For many parents and caregivers, receiving a definitive diagnosis is the first step to getting their child with autism the therapy and support they need to help them grow and blossom at their own pace. As an accredited ABA clinic working with children with autism and their caregivers every day, we know how confusing and complicated that process can be. That’s why we’re here to help! From the initial diagnosis to getting your child enrolled in school, Blossom Children’s Center staff, specializing in speech and language pathology, occupational therapy, art therapy, and ABA therapy, are here for you and your family every step of the way.
ABA Early Intervention is Key
Here at Blossom Children’s Center, one of our guideposts as an ABA clinic is that early intervention is not only necessary, it is crucial. So, what does that mean for you and your child? Simply put, early intervention means that rather than waiting for a child to mature before starting ABA therapy, occupational therapy, art therapy, or working with a speech and language pathologist, we suggest that vital work begins as soon as you have a definitive diagnosis. Research shows that when ABA therapy begins before age four, success rates are much higher. Working on ABA therapy skills with young children with autism also allows their therapists to teach essential social and self-care skills from the start, rather than making a child relearn behaviors or unlearn negative habits.
Now that you know why early intervention is so necessary, let’s take a closer look at a few of the different aspects of an ABA clinic that can aid in that early intervention. Plus, you’ll see how a multi-disciplinary approach to therapy will help your child thrive before your very eyes!
What is ABA Therapy?
One of the first methods sought out following an autism diagnosis is Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA therapy, and for a good reason! At its very core, ABA therapy performed at accredited ABA clinics focuses on pinpointing unwanted behaviors, replacing them with a more desirable one. This often happens through play, encouragement, positive reinforcement, and modeling. Your child’s ABA therapist will begin by setting up a reward system that is specific to each child, translating into a more personalized therapy, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach that your child will likely have trouble connecting with. A few of the areas that ABA therapy can help your child in include:
- Preparing for a school environment
- Social skills
- Self-care skills
- Home environment skills (interacting with siblings, grandparents, etc.)
The ABCs of ABA Therapy
Besides positive reinforcement, most ABA clinics work through something we like to call the ABCs of ABA Therapy, which helps both caregivers and licensed behavior analysts teach and understand behaviors when working with children with autism. These ABCs are:
- A: Antecedent
- B: Behavior
- C: Consequence
The antecedent to any behavior is what happens right before that behavior, whether it’s a command, request, a physical toy, sound, or a thought or feeling. Antecedents can come from a variety of sources, too. Like the environment, your child finds themselves in (ABA therapy, for example), another person, or an internal thought or feeling they have.
The resulting behavior is either the response to the antecedent or, in some cases, lack thereof. It often comes in the form of an action or a verbal response.
This follows directly after the resulting behavior. It can be the positive reinforcement previously agreed upon for desired actions or no reaction at all for undesirable behavior or responses.
As children and their ABA therapist continue to work together on behavior modification in ABA therapy, we find that most children with autism begin to replace these unwanted behaviors with more desirable ones, but with less frustration than is seen with the use of other methods.
How Can Speech and Language Pathologists Help with ABA Therapy?
Not all autism diagnoses are equal, meaning, just as each child is different, so are their specific needs. While not all children with autism will need the same assistance when it comes to language skills, speech and language pathologists are specially trained in a variety of areas to lend a hand when it comes to many common concerns like:
- Language impairments
- Finding the right words
- Voice issues
- Social communication skills
- Cognitive impairments related to communication
Because language delays can be seen in children as early as eighteen months old, early intervention is vital when looking for a speech and language pathologist, as well. Just like with ABA therapy, the sooner, the better to confront a speech or language barrier head-on, allowing for the best results and greater long-term outcomes.
Did you know that research shows that two out of every three preschoolers diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder made tremendous improvements, thanks to early identification and intervention? Furthermore, it stands to reason that children with autism who improve the most in therapy are those that spend the most time with their speech and language pathologists.
Why Does My Child Need a Speech and Language Pathologist?
Before any speech therapy happens, your child will first be evaluated by a licensed speech and language pathologist to determine both their strengths and areas of concern. During this evaluation, your child’s speech and language pathologist will set individualized goals and a plan of action for your child’s therapy.
Did you know that the beauty of an ABA clinic is that once your child’s speech and language pathologist determine a course of action for their speech therapy, they then meet with the rest of the ABA therapy team to make sure they are all on the same page? That’s right! Everything that happens in an ABA clinic is as cohesive as possible to ensure that your child is making progress in every area, from ABA therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language pathology, art therapy, and everything in between!
Still a little unsure of what a speech and language pathologist can do for your child? We’re here to help! Check out a few questions you may want to save so you can ask your child’s speech and language pathologist the next time you meet with them at your local ABA clinic.
- How many speech and language pathologists will be working directly with my child?
- Will I be able to watch my child’s speech and language pathologist sessions?
- What will a typical speech and language pathologist-led session look like?
- How involved can I be in my child’s speech therapy?
- How do you measure progress, and how often?
- What can I do to practice tactics used by my child’s speech and language pathologist at home?
- Will my insurance cover your services?
- How often will my child see their speech and language pathologist?
