Parent training is such an important part of any successful treatment plan for a child on the autism spectrum. Your child might receive daily or weekly ABA therapy sessions run in 1:1 format with a trained therapy service provider and while that’s a great way to expand your child’s skills and improve behaviors, making sure the parent receives support on implementing these taught strategies outside of the therapeutic setting is the very best way to get the most out of ABA therapy services. Parent training has a wealth of benefits and can be performed in many different ways. Improve your child’s communication skills Children on the autism spectrum can have difficulty expressing themselves and often engage in problem behaviors to get their wants and needs met. Through parent training we can teach parents and caregivers how to effectively teach communication skills that replace problem behaviors at home and in the community. When parents get involved in teaching communication skills it helps children to acquire those skills at much faster rates, as they will get a lot of practice with the skills at home and in their therapy sessions.Decrease Problem Behaviors With structured parent training sessions, parents and caregivers can learn how to carry out the same evidenced-based problem behavior reduction interventions that are being delivered by your ABA team. Support is available on how to handle your child’s problem behaviors. By undergoing parent training and assisting your team in carrying out the behavior reduction interventions, the treatment of problem behaviors will be more consistent and allow for faster elimination of problem behaviors. Learn to Promote Independence Children with autism easily become dependent on help from others and sometimes they do not have the skills necessary to perform tasks independently. A major focus in ABA therapy is to promote independence. Parents and caregivers can learn how to teach children daily living and self-help skills during parent training sessions which can improve the quality of life for the entire family. Consistency is Key Consistency is the key to having a successful treatment program. It is vital that parents, caregivers, teachers, therapists, and every person involved in a child’s ABA programming are consistent in the way that skills and replacement behaviors are taught. Collaborations can be accomplished through parent training. Everyone can learn and collaborate on ways to best teach children on the spectrum innovative skills they need to learn and grow. How can you become involved in parent training? Joining your child’s therapy sessions is the number one way to receive hands on training. Observe and participate! This is always encouraged. Doing so can allows for direct observation of skills being taught within therapy sessions and allows parents and caregivers the frequent opportunity to receive coaching and feedback from an Analyst. Schedule meetings with your child’s therapy team! Schedule to meet with your ABA therapy team frequently to discuss any concerns or newly arising events so that everyone is always up to date. Take notes. Learn. Grow. Your ABA team is here to help you and your child succeed and always enjoys collaborations. Don’t forget to work on skills at home! Working on skills at home can contribute to your child’s success by allowing more practice in the natural environment in which they are expected to perform these skills. The more practice, the more successful your child will be at developing and using those skills in the future. Staying involved pays off! If you have questions on parent training, please reach out to your child’s ABA therapist for more information. Guide by Ms.Michelle , RBT ABCS Senior Behavior Therapist
At Autism Behavior & Childhood Services, we are committed to providing quality ABA services to the communities we serve. In order to enhance these services and continue to strive for excellence, we recently held a 4-Day Professional Development Workshop Series for our team members.
Over the course of four days, our teams learned organizational and critical analytic skills such as ABCS Order of Operations, dealing with Severe Problem Behaviors, the ABC’s of Trauma, teaching key concepts such as Functional Communication Training, Treatment & Assessment of Children with Emotional & Behavioral Disorders, Collaboration and Feeding Protocols, and Parent Training Tools. Our presenters included Cristy, BCBA and President of ABCS, Daniel, Vice President of ABCS, Karina, BCBA and Michelle, RBT, Senior Behavior Therapist.
A special thank you to the Senior and Lead Therapist ( Liz, Robyn, Anissa, Vicky, Karina,& Michelle)for conducting daily 1-hour Group Workshops during our Professional Development Days that covered Data Collection, the RBT Task List, Session Flow and Flexibility, Self-Building, Communication, Self Esteem and Negativity in the Workplace concepts.
Thank you to the entire Team of ABCS for making our first Professional Development Workshop Series a HUGE success! We love to see our team collaborate, learn and grow together! #TeamWorkMakesTheDreamWork #ABCSSTRONG
The Fourth of July is a favorite summer event for many. It also presents with a sensory experience that sometimes lasts a few days. Fireworks can be heard down the block and even miles away. Sparklers sizzle everywhere and fill your vision with blinking lights. Large crowds fill many venues and backyards. You hear and see people talking, laughing and balancing multiple hot dogs on flimsy paper plates. There’s new smells and different tastes to experience. This can be challenging to children with special needs.
