As the father of a child with autism or another special need, you play a critical role in their care and upbringing. Today, we want to highlight a few resources specifically for the dads in the autism community so that you can feel more empowered than ever in this journey, and above all, know that you are not alone.

Dad and child smiling

The Importance of a Father in ABA Therapy

When we talk about parents and the critical impact they have on their child’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being, you’ll notice that often researchers discuss a mother’s influence. While we all know that moms are critical to providing the much-needed love, affection, and support that nurtures a happy, healthy child, we often overlook the impact that a father can have. Research suggests that when a father is present and engaged in a child’s life, children are less likely to avoid high-risk behaviors and are less likely to drop out of school or spend time in jail.

 

Gone are the days when dads were discouraged from being in the delivery room or caring for their infants. These days, fathers want to be involved, and research shows they should include themselves, for the benefit of their children. But when your child has special needs or is diagnosed with autism, caring for them and finding the right ways to connect with them can require more effort and openness to asking for help, like seeking out behavioral therapy or ABA therapy.

 

Why Therapy?

For years, a majority of men believed that any form of behavioral therapy was for those with “real issues,” thus men often refused to participate. Getting to a vulnerable place with a therapist and loved ones is a very uncomfortable reality for many men. Because therapy puts a man’s emotional weaknesses on display for all to see, it can make a man feel less strong than he cares to admit. However, admitting that there may be issues in a relationship, whether a marriage relationship or a family relationship, is the first step to making strides to improve upon those relationships. All parties must come together to do what’s best for their child, especially in relationships that may be strained or complicated with the addition of an autism or special needs diagnosis. That often means being open and receptive to a child’s need for behavioral therapy or participating in family therapy in your child’s ABA clinic.

 

Let’s take a look at behavioral therapy, ABA therapy, and play therapy and how each can impact the relationship you have with your child. Plus, we’ll give you tips for how you can get more involved in your child’s therapy, not just in the ABA clinic, but at home, too!

 

What is Behavioral Therapy?

Behavioral therapy is a broad term to describe any type of therapy that helps treat a mental health disorder. Common behaviors that behavioral therapy is proven to address include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic disorders
  • Anger issues

 

However, in recent years, counselors have made great strides with the following disorders when it comes to different types of behavioral therapy:

  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • ADHD
  • Phobias
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Self-harm
  • Substance abuse
  • Autism and ASD

 

There are many forms of behavioral therapy out there. For our purposes, let’s look at the significant therapies one might have exposure to following an autism diagnosis: applied behavior analysis (ABA therapy) and play therapy.

 

ABA Therapy 101

On the heels of an autism diagnosis, you’ve likely had plenty of acronyms thrown at you, and you’re probably unsure what they mean, why they’re critical, and how you can best support your family through them. You’re in luck! We’re about to teach you all things ABA therapy, so the next time it comes up in conversation, you’ll know what to say, and you’ll be able to advocate for your child’s specific needs.

 

What is ABA Therapy?

ABA therapy comes from B.F. Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning, which says that behavior can be controlled or taught when one controls the consequences of actions. ABA therapy delves into how your child behaves and how those behaviors are significantly impacted by their environment, either positively or negatively. Its foundations require a meaningful reward system to be put into place to better encourage your child to alter their negative behaviors and replicate the preferred ones. In ABA therapy, we not only encourage a parent’s involvement, but we think it’s vital to encourage your child to form lasting changes that will serve them long after ABA therapy is over.

 

How Does Positive Reinforcement Help?

Decades ago, behavioral therapy centered around the use of negative reinforcement strategies. Today, we’ve learned many takeaways from that, specifically for children with autism and with ASD. Mainly, that positive reinforcement, rather than negative, has proven much more effective in ABA therapy. As discussed before, this means pinpointing a reward system specific to your child that encourages them to replicate the desired behavior. Some examples of positive reinforcement strategies include:

  • Using verbal praise when your child executes the desired behavior
  • Giving money (or something like a sticker that adds up to a highly coveted prize) for desirable behaviors
  • Candy or another sought-after treat for each positive behavior

 

Often in the heat of the moment, it can be hard to remember these positive reinforcement tactics, instead falling into the ease of some sort of punishment, whether it be time out or raising your voice. Still, research shows us that those knee-jerk reactions often cause more long-term harm than good.

Dad and child playing

A Dad’s Role in ABA Therapy

So, how can you take an active role in your child’s ABA therapy? Truthfully, there are many ways you can make a difference in your child’s behavioral therapy experience, both in the clinic and outside of it. You know your child better than anyone, so your critical input will help your child’s ABA therapist get an inside look at your child’s everyday routines, likes and dislikes, abilities, and struggles. Plus, studies show that the more active and supportive role you take in your child’s ABA therapy, the more measurable improvements they will make. And at the end of the day, that’s what we all want, right?

 

A parent’s role in ABA therapy, or any behavioral therapy for that matter, means you need to wear quite a few hats. Often, at ABA clinics, we think of the parent’s role as a twofold endeavor. First, as reporters and second, as active participants.

 

Being a Reporter

As discussed before, you know your child best, and you’re around them more than their BCBA (board-certified behavior analyst); therefore, you know what works and what doesn’t. Beyond that, you can provide your child’s therapist with key behavioral therapy wins throughout the week and what is not working so well, so they can make much-needed modifications that will help your child thrive.

 

Being an Active Participant

Your job doesn’t stop once you get your child to their ABA clinic. In fact, therapists encourage parents to be a significant participant in their sessions, because the strategies worked on in ABA therapy will be incorporated in the daily routines that you take part in with your child. Why shouldn’t you practice them safely in the ABA clinic with a licensed ABA therapist at your disposal to ask questions and receive feedback?

 

You know that modifying behaviors will not happen overnight, so similarly, you may not master incorporating these strategies and techniques on the first try. But luckily, if you regularly participate in your child’s behavioral therapy appointments, you’ll have plenty of time to study and practice! Ask as many questions as you need to, that’s what your child’s therapist is there for. They know that your participation is critical, and they want to give you the tools and comfort you need to be successful when they’re not around.

 

Now that you know a little more about ABA therapy let’s take a look at a behavioral therapy you’ll likely see included in each session: play therapy.

