How Fort Myers ABA Therapy Prepares Kids for Classroom Success
The end of this school year looked a lot different for many kids. When it came to distance learning, children with special needs and their families faced significant challenges. We expect many children have experienced some degree of regression, but it’s likely especially true for children on the autism spectrum. This was one of the reasons it was so important for our Fort Myers ABA therapy team to reopen our doors as soon as possible once it was safe in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We know how vital these services are to so many children and families. Now, we are actively working to make up on lost ground, in many cases focusing on skills that will help our FOCUS patients prepare for what may be a difficult transition back to school in the fall.
Although many of our ABA therapy patients are in individualized programs that involve 20-to-40-hours-a-week of 1:1 support with a registered behavior technician (RBT), it’s important to underscore the fact that the ultimate goal is usually to reduce that level of support as the patient grows increasingly independent. With consistent, early intervention therapy and the right amount of planning, the use of ABA principles can help kids successfully transition into a more typical classroom.
The principles and practices our Fort Myers ABA therapy team implements can reinforce the sort of behaviors that will help your child with autism thrive in school – whether that’s this fall or sometime later in the future.
School Skills Our Fort Myers ABA Therapy Team Targets
ABA, or applied behavior analysis, has proven an effective tool that helps children with autism to learn. It works with people of all ages, but it’s usually most effective when started early, between the ages of 2 and 5. Children who start younger ultimately develop stronger communication skills and are better able to model expected classroom behavior. For older kids, ABA can help with ongoing social skills, daily living skills and unexpected behaviors. All of our ABA programming is structured to meet the individual needs of each child.
Classroom skills that we actively work on in ABA therapy include:
- Following group instructions.
- Interacting with peers.
- Behaving appropriately.
- Working independently.
- Staying on task.
- Adjusting to transitions (particularly where non-preferred activities are involved).
ABA therapy can help reduce the problem behaviors that can interfere with attention, classroom protocols and learning. It also encourages behaviors that can help make learning more accessible and school a more positive experience.
Transitioning From ABA Programs to School Programs
Having a plan to transition a student from a clinical setting to an educational setting is an important one if we hope to maximize success. Every student is different, and there isn’t a standard form or process. Still some of the most common considerations include:
- Curriculum. It’s probable that the curriculum we’re using in ABA will differ from the school’s. School systems provide supports that are meant to allow students with disabilities to access the same curriculum as their peers, but they also have a long list of state standards and guidelines to meet. In preparing for the transition, our Fort Myers ABA therapy team will start 9 to 12 months prior to the transition, working on the skills that are going to be useful and functional in a classroom setting, reducing the child’s dependence on a single instructor, conducting enhanced parent training and providing materials like sign dictionaries and social stories that will help with the transition. Goals will be finalized on the school side with an IEP (individualized education program), in which we can participate.
- Support. Sometimes children find their way to an ABA program because a child’s behaviors are so intense and school supports may be insufficient to address them. The behavior plans that work in therapy may not easily translate to a school setting. For example, if we know that the goal of a behavior is attention, our RBT may give minimal attention to the behavior. That works in a 1:1 setting, but it may be unrealistic in a classroom with other children. We can attend IEP meetings to discuss what is realistic in a school setting and what we know works for your child. We can continue to serve as a resource for the schools and draw up social stories for specific areas of difficulty. Even if schools can’t provide a 1:1 learning model, they may be able to orchestrate staffing, peer groups and visual supports that will help ease the transition and encourage generalization of the skills they’ve learned in ABA.
- Timing. The transition from ABA to school might be gradual or immediate, but should be discussed – and expressly written – in the IEP.
We recognize that school and ABA are very different delivery systems of important services. What works in one isn’t always going to automatically work in the other. But our goal will always ultimately be for generalizing the key life skills we’re teaching into all settings.
FOCUS offers ABA therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
Transition Checklist: Moving From ABA Programs to School Programs, Indiana Resource Center for Autism, Indiana University Bloomington
More Blog Entries:
Behavior Therapists: Help Your Child With Autism Keep Their Cool Despite Summer Routine Disruptions, May 26, 2018, Fort Myers ABA Therapy Blog