Parents are faced with a constant bombardment of decisions for their children every day — what snacks to eat, which schools to attend, which pediatrician to see — the list is endless. When your child is diagnosed with autism, you are faced with an entirely new list of important decisions. One of those may be whether (or when) to pursue early intervention ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy. The sooner your child begins ABA therapy, the sooner they can pursue an independent and fulfilling life.
The neuroplasticity of a child’s brain before the age of three is uniquely positioned to be more receptive to teaching, specifically associated with the domains of cognition, adaptive behavior, and language. Early intervention, therefore, is imperative in shaping the brain to be receptive to the social world.
Claire Ellis, M.S., BCBA, LBA, National Director of Clinical Training & Development at Acorn Health, goes through what you should know about early intervention ABA therapy as you go through your decision-making processes:
What Is Early Intervention ABA Therapy?
First off, it’s helpful to understand that autism is a behavioral diagnosis, which means your child was diagnosed with autism based on what they are doing or not doing. The best course of action for kids is to begin ABA therapy as soon as those deficits are identified so you have the highest potential for success.
Because a child’s brain development is so rapid and evolving at these young ages (as early as 18 months), therapists have the greatest opportunity to change their behavioral development and remediate delays. ABA therapy targets cognitive, gross and fine motor, communication, daily living and play and social skills, among many other skills.
At Acorn Health, a Behavior Analyst works with parents to help assess their child’s behavioral repertoire and will make a recommendation about which type of treatment approach will help the child meet his or her goals.
There are two different approaches to early intervention ABA therapy:
- Comprehensive therapy: This encompasses goals across a wider range of developmental domains and typically includes 25-40 hours of therapy per week. Most early intervention therapy programs are within this comprehensive approach.
- Focused: This approach is typically needed when a limited number of behavioral goals have been identified and usually requires 10-20 hours per week until behavioral goals have been mastered.
What to Expect During Early Intervention ABA Therapy
While early intervention therapy can be performed in either a highly structured setting or a more naturalistic setting such as a play environment, the most important aspect is that your child is relaxed and engaged. Our goal is to teach from joy — all children deserve to have access to enjoyable learning opportunities. The key to success for parents and children is consistency, whether it is 10 or 40 hours of therapy per week.
Together with your child’s therapy team you will work toward multiple, individualized goals. Your child and their therapy team will utilize your child’s treatment plan and collect data along the way on all target objectives. All along the way we will seek your input and feedback as we know that parents are the ultimate experts in their child’s care.
Your child’s goals will focus on increasing occurrences of desired behaviors and decreasing occurrences of undesired behaviors. Your child will learn important functional skills and work toward decreasing the intensity of lifelong services they may need in the future.
Many parents want to know how they will know if therapy is working, or how long it will take to notice improvements. This answer is highly dependent on their own child’s therapy plan and his or her impacts of autism. We will celebrate with you and your child as both big and small steps toward progress are made.
Early intervention ABA therapy will also teach parents how to teach their children how to learn appropriate behaviors in their own natural environment. Families can “graduate” from therapy once children are able to acquire new skills at an appropriate rate.
Choosing to pursue this type of therapy for your child allows you to give your child the tools they need to be their best selves in educational settings and later in their adult lives. Watching a child learn and grow, no matter what their obstacles may be, is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give.
If you would like more information about the benefits of early intervention ABA therapy, contact our admissions team at (844) 244-1818 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.