Employee of the Month

Every month one of our therapists is recognized as employee of the month. Check them out below!

Meet Our Therapy Dog Lego!

Meet Our Therapy Dog Lego! Dogs have long been used to aid and assist people with health and physical conditions. Whether as part of a formal therapy via a therapy dog or in everyday assistance from a service companion. A relatively new area in assisting people with autism is training therapy dogs to work in session with the therapist and child. The therapy dogs are trained to provide comfort in therapeutic situations, as well as promote social interaction and have a calming influence on the child. In the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, a review was published in which it states that children with autism were more vocal and engaged in sessions when a therapy dog is present. Other studies also showed that children were less aggressive and friendlier when interacting with the dog throughout the session. The emotional benefits and sensory interventions brought upon by the assistance of a therapy dog seem to have a positive impact for most children. Behavior intervention, redirecting repetitive behaviors, as well as calming and preventing meltdowns are just some of the ways therapy dogs assist children. It is recommended for parents of children with autism to speak with their doctor about the benefits of therapy dogs and if it aligns with the child’s needs and abilities. Below are some of the advantages in integrating therapy dogs into sessions with children: Social Engagement: A therapy dog can assist in motivating a child to interact with their peers, focus on a task and divert attention away from negative behaviors. Calm During Meltdowns: In most cases a therapy dog can help reduce the severity or completely redirect the onset of a meltdown. The dog has the ability to sense the emotions of the child they are attending to and are trained to remain calm and be supportive during the tantrum. Cognitive and Emotional Growth: Therapy dogs promote positive feelings of love and care. The child has the ability to nurture that bond with the therapy dog by touching, cuddling and hugging. Sensory Support: A therapy dog can be trained to assist in various games and activities like hide and seek, tug of war and massage. Reducing Repetitive Motion: A well-trained therapy dog can recognize the onset of an episode and redirect the child. Children can spend less time exhibiting repetitive movements when a therapy dog is present in session. Improving Vocal Skills: Studies indicate that children speak more frequently when a therapy dog is around. The most significant and obvious advantage is the impact it can have in the promotion of speech. Companionship: One of the most fulfilling roles a therapy dog fills is that of a companion to the child. The therapy dog has the ability to bond with the child quickly and help them experience friendship. This will help the child in becoming comfortable around others.

What is “generalization” in ABA therapy, and why is it important?

What is “generalization” and why is it important? To generalize something is to be able to connect and apply one stimulus, or object, to a different, relatively similar stimulus. An example of this would be asking your child to bring you a fork from the drawer full of plastic and metal forks. If they were only taught that a fork was a metal object with prongs at the end, they would only bring you the metal one. If they had been taught that a fork is any object that is the same shape, regardless of material, color, or style, it would be generalized. This is why generalization is so important. They are aware even though one is plastic and one is metal, that they are both in fact, a fork.

Chaining – A Method Used in ABA Therapy

    What is “chaining?” When I first started as an ABA therapist, I quickly learned the term chaining. Chaining is a method to teach individuals a complex skill by breaking it down into smaller steps to achieve an ultimate goal. I had the opportunity to train at a home where a child was learning to brush his teeth. Forward chaining was used with this skill. The child would complete the first step independently, which in this case was grabbing his toothbrush. Then I would prompt (hold his hand and physically show him) the rest of the steps until he finished brushing his teeth. This was very beneficial to him because he began to learn the next steps in order and eventually could do most of it independently. It was amazing to see how much he learned everyday, and it was natural to him. The second type of chaining is backward chaining. In backward chaining, I would prompt all the steps in the skill, but the child would do the last step independently. A recent example that I helped teach was teaching a child his phone number. I would prompt the first six digits of the phone number and he would independently say the last four. After a few days, I would only have to prompt the first three numbers and he independently said the rest of it. Eventually he was able to say the entire phone number without any prompting. This was one of the few times I was able to experience teaching a skill using backward chaining. Both types of chaining were a learning experience for me and helped to introduce me to chaining, and how beneficial both can be.