 

A Closer Look at Play Therapy

Once you begin observing or accompanying your child to their ABA therapy appointments for any length of time, you’ll likely see them playing with their therapist. Often, that can seem counterintuitive, but if you recognize that most children that benefit from ABA therapy or another form of behavioral therapy often present with shorter attention spans, sensory issues, and communication barriers, you’ll realize that play is a vital way to communicate with them.

 

Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we encourage our highly trained staff to engage your children in play, allowing them to freely move about their environment and explore as a child should! Just like how you need to be comfortable in a situation to open up and be receptive to learning new things, your child does as well. Through play, a licensed therapist can create a calm, natural environment that allows your child to learn these new desired behaviors in a less stressful way. To young children, especially, play can be its own language, that allows them to express themselves, but also allows you to model desired behaviors, as well.

 

A Dad’s Role in Play Therapy

Being active in your child’s behavioral therapy means more than just attending sessions at the ABA clinic. By incorporating play therapy at home, you are helping reinforce the vital lessons your child is learning in ABA therapy. This might also positively impact your relationship with your child in the long run, too. So, what can you do to bring play therapy home with you? Let’s take a look at a few examples of at-home play therapy.

 

  • Simon Says

Yes, the game you likely played as a child is a strategy that you can use at home with your child, too! This fun and easy game can help your child learn to mimic body language and study expressions or poses.

 

  • Pretend play

Pretend play is an excellent way to reinforce proper interpersonal behavior and relationships. Whether you use dolls to enhance excellent social skills or dress up as a fireman, policeman, superhero, or any of your child’s favorite characters to play out different scenarios, you’re on your way to incorporating play therapy with your child! Kids inherently love costumes, so this one is always a winner when practicing behavioral therapy skills at home!

 

One of the biggest takeaways to remember about play therapy is that there aren’t any rules on how to go about it or how long it should take. Developing your child’s imagination and introducing them to vital social and emotional skills is worth the time, too! We love that play therapy is so universal and can happen within the walls of your child’s ABA clinic during behavioral therapy appointments, but it can (and should!) happen at home, too! If you’ve ever wondered how you can take a more significant role in your child’s therapy, play therapy is an easy and fun way to do so! The time you spend with your child will be so rewarding for you both, as well.

 

Additional Resources for Dads in the Autism Community

As a dad to a child with autism, it can often seem like you’re alone. We’re here to tell you that there are plenty of resources popping up every day to help support you through your journey. We believe finding your community is vital. The days are often long and sometimes stressful, so having somewhere to turn is essential for dads, too! There are a few great resources we love for dads of children with autism that we think you’ll find beneficial:

 

Full-time single dad, Rob Gorski, has three boys with autism and is the owner of The Autism Dad blog. His mission in life is to show others in a similar circumstance that they are not alone while educating the rest of the world what families affected by autism deal with each day.

 

This documentary gives a voice to 14 fathers with children with autism or ASD, showing the world what their daily lives are like. The film’s director, Charles Jones, is not only the director of Autistic Like Me but also has a child on the autism spectrum.

 

  • Autism Speaks

The Autism Speaks organization provides a lot of relevant research articles, as well as real-life accounts of what dads of children with autism need to hear. Guest blog posts written by dads in the autism community highlight pieces of advice other dads need to hear as well as key takeaways from their family’s autism journey.

 

No matter if you’re new to the autism community or not, we hope you know how important you are to your child’s growth in behavioral therapy, and ultimately in life. By taking a substantial role in supporting their therapies, you are not only helping pave the way for a healthy, happy child, but also a stronger parent-child relationship, one day at a time. For more information on ABA therapy or any other resources for dads in the autism community, contact us today. We’d love to show you how we can partner with you and your child on your autism journey!

 

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Adult and child laughing

Receiving your child’s autism diagnosis can be overwhelming. Along with the emotional components, you are now facing what seems like an endless list of tasks and research to begin seeking services and additional resources. Searching for a high-quality ABA clinic is vital. Finding the right ABA clinic can be life-changing for your child, as well as your entire family. While you may find several ABA therapy options, selection should be a systematic process to ensure you meet your child’s needs. While scouting for the ABA therapy center that will best fit your family, keep these critical guidelines in mind:

 

  1. Employs a highly qualified staff
  2. Practices a family-centered approach
  3. Offers an all-encompassing ABA clinic
  4. Utilizes an effective system for tracking data
  5. Positive reinforcement techniques are in use

Hands together

What is ABA Therapy?

ABA therapy, or Applied Behavioral Analysis, is a scientifically validated therapy which provides a clearer understanding of how your child’s environment may be affecting their behaviors. ABA therapy is a widely used behavioral therapy in practice for over five decades. ABA therapy takes an in-depth look at how behavior and learning take place. This form of treatment focuses on using a reward system which is most meaningful to each child individually, to replace undesirable behaviors with a beneficial skill or behavior. ABA therapy provides an in-depth view of your child’s skill set and behaviors in their natural environments and real-life circumstances while determining their strengths and weaknesses. ABA therapy relies heavily on parent participation to help your child form positive, lasting changes while replacing those that could cause harm to your child or interference with their ability to learn. ABA therapy touches many areas, including their:

 

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

 

What is Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy offers a well-structured intervention approach and is often where most recently diagnosed children will begin. Along with ABA therapy, behavior therapy will help meet the additional needs of your child by providing:

 

  • Social Skills Groups: Focus is on helping your child develop the skills to engage with others, practice their communication skills, and reinforce new, positive learned behaviors. Your child’s ABA therapy team will guide you to help your child understand and determine which responses are appropriate for various situations.

 

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: For children with mild symptoms, this form of behavioral therapy will help your child choose alternative behaviors. By using the tools they learn, they will begin to determine and utilize more appropriate actions or responses as they learn how to recognize their triggers and reactions.

 

  • Verbal Behavioral Therapy: This form of behavioral therapy helps non-verbal children communicate effectively and with intent. Your child’s ABA therapy team will evaluate and choose a particularly stimulating motivator for your child to help them understand that utilizing language skills will bring desirable outcomes.

 

A Highly Qualified Team

You must know who will be working with your child, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find out what training the ABA clinic’s staff has. What certifications do they hold, and is ongoing training a requirement? Your child and family will have a team of dedicated members, but knowing their education, training, and their requirements for continuous study will ensure you are considering a highly qualified ABA clinic.

 

The top credential practitioners of ABA therapy are Board Certified Behavior Analysts or BCBAs. This requires rigorous training involving a master’s degree in a relatable field such as behavioral therapy, speech therapy, special education, or psychology.  ABA therapy courses, final exams, and 1,500 hours of supervised fieldwork are requirements towards certification.

