Change is an inevitable part of life. But for children on the autism spectrum, transitions can be TOUGH. Our Fort Myers ABA therapists have strategies to help make this easier. One of those is a countdown.
But first, it’s important to understand the why of transition triggers.
What makes transitions so difficult? For a lot of kids, it’s because transitioning from one activity or focus to another can seem sudden. It can also mean leaving an activity that is preferred for one less preferred. Plus, many kids on the spectrum have an inherent need for predictability. Not knowing what is coming next can also set off one’s anxiety, elicit big emotions, and trigger a seemingly outsized response.
As ABA therapists, we are always studying the ABC’s of behavior. That is Antecedent (what comes before the behavior), Behavior (what exactly is the behavior) and Consequence (how is the behavior reinforced). In altering big reactions to transitions, we can alter the antecedent, teach replacement behaviors and reinforce with positive consequences when kids transition calmly.
The idea is to prepare the individual before the transition occurs and support them during the transition.
FOCUS Therapy ABA Talks
At FOCUS Therapy, we offer speech, occupational, physical, and ABA therapy. For that last one, "ABA" stands for "Applied Behavioral Analysis." It also sometimes goes by the name, "behavior therapy." It involves the study of behavior and ways it is reinforced. ABA therapy is considered the gold standard for treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other conditions that make it difficult to communicate and behave in ways that are expected.
The concept of what ABA therapy is and how it works is often unfamiliar to families who first seek our services on the basis of a physician referral. In an effort to help parents and families better understand ABA and how it works, Dr. Dean Funk, M.D./B.S. Biological Science and the rest of our FOCUS Therapy ABA team have created a series of in-depth videos we hope will better explain it all.
Watch the videos below!
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, and answers really depend 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 grasp what their diagnosis means. Our FOCUS speech, occupational and ABA therapists know there isn’t a singular 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 and 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.