This doesn’t mean your family should stay home and miss out on all the fun. There are many ways to help your child have a sensory-friendly, meltdown-free Fourth of July. Check out these tips:
Prepare in Advance.
Ask your ABA team for a Fourth of July social story you can review with your child. Check out YouTube and search for firework displays you can watch with your child. You can also run a practice Barbecue at home to role play that situation as well.
Wear headphones. This can cancel out the sound component to the actual fireworks and has the ability to help your child become more tolerate of the display. Headphones can also had pressure, which can be very comforting.
Bring along a Preferred Item/ Activity. Having a favorite item or activity to distract your child from over-stimulation is a great way to provide comfort in an overwhelming situation.
Set a Timer for Firework Time. Some children like being prepared and setting a timer can help by eliminating the unpredictability of fireworks and their start time.
Take a test drive. For days prior to July 4th, celebrators light up the sky at random. Toss the kids in the car, roll the windows down and ride away in search of the big booms for practice.
Try a quiet firework. Sparklers can be purchased everywhere this time of year and are a great way to allow your child the opportunity to see the light without the loud noise of fireworks.
Join another special needs family. Adding a friend that has similar special needs to your child can lessen the burden of feeling singled out. Not only does it help your child feel less alone, but it also makes parents feel more at ease in public, too!
Have a Plan B. Whether its going home to do a different fun activity, such as staying up late in the backyard or watching the fireworks from the car, a plan B can make for a successful Fourth of July when needed.
Still don’t think your ready to bear the crowds and stimulations of the fireworks? Find a location nearby, like a playground that you can go to instead and still see the fireworks, or host a family and friend’s cookout to celebrate without leaving the comfort of your home. With the right preparations, your family can enjoy Fourth of July. Be creative and have fun! Wishing you all a happy and safe Fourth of July, Team ABCS Guide by Michelle O’Neill, RBT ABCS Senior Therapist
Overcoming Summer Challenges for the Special Needs Family Most people think of summer as some of the best months of their life. The weather is warm…the sun is hot…the event invites are strong. Of course, for families of young children, managing all of this can be quite the hurdle. Throw in a special needs diagnosis and the hurdles increase unimaginably. Luckily, families now have plenty of options for summer programs and even greater list of tips and tools to make summer less stressful.
Summer Challenges With summer comes more opportunities for unstructured periods of time and increased boredom. Add working parents into the mix and it’s a stressful rush to get kids into summer camps, sports and various activities to ensure supervision coverage. Parents of children with special needs often face very different challenges. Lack of Structure and Routine Structure and routine are often a must for children with disabilities. Life for them needs to be predictable and when it’s not, their world can feel as though it is crumbling to the ground. It happens every year…those few weeks between school services, such as Extended School Year, for example. Parents become stressed out as the sole support system for their child and their child becomes anxious with no rhyme or rhythm to their daily life after having it all school year. Decrease in Therapies and Supports Many children with special needs carry in-school services that are provided by their school districts. The supports provided at school can include anything from social work, speech therapy and occupational therapy minutes. It can also include a 1:1 aide that supports them day in and day out. At the end of the school year, these services tend to vanish, which is also why in-home therapies, such as ABA Therapy are vital to maintain throughout the entire year. Finding Appropriate Summer Programs Extended School Year (ESY) is often times provided by law through the school district based off your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) when it is determined that the child may regress during time away from school. Still, these services are often limited and even only provide half day opportunities for continued supports. Summer camps designated for the special needs community are limited and often come with a high price. Stressful Childcare Situations Daycares, nannies and babysitters alike all carry a certain challenge for the special needs family. Most of the time, these childcare options are ill-equipped to handle special needs children and it is often up to the parents to spend extra time and money training these providers or paying for already qualified providers. 9 times out of 10, a parent has to sacrifice income and work opportunities in order to stay home with their special needs child. Vacation Challenges Vacations are meant for relaxation…getting away from the stressors of everyday life. The challenges of leaving home with a special needs child are often overwhelming. When you think of managing travel times and methods, navigating hotels and restaurants, and finding special opportunities for fun for the whole family, vacation options feel very limited. Put into play the feeling of being judged in a whole new environment and the special needs parent/caretaker may actually need a vacation from their actual vacation! Overcoming Summer Challenges When push comes to shove, summer can actually be very predictable. Think about it. Summer comes at the same time every year and you know exactly how long its going to last in advance. This gives you time to get all your ducks in a row to ensure for a stress-free summer. Here are some helpful tips to help you manage your summer stresses and lead to a more successful year for your whole family.