Preparing Your Child For An ABA Therapy Session

  How to prepare your child for an ABA therapy session There are many things a parent can do to prepare their child for a productive ABA therapy session.  One of the most important things is to go out and purchase both edible and tangible reinforcers. In ABA therapy, we focus on positive reinforcement, or giving a reward for a desired behavior.  We praise your child for every little thing they do right, so the likelihood of it happening again is higher.  For these reinforcers to be at their strongest, these reinforcers also need to be withheld from your child outside of therapy.  Another important thing is to pick a low-traffic room of the house for therapy to occur in.  Eliminating distractions during therapy sessions also increases the likelihood of desired behavior to occur.  Lastly, establish a consistent routine with your child for eating, sleeping and his or her therapy schedule.  Routine is key to ensuring therapy sessions run smoothly.

Identifying Motivators & Preference Assessments

  Identifying Motivators & Preference Assessments As humans, we do things because we are motivated by something. We go to work because we get paid. We eat food because we are hungry. During a therapy session with a client, we want to make sure we know what is motivating to that client for that specific day. How do we identify a client’s reinforcers? We do a preference assessment! We complete these assessments because the client’s preference may be different depending on the day of the week, their mood, or time of day. We want to know what the client is motivated by that day so that they can perform at their best. Would you want to do something challenging for free? Probably not. How do we do a preference assessment? It is pretty simple. Before the therapy session begins, the client’s favorite snacks, foods, or toys are laid out in a row on the therapy table (4-6 items). Then the therapist asks, as they are pointing to the row of reinforcers, “What do you want?” The client then initiates their preference verbally, using a gesture, through eye gaze, or a vocalization depending on the client’s mode of communication. The client is then given that reinforcer and asked again, “What else do you want?” This procedure is repeated until the client chooses the 3 highest motivating reinforcers. Once the most motivating reinforcers are established, then the session can begin. Now, the therapist knows exactly what will be motivating for the client for that session.

How to Support Siblings of Children with Autism

How to Support Siblings of Children with Autism Did you know that children who grow up with special needs siblings often end up being more accepting, caring, compassionate and independent individuals?   In fact, a study published in 2006 called, “The Adjustment of Non-Disabled Siblings of Children with Autism” found that siblings of children with autism were much more likely to have positive view of their behavior, intelligence, scholastic performance and anxiety.   But it will not happen unless proper care and attention is afforded to them. This can be very tough at times, when home-based autism services and additional teaching or therapy is centered on one child. It’s vital for parents to share their attention, encourage communication and find a balance that fits the family. There are many things parents can do to empower and support each of their children, such as:   Make Individual Time for Each Sibling The most important support comes in the form of time and attention. The lack of these two things can leave children feeling neglected and overlooked. Thankfully, showing each one of your children that they are important is a simple task. It can be a fun activity you two do together or a special bedtime story. It can even just be parts of the day that you to watch TV, grocery shop or cook together and talk. Small (even 15-minute one-on-one sessions) will help each child feel valued and reinforce the idea that they are important and loved.   Be Fair There may be different expectations from each child, but there should also be a clear set of rules that everyone is expected to follow. If you discourage a bad behavior (such as yelling and throwing toys) for one of your children, you should not let another get away with it. Don’t just accept “that’s how it is.” If there are any adjustments made for one child, it’s very important to explain why this is the case.   Talk to Them about Their Feelings Negative feelings can build up in anyone, which is why it’s so important to keep lines of communication open. Having a brother with autism can be difficult for a child and cause them to build up feelings of concern, jealousy, anger, embarrassment, guilt and discouragement. Share your similar feelings with them and acknowledge their feelings even when it may be tough to hear. Be careful to communicate in a non-judgmental way and seek out opportunities and activities that will encourage them to express their feelings, such as drawing.   Allow Them to Make Decisions Another way to counteract negative feelings and frustration is by getting children involved with planning and allowing them to help in decision-making processes. Whether it’s choosing what to eat for dinner or where to go play on a Saturday, involving them in these simple decisions can have a wonderful impact. It not only shows that you care and are listening to them, but that their opinion is important and matters.   Seek a Support Network Friendship is a gift that lifts burdens. Friends can help children feel empowered and encouraged (not just a sibling of someone with autism), so it’s important to make time for these relationships to blossom. In addition, a support group can be largely beneficial for everyone—both parents and siblings. Joining a family support group or finding a sibling support group may be something worth trying.   If you are just in need of additional tools, be sure to look at the Organization for Autism Research’s “Autism Sibling Support” initiative and go to Autism Speaks to request A Sibling’s Guide to Autism.   If you have child with autism who is in need of extra support to overcome communication or learning challenges, we at ABC provide a wide range of autism therapy services, including ABA therapy.