Maintaining ABA Therapy Progress Over the Summer Months - Acorn Health

June 23, 2022

Maintaining ABA Therapy Progress Over the Summer Months

School’s out for summer and that means there is lots of time for sprinklers, popsicles and lazy afternoons with family and friends. Kids and parents alike are thrilled with warmer temperatures, summer vacations and all the joy and memories that come with summer break. If ABA therapy is a part of your child’s therapy plan, the good news is that their schedule should look pretty similar throughout the summer as it did during school months. Your child can continue the positive momentum they’ve created throughout the year, while also enjoying warmer temperatures and summer memories, too.

While some parents initially think that their child may get a break from ABA therapy during the summer just like they do with school, in actuality, ABA therapy needs to be consistent throughout the year so that your child can keep up their skills and continue to progress toward their goals.

Focusing on Social Skills

While it is unlikely your child regresses in skills relating to ABA therapy since their therapy will be ongoing, it is possible that you could notice a regression in social skills. Because your child isn’t in their normal daily school environment around peers everyday, they may not be experiencing the same level of interaction as they did during school months. That said, many summer activities naturally incorporate social interactions that can be beneficial and low pressure for your child. Examples include going to playgrounds or the swimming pool together. They may run into a classmate or peer that they start to play with, leveraging their social skills and putting them to practice in their natural environment.

Increasing Your Child’s ABA Therapy Schedule

One benefit of the flexibility the summer brings is that some families are no longer restricted to certain schedules and can use more daytime hours to achieve their program goals. Over the summer months, some families may choose to increase their learner’s schedule in hours, especially for those who have an hour prescription that isn’t able to be met during the school year due to time constraints. 

Signs of Dropped Skills

Are you concerned your child has or may drop skills over the summer months? There are signs to look for that could help you identify that happening sooner than later. One of the clearest signs that a skill is regressing is if the child fails to utilize a skill under conditions in which it was previously taught. For example, if a learner was taught to wash their hands after using the bathroom and maintained the skill for several weeks after learning it, but the parent observes them skipping this part of the toileting routine. This is a clear sign the learner might need a few booster teaching sessions. There could be several reasons why this happens, including:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Faulty stimulus control
  • Absence of reinforcement

Most importantly, when you notice skills dropped when you are around your child, bring it up at the next family guidance meeting so that you can work with your BCBA to help your child.

How to Prevent Dropped Skills

While this article has described reasons it is unlikely your child experiences dropped skills learned in ABA therapy, there are ways parents can help prevent dropped social skills or skills grounded in school-based education. Here are some ways parents can help their child stay on track:

  • Keep up a consistent schedule at home throughout the summer. Consistency is very beneficial for children with autism and helps them understand what to expect to happen next in their day, creating consistency and predictability. That could look different for every family, but as an example, could look like:
    • Brush teeth
    • Eat breakfast
    • Walk outdoors
    • Help parents with chores
  • Focus on social interactions that happen during the summer months to prevent that type of dropped skills specifically. That could look like ensuring your child attends baseball games, ice cream outings, swimming at the community pool, playing at the park or playing in the sprinkler with neighbors. All of these summer social experiences are possibilities based on your child’s comfort level and preferences, but can be fun for families to enjoy together, too!
  • Create a visual calendar to describe what to expect each day, both within your child’s expected routine and outside of it. Post the calendar in a common family gathering area so other members of the family can help your child navigate the schedule throughout the day.
  • Ask your BCBA what skills you can work on outside of therapy, how they should be addressed, and how often. Your BCBA will then work with you to develop a plan for maintaining skills between therapy sessions. It may mean that over the summer months your family plan gets adjusted slightly to accommodate your availability to work with your child more during the day. 
  • As always, reinforce positive behaviors that you see. The more this can occur, the better.

As with all other family members, summertime is a time to enjoy being together as a family, neighborhood and community. It is an ideal setting for your child to have opportunities to enjoy some downtime that they may not normally get during the school year. By incorporating some of these tips, and including schedules and predictability where you can, it means that your child can experience an enjoyable and productive summer. 

Between the demand for ABA therapy services, individual assessments, and clinical capacity, it can take several weeks to move through the necessary steps from initial inquiry to receiving services. If you are thinking about your ABA therapy needs and fall 2022, please contact us now at (844) 244-1818 to begin the process.