 

A Family-Centered Approach

A high-quality ABA clinic will offer a team of clinicians who believe in the power of family involvement. Behavioral therapy is most effective when your child’s team values the need to communicate with your family frequently. As a parent, you are your child’s advocate and can offer crucial insight into their daily routines, behaviors, and what may or may not be working in their natural environments. The right ABA clinic and the team will be willing to train and offer guidance while requiring your participation during specific sessions as well as at home. Choosing an ABA clinic that prioritizes the family-centered approach will bring tremendous benefits, vital to your child’s success.

 

An All-Encompassing Approach

An all-encompassing approach to providing essential services for your child and family is extremely beneficial. By offering multiple services, including behavioral therapy, physical therapy, and more, your child’s needs can be met all under one roof. The all-encompassing approach to therapy helps ensure all therapists and team members are on the same page, working together towards your child’s individual goals. Rather than running around to independently scheduled therapy sessions at various offices, a center such as Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center provides your family with the convenience of all therapies in one familiar location.

 

Tracking Data

Ensure the clinic you are considering practices regular and ongoing data collection. It is a vital part of evaluating the progress your child makes towards goals. Your child’s team bases critical decisions regarding goals and therapy sessions from ongoing data collection. While collecting data during behavioral therapy sessions, they should also stress the importance of your own data collection. As a parent, your natural environment recordings bring light to the improvements or setbacks the team will not witness, allowing them to make any necessary adjustments. Consistent data collection provides the potential to discover why particular behaviors are occurring.

Hands working on a puzzle

What is Positive Reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement is a form of behavioral therapy management offering one of the most effective interventions for children with behavioral issues and autism. Its use of ABA therapy helps implement a change in maladaptive behavior while strengthening lasting behavioral outcomes. It is an individual reward system using items or privileges your child considers to be profoundly meaningful. Ultimately, the goal of positive reinforcements in behavioral therapy is for personalized rewards to provide enough encouragement to result in a new, positive response. When the new behavior or skill is not successful, the reward is not given. This process repeats as necessary, providing your child the time they need to practice and adapt to their new skills and behaviors.

A more meaningful reinforcer will motivate them to use new skills and behaviors throughout all areas.

 

Here at the Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we offer a dynamic, all-encompassing approach to ensure your child’s success. Our highly qualified team provides dedication and care by providing your family with the additional services your child needs. We are here to answer your questions, guide you through the process and support you in every way we can. While working with your entire family, our team of trained therapists wants to help you on your journey. Learn more about us and why the Blossom Method is the preferred choice for children with autism and related disorders.

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Adult helping toddler walk

Whether or not you receive support from immediate family and friends, parenting a child with special needs can often leave parents and caregivers stressed, sad, and angry. As a provider of ABA therapy, we see parents as much as we see their children with autism in the clinic, so we get to know them well. One thing we know for sure is that parents and caregivers need support networks, just like their children!

 

Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we strive to set parents up for success by hosting parental support groups led by licensed counselors. They are trained to listen to difficulties parents encounter as they raise children with autism. The best part about these support groups? They encourage socialization with other parents just like you, who walk through these struggles every day. They can help support you too, whether this is the very beginning of your journey or if you’ve been at it for years! We can’t say enough about the importance of a strong support network. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why parents of children with autism need to begin establishing a support network today.

Friends hugging

Why You Need a Support Network

Raising a child through complicated developmental milestones (or lack thereof) can often make you feel like you’re alone and are the only one dealing with the specific difficulties that arise. However, that’s not the case! Often, you’ll find other parents are going through the same situations, and some may have the insight to share that ends up helping you in the long run! We believe that there are three main reasons or benefits for joining a support network. Let’s take a look.

 

  1. Support
  2. Understanding
  3. Life-long friendships

 

  1. Support

It seems obvious, and it is. At their very core, support networks lend support to those who feel alone and need it the most. After a few sessions, you’ll soon realize that you aren’t the only one frustrated, sad, mad, or tired. Finding that core group that “gets it” can transform your world, and in turn, by getting the support you need, your children and loved ones will benefit too! Many of these parents are also supporting their children through ABA therapy and can become yet another valued resource if you need more specialized support.

 

  1. Understanding

Many well-meaning people in the world will listen to you as you vent and tell you they understand what you’re going through. But the truth is, no one knows unless they are walking the same path as you. That’s why joining a support group with other parents of children with autism is critical! They truly do understand the struggles and can help talk you through solutions that worked in their family so you can try them too. Struggling with some of your ABA therapy work at home? Making friends with fellow clinic parents is a great way to have another line of communication in addition to your child’s therapist. Since they’ve likely been through something similar before, they’ll be happy to help answer quick questions or provide solutions that have worked for them!

 

  1. Life-Long Friendships

You might see the same familiar faces when you come into the clinic with your child for ABA therapy, but you may not know them well enough to stop and get to know one another. However, if you join an autism support network, you’ll have the opportunity to form meaningful, lasting relationships with fellow parents of children with autism that can sustain you through the tough days. At their very core, friendships thrive and blossom thanks to shared commonalities—so it should be a no-brainer that forming friendships within the clinic might be just the support you and your child needs!

 

Empowering the Whole Family

Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we believe in serving the needs of your entire family, not just children with autism. We do this through ABA therapy that includes parental participation, parental support groups, counseling, and a whole host of other services depending on each family’s specific needs. We want you and your children to feel loved, supported, and empowered when you leave our clinic, but we also want you to find ways to care for yourself as well. We think you’re doing a great job and deserve the very best. Contact us today if there are any counseling services you’d like to learn more about!

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Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19, is a relatively new respiratory illness that is spread rapidly from person to person, similar to the flu. Unlike the flu, however, COVID-19 patients are asymptomatic for as much as a week, meaning they can spread the virus even if they show no outward signs of sickness.

 

We know that discussing a pandemic can be a topic filled with anxiety and stress for parents and caregivers. Still, children are resilient and need us to be honest with them, especially in these uncertain times. Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we always strive to give you and your child the tools you need to be successful in both ABA therapy and everyday life. So today, we want to help you feel more comfortable talking to your kids about COVID-19.

Adult helping child put on a face mask

What Do We Know About Coronavirus Disease 2019?

COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan, China, after an outbreak in December 2019. Since then, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have grown worldwide, causing more than a quarter of a million people to receive a definite diagnosis. Of those cases, more than 10,00 have resulted in death across the world.

 

What’s the Good News?

In most cases, especially for patients that are not immunocompromised or high-risk (like patients over 60 years old), symptoms are minor and not life-threatening. Typically, these include a fever, cough, and sometimes difficulty breathing. Because of the rapid spread of this virus, doctors, scientists, and health professionals across the world have urged people to practice social distancing and other preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

 

What Can I Do?

As a parent or caregiver during this uncertain time, it can be difficult to ward off anxiety, especially since there are still so many unknowns right now. However, because we have kids and other adults looking to us for reassurance, we have to look for ways to cope and discuss this pandemic honestly, but also in a way that doesn’t heighten their fears. We’ve compiled a few of our favorite tips for talking to kids about COVID-19 that we think will be helpful for you to incorporate in the coming weeks as you continue to have discussions with your children.

 

Three Tips for Talking to Your Children About COVD-19

Before we jump into the tips, we want you to remember something essential: as parents or caregivers, we are the front line—our job is to help make sense of what our children hear in a way that is not only honest and accurate but also minimizes any fear or anxiety they may have. Now that we’ve discussed that let’s take a look at three tips that’ll help you talk through COVID-19 with your kids.

 

  1. Check-in with yourself first
  2. Remain calm and reassuring, but always be honest
  3. Don’t avoid the subject

 

  1. Check-in With Yourself First

Are you feeling frazzled and anxious? Have you just watched the news? If you feel like your anxiety has spiked, it is not the right time to talk to your children about COVID-19. Kids are sponges, especially very young children, so they will feed off your emotions and will start to emulate it if you aren’t able to keep it in check. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot feel anxious or worried. This is an incredibly uncertain time for everyone right now, and it affects everyone differently. Above all, we cannot care for our children if we don’t first take care of ourselves. If you have a child asking questions during a particularly stressful time, you can try one of these phrases:

 

  • “Let’s take a walk outside while I answer that question.”
  • “Before I answer this question, I think we should take three deep breaths to calm down. Do you want to do that with me?”

 

If you’re still feeling nervous during this conversation or you notice that your child might be tense, try having these conversations while working with play-doh, LEGOs, or coloring. Sometimes keeping busy while talking about tough subjects can help ease the anxiety you (and your child!) feel.

 

  1. Remain Calm and Reassuring, But Always Be Honest

The most important thing you can do as a parent, especially when discussing tough subjects, is reassuring your children that they are safe, and you are doing everything you can to keep it that way. Reassure them that mom and dad will make sure they are safe, loved, and happy above all.

 

Next, it’s essential to be honest. Kids pick up on it when we aren’t open or when we seem unsure, so even if you don’t know the answer to all their questions, that’s okay, but tell them that. While we aren’t going to know everything and we shouldn’t pretend to, we should project calm confidence that there are plenty of people out there that do and are working hard to make sure we all get through this. Here are a few honest phrases you can use as you’re talking to your children about COVID-19:

 

  • “I don’t know the answer to that question, but how about we look it up together?”
  • “I need to think about that, can we talk about it later?”
  • “You know, there are tons of people asking that same question right now. We are waiting on doctors and scientists to let us know more about it once they gather all the information about it that they can.”

 

  1. Don’t Avoid the Subject

The biggest mistake we can make when confronted with a tough topic is sweeping it under the rug and avoiding it altogether. Child psychologists agree that this may leave your child even more frightened. So, how can you bring up a conversation about COVID-19 without panicking your children?

 

Listen first, talk second

Listen to your child’s concerns, questions, and fears. This can be at playtime or before bed, whenever you can focus in on what your child is communicating. No matter their age, a quick reassurance from a calm parent and thanking them for asking good questions will go a long way in easing the anxiety COVID-19 may be causing in your home.

 

Make time to talk

Be sure that your kids know that they can come to you whenever they have questions or concerns. This doesn’t just apply to COVID-19, however. If you can make sure that you have an “open door” policy with your kids, they will trust that you are a safe place to turn in times of trouble and uncertainty, and the trust they have for you will blossom.

 

Now that you know how you can talk with your kids about COVID-19, we want to reinforce a few tips you and your family can practice staying safe at home and on the go.

 

How Can You Protect Yourself and Your Kids from COVID-19?

Health care professionals and scientists have a few simple tips that you can use to stay safe, whether you’re at home, work, or at the store grabbing essentials. These are two straightforward tips that you can teach your children so you can empower them to do their part to keep the family safe, too!

 

  • Stay clean
  • Take five

 

Stay Clean

Some simple everyday actions can keep germs at bay. Now is a great time to reinforce good personal hygiene habits like handwashing and sneezing and coughing appropriately.

         

  • Stay away from people who are coughing and sneezing
  • If you feel a sneeze or cough coming, grab a tissue or use your elbow
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds—this is enough time to sing Happy Birthday twice—or you can pick your child’s favorite song
  • If soap is not available, teach them to use hand sanitizer safely

 

Child and teddy bear wearing face masks

 

Take Five

A simple tactic that you can try, especially with smaller children, is to teach them to “take five”:

 

  • HANDS: Wash them often. Especially after using the bathroom, coughing, sneezing or touching things in public

 

  • ELBOW: Cough and sneeze into it if you can’t find a tissue

 

  • FACE: Touch it as little as possible, especially after coughing or sneezing

 

  • FEET: Stay more than six-fifteen feet apart from strangers and people not in your family (please check for updated information regarding this as it is being updated with new research)

 

  • FEEL: If you feel sick, always stay home. Practice social distancing even if you don’t have symptoms

 

What to Do If You or Your Kids Get Sick

If you or your kids come down with something, it can be easy to worry that you’ve got COVID-19, but that’s not always the case. Remain calm so your kids will stay calm too. Manage your symptoms as best you can from home, but if you do think you or your child has COVID-19, contact your healthcare facility to let them know your symptoms before you head there in person.

 

There are more and more resources popping up every day to help those with COVID-19 manage symptoms and get better quickly. Take advantage of telemedicine and other resources that allow you to stay away from hospitals and doctor’s offices if at all possible.

 

Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we want to help support you and your family however we can. If you have any needs during this time, like support with at-home ABA therapy or anything else, contact us today. We’re here for you!

 

 

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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

Autism heart drawing

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.

