Articles by Day: December 17, 2022
Many ABA therapy providers in Southwest Florida share similar approaches and philosophies with respect to evidence-based methodologies and evaluation standards. That said, there are different schools of thought when it comes to the optimal treatment setting – whether that’s in-clinic, at school, at home, or some hybrid combination. At FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers, we prefer in-clinic ABA therapy for our patients – and there are tons of good reasons why.
ABA stands for Applied Behavior Analysis. It’s widely recognized as one of the most highly-effective, child-oriented, results-driven therapy for kids diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. It’s also proven very helpful for kids with traumatic brain injuries, oppositional defiant disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and Down syndrome. These conditions don’t have a “cure,” per se. What ABA therapy does is teach appropriate/safe/expected behaviors while minimizing and extinguishing inappropriate/unsafe/unexpected behaviors. Individual target goals may differ, but most long-term goals involve improving kids’ independence, safety, social skills, academic participation, and community engagement.
Although the skill of the therapist is certainly important, so too is the setting where therapy is provided.
Among the many upsides to Southwest Florida in-clinic ABA therapy:
- Easier transitions to (pre)school. For most families, the goal is for their child to ultimately transition to a mainstream learning environment. In-clinic ABA therapy can better prepare kids for that transition, structuring environments that more closely mirror their experience in school so that their skills are more easily generalized.
- More opportunities to teach and learn social skills. When our registered behavior technicians (RBTs) and board-certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) are working with children in the clinic, there are going to be inherently more opportunities for social interactions – both with peers and adults. We can practice key skills like turn-taking, recognizing social cues, and self-regulation/coping skills.
- Better quality of care and supervision. This is not to say at-home ABA therapy providers don’t provide adequate care. But when we have multiple RBTs, BCBAs, speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and support staff on-site, there are simply more eyes, ears, and hands if challenges arise. Plus, it gives supervisors the opportunity to regularly observe, make recommendations, and ensure treatment is on-track. They can see what’s happening in real time (rather than relying on RBT notes after the fact) and are able to make immediate modifications as necessary.
- Multi-disciplinary setting. Lots of the kids we treat at FOCUS require numerous therapy interventions. If your child needs ABA therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and/or physical therapy, you can get all of that in one location. But parent convenience is just part of this benefit. When you have highly-skilled pediatric therapists in a broad range of disciplines all working in close proximity to each other, it creates opportunities to learn from each other. A speech therapist might notice an issue in passing that an RBT wouldn’t have immediately identified – and offer possible solutions. Those kinds of interactions and collaborations happen all the time – and we encourage them because kids get optimal benefits when we approach treatment from the “whole child” perspective.
- Tons of positive reinforcers. Every parent can recall at least one time their child was super into something – and then just suddenly decided they were ALL SET with it. Like, all they want to eat every single morning is a strawberry Pop-Tart, so you eventually go all-in and buy the Costco size – only for them to decide two packages in, they never want to see another strawberry Pop-Tart for as long as they live. Reinforcers in ABA therapy can be like that too. These are the unique-to-each-child incentives used to encourage interactions and activities that allow us to target behavior goals. But what a child was willing to work for one day might no longer interest them the next. With in-clinic ABA, the therapist has immediate access to TONS of alternative reinforcers – games, puzzles, books, sensory gym, etc. We can quickly find the “next best thing” and go from there.
- Easier transitions when there are staff changes. As much as we love and value our amazing ABA therapists, they don’t always stay forever. For these kids, transitioning from one therapist to another can be a major challenge. But when kids receive behavior therapy in a clinic setting, there’s a good chance that their new therapist is a friendly face they’ve already seen and directly interacted with.
- In-clinic ABA therapy works. Like, really well. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that works for every kid in every therapy, it’s been our experience that in-clinic ABA provides the most “bang for your buck” in terms of results – and a conclusion solidly backed by research. Just one example: A National Institute of Health study analyzed the effectiveness of at-home ABA therapy vs. in-clinic ABA therapy. They controlled for variations in individual child skill sets by treating the same group of kids in both settings at different times, and then tracking their progress during each. Kids treated in-clinic mastered 100 percent more skills-per-hour compared to those treated in their homes.
With in-clinic ABA therapy at FOCUS, we’re able to provide the best quality therapy in a setting that is welcoming and fun as well as structured and safe. If you have questions about our therapy services or Fort Myers ADOS testing, reach out!
FOCUS offers ABA therapy and ADOS testing to children in Lee County, Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
What Is Applied Behavior Analysis? June 23, 2021, Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, WebMD
More Blog Entries:
Top 4 Benefits of In-Clinic ABA Therapy, April 2, 2022, Fort Myers ABA Therapy Blog
If you’re concerned that your child may have a speech-language disorder – you aren’t alone. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) estimates 8 percent of U.S. kids ages 3 to 17 (about 1 in 12) have a disorder related to speech, voice, language, or swallowing. Kids younger than 3 can be diagnosed with speech & language disorders and delays too. As dedicated providers of Fort Myers speech therapy for kids, we can firmly attest to the remarkable positive impact of early intervention therapies. Children whose speech & language disorders are identified and treated very early are more likely to have no discernable communication issues as they get older.