- How do I transition my child when they are ready for school?
- Will my child’s speech and language pathologist work cohesively with their ABA therapy professionals?
Speech and language pathologists are an integral piece of ABA therapy and play a vital role within the ABA clinic, helping children with autism further learn to express themselves in positive ways, while also readying them for school. Now that you know more about the role ABA therapy and speech and language pathologists have in an ABA clinic let’s take a closer look at another form of therapy that helps with communication, as well: art therapy.
How is Art Therapy Used at ABA Clinics?
Another successful therapy that you can look into for children with autism, especially within the walls of your local ABA clinic, is art therapy. Not only is art therapy a way for children to work on further forming their creative imaginations, but for children with autism that may have trouble expressing themselves with words, art therapy can be vital in building strong communication skills. Some of the other benefits of art therapy include:
- Encouraged social skills
- Improved behavioral skills when combined with ABA therapy
- Development of sensory integration
- A decrease in off-task behaviors
- Increased learning opportunities
- Development of fine motor skills
- Enhanced visual skills
According to a study done by Cooper and Widdows in 2004, children diagnosed with ASD, who are known to be more visual and concrete learners, better communicate feelings, emotions, and desires through art therapy. They learned that art therapy could be the key to connecting with children with autism or ASD because not only are they able to reduce their stress and anxiety while engaging in creative outlets, they can also express themselves better through art therapy.
There are many ways to seek treatment through art therapy, whether on an individual basis or in a group setting. Still, like ABA therapy, this is not a one-size-fits-all approach and needs to be individualized for each child’s specific needs. One of the most significant benefits of art therapy is being able to recreate its benefits at home or away from your child’s ABA clinic. That means parents and caregivers work on engaging a child in art therapy at home to help further develop social skills, communication, and it can even serve as a great bonding activity outside of the ABA clinic, too!
Did you know that art therapy sessions totaling as little as thirty minutes per session over a period of time have shown to help children with autism when it comes to an increased attention span, as well as the ability to follow verbal instructions? Even better, these art therapy sessions didn’t even have to include intricate art therapy techniques, most simply involved painting, scribbling, and working with tissue paper.
Knowing that art therapy can provide a release of tension and stress, especially for children with autism, makes it a welcome addition to any ABA clinic!
Occupational Therapy + ABA Therapy = The Perfect Pair?
So far, we’ve covered a lot of known therapies that have shown to have an impact on children with autism. One we haven’t yet touched on that is just as important is occupational therapy. But before we talk about why occupational therapy is essential to an ABA clinic, let’s take a look at what it is.
Occupational therapy is the only lifelong therapy in existence that’s proven to help people (no matter the life stage) perform routine daily activities, no matter their specific limitations. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, some of the most common occupational therapy interventions include:
- Helping children with disabilities participate fully in school and social situations
- Helping people recovering from injuries regain skills
- Supporting older adults experiencing both physical and cognitive changes
Did you know that occupational therapy has been around longer than ABA therapy or even the official identification of ASD? That’s right, while occupational therapy does so much in terms of helping children with autism perform daily activities independently, it has been around for decades longer than autism was even recognized. However, recently occupational therapy has become integral in teaching and strengthening necessary skills and quality of life to children and adults with autism.
A few of the key areas your child’s occupational therapy sessions at your ABA clinic might focus on can include the following:
- Fine motor skills (grasping, holding, and releasing writing utensils, toys, and silverware)
- Improving hand-eye coordination
- Self-help skills (brushing teeth, dressing, bathing independently)
- Sensory processing
- Mental health and behavioral issues
- Orthopedic injuries
- Developmental delays
- Congenital disabilities
As evidenced above, occupational therapy encompasses not just a wide range of conditions that may necessitate occupational therapy, but occupational therapists also address many vital behaviors and skills. Therefore, it should not come as a shock to you that many in the occupational therapy field are often a licensed ABA therapist, as well. The two practices tend to overlap quite a bit, which is a good thing for you and your child! Often, we find combining occupational therapy with ABA therapy not only benefits the individual, but it also provides direct benefits to ABA therapy and vice-versa. Like a well-oiled machine, occupational therapy and ABA therapy are the perfect pair—coordinating as a team in the best interest of every patient.
Because of the strong partnership of occupational therapy and ABA therapy, seeking out a cross-disciplinary or multi-disciplinary center is an excellent choice for a child with autism. Not only can they receive all of the support they need under one roof, but their team of licensed therapists can also work in tandem to improve behaviors much quicker, from not only an occupational therapy and ABA therapy standpoint, but in terms of great strides made in speech and language pathology and art therapy, too!
Your Local ABA Clinic, Serving the Entire Metro Detroit Area!
Here at Blossom Children’s Center, we believe in a family approach. That means we work directly with caregivers and siblings as well to make sure the entire family is cared for and finds solutions for inevitable challenges, both inside and outside our ABA clinic. That’s why we include so many family-friendly afterschool groups that range from family therapy, support groups, and individual counseling. To find the right services for you and your family, contact us today for a consultation. We’re proud to serve as one of Metro Detroit’s licensed ABA clinics and can’t wait to meet your family soon!