Mother shows her son a phone.

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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Raising a child in Metro Detroit is an exciting thing, due in large part to all the various family events you can enjoy with your kids each week! Thankfully, there is no shortage of family events that can also double as a way to test out ABA therapy skills if any of your children have autism or ASD.

 

Sometimes, pinpointing the perfect activities for your kids can be hard, especially if you’re new to the area. If you have been here for years but just had children, you, too, might need some tips for the best family-friendly places in Metro Detroit.

 

You’re in luck because we’ve narrowed down the list, highlighting Novi specifically, so you can make plans to visit some of our favorite places and take part in all the family events going on at them this year. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at seven of our favorite family-friendly places in Novi!

 

Seven Family-Friendly Places in Novi

Whether it’s a rainy, wet Michigan day or if you’re looking for an outdoor venue where your kids can burn off their seemingly limitless energy in the summer, we’ve got a place for every occasion in Novi!

  1. Emagine Theatre
  2. Putting Edge
  3. Paradise Park
  4. Twelve Oaks Mall
  5. Novi Public Library
  6. Aqua-tots Family Swim School
  7. Novi Ice Arena

 

  1. Emagine Theatre

There are quite a few things that set Emagine Theatres apart from other movie theatres in the area. This luxury theatre is revolutionizing the way you enjoy your favorite movies. Combining a gourmet snack bar, luxurious recliner seating, in-seat service, and even valet parking, you might forget you’re at a movie theatre and not at a private screening once you sit down! But the best part of the Emagine Theatre experience in Novi is the inclusivity. If you have a child that needs a more sensory-friendly experience, they have a special showing just for them! Make your child’s next movie theatre experience more enjoyable thanks to brighter house lights, a lower movie volume, the ability to get up and move around during the show, and the freedom to bring an allergy-friendly snack if your children have food allergies or restrictions.

Adult and child at the movies

  1. Putting Edge

What kid doesn’t love mini-golf? Combine the fun of a regular mini-golf course with an interactive glow-in-the-dark course, and you have a winner every time! Kids can spend time enjoying some friendly competition, all while learning how to take turns, aim, and keep score! In this unique space with fun lights, colors, and sights, children (and kids at heart) can let their imaginations run wild while doing something far from ordinary! Plus, if playing arcade games is your child’s favorite hobby, there’s even a small arcade they can spend time in, too! Just make sure to secure your reservations in advance to avoid long wait times.

 

  1. Paradise Park

Looking for a fun location for an upcoming birthday? Paradise Park might be just the ticket. From go-karts, mini-golf, laser tag, a trampoline center, climbing walls, and soccer cages, there truly is something for everyone! The perfect place to spend a rainy day, Paradise Park, offers a little something for everyone, making it ideal for hosting family events.

 

  1. Twelve Oaks Mall

More than just one of the largest malls in the Metro Detroit area, the Twelve Oaks Mall is an excellent destination for families, too! The Children’s Play Area on the Lower Level in the Sears Court is our favorite part! It’s a great way to let your kids get out some energy during your shopping trip, plus they can interact with other kids at the same time. From climbing structures, tunnels, and interactive elements—there’s something to keep every kid engaged and happy. To ensure a safe and healthy play atmosphere, the foam sculptures are made with antimicrobial materials, too.

 

  1. Novi Public Library

The Novi Public Library offers plenty of opportunities for family events throughout the week from Lego club to storytime to dramatic playgroup, there is something for every child no matter their age, interests, or abilities! There are even specific storytimes by age-range to better cater to the needs of each child and their caregiver!

Kids choosing a book at the library

  1. Aqua-Tots Family Swim School

With a variety of swim classes to fit the needs of any child, Aqua-Tots Family Swim School is an excellent idea for those cold winter days in Metro Detroit when you need to get some pent-up energy out, but it’s too cold to head to the park. Plus, your children will learn how to stay safe in the water and gear up for those hot summer months on the horizon! From infant and baby lessons to swim lessons for children with special needs, Aqua-Tots has something for everyone.

 

  1. Novi Ice Arena

Did you know that ice skating is not only a great cardio workout, but it can also strengthen leg muscles and increase endurance, as well? Planning your family events at the Novi Ice Arena can be an excellent idea, especially if your kids have dreams of being the next Olympic figure skater or the next famous hockey player! From free skates to learn-to-skate classes, your child can work each week to increase essential skills like balance, coordination, and endurance as they learn to ice skate like a professional. If they get comfortable enough on their skates and want to try their hand at hockey, private lessons and instructional programs are available for all skill levels, too.

 

Proudly Serving Novi, Michigan

Here at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, our highly trained team has a dedication to provide families in the Metro Detroit area with early intervention therapies for children with ASD and other special needs. We believe that while a lot of the work happens during your child’s therapy at our clinic, practicing skills and desired behaviors outside of a therapy environment is vital to your child’s success, as well. That’s where sensory-friendly family events in and around Metro Detroit come into play. Contact us today so we can help you find the individualized support you, your child, and your family need!

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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.

 

A notepad.

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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Childs hands in sand.

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.

Child having a meltdown

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 with autism 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 and train you in behavioral reinforcement strategies to help your child thrive in all their natural environments.

 

To better understand the importance and benefits of positive reinforcement, we must first examine its roots. We’ll take you through the fundamentals of behavioral therapy and the development of behavior reinforcement.

 

  • What is Behavioral Therapy?
  • Behavioral Therapy and Children
  • Common Behavioral Challenges
  • Addressing Life Skills
  • Addressing Life Skills
  • Two Theories of Behavioral Therapy
  • Operant Conditioning and the Work of B.F. Skinner
  • Understanding Reinforcement and Punishment
  • Positive Changes in Therapy
  • Understanding ABA Therapy
  • Antecedent-Based Intervention
  • Benefits of Implementing Antecedent-Based Intervention
  • Functional Behavior Assessments
  • Understanding the Role of Positive Reinforcement in ABA Therapy
  • Selecting Reinforcers
  • Pairing ABA Therapy and Behavior Reinforcements Successfully
  • Modeling and Positive Reinforcements
  • The Difference Between Positive Reinforcement and Bribes
  • Positive Reinforcement vs. Punishment in ABA
  • Your Role as the Caregiver
  • Data Collection: How Parents Can Help
  • Keeping a Data Journal
  • Measuring the Success of Behavior Reinforcement
  • The Importance of Early Intervention
  • What is Early Intervention?
  • Developmental Screening: What to Expect
  • Why is Early Intervention Ideal?
  • Early Intervention and the Family

 

What is Behavioral Therapy?