- The type and severity of the underlying condition(s).
- The age of the child when intervention begins.
- The intensity of the intervention schedule (length and frequency).
- At-home reinforcement and consistency.
Our knowledgeable, dedicated team of Southwest Florida speech-language pathologists at FOCUS Therapy is well-prepared to treat children with a broad range of delays and disorders. That said, there are some pediatric speech-language deficits that are more common than others.
- Speech or articulation delays. While you might hear the terms “speech” and “language” used a bit interchangeably, they’re technically different skills. Speech is the mechanical or motor aspect of talking. Common speech and articulation delays among kids include things like stuttering, incorrectly combining sounds, or difficulty pronouncing words. Sometimes there is a physical reason for this (like a cleft palate), but the cause isn’t always clear. Some speech delays are related to global developmental conditions, like autism spectrum disorder or Down syndrome. Other times, they crop up as a singular issue. Speech and articulation delays may not require intervention, but it’s important to consult with a pediatric speech therapist before making that call.
- Expressive language disorders. These are conditions that involve problems with verbal expression. Often, these are conditions where kids may have difficulty formulating their thoughts or combining words to form a complete thought or sentence. Speech-language therapists can help kids with expressive language disorders by clearly identifying the issue, and then helping the child work on sound-letter associations, phonics, and pre-literacy skills.
- Receptive language disorders. Sometimes referred to as language processing disorders, these are conditions where the child can hear perfectly find, but they have difficulty decoding the meaning in their brains. Sometimes, language processing disorders may be initially misdiagnosed as speech delays, because they look very similar early on. Another reason parents and caregivers might miss receptive language disorders is because so much of early language is repetitive and can be memorized. For example, if you regularly say, “time for your bath!” your child may recognize the sound pattern and march themselves to the bathroom, but it doesn’t mean they necessarily understand the individual components of that sentence: “time,” “your,” and “bath.”
- Social and pragmatic speech disorders. Effectively using language in the correct context during social situations is a skill we call “pragmatics.” Kids who have social pragmatic communication disorder have difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication that can’t be explained by low cognitive ability. They might talk nonstop without recognizing the other person isn’t engaged or listening. They might interject at inappropriate times or with non sequitur responses. They may fail to “take turns” when talking, or fail to make eye contact, or breeze over certain social “rules” most of us recognize as inherent to communication in social settings.
- Voice disorders. About 5 percent of kids have chronic voice disorders. These involve difficulty with voice pitch, volume, quality, etc. One’s voice may sound hoarse or harsh, too high or low, too loud or too quiet, etc. Causes vary, but can include polyps and nodules on the vocal chord, infections, acid reflux, poor movement of vocal folds, etc. Speech therapy exercises can be helpful for children with weak voices and other voice disorders.
Why Early Intervention Fort Myers Speech Therapy Makes a Difference
Years ago, pediatricians tended to adhere to a “wait-and-see” approach, which basically involves hanging back and waiting to see if concerns about speech-language development were still lingering once a child hit school-age. That has largely shifted in favor of early diagnosis and treatment of speech-language disorders because research has shown more effective results with treatment the earlier interventions begin.
Researchers examining the reason behind early intervention’s effectiveness have largely concluded that the younger the child, the more malleable their brains. As noted by the CDC, these “neural circuits” are the connectors in a child’s brain. They are most easily adaptable during the first 3 years of life. For kids with speech-language delays and disorders, those neural circuits are often missing key connections. Early intervention helps reroute them.
Children begin recognizing recurring speech patterns during their first year of life. Babies 12-18-month-old can usually understand at least a few words in the absence of gestural or other cues. They can also usually produce at least a few intelligible words. These combined skills show them acquiring both expressive and receptive speech-language skills.
Of course, spotting a speech problem in a 2-year-old is a bit trickier than in a 6-year-old. That’s not to say evaluations should wait. It’s just that toddlers as a whole are only just starting to grasp speech patterns, so things like lisping and slurring and mispronunciations are fairly common. That’s why often with younger kids, our speech therapists are less concerned with the accuracy of their word articulation and more focused on whether and how they’re trying to communicate. If they’re older than 1 and not using any words, that could be cause for concern – particularly if they aren’t using gestures, displaying a understanding of what’s being said to them, or showing any notable response their own name. Those can be an indicator of bigger issue – possibly autism, but also maybe non-related speech-language delays or disorders. In any case, it’s better to have them evaluated sooner than later.
Another way to think about early intervention speech therapy: Early on, missed speech-language milestones will be counted in months. But let enough time go by without treatment, and the delay will compound by years. A child who receives Fort Myers speech therapy at 18 months may be 6 months delayed, while another child with similar delays but doesn’t start treatment until they are 3 will be 1.5 years behind. The earlier a child starts receiving therapy, the better chance they have to catch up sooner.
If you have additional questions about early intervention speech therapy for your child, we offer initial consultations as well as comprehensive speech-language evaluations and ADOS testing.
FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
Why Act Early if You’re Concerned about Development? U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
More Blog Entries:
The Best Age for Fort Myers Speech Therapy? Mind the Milestones., Nov. 3, 2022, Fort Myers Speech Therapy Blog