behavior consulting for Fort Myers children and families

Behavior Consulting is a service offered by FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers to families in Southwest Florida whose children are struggling with behavior issues such as defiance, aggression, social deficits, and tantrums - but lack a qualifying diagnosis for ABA therapy.

Behavior consulting services can be provided in-home, in-clinic, over the phone, or via video conference - with parents and kids getting 1:1 insight and action plans from an experienced Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). The idea is to help families in Southwest Florida who have hit a brick wall in terms of how to help their child work through difficult behavior issues that are holding them back from reaching their full potential at home, in school, with peers, and throughout their daily lives.

Jennifer Voltz-Ronco, FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder, explained the need for behavior consulting became apparent when families whose children were referred to ADOS testing for autism spectrum disorder ultimately weren't diagnosed with it. That might seem like cause for relief, but it didn't negate the concerns that originally prompted the testing. Parents still didn't know what's wrong, and their child didn't qualify for ABA therapy. That often can lead to deep frustration and families asking, "Now what?" 

Behavior consulting may be the answer.

Friends, family members, books, and online parent support groups can be helpful - but they only go so far.

Meeting with a board-certified child behavior specialist helps parents get to the root of troublesome behavior issues. It provides parents with professional insight and real solutions specific to each child and tailored to the unique needs of each family.

"Behavior consultation is a great resource for these families because even if your child doesn't qualify for full-time services, the principles used in ABA apply to all kids," Voltz-Ronco said. "It's about discovering the driving force of the behavior, and then formulating an evidence-based plan to effectively address it."

Who Benefits From Behavior Consulting?

Behavior consulting services are available to families of children who are both neurotypical and neurodivergent. It can help kids of all ages, from infants to teens.

Unlike other FOCUS Therapy services, behavior consulting does not require the child to have a clear diagnosis. We offer help to families regardless of whether there's a label on the issues they're facing.

Among the issues with which we may be able to offer insight and assistance:

  • Major tantrums and meltdowns
  • Aggression
  • Defiance/non-compliance
  • Disruptive behaviors
  • Social skills
  • Communication skills
  • Separation anxiety
  • General developmental delays
  • Adjustment disorders
  • Potty-training
  • Sleep training
  • Difficulty with routines

This isn't an exhaustive list, but rather a snapshot of the kinds of behavioral difficulties we can help kids and their families work through. As certified medical professionals, we are also able to advise families whether their child may be better served with treatments provided by professionals in other specialties.

(Conditions like depression, anxiety, OCD, grief, trauma, PTSD, or eating disorders are often better treated with cognitive behavior therapy. This is different from ABA therapy or behavior consulting. It's a form of psychotherapy, which FOCUS does not offer. However, there are many providers for it in Southwest Florida.)

If we begin behavior consulting services and see strong evidence of a condition that would actually qualify the child for ABA therapy or other services, we're happy to provide our written opinion to your child's doctor urging reconsideration of the diagnosis or additional testing.

man providing pediatric therapy in Fort Myers

How Does Behavior Consulting Work?

Behavior consulting starts with a parent reaching out because they're struggling with or concerned about their child's behavior. They recognize the current approach isn't working.

To start, we must understand that at its core, behavior is communication. Whether we're talking about tantrums or aggression or non-compliance - these patterns of behavior are all efforts to convey an underlying need or want. If a child has learned that communicating via tantrum is an effective means to get that need met or desire fulfilled, they'll continue doing it. The longer that behavior goes on reinforced in this way, the more deeply it becomes ingrained - and the tougher it can be to change. This can leave families feeling stuck. We can help.

As BCBAs, we study behavior. We identify what is being communicated by the behavior and how we might alter the antecedent (what happens right before) and/or the consequence (what happens right after) to teach more effective, appropriate, safe means of communication.

Note: Consequence isn't always negative. And altering the antecedent or consequence doesn't mean the child always gets what they want. Our aim is to help parents be more intentional about which behaviors they're reinforcing.

Whereas ABA therapy is an intensive, 1:1 form of highly-structured treatment in our Fort Myers clinic, behavior consulting is less rigid. It also requires greater collaborative effort from parents in the course of our information gathering, action plan development, implementation, and follow-up progress reports.

Behavior consulting plans often incorporate strategies like:

  • Clearly-defined expectations (specific, observable, measurable).
  • Positive reinforcements.
  • Planned ignoring.
  • Structured routines and schedules.
  • Visual schedules, reminders, and cues.
  • Tailored self-calming/emotional regulation strategies.
  • Sensory diet plan (scheduled movement breaks, regular sensory input, etc.).
  • Optimizing and organizing situational and environmental factors to set the child up for success.
  • Relationship and trust-building activities.

As with any type of therapy, buy-in and consistency from all family members across environments is paramount to success with behavior consulting.

Frequency and intensity of consulting services can be tailored to your needs, depending on the severity of your child's behaviors, your family's mental/emotional/physical bandwidth, and your budget. Services can range from a half-hour phone consultation with a BCBA to an in-depth assessment/interview/action plan with in-home or in-clinic follow-up appointments.

How Much Does It Cost?

Because insurance does not cover BCBA services without specific diagnoses, behavior consulting is most likely going to be paid for out-of-pocket by parents.

The good news is consulting is a lot more affordable than typical ABA therapy services. Further, parents and caregivers can schedule as much or as little as they need and/or can afford. You can schedule a one-off phone call or more regular, weekly coaching.

Among the behavior consulting service packages we offer:

  • 30-minute phone consultation with a BCBA - $50
  • 1-hour phone consultation with a BCBA - $80
  • Limited ABA assessment, including 1-hour interview with parents, 1-hour assessment of the child, write-up of findings and action plan - $300/total
  • In-clinic  booking (minimum 1 hr),1:1 working with the child and/or parents - $100/hr
  • In-home booking (with a minimum of x2 sessions, 2 hours each) - $150/hr

BCBA Ignacio Fernandez explained most behavior consulting will begin with an initial meeting or discussion to find out the parent's concern and the child's needs. From there, we may meet with the child, conduct an assessment, create an action plan, and then schedule follow-up meetings and/or phone check-ins to monitor progress.

"We might only meet once and follow-up by phone after that, or we might decide to see the child in-person once or twice or month - at home or in the clinic," Fernandez said. "I might give the parent homework to observe and report, which will help us better understand the behavior. I can provide coaching and follow-up from there."

Voltz-Ronco, FOCUS Owner/Founder, stressed her understanding that many parents are under a great deal of financial strain. FOCUS is committed to doing everything possible to ensure these services are within reach for as many families as possible. That said, the value of success in overcoming these struggles is something many families find priceless - especially because the principles learned in behavior consulting can also help when navigating future challenges.

"We know anytime you're paying out-of-pocket for something, you're highly conscious of its value," she said. "But we wouldn't offer this service if we weren't confident in its success. And ultimately, confronting these behavior problems head-on when your child is 2, 4, 6, or 8-years-old is going to be SO much more effective - and less costly - than letting it go until they're 13 or 14 and trying to tackle it then."

Please contact us to learn more about FOCUS Therapy's Behavior Consulting Services, reach us via email at  [email protected] or call us at (239) 313-5049.