Get an early start. Once you get your child’s school calendar, take notes! Start having conversations and making plans well in advance. It’s ok to be an overachiever in this area! Have those plans ready to go by April in order to slide in summer with less stress. Get the family involved, figure out sitters and outings, and strike up those conversations about increasing in-home supports with your therapy teams before their caseloads fill up.
Understand ESY Services. IEP meetings can be a blur. Extended School Year is often one of the last things discussed. Make sure you come prepared with a list of questions about your child’s ESY services and don’t be afraid to reach out to other parents and your child’s ABA team to make sure you fully understand what your child will receive at school over the summer!
Schedule a Summer Routine. A spontaneous summer is often not a good idea for children with special needs. Start making plans day-by-day and know what you will be doing with your family each day of the week. Create your own agenda and a visual schedule for your child so everyone knows what to expect. Get into the habit of going over the next day’s plan with both your family and your child. Your ABA team can help with details such as social stories and visuals that will best suit your child’s needs. And don’t forget to have alternate plans incase things come up that change your plans! Life happens…help your child plan for it!
Create a Support System. The keywords here are “divide and conquer”. Work up a plan to split the childcare with other family members and caretakers. Reach out to local parent support groups…they often get together for meetings and for outings/play groups with your child. Talk to friends. Consider a mother’s helper that can assist you in your presence. Most importantly, get your outside therapies involved. Increasing their services over the summer can help your child maintain vital skills during the summer months.
Carefully Plan Vacations. Going on vacation may seem like a mindless task, but for the special needs family, planning is a must! Stay on the look out for special needs friendly destinations. Look into inviting extended family members and friends to help out. Once you know where you’re venturing off to, ask your child’s ABA team for extra tips, visuals, schedules, and social stories to help your child prepare. Remember to know the daily schedule so you can assist your child in avoiding any meltdowns or set backs.
Learn to be your child’s therapist I's 100% ok to take on a therapist-like role as a parent of a child with special needs. You have to adapt to being your child’s best advocate, therapist, caregiver and parent. It’s a huge role to take on, but you were made for this! Do your research on various therapy options best utilized in the home so you can start implementing them in your everyday life. Talk to your parent support groups for guidance. ASK FOR PARENT TRAINING! Your child’s ABA team can be a crucial part of generalizing vital skills to you so you can be better equipped to work with your child.
Don’t forget about the “me time”! When you are a special needs parent, self care is a MUST! Don’t let burn out get to you. It can be frustrating balancing family life on top of having a special needs child and THAT’S OK! If you want to be your child’s best advocate, therapist, caregiver and parent, learn how to recharge your own batteries. Even if it’s a few minutes of meditation or hiring a sitter for a day so you can do what you love to do…DO IT! Don’t get overwhelmed in the everyday struggles of being a parent.
The most important thing to remember is that a successful summer with a special needs child IS possible. Plan ahead, seek assistance, prepare your child in advance, and learn how to manage tricky situations now. Once you have everything all lined up, you’ll do just fine this summer. Now that you have all the tips, start getting ready for a fun, less stressful summer with your special needs child! Guide by Ms. Michelle , RBT, ABCS Senior Therapist
Tips for Going to the Movies with a Special Needs Child Let’s face it. Summer is not always filled with all sunny, beautiful days and when you live in Chicago, there’s bound to be a few rainy days. You’ll want to go to the movies but…how exactly do you go about that with a special needs child? Don’t worry. There’s lots you can do to make this a fun experience for your family!
Get Your ABA Team Involved! We all wish we could take our therapists everywhere with us. I mean, they are amazing, but that’s just not realistic. However, you can ask for their help in the background for family outings. When it comes to movie outings, some of the things they can help with are social stories, visuals, and waiting programs.
Ask your team to create a social story for going to the movies that you can all review with your child.