Behavioral therapy is an action-based therapy that encompasses various strategies and techniques often used to redirect or change maladaptive behaviors. In simpler terms, behavior therapy focuses on replacing an unwanted behavior with a desirable one while reinforcing its continued use. It revolves around the theory that behavior, whether good or bad, is learned and can be changed. Providing alternative reactions or responses through behavioral therapy can be achieved by implementing behavior reinforcement techniques.

Types of behavioral therapy may include:

  • Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Exposure Therapy
  • Social Learning Theory
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

 

Behavioral Therapy and Children

The most commonly used forms of behavioral therapy with children are Applied Behavioral Analysis and play therapy. The key to behavioral therapy with children is utilizing a behavior reinforcement system that rewards their positive behaviors and reactions while punishing negative ones. Consistency across all your child’s natural environments is critical in this technique’s success. Behavioral therapy has proven that it is beneficial for children with autism and continues to yield successful results.

 

Common Behavioral Challenges

While each child has different strengths and needs, there are often common challenges among children with autism. Learning to address these challenges through behavior reinforcement techniques, including consistent positive reinforcement, helps your child learn and develop beneficial skills and behaviors.

 

Behaviors to address first are those most challenging or potentially harmful to children with autism. These challenges may include:

  • life skills
      • executive function
      • personal care
      • self-advocacy
      • personal safety
      • acceptable social skills
  • aggressive behavior and self-injury
  • seeking and avoidance
  • mood instability, tantrums, and meltdowns, including harmful coping mechanisms
  • repetitive actions and restricting interests
  • ADHD, anxiety, and other psychiatric conditions that may hinder learning
  • noise sensitivity and their reaction and ability to handle such environments
  • sleep disturbance issues
  • sensory issues and reactions

 

Addressing Life Skills

Even the most basic life skills can pose the most considerable challenges for children with ASD and their parents. Through behavior reinforcement strategies and techniques, children on the spectrum can learn to adopt many of these skill sets to help them thrive as they grow. While the level of success varies by child, dressing, eating, and appropriate behavior in public are all wins they can achieve through positive reinforcement. Life skills include:

 

Executive Function

Executive function is one of the most challenging life skillsets for children on the spectrum to master. It is often an ongoing process best approached by enforcing a solid foundation and building as they grow. Executive function skills include:

  • breaking down tasks or directions
  • organization
  • planning

 

Personal Care

Children with ASD often face challenges with necessary personal care skills that may come naturally to other children their age. These tasks often include:

  • coping with anxiety and stress
  • daily personal hygiene, including their brushing teeth or washing hands
  • exercising
  • proper nutrition
  • tending to a cold, including blowing or wiping their nose, covering when coughing, or expressing aches or fever onset

 

Self-Advocacy

Children can learn to have their needs met through verbal or non-verbal methods. Through behavior reinforcement, they learn to express wants and needs, ask for help appropriately, and share their feelings and opinions.

 

Personal Safety

Helping your child learn this skill set is challenging but vital to their health and wellness. Learning personal safety skills may include:

  • stranger safety
  • leaving the house alone
  • crossing the street

 

Acceptable Social Skills

While social skills, in general, will be addressed in your child’s ABA therapy, learning acceptable behaviors falls under life skills. Behavior reinforcement strategies, such as positive reinforcement, helps your child learn what appropriate actions and responses in various situations may be. Actions may include:

  • tantrums at the grocery store
  • outbursts during church
  • interacting at a playgroup

Parents playing with a child for positive reinforcement.

Two Theories of Behavioral Therapy

Understanding the contributing principles to behavioral therapy will provide a deeper understanding of how essential behavior reinforcement is paired with your child’s therapy. The strategies and techniques utilized in behavioral therapy revolve around two theories:

  1. Classical Conditioning
  2. Operant Conditioning

 

  1. Classical Conditioning

This theory focuses on your child forming associations between stimuli. A stimulus that evokes an automatic or natural response is paired with a previously neutral stimulus. Through the repetitive pairing of the stimuli, they begin to form an association, leading to the previously neutral stimulus evoking the response on its own. Classical conditioning utilizes several techniques, including:

  • flooding
  • systematic desensitization
  • aversion therapy

 

  1. Operant Conditioning

The operant conditioning theory revolves around the use of negative and positive reinforcement and punishment and how they may be used to increase or decrease the frequency of a particular behavior. A behavior followed by a desirable consequence is more likely to be repeated, while a behavior followed by a negative consequence will be less likely to be repeated. The operant conditioning model often produces faster, more effective results, utilizing highly focused techniques, including:

  • shaping
  • modeling
  • punishment
  • reinforcement
  • contingency management
  • extinction

 

Operant Conditioning and the Work of B.F. Skinner  

ABA therapy’s model is designed around the theory of operant conditioning and the work of behaviorist B.F. Skinner. Skinner firmly believed examining observable external forces driving human behavior was more essential than one’s internal thoughts and motivators.  While many behaviorists focused their work around classical conditioning theories, Skinner’s focus remained on the significance that consequences of one’s actions hold and how they influence future behavior.

 

Two Types of Behavior

Skinner was willing to acknowledge classical conditioning may account for respondent behaviors but was not convinced it could account for most of one’s learning.

Skinner developed a distinction between the two types of behaviors and their vital roles in how learning takes place:

 

1. Operant Behaviors

Skinner believed that one’s actions on the environment and their immediate consequence play a vital part in the learning process. He believed that:

  1. Our conscious mind holds power behind our behaviors, whether automatic or spontaneous.
  2. The consequences of one’s actions are the driving force behind what influences whether or not they are repeated.

 

2. Respondent Behaviors

He believed respondent behaviors occur naturally or involuntarily, and therefore, do not need to be learned.

 

Testing His Theory: The Skinner Box

Skinner developed many devices, but most notable was his invention of the Skinner Box. He created a chamber equipped with a “rewards bar.” Able to house a small animal, Skinner began testing his theories of positive reinforcement and operant conditioning. Through the use of reinforcement and punishment techniques, Skinner was able to fine-tune his theories regarding the vital need for operant conditioning and behavior reinforcement in the learning process.

 

Understanding Reinforcement and Punishment

Two essential concepts of operant conditioning are the roles of negative and positive reinforcement and punishment.

