In-Clinic ABA Therapy Fort Myers

7 Super Awesome Benefits of In-Clinic ABA Therapy for Kids in Southwest Florida

Many ABA therapy providers in Southwest Florida share similar approaches and philosophies with respect to evidence-based methodologies and evaluation standards. That said, there are different schools of thought when it comes to the optimal treatment setting – whether that’s in-clinic, at school, at home, or some hybrid combination. At FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers, we prefer in-clinic ABA therapy for our patients – and there are tons of good reasons why.

ABA stands for Applied Behavior Analysis. It’s widely recognized as one of the most highly-effective, child-oriented, results-driven therapy for kids diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. It’s also proven very helpful for kids with traumatic brain injuries, oppositional defiant disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and Down syndrome. These conditions don’t have a “cure,” per se. What ABA therapy does is teach appropriate/safe/expected behaviors while minimizing and extinguishing inappropriate/unsafe/unexpected behaviors. Individual target goals may differ, but most long-term goals involve improving kids’ independence, safety, social skills, academic participation, and community engagement.

Although the skill of the therapist is certainly important, so too is the setting where therapy is provided.

in-clinic ABA therapy Southwest Florida Lee County kids

Among the many upsides to Southwest Florida in-clinic ABA therapy:

  1. Easier transitions to (pre)school. For most families, the goal is for their child to ultimately transition to a mainstream learning environment. In-clinic ABA therapy can better prepare kids for that transition, structuring environments that more closely mirror their experience in school so that their skills are more easily generalized.
  2. More opportunities to teach and learn social skills. When our registered behavior technicians (RBTs) and board-certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) are working with children in the clinic, there are going to be inherently more opportunities for social interactions – both with peers and adults. We can practice key skills like turn-taking, recognizing social cues, and self-regulation/coping skills.
  3. Better quality of care and supervision. This is not to say at-home ABA therapy providers don’t provide adequate care. But when we have multiple RBTs, BCBAs, speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and support staff on-site, there are simply more eyes, ears, and hands if challenges arise. Plus, it gives supervisors the opportunity to regularly observe, make recommendations, and ensure treatment is on-track. They can see what’s happening in real time (rather than relying on RBT notes after the fact) and are able to make immediate modifications as necessary.
  4. Multi-disciplinary setting. Lots of the kids we treat at FOCUS require numerous therapy interventions. If your child needs ABA therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and/or physical therapy, you can get all of that in one location. But parent convenience is just part of this benefit. When you have highly-skilled pediatric therapists in a broad range of disciplines all working in close proximity to each other, it creates opportunities to learn from each other. A speech therapist might notice an issue in passing that an RBT wouldn’t have immediately identified – and offer possible solutions. Those kinds of interactions and collaborations happen all the time – and we encourage them because kids get optimal benefits when we approach treatment from the “whole child” perspective.
  5. Tons of positive reinforcers. Every parent can recall at least one time their child was super into something – and then just suddenly decided they were ALL SET with it. Like, all they want to eat every single morning is a strawberry Pop-Tart, so you eventually go all-in and buy the Costco size – only for them to decide two packages in, they never want to see another strawberry Pop-Tart for as long as they live. Reinforcers in ABA therapy can be like that too. These are the unique-to-each-child incentives used to encourage interactions and activities that allow us to target behavior goals. But what a child was willing to work for one day might no longer interest them the next. With in-clinic ABA, the therapist has immediate access to TONS of alternative reinforcers – games, puzzles, books, sensory gym, etc. We can quickly find the “next best thing” and go from there.
  6. Easier transitions when there are staff changes. As much as we love and value our amazing ABA therapists, they don’t always stay forever. For these kids, transitioning from one therapist to another can be a major challenge. But when kids receive behavior therapy in a clinic setting, there’s a good chance that their new therapist is a friendly face they’ve already seen and directly interacted with.
  7. In-clinic ABA therapy works. Like, really well. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that works for every kid in every therapy, it’s been our experience that in-clinic ABA provides the most “bang for your buck” in terms of results – and a conclusion solidly backed by research. Just one example: A National Institute of Health study analyzed the effectiveness of at-home ABA therapy vs. in-clinic ABA therapy. They controlled for variations in individual child skill sets by treating the same group of kids in both settings at different times, and then tracking their progress during each. Kids treated in-clinic mastered 100 percent more skills-per-hour compared to those treated in their homes.