Waiting is a part of almost every activity you will do with your child out in the community. Your ABA team can help work on waiting to avoid meltdowns while waiting in line for popcorn or waiting for the movie to start.
Get your team to create some visuals, such as a wait card and a “First__, Then__” visual. These can come in handy to give your child a visual to rely on when words alone are not enough.
Role Play Social Interactions During an outing, social interactions are bound to happen. This can be a barrier to the special need child so it pays to practice! For some children, they may require a simple script, but for others, you can incorporate various pretend play options.
Use a social story and act out all the steps in the story together with your child at home. This can help you figure out what more needs to be worked on before your outing.
Look up “going to the movies” on YouTube. You can easily find short video clips about going to the movies to review at home.
Take a trip to the theater before your big day! Walk around the lobby, say hi to the ticket taker, go to the bathrooms, and explore the arcade! This can help your child know what to expect and you can continue to role play at the theater as you go through all the motions.
Sensory-Overload Management This is one of the bigger obstacles to going to the movies with a special needs child. Movies are a HUGE sensory experience but this can be managed with a few thoughtful tips.
Be prepared with noise-cancelling headphones and sunglasses. This can help block out some of the over-stimulating lights and sounds at the theater.
Bring fidgets and special comforting objects. Sensory toolkits can be easily made and taken along to the movies! Pack a small bag of fidgets, toys, and perhaps a blanket for your child to be comforted by in the theater.
When push comes to shove, it’s ok to decide that you need to go to a special needs friendly movie event in order to make this outing a success. Look into sensory friendly movie showings such as AMC Sensory Friendly Films.
Have a Good Time and Celebrate Success!!!! Going to the movies can be a real challenge with a special needs child, but it doesn’t have to be a forbidden experience. With some planning and special accommodations, a trip to the movies can be a real breeze. Oh! And don’t forget to celebrate a successful outing with your child after the movie! Perhaps you can stop and get an ice cream on your ride home! Guide by Ms. Michelle, RBT
With so many different ABA providers out there, it’s important to know what to look for. You want a provider that provides a highly effective treatment model that is correctly utilized and produces the wonderful results that ABA often boasts. There’s plenty of research on the internet that may suggest that your child needs 40 hours a week, or that clinic-based therapy is the best, or RBT’s are a must…the research is endless.
So what should you be on the look out for?
All treatments in behavior analysis are individualized and research is the single subject design that sets ABA apart from most other therapies. When you’ve met one child with Autism, you’ve done just that, so treatment plans should be personalized to fit each child’s needs. Interventions MUST ALWAYS be research based. If you’re not sure, ASK!
DRIVEN BY ASSESSMENT
When you start with ABA Therapy, you’ll meet with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) that will conduct assessments that are most appropriate to your child’s needs. You may hear about the VB-MAPP, ABLLS, AFLS, PEAK, etc. These assessment tools will help your team determine what your child’s deficits and strengths are. The primary goal is to create programs that will work on decreasing your child’s deficits and reduce any gaps between strengths and weaknesses. The assessments completed with your child will help your BCBA make educated decisions about your child’s treatment goals. If you’re not sure about the assessments chosen, don’t forget to ask questions!
SHOW ME THE DATA
Every session your child has in ABA should include data. The data is collected on a wide-variety of things such as your child’s behavior, language skills, life skills, and responses to targeted program goals. Data is often reviewed daily to seek out trends that help predict that your child’s team is on the right treatment path. Your child’s therapist will be in close contact with their BCBA to seek guidance on their data trends. Changes will be made based on data collection and to ensure your child s making progress.
The most important thing to know about ABA is that skills must be generalized in order to be proven successful. Just because your child can brush their teeth during therapy sessions doesn’t mean they have the skill, but when they can brush their teeth in the natural home environment independently, that makes all the difference. It is important that all programs have access to generalization. This might require the involvement of parents, caretakers, siblings and other family members. Your child’s team will help guide you to generalize skills to make their treatment plan as successful as possible. You can also ask for Parent Training to enhance generalization of skills for the most optimal results for your child.
It’s ok to ask what type of training and background your ABA therapists have. Some may be backed by the RBT credential, some may have a variety of other credentials to back up the quality of services they provide and many others have years of hands-on experience. Ongoing practice in ABA therapy is the key to making sure an ABA therapist is well-trained for the position.
If you really want to be sure you are hiring a qualified ABA team, ask questions…lots of them. And if you’re still unsure, ask more questions. Go with your gut, but never forget about the research!
Guide by Ms. Michelle , RBT, Senior Behavior Therapist
Incase you haven’t heard, the Chicago White Sox opened their 2019 home season by expanding the team’s inclusion efforts with a brand new Sensory Room located in Suite 460 as a new amenity at Guaranteed Rate Field and we could not be more excited! Some of our team members were able to visit the suite on Sunday, May 5, 2019 and we’re ready to tell the world about it!
The Sensory Room includes a quiet space with amazing elements such as textured wall fixtures and specialized lighting. Miss Cristy, Miss Michelle and Miss Kathy from Team ABCS enjoyed playing with sensory toys, wall mazes, and walking across the padded flooring. The room also included weighted blankets, large bean bag chairs and a safe area for field viewing so parents, family members, and siblings don’t miss the game!
After collaborating with KultureCity, a nonprofit that certifies sensory inclusion, the Sox staff also received specialized training to help them identify guests with a variety of sensory needs, such as those with Autism, PTSD, and dementia, so they can increase their ability to accommodate such guests. Sensory bags are also available at Guest Services on each level that include noise-cancelling headphones, fidget tools, and even verbal cue cards! But wait! It gets better…all of these amenities are FREE!
A big SHOUT OUT to The Chicago White Sox for expanding on Autism Awareness efforts and for allowing Team ABCS to take a tour of this awesome resource for our clients!
For more information about services for those with disabilities provided by the Chicago White Sox, please visit www.whitesox.com/inclusion Resources:
6 Tips for Creating a Therapy-Ready Home So your ready to start in-home ABA therapy, what next? Starting in-home therapy can feel like an overwhelming process and you may not know exactly what needs to be done to prepare. Take a deep breath! Here is an easy guide for parents/caregivers to use to get their home ready for therapy.... Tip #1 Create a space in your home specifically designated for therapy. This can be in your child’s bedroom, a spare room or even an office space. You will want a small work table, cubbies/storage space for therapy materials, and plenty of floor space. Having a safe and fun place for therapy can help your child and their team feel comfortable during their therapy sessions! Tip #2 Purchase rewards/reinforcers for your child to utilize during their ABA therapy sessions. Reinforcement is a vital part of ABA therapy. It gives your child rewards for their successes and helps your child and therapist pair in a positive way. When your child has access to positive reinforcement, they will have higher rates of reaching their goals! Tip #3 Get involved! Parental involvement is crucial to your child’s therapeutic outcomes. Talk to your child’s ABA team about ways you can join in on therapy. If you feel you could benefit from individual Parent Training with your child’s team, don’t be afraid to inquire! When you get involved, your child has a better change at generalizing skills outside of therapy, leading to even more success! Tip #4 Talk to your family about their role in your child’s therapy. Perhaps you have other children that may interfere. You’ll want to make a plan to ensure they do not interrupt when it’s not appropriate. It’s also important to talk to other adults in home about their role in therapy. Your family should all be on the same page with your child’s ABA team. Using different methods of reinforcement, levels of demand placements, and interactions with your child could lead to reduced effectiveness of treatment, confusion and difficulty in learning for your child. Tip #5 Ensure collaborations! Your child may receive a variety of outside therapies. You’ll want to make a plan to get everyone linked together. Look into signing release of information documents so all your child’s teams can communicate together. Share evaluations and progress notes with all therapists involved. You could even consider scheduling meetings in your home for all therapists to come together for collaborations that can increase your child’s progress and ensure goals do no unnecessarily overlap. Tip #6 Relax! Having therapists in your home sounds like an overwhelming invasion of your personal space, but it’s not what it seems. Therapists are very mindful and respectful when they enter into your territory. They have been trained to work in the home environment and understand what it takes to make this a positive experience for everyone in your home! At ABCS, we have an experienced team of ABA professionals that are eager to review the start-up process with you and review any additional ways you can help to ensure your child’s therapy needs are met every step of the way. If you have any questions about starting ABA therapy, please feel free to give us a call at (312) 420-2093 Guide by Ms. Michelle , RBT ABCS Senior Behavior Therapist