 

Operant Conditioning Behavioral Reinforcements

Reinforcements include any outcomes that help strengthen or increase the repetition of a desirable behavior it follows. Two types of reinforcers exist and help increase behavior:

 

  1. Positive Reinforcers are favorable outcomes or rewards that are given following a desirable behavior. The addition of positive reinforcement strengthens the behavior.
  2. Negative Reinforcers remove unfavorable outcomes after an undesirable behavior. However, negative reinforcers strengthen the behavior by offering a desirable reward to avoid the negative behavior.

 

Operant Conditioning Punishment

Punishment refers to implementing an adverse outcome that will reduce the behavior it follows. Two types of punishments exist and help decrease behavior:

 

  1. Positive Punishment implements an unfavorable outcome to help decrease the response it follows. Think of this method as punishment by application.
  2. Negative Punishment removes a favorable outcome after an unfavorable behavior occurs. This method can be remembered as punishment by removal.

 

Positive Changes in Therapy

Skinner’s work paved the way for breakthroughs in the medical care and treatment of individuals with autism. 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 demonstrated that through behavior reinforcement and, more specifically, the use of positive reinforcement, new behaviors and skills could be successfully learned and replaced with long-lasting effects. ABA therapy brought about a new approach, improving how a behavioral change in people with autism is handled.

 

Understanding ABA Therapy

To thoroughly understand the inner workings of successful behavior reinforcement through positive reinforcement, we must understand ABA therapy. ABA therapy examines how your child’s learning and behavior take place.

ABA 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

 

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 an enticing motivator that is not typically accessible to them. With your help, ABA specialists determine these reinforcers by knowing what is most treasured or motivating to your child and what they have responded well to in previous sessions or real-life situations. The use of behavior reinforcement, the motivator should always be paired with your encouragement, words of praise, and consistent repetition. Finding positive reinforcements they are most likely to strive for, such as screen time, or a favorite snack, will increase the likelihood they will work to adopt a more acceptable response or desirable behavior. Through ABA’s continued teaching practice using positive reinforcement, the newly learned replacement behavior becomes more natural to them.

 

Antecedent-Based Intervention

Antecedent-based interventions, or ABIs, involve modifying events or circumstances that happen immediately before a behavior. Antecedent-based interventions are built around the theory that our environment typically influences our behaviors. This theory leads to the conclusion we can modify undesirable behavior and replace them with desirable behaviors to support the learning and redirection of children with autism and other developmental disorders.

ABA specialists decipher ways to change or modify antecedents within all your child’s natural environments. Your child’s ABA team may:

  • identify activities that catch your child’s interest
  • recommend changes to your child’s daily routine
  • offer your child choices during activities
  • make modifications to your child’s instruction or the method of delivery

 

Knowing the ABC’s

The three crucial building blocks of ABA therapy help us understand the foundation of ABA therapy and the use of behavior reinforcement techniques.  These components are often referred to as the ABC’s and include:

  1. Antecedent: what occurs in your child’s environment beforea particular behavior
  2. Behavior: the response to or action taken because of the antecedent
  3. Consequence: the events that occur immediately following the behavior

 

Benefits of Implementing Antecedent-Based Intervention

Many children with autism have difficulty understanding the world around them. This challenge includes what is expected of them and what may or may not be acceptable behaviors. Children with autism often respond with or act out with undesirable behaviors. More often than not, this occurs when they find themselves in a new environment, situation or have deviated from their regular daily routine.

 

APIs help children with autism feel a sense of control. Control helps promote a sense of security, relieving stress, anxiety, and displaying undesirable behavior. APIs offer a chance for children with autism:

  • navigate through their daily routines
  • understand daily expectations
  • practice time management skills, including adhering to schedules and transitioning between activities

 

Functional Behavior Assessments

Before implementing an ABI, your child’s team of ABA specialists will conduct a functional behavior assessment. This assessment involves identifying factors that may be reinforcing undesirable behaviors. To effectively support behavior reinforcement techniques, modifications to the environment are made to eliminate undesirable behavior reinforcement. The goal of antecedent-based therapy is to:

  1. identify the factors that are reinforcing undesirable or unwanted behaviors
  2. apply antecedent-based interventions that help remove the reinforcement of undesirable behaviors

 

Understanding the Role of Positive Reinforcement in ABA Therapy

Positive reinforcement is a form of behavioral management known as one of the most effective behavioral reinforcement interventions for children with autism and behavioral issues. ABA therapy is used as a behavior reinforcement technique to decrease undesirable or potentially harmful behaviors and increase new and more appropriate behaviors. Behavior reinforcement strives to offer long term change in your child’s behavior. 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 when pairing ABA therapy with positive reinforcement is for personalized rewards to provide enough encouragement that they eventually result in new behavior, skill, or response. If the desired behavior or skill isn’t demonstrated successfully, the reward is not given. The behavior reinforcement process repeats as often as needed, providing your child time to practice and learn the new target skills and behaviors.

ABA therapy also incorporates generalization, the process of carrying positive behaviors into environments and situations outside the clinic. In your child’s natural environments, they can continue to work on behavior reinforcement strategies with their family, daycare providers, and additional caregivers or educators. ABA therapy’s expansive reach covers a variety of skills to help your child thrive, including:

  • behavior in their home environment
  • behavior in various social settings, such as a daycare or playground
  • communication skills
  • self-care skills

 

Selecting Reinforcers

Selecting your child’s reinforcers is a crucial step and helps ensure the success of behavioral reinforcement strategies to meet their goals. Positive reinforcement rewards should be personal and meaningful to increase their desire to repeat the new and appropriate behavior. The reinforcers provide optimal results when they are items your child is most eager to receive. The greater the value, the higher the likelihood they will work hard to repeat the new skills and behaviors independently. Meaningful reinforcers have proven to be successful for children with ASD while learning to adopt new skills they can use throughout all areas, including life skills. With the help of the 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. Think about what your child seems most excited about. It may be:

  • extra screen time on a tablet
  • watching a favorite show
  • a special toy

Your child’s team of ABA specialists will gather information and ideas from you when you begin therapy, as well as collect their data through observations. This data will help them select the best possible positive reinforcements that present your child’s most motivation. Behavior reinforcement techniques and strategies will remain under ongoing evaluation for necessary changes and fine-tuning throughout their therapy.

Mother holding daughter.

