Fort Myers ABA therapists

Fort Myers ABA Therapists’ Tips for Supporting Siblings of Kids With Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD for short) is now diagnosed in 1 in 44 children in the U.S. As a broad range of conditions characterized by deficits in social skills, speech, communication, repetitive behaviors, and other challenges, the ripple effect of the condition impacts more than just the individual diagnosed. In fact, home carryover of early intervention therapies (speech, occupational, and ABA) is most effective when everyone in the home is committed to following our recommended strategies.

Our Fort Myers ABA therapists recognize that families – and neurotypical siblings in particular – may struggle with anxiety, depression, and social difficulties, as outlined in a recent study. On the flip side, researchers also found that children with autism who have a neurotypical older sibling tend to have better social skills than those who did not.

The key is striking a balance, and ensuring that both children are supported – and given the tools to understand each other.

A child with autism may, inevitably, demand more of a parent’s time, energy, focus, and resources. This may leave siblings of kids on the spectrum feeling as if they are being overlooked. It’s important to validate and address these feelings so that it doesn’t grow into a much larger issue as time goes on.

Southwest Florida ABA therapy

5 Steps to ABA Therapy in South Florida

ABA therapy is considered the gold standard treatment for kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). But the process of starting this therapy is not as simple as calling and setting an appointment. There are several steps that must be taken to initiate the process.

It begins by recognizing the early signs of autism, and sharing these concerns with your child’s pediatrician. Doctors should screen all children at 18 months for risk of autism as a matter of routine – but parents absolutely can bring concerns to their doctors at any point. Signs of autism can be clearly identified as early as 12-months-old.

The doctor will then initiate a referral for a full assessment, known as ADOS testing. This test must be administered by a qualified provider. FOCUS Therapy does provide ADOS testing for children in Southwest Florida. The results of the ADOS test are then shared with a pediatric specialist, who ultimately makes the diagnosis and then issues a referral for early intervention services – such as ABA therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.

If your child is under the age of 3 in Florida, they may qualify for early intervention services through a state program called Early Steps. This can serve as an important stop-gap, given that many private therapy clinics that offer Applied Behavioral Analysis in Southwest Florida have waitlists.

Our ABA therapy services at FOCUS Therapy are conducted one-on-one, in-clinic with experienced professionals called RBTs (registered behavior technicians), with oversight from a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) and physician specialist.

If you have questions about autism screening, ADOS testing, or ABA therapy in Southwest Florida, our trusted team of therapists, coordinators, and insurance billing professionals can help.

FOCUS offers ABA Therapy and ADOS testing in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

What Are the Early Signs of Autism? HealthyChildren.org, American Academy of Pediatrics

More Blog Entries:

5 Fort Myers ABA Therapy Techniques, May 24, 2022, Fort Myers ABA Therapy Blog

Fort Myers ABA therapy

5 Fort Myers ABA Therapy Techniques

Behavior therapy – specifically, applied behavioral analysis, begins with understanding the science of behavior. At our Fort Myers ABA therapy clinics, we use this understanding to employ specific strategies proven to help children with autism and other conditions achieve their goals – ultimately allowing them to gain greater independence and engage more fully with the world around them and people in it.

As explained by the American Psychological Association, ABA therapy is an evidence-based practice, meaning it’s supported by peer-reviewed literature. It identifies the motivation behind the behavior before addressing it with one or more proven strategies.

Each Fort Myers ABA therapy plan of care must reflect what reinforcements are most effective with that specific child, with clear goals we want to see them meet within a set time frame. Our ABA therapy team then works with kids one-on-one with them – day after day, week after week, and month after month, and sometimes year after year. We want to see them thriving in all environments – from home to school to play dates to community events – to the fullest extent of their capabilities.

Most all strategies involve some use of the ABC’s of behavior. That is, we study the Antecedent, then the Behavior itself, then the Consequence. By studying each element, we can determine what is the motive or what’s being communicated by that behavior – and then change either the antecedent or the consequence with the goal of altering the behavior.

Top Fort Myers ABA Therapy Techniques

Fort Myers ABA therapy
Play builds child development

5 Ways Play Builds Child Development

Our Fort Myers occupational therapists often refer to play as the occupation of children. It may look on the surface as if all we do at our clinic is have fun. (And we DO have TONS of fun here!) But what we’re really doing is bolstering child development through play, which has proven to be the most effective way to teach children critical life skills in early intervention.

Study after study has proven time and again that children learn best through play – when it’s fun!

“There’s a reason our pediatric therapists never approach a session with a child saying, ‘Ok, let’s go do some therapy,'” explained FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco. “No, we say, ‘Let’s go play!’ Because we know that creating a fun, safe, upbeat environment is going to make them want to participate, want to take the next step, want to learn the new skill. Ultimately, that’s where we make the most gains. Those are the lessons that are going to stick.”

Here, we offer some basics on how child development is promoted by simple activities that involve play.

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Play in Early Childhood: The Role of Play in Any Setting, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University

More Blog Entries:

FOCUS Therapy Hires Therapists Who Genuinely Care, March 3, 2022, FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers Blog

Fort Myers speech therapy

Fort Myers Speech Therapy for Preemies With Speech & Language Delays

Preterm babies, often called “preemies,” are at higher risk of speech and language delays as they develop, compared to babies born full-term. Approximately 1 in 10 babies in the U.S. is born too early, according to the March of Dimes. Our Fort Myers speech therapy team strongly recommends that parents of babies born prior to 37 weeks gestation keep a close eye on every developmental milestone, and seek early intervention therapies to assist where delays are noted.

“We’re so lucky to be living in an age where medical advancements provide even babies born extremely preterm with a good shot at survival,” said FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco. “Although many preemies go on to develop normally, many do benefit from extra help – particularly in the form of early intervention speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and feeding/swallowing therapy.”

A 2018 study published in the journal Medicine revealed babies born preterm tend to have smaller vocabular at age 3 compared to their full-term peers. They also develop gestures, words, and language understanding at a slower rate than full-term babies. This gap in language skills can expand and continue through childhood, particularly if it’s not treated.

Brain research development shows us time and again that language learning begins at birth, with the window between 6 and 24 months being a golden opportunity to maximize the brain’s neuroplasticity and support development of early communication skills.

Fort Myers speech therapy

Many babies born prematurely benefit from these therapies up to age 5 (sometimes beyond), with early intervention reducing the struggles they will face as they get older. As time goes on, the delays become less noticeable, with many preemies going on to engage in academics, arts, and athletics at the same level as their peers. Many of our preemie patients later succeed to the point you would never know they were born early unless they told you.

Occupational therapy

6 Signs Your Baby Might Need Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy

Are you concerned your baby isn’t meeting their developmental milestones for sitting, standing, walking, and balance? It’s important to discuss your concerns with a pediatrician, as they may need a referral for physical therapy and/or occupational therapy.

There are many conditions for which an infant, toddler, or young child may benefit from physical or occupational therapy. What’s important is early intervention. The sooner your child can “catch up” to their same age peers, the fewer challenges they’ll struggle with down the road.

Our pediatric physical therapy and occupational therapy teams help children with both gross motor skills and fine motor skills. If you suspect your child *might* need these interventions, it’s best not to wait and see. Talk to your child’s pediatrician to obtain a referral for a full evaluation, which will provide insight into whether your child is behind developmentally and may benefit from physical and/or occupational therapies.

FOCUS offers physical and occupational therapy to kids in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Infant Physical Therapy: What You Need to Know, Therapy & Wellness Connection

More Blog Entries:

At What Age Should My Child Start Speech Therapy? April 5, 2022, FOCUS Therapy Blog

ABA Therapy Fort Myers

Understanding ABA Therapy

Understanding ABA therapy is critical for anyone whose child has been recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD.

As our Fort Myers ABA therapy team can explain, ABA is short for “applied behavioral analysis,” and it involves utilizing the science of behavior to help children with autism in producing socially significant improvements in behavior. We apply proven behavioral science principles to increase or decrease targeted behaviors, with the ultimate goal of bringing about meaningful change to the child.

We work to identify behaviors that are observable and measurable, and then use empirically-validated, research-based strategies to help them make strides in overcoming challenging behaviors and increasing those that are helpful in daily life. We also teach and and help them practice critical life skills, such as social communication, emotional regulation, sensory integration, and executive functioning.

At FOCUS Therapy, we have two Fort Myers clinics where we provide both ADOS testing and ABA therapy for children in Southwest Florida.

FOCUS offers pediatric ABA therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

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 4, 2022, Fort Myers ABA Therapy Blog

FOCUS Therapy evaluations

Why FOCUS Asks Parents to Stay in the Waiting Room During Evals, Sessions

FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers conducts a range of in-depth evaluations for children who have been referred for speech, occupational, physical, or ABA therapies as well as ADOS testing. During our evaluations and therapy sessions, we rarely allow families to directly participate – but we have evidence-based reasons for our position.

During evaluations, we want to ensure every child receives an assessment that is as accurate as possible because that is what is going to allow us to:

  • Determine whether the child needs therapy.
  • Calculate the frequency/level of therapy that might be recommended.
  • Make a strong case to the relevant insurer(s) about the medical necessity of the therapy.

Parents, when present in the room during FOCUS evaluations, can unwittingly stand in the way of those goals. Why? Mainly because children rely on their caregivers when things get tough – to help them, to comfort them, to make it better. When a child is struggling in a certain area, such as communication or independence with self-care skills, our clinicians need to independently observe the particulars.

Parent input is a key aspect of our evaluations, but we need to see for ourselves, too. Jennifer Voltz-Ronco, MS-CCC/SLP and FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder, explained that when a child is accompanied by a parent during the direct observation portion of the assessment, parents often interfere without intending to do so or even realizing it.FOCUS Therapy

“For example, in speech evaluations, parents might talk to the child or give clues to help their child ‘get the right answer’,” Voltz-Ronco explained. “We might ask the child to point to an object out of an array of 3-4 items by saying, ‘Show me the cup.’ Standardized testing requires that we be very specific in how we present these items – and with the requirement that we wait. And while we wait, we’re looking to see how long it takes them to process the directive and what they do. Will they look at us to see if we’re looking at the object? Will they point to it or make a face if they’re unsure? They might associate a cup to mealtime and instead point to a cookie. If the child looks to our face to get a clue, that would indicate social awareness and joint attention – key pre-linguistic communication skills. If there is a delay in their response, there may be an auditory processing issue. If they grab the first thing in reach, they may have impulsivity issues. Watching a child while they’re thinking tells us so much. But parents in the room might think the evaluator presumes the child doesn’t know the answer, so they interject. They say to the child, ‘You know what a cup is, like the blue sippie cup you have at home.’ Unfortunately, what that does is give the child numerous opportunities to hear the word, ‘cup,’ and in many standardized tests, we aren’t allowed to repeat the word or give a description or synonym. So with that, we lose the opportunity to see what we needed to see, and must in turn score the response incorrectly – which impacts the overall results.”

She went on to explain that often the key responses FOCUS therapists are looking for aren’t necessarily what an untrained observer may presume.

What’s more, some children can become what we call “prompt dependent.” That means the child looks to the parent to prompt them (to take an action, answer a question, etc.) – even if they don’t necessarily need the prompt. Many of our team members are parents ourselves, so we wholeheartedly understand how difficult it is to wait for your child to “do it themselves.” It is actually instinctual to intervene when we see or sense our child needs help. But during these evaluations, this intervention – however slight – can actually prove more of a hindrance when what we’re seeking are accurate results.

We DO Want Parents Involved in Their Child’s Therapy Journey

Although it is important for parents to remain outside the room during evaluations, this does not mean we lack transparency or that we don’t want parents involved at all in the therapy process. In fact, we get the best results from therapy when parents are fully engaged!

But we discourage direct engagement during the evaluation process and therapy sessions because we want to ensure our findings are accurate and that your child gets the true level of support they need.

While we want parents to be involved in consultation, goal-setting, education, and carryover, we strongly advise parents against sitting in during therapy sessions for the following reasons:

ABA Therapy

Top 4 Benefits of In-Clinic ABA Therapy

There’s more than one way to do ABA. Also known as Applied Behavior Analysis or behavior therapy, ABA therapy involves the study of behavior and the use of positive reinforcements to fade out unexpected/unhelpful behaviors and promote expected/helpful behaviors.

At FOCUS Therapy, we’re strong proponents of in-clinic ABA. There are many reasons for this, but it really boils down to the fact that: It works.

In fact, as we reported previously on our blog, a study published by the National Institute of Health revealed that when controlling for individual differences by analyzing the progress of the same kids but in different settings, those who received ABA therapy in-clinic demonstrated far higher rates of learning during treatment compared to in-home therapy services. The kids who received ABA therapy in-clinic mastered 100 percent more skills per hour than those who received home-based treatments.

Contact us online or by calling (239) 313-5049. FOCUS offers ABA therapy to kids at two clinics in Fort Myers, Florida.

 

 

Speech Therapy – by The Numbers

Although many parents are concerned when their child’s communication indicates a possible speech-language delay or disorder, the reality is speech therapy is one of the most common services available for young kids.

Sometimes, speech therapy helps resolve problems with articulation (how words are said). Other times, it helps with more complex neurological social-communication conditions like autism spectrum disorder. Lots of kids may also struggle with feeding/swallowing and voice issues.

With early intervention, many of these kids go on to thrive – and you would never know they had a deficit at all!

Contact us online or by calling (239) 313-5049. FOCUS offers pediatric therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida.

Additional Resources:

Be Tech Wise With a Toddler, American Speech-Language Hearing Association