With in-clinic ABA therapy at FOCUS, we’re able to provide the best quality therapy in a setting that is welcoming and fun as well as structured and safe. If you have questions about our therapy services or Fort Myers ADOS testing, reach out!

FOCUS offers ABA therapy and ADOS testing to children in Lee County, 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 2, 2022, Fort Myers ABA Therapy Blog

Fort Myers ABA Therapist

Fort Myers ABA Therapist Travel Tips for Families of Kids With Autism

Travel is an enriching experience for kids and families. Family vacations, special holiday trips, and unique adventures – it’s the stuff cherished, lifelong memories are made of. That said, traveling with kids is likely to be an inevitable challenge. If your child has autism, it may require even more planning & preparation – but it’s worth it! Here, we offer travel tips and tricks from a Fort Myers ABA therapist.

Prepare Your Child

As adults, it’s easy to take for granted our kids’ trust in handling all the arrangements and making sure they’re safe and as comfortable as possible during the trip. But consider that for kids on the autism spectrum, you’re not only dealing with the normal challenges of travel, but disruptive changes in routine, unpredictability, dense crowds, new noises, sights, and smells.

As a Fort Myers ABA therapist can explain, preparing your child can go a long way in helping to ease anxiety and make for a smoother trip. Some aspects of travel that adults sometimes take for granted that can be scary/intimidating/unfamiliar to kids include things like: Airport security, loudspeaker announcements, large crowds full of strangers, unfamiliar restrooms (with extra loud hand driers), cramped seats, changes in air pressure, etc.

Teaching stories with visuals and simple, clear explanations can be a good resource to help prepare them. Taking an Airplane is a teaching story prepared by Jet Blue and Autism Speaks.

You might also consider practicing the use of public restrooms (visual prompts and supports may help). Be prepared for emergencies and accidents.

If you’re visiting somewhere your child has never been, help them to understand what they should expect. Show them pictures of the place. If you’re going to be meeting up with friends or family you haven’t seen in a while, show them pictures of who will be there. You may also show them pictures or videos of activities you may be engaging in while you’re there.

Write out a list of trip rules, and make sure to reward your child if they follow through with positive behavior.

FOCUS Therapy ABA therapy

ABA Therapy & Occupational Therapy Helps Kids Self-Regulate Big Emotions

FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers

FOCUS Therapy Only Schedules Evaluations if We Have Space to Treat Your Child

Evaluations are an important step in the process of securing speech, occupational, physical, and/or ABA therapy for your child. But parents and caregivers should be wary of facilities that offer these evaluations while lacking capacity to immediately treat the child.

FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco explains that unless her team is being called on for a second opinion of an initial evaluation, they refrain from conducting formal assessments if unable to promptly provide treatment once the evaluation is complete.

“A standardized assessment is only a snapshot in time during the child’s development,” Voltz-Ronco said. “It’s like taking a picture of a child now, and then expecting it not to change in a few months. … If your child cannot access therapy within 1 or 2 months of that evaluation, the results are no longer going to be accurate. Kids develop new skills every few months. But the longer the child goes without therapy, the more significant that standard score comparison/discrepancy to same-age peers is going to be.”

Jennifer Voltz-Ronco FOCUS Therapy Owner
Jennifer Voltz-Ronco, FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder

Beyond this, families who rely on insurance to cover the cost of these evaluations (and they aren’t cheap) should be aware that insurers typically only cover one evaluation every six months or so. Even though clinics can utilize standardized assessments administered by another, it’s not ideal.