Pairing ABA Therapy and Behavior Reinforcements Successfully

Pairing your child’s reinforcers works best when accompanied by your encouragement and sincere words of praise. Consistency is critical and will help strengthen the efforts of you and their team of ABA specialists as you work towards their goals.

 

Modeling and Positive Reinforcements

Modeling behaviors is another critical behavior reinforcement technique used during ABA therapy. While all children learn best through modeling and repetition, behavior reinforcement techniques motivate children with autism to strive to attain meaningful rewards. Modeling the positive behavior or skill may not be an immediate success, and that’s ok. The modeling process will continue to repeat throughout all your child’s natural environments, as often as necessary. ABA therapy provides your child with the time and patience they require to learn and repeat the new skills and behaviors. When they feel they are in a safe environment, working towards a behavior reinforcement reward, they begin to strengthen bonds, strengthen communication skills, and build self-esteem.

 

Your child’s ABA therapists will work closely with your family, their educators, and additional caregivers to teach you how to consistently and adequately use positive reinforcement to implement changes and strengthen skills.

 

The Difference Between Positive Reinforcement and Bribes

Parents often question the difference between positive reinforcements and bribes. It is essential to note ABA therapy is not based upon encouraging new behaviors through bribing children with behavioral challenges.  Let’s examine the differences:

 

  • A bribe is a reward offered before the desirable behavior or skill is demonstrated. A bribe’s purpose is to coax a specific action as repayment.
  • Reinforcers are only given aftera new, desirable behavior or skill is demonstrated. Positive reinforcement strives to guide the learning process through modeling, repetition, and verbal praise, accompanied by the behavior reinforcement reward for accomplishment.

 

Positive Reinforcement vs. Punishment in ABA

The answer to treating challenging behaviors in children with autism was once to incorporate punishment. The use of punishment was a seemingly effective way to address behavioral changes, yet it was a short-term fix. With the lack of education and understanding surrounding autism, a diagnosis of ASD was considered a psychiatric disorder. Yet, punishment sparked two significant concerns:

 

  1. Fear and Mistrust

Punishment was seen as the answer to ridding children of their bad behavior. Rather than acting as a positive behavior reinforcement technique, punishment methods instill fear. This fear is not only of the action but of the person administering it, and sometimes the environment altogether. While it may temporarily stop certain behaviors, it does nothing to strengthen the bond between the child and the therapist or caregiver, limiting their learning.

  1. Aggressive Behavior

Punishment also can create aggression in children. While modeling plays a crucial role in behavior reinforcement, it can send the wrong message when used to modify behaviors. A child who receives a spanking as punishment for undesirable behavior may associate the action with the emotion that accompanies it. The caregiver administering the spanking is likely angry, frustrated, and yelling. These characteristics often create aggressive reactions and behaviors in the child, rather than negating the original behavior.

While Skinner did find some effectiveness in positive punishment methods, he firmly believed the harmful effects of negative punishment were not worth the risk. Behavior reinforcement through the use of positive reinforcements far outweighed the results of enforcing punishment techniques.

Positive reinforcements slowly began to replace the use of punishment when treating patients with autism. ABA therapy’s new focus was removing abusive treatment as a behavior reinforcement technique, significantly changing how patients with autism were treated.

 

Your Role as the Caregiver

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

 

Data Collection: How Parents Can Help

Data collection outside of your child’s ABA sessions is critical to their therapy goals and overall progress and success. 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 a unique light on the growth and obstacles his therapists aren’t able to witness. Your data collection may lead to discovering why particular behaviors are occurring, or positive reinforcements aren’t working. Through collecting 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.

 

Keeping a Data Journal

Parents are encouraged to keep a notebook of difficulties, concerns, and achievements. Keep track of what may or may not be working across all your child’s environments, which provides insight to your ABA team. You are also encouraged to keep a section of questions you may come across. A few helpful tips for what caregivers should include in their data journal:

  • keep a list of your child’s ABA goals for quick reference
  • note the environment you are in
  • behaviors you notice
  • the time of day
  • recent changes to the environment or their schedule
  • what currently motivates your child

 

Measuring the Success of Behavior Reinforcement

By consistently implementing 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 independently, without prompting or the need for positive reinforcement, it is considered a successfully met goal or a mastered skill. Your child’s team will then update goals and continue to build upon their strengths, and address additional concerns.

 

The Importance of Early Intervention

Your child’s brain is rapidly developing from birth to age three. Their neural circuits, or connections in the brain, lay the foundation for:

  • health and wellness
  • behavior
  • learning

 

Every experience your child has before reaching the age of three has a unique and vital impact on their brain’s development. As they age, it becomes more challenging to change these connections that have been formed, making early intervention critical.

 

What is Early Intervention?

Early intervention is a combination of services and resources for developmental delays and/ or disabilities. These services are available to infants, young children, and their families. The most common services provided during early intervention include:

  • ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis)
  • Speech and Language Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy

 

Developmental Screening: What to Expect

An evaluation by a team of ABA specialists will allow them to assess where your child is developmentally. Developmental screenings provide an in-depth look into your child’s strengths and struggles. As their primary caregiver, you will be encouraged to provide valuable details about your child to help with further data collection. You will be able to provide information regarding your child’s:

  • cognitive skills
  • communication skills
  • fine and gross motor skills
  • behavior
  • overall physical and emotional health

The team will devise a plan incorporating behavior reinforcement techniques and strategies to help your child learn necessary skills and behaviors.

 

Why is Early Intervention Ideal?

Early intervention continues to make an incredible difference in the lives of children with autism spectrum disorder. Early intervention is ideal for implementing changes and behavior reinforcement strategies before their brains are fully developed, and healthy behavior patterns have been established. When services such as ABA therapy and behavior reinforcements are introduced at an early age, the success rate for long-lasting change is higher. Early intervention can make a significant difference in your child’s life by:

  • modifying behaviors before they become difficult habits to change
  • introducing new skills and routines
  • increasing their independence

 

Early Intervention and the Family

Early services benefit your entire family, not just your child. Your family will be provided with the recourses, tools, and support you need to work with your child towards meeting their goals. Proper education, support, and training will help you carry out behavior reinforcement techniques in all their natural environments.

Through early intervention services, your family will receive guidance and access to therapeutic sessions to help reduce stress and work as a family to work towards common goals for your child.

Take steps to support your child’s success through ABA therapy and behavior reinforcement today.

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