How to Coordinate ABA Therapy with your Healthcare Team

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How to Coordinate ABA Therapy with your Healthcare Team

Posted on: November 18th, 2019 by Autism Therapy Group

 

A conversation with Matthew Nordman, BCBA, Regional Director for The Autism Therapy Group

 

Q: Why is it important for parents to keep their BCBA informed about their child’s overall healthcare needs? For example, do BCBA’s need to know about things like routine doctor visits?

 

Matthew: Parents want the best care for their child, of course. And that means doing all they can to ensure that their child is getting the highest quality care across every area of their life. This is much easier said than done.

 

I mean, parents of all children have to deal with healthcare situations that are challenging. Taking their child to the dentist to get their teeth cleaned or taking them to vaccination appointments can present a behavior landmine for any parent. But, for parents of children with autism, these types of situations are even more challenging.

 

So, often the first thing parents look for when reaching out to their BCBA for help with other healthcare appointments, is behavioral support. And, that’s great. We can absolutely support parents in that way.

 

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was working with a child who needed to get some vaccinations. Based on past experience, the parents were concerned about how their child would behave at the doctor’s office. Because they talked with me beforehand, I was able to provide support in the form of implementing preventative strategies into the child’s ABA therapy sessions.

 

Q: When it comes to ensuring that their child gets the highest level of care, are there things other than behavior that parents can rely on their BCBA for assistance?

 

Matthew: Absolutely. In fact, many of the kids we work with don’t really have behavioral issues in healthcare situations. But, for most parents, having the insight and opinion of their BCBA makes their job much easier.

 

ABA therapy is evidence based and a huge part of the process is collecting data. BCBAs create a plan for each child based on recorded data about how they behave. Over time, the BCBA records changes in the child’s behavior and makes adjustments to their therapy plan accordingly.

 

So, while behavioral support is a huge part of that, BCBAs can also arm parents with the data and information they need to make informed decisions about their child’s care. This is especially important when it comes to working with the child’s school and, if they are seeing one, the child’s psychiatrist.

 

In IEP meetings, the parent often has to advocate for their child to get the services they need. If the BCBA is involved, they can offer guidance, observations, and hard data to demonstrate why the child needs particular accommodations or support. Sometimes this means talking with the parents and arming them with the right information so that the parent can advocate for their child on their own. And sometimes this means having the BCBA attend IEP meetings. Outside of the home, the child’s school is usually the biggest influence in the child’s life. So, coordinating ABA therapy with the care they receive at school is extremely important.

 

It’s also really important to have the BCBA involved in psychiatrist appointments. Although the BCBA may not always be able to physically attend the appointment with the parent (but it does still happen when necessary), we can still always equip the parent with data that will have a direct influence over psychiatric treatment.

 

Let’s say a psychiatrist asks a parent if their child is still hitting. A BCBA is able to provide data that’s much more specific than a simple “yes” or “no”. For example, “Two months ago the child was hitting at a rate of 4 times an hour, but this month the average is only 1 1/2 times and hour.”

 

Another thing that comes up a lot is a child who behaves well in the psychiatrist’s office, while acting out aggressively at home. In those kinds of situations, the BCBA can provide documentation of behavior that the psychiatrist wouldn’t have access to otherwise. In general, psychiatrists appreciate that level of involvement from a child’s BCBA.

 

Q: Are there any situations in which the BCBA might accompany parents to healthcare appointments outside the home?

 

Matthew: In general, insurance companies won’t cover the cost of having a BCBA accompany the child in community settings. This means that if a parent wants their BCBA to come with them as they take their child to an IEP meeting or to a doctor’s office visit, they have to pay out of pocket. Most parents simply can’t afford that.

 

At ATG, when there is a situation in which the best thing for the child is for their BCBA to go with them to a school or healthcare appointment, we do it even if the insurance won’t cover it and the family can’t afford it. We are serious about providing the level of support that our clients need and will do so regardless of insurance red tape and financial impediments.

 

But, in most situations, it’s not necessary for the BCBA to go with the child to outside appointments. There is a lot that a BCBA can do before the appointment to prepare the child and the parent. For example, ABA therapy might include a lot of social skills training aimed directly at helping the child know how to behave in situations that are unexpected or that come with a lot of sensory input.

 

The BCBA will often also work with the parents, coaching them and offering advice for how to handle their child in a particular setting or situation. We can provide more support than most parents think in helping them understand what treatment options might be in the best interest of their child.

 

Q: Do parents usually understand the level of support they can receive from their BCBA before their child gets started with ABA therapy?

 

Matthew: In almost all cases, when parents first start working with a BCBