Your child has autism. You know it. The rest of the family knows it. His teachers and therapists know it. Maybe even a few of his classmates know it. But when should HE know it? And how should you tell him?
It’s something many of our FOCUS Therapy families grapple with at some point. The answers really depends on the individual. Some parents opt to tell their child when they’re very young, hoping an early understanding of why they struggle more with certain things might make it all less confusing. Other parents wait until their child becomes aware of their differences and starts asking questions. A few parents wait until their child is older with a better ability to fully understand their diagnosis. Our FOCUS speech, occupational and ABA therapists know there isn’t one right answer, but we’re here to support our patients and help guide families in these discussions.
Recently, a patient’s mother asked about the best way to handle some of the questions her 7-year-old son on the spectrum was asking. Christie Lawrence, a registered behavior technician (RBT) with our Fort Myers ABA therapy team, herself the mother of a teenager with autism, offered her thoughts.
“I would say the most important part of informing your child of their autism diagnosis is to empower them,” Lawrence said. “Autism can bring many gifts, and it’s so important to teach our children to find and focus on their strengths and build confidence from their success.”
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA therapy) is considered the most effective, early-intervention treatment for kids on the autism spectrum. It can take place in several settings: Clinic, home or some combination of the two. At FOCUS, we have chosen the clinic-based model for a number of reasons that benefit our patients.
One of the primary reasons is that we believe children benefit from being in a multi-disciplinary setting. It’s not just that it’s convenient for parents of children who need multiple therapies to have a single, physical location for all of them. (Families in Southwest Florida may find it very difficult to arrange all of the therapies their child needs in a home-based setting.) It’s the fact that in a clinic-based setting, supervisors are more available to provide additional direct observation and guidance compared to in-home services.
This point was underscored in a recent study published by the National Institute of Health. In that analysis, researchers controlled for individual differences by comparing and contrasting at-home and clinic-based ABA therapy treatment for the same kids. What they found was that kids demonstrated far higher rates of learning during treatment provided in-clinic compared to in the patient’s home. In fact, they mastered 100 percent more skills per hour while receiving in-clinic treatment compared to home-based treatment.
FOCUS Offers ABA Therapy at Our Fort Myers Clinic
Our clinic-based ABA therapy at FOCUS is designed to optimize your child’s growth in numerous areas of development, including:
- Social interactions.
- Play skills.
- Adaptive skills.
A new study has found that some social behaviors and reciprocal social skills associated with autism are inherited. But as children get older, their environment takes on a growing influence in how the child develops, researchers concluded.
This reinforces something our Fort Myers ABA therapy team has known for some time: The minds of children are incredibly resilient, and with appropriate early intervention, new neuropathways can be forged to help them overcome many of the deficits they face.
All parents struggle with problem behaviors with their children at some point. This is especially true for families with children diagnosed with Autism, ADHD, behavior challenges or related disorders. FOCUS ABA therapy promotes “expected behaviors” (and discourages “unexpected behaviors”) through consistent, positive reinforcement over a period of months or years. These methods are most effective when we have consistent parent carryover of our strategies.
We understand that lack of compliance, transition trouble and meltdowns can be incredibly frustrating for parents. Although we work on self-regulation and other skills in behavior sessions, our Fort Myers ABA therapy team have some helpful tips for how to handle these situations at home to reduce unexpected behaviors and increase positive behaviors.
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.
Worrying about your child’s safety is something with which all parents are familiar. If your child is typically-developing, these concerns usually lessen as he or she gets older, becomes more mature and gains better judgment and safety intuition. However, children with autism and other special needs may be delayed in acquiring the skills necessary to navigate unsafe situations – if they are able to acquire them at all. That doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do. There are many ways that parents, caretakers, teachers and public safety officials can work together to create safer environments for children and adults with autism – both for individuals and on a broader scale. It is also something we can work on with our young patients in occupational therapy and ABA therapy at FOCUS.
Safety skills are life skills – and they are important. However, there is no single approach to safety that is going to work for every single child on the autism spectrum – because every person on the spectrum is different. Plus, some safety issues might be present throughout a person’s life, some might build over time, some may fade and others could become more complex. Like any other life skill, safety skills will take time, effort and different approaches to master. That’s why we advise early intervention with therapy and frequent practice.
Teenagers and children prone to depression, apathy or behavior problems may benefit significantly from an “electronics fast,” according to a new article published in Psychology Today. At our FOCUS Fort Myers ABA therapy clinic, we have noted that exposure to electronics in children of all ages is an environmental factor many parents overlook when analyzing how to curb certain behavior issues.
For example, if your child is having a difficult time at dinner sitting still, focusing or avoiding meltdowns, handing them a smartphone to occupy them for a few minutes is not an uncommon strategy. It’s often effective too – at least in the short-term. The problem is the adverse impact it has in the long-term.
Firstly, in this situation, the parent is unintentionally reinforcing the undesirable behavior by rewarding the child with a screen – something they probably desperately want. But even if it buys you a few minutes of quiet time (and we don’t doubt that so many parents need that), what it won’t do is help your child get any better at sitting through a meal.
Further, it’s likely to be exacerbating behaviors subsequent to meal time, and the effects can be cumulative.
Thanksgiving Day is coming up fast, and many of us are feeling a keen sense of gratitude for all the unique people in our lives. That includes those of us fortunate enough to know and love one of the 2.5 percent of children ages 3 to 17 diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. With increasing autism awareness and a growing desire for greater inclusion, our FOCUS ABA therapy team has several tips for hosts to make the next holiday gathering more autism-friendly.
Any good host wants to ensure all guests are safe and comfortable, but may not be certain how to do that when it comes to a child with autism. Go easy on yourself there. The truth is that discovering the complexities of autism in general – let alone the broad variation from one person to the next – can be challenging for parents and therapists too. Puzzlement is totally understandable for someone who doesn’t live with a person on the spectrum or know their routines, triggers, interests or abilities.
If you’re looking for practical ways to be proactive in welcoming a child with autism who will be visiting you this holiday season, consider these few tips from our FOCUS ABA therapy team.
This year, FOCUS began offering Fort Myers ADOS testing to help families obtain an autism diagnosis as soon as possible, helping to facilitate early intervention treatment for children as young as 18 months.
Autism spectrum disorder is an increasingly common lifelong condition characterized by social and communication deficits that can mildly or significantly impede one’s ability to function in daily life. There is no “cure” for autism, and neither do we know exactly what causes it. Plus, there is no blood or genetic testing we can run to give us a for-sure answer. All this makes timely, accurate diagnosis of autism difficult.
What we can say is this: An early autism diagnosis, followed by a combination of intensive speech, behavioral (ABA) and occupational therapy has proven the most effective when it comes to the best long-term prognoses. In other words:
The sooner autism is identified and diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated – and the better chance your child has at a happy, healthy, independent life.
Most children with autism display clear signs prior to age 2. This is the best time to intervene.
Effective treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) involves an early intervention, intensive therapy schedule that includes Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), also known as the “gold standard” in autism treatment. In our years of offering Fort Myers ABA therapy (and the diagnostic ADOS testing for ASD), the FOCUS team is familiar with many myths and misconceptions surrounding its effectiveness.
Because a central function of our pediatric therapy services involves parent education and participation (we need all-hands-on-deck!), it’s critical that we address concerns about our Fort Myers ABA therapy services head-on. With so many conflicting information sources out there, we don’t blame parents for being confused or even hesitant. This exact phenomenon was noted as far back as a decade, with published research in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis noting the collective detrimental impact misrepresentations has on children.
But information is power. The truth is ABA has proven time and again – in clinical studies as well as within our own anecdotal experience – to be one of our most effective tools in securing long-term successful outcomes for these kids.
Here, we’re tackling some of the most common misunderstandings about ABA therapy. Still, we encourage parents and caregivers to reach out and discuss any and all concerns regarding the ABA process and their child’s progress.