“Your child gets the most benefit when the team that directly observed your child’s abilities and deficits are the ones who ultimately formulate a plan of care and follow through with treatment,” Voltz-Ronco said. “In my opinion, it’s unethical for a clinic to profit from an evaluation that reveals a child is delayed or needs intervention – without providing that help.”

Types of Pediatric Evaluations FOCUS Therapy Offers

Children are usually referred to FOCUS Therapy and other therapy specialists by their primary care physician. Evaluations are typically ordered when a child is showing some developmental deficit, such as not sitting up or crawling, not talking or making regular eye contact, or red flags for a possible cognitive deficit. They could also be diagnosed with a condition that we can pretty well say for certain is going to require some combination of therapy services (such as cerebral palsy, down syndrome, vision impairments or hearing deficits).

Depending on the child’s condition and identified areas of concern, qualified therapists will be scheduled to conduct age-appropriate assessments to determine the need for therapy intervention services.

The specifics of the evaluation may vary, but they are generally going to include:

  • A look at case history, including medical status, education, socioeconomic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, and information from other providers.
  • Child and/or parent interview.
  • Review of the child’s auditory, visual, motor, and cognitive status.
  • Standardized and non-standardized assessments of specific aspects of speech, non-spoken language, swallowing function, cognitive communication, etc.
  • Assessment of self-care and/or self-awareness.
  • Skilled observation. This is where we keenly observe an accurately record a child’s abilities and behaviors.

There are several different types of standardized tests (including the ADOS test for autism screening, which FOCUS Therapy also provides).

“If a parent wants a second or third opinion after their child has been evaluated by a school or another provider, that’s one thing,” Voltz-Ronco. “But they’re most likely going to pay for that out-of-pocket – and they’re going to understand the purpose upfront. But if parents are looking for action, to get the ball rolling on the therapy interventions that a child needs, then the clinic conducting the assessment should be able to provide that.”

Not all of them do. Therefore, it’s incumbent on parents to ask the question before scheduling the assessment.

“We’ve gotten calls from parents of children who were evaluated other clinics, only to be told after the fact that the clinic did not have the ability to treat their child,” Voltz-Ronco said. “They were told to just call around and see what other clinics may be able to use the report generated from their assessment. That, to me, is not ethical.

“It’s a situation where parents need to be aware of this issue, and make sure they are asking the question upfront: ‘If I schedule this assessment and my child needs treatment, do you have the capacity to provide that treatment?’ If not, I would advise parents to move on and find a place with the capacity and willingness to do both.”

FOCUS offers ADOS testing and other standardized assessments in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida for children who may need speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, or ABA therapy. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Assessment and Evaluation of Speech-Language Disorders in Schools, American Speech-Language Hearing Association

More Blog Entries:

ADOS Testing, FOCUSFlorida.com

sensory meltdown

Tantrum or Sensory Meltdown? Fort Myers ABA Therapists Explain

When working with kids who have varying sensory struggles, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a tantrum or a sensory meltdown. Our Fort Myers ABA therapists recognize that it often takes some detective work to differentiate. But determining which is which is important when formulating the most effective response.

A sensory meltdown can be especially tough to identify because a child’s sensory thresholds can vary from day-to-day or even hour-to-hour.

Some behaviors that may be present in BOTH:

  • Screaming
  • Kicking
  • Name-calling
  • Hitting
  • Crying
  • Hiding or avoidance

Tantrums, however are typically a response to a child not receiving something they want or an anticipated outcome. Sensory meltdowns, meanwhile, stem from sensory overload, with reactions being to the big feelings that the overload can cause.

In the case of a meltdown due to sensory issues, parents may need to formulate a strategy that plans ahead, rather than simply react to the meltdown when it happens. That means meeting their sensory needs through a sensory diet (unique to each child) that can help them avoid feeling completely overloaded and overwhelmed.

We need to look carefully at the sorts of things that can trigger a sensory meltdown. Some possible meltdown triggers can include:

  • Being overly tired or hungry.
  • Generally not feeling well. (This can stem from illness, food sensitivity, overheating, etc.)
  • Being expected to “hold it together” for long periods of time, such as going to summer camp, school, or on play dates.
  • An abrupt change in routine – anything outside of the ordinary – can set off sensory overload.

Because the overload may not be immediate, it can sometimes appear like a meltdown “came out of nowhere.” But there is almost always a source when we look very carefully at the “antecedents,” or events that occurred prior to the meltdown. You may even have to go back a few days to pinpoint the cause.

Toddlers and preschoolers may be especially prone to tantrums because they do not have the motor, language, or problem-solving skills to work through some of their frustrations on their own. They may have an emerging desire to be independent, without having the skills to actually BE independent. They might have emerging language skills, and thus are unable to communicate what they actually want or need. They may have big feelings, but lack the prefrontal cortex development to emotionally regulate. They may have a growing understanding of the world around them, but also a lot of anxiety about how to move through it.

Tantrums usually only end when a child gets what they want or when they’re rewarded for better behavior.

Meltdowns, on the other hand, only end when the child tires out or the sensory input is altered. They stem from what we sometimes refer to as a “physiological traffic jam” in the central nervous system. There is too much overstimulation and feeling limited in your ability to “exit.” This can trigger a “fight or flight” response.

As parents, therapists, teachers, and caregivers, it’s important to recognize that the behaviors we’re seeing are not controllable behavioral reactions. Rather, they are physiological responses. This is why our Fort Myers ABA therapists and occupational therapists put such emphasis on identifying which is which so that you can appropriately respond.

With tantrums, you need to recognize the motivation or purpose, reinforce positive behavior, and build skills for success.

Meltdowns, however, can sometimes be avoided when we use visual schedules, social stories, and checklists to help kids know what is expected. There are no surprises or question marks. Reducing the unexpected changes in routine is going to reduce the overall stress that can trigger a meltdown.

We also recommend routine sensory diet activities, like scheduling quiet time or offering them breaks for sensory input.

Parents and teachers should also be able to recognize signs of a child’s distress. This could be covering their ears or rocking back-and-forth or humming or bolting from the room. Once you are able to quickly recognize the signs of overstimulation, you can respond to help them regulate before reaching the meltdown stage.

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

Additional Resources:

Expert Ways to Help Tame Tantrums and Manage Meltdowns, June 18, 2021, By Alescia Ford-Lanza, MS, OTR/L, ATP, Autism Parenting Magazine

More Blog Entries:

Study: Less than 1/2 Kids With Autism Undergo Early Intervention Therapy, July 30, 2022, FOCUS 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
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.

 

 

Fort Myers ABA therapy

How ABA Therapy Can Help Fort Myers Kids

ABA therapy (short for applied behavioral analysis) is an evidence-based therapy that focuses on studying the “ABCs” of behavior to learn the function of it. From there, we can use positive reinforcement to create an environment that helps promote expected behaviors and minimize unexpected behaviors,  We start with A, the antecedent, (what comes before the behavior), then B, the behavior itself, and then C, the consequence (what comes right after the behavior).

All behavior has a function. At its core, behavior is a means of communication. We work to understand what the child is gleaning from the behavior (avoidance? sensory input? a reaction?). We also find out what really interests or motivates them. We then use scientifically-proven strategies that will help us tailor a unique treatment plan to promote helpful behaviors and fade/extinct unhelpful behaviors.

When ABA therapy is successful, it can help with skills key to independent function. Learn more about FOCUS Fort Myers ABA Therapy services here.

FOCUS offers pediatric behavior therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapy in Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

What is Applied Behavior Analysis? Autism Speaks

More Blog Entries:

FOCUS Therapy ABA Talks: Hosted by Our ABA Team! July 31, 2021, Fort Myers Behavior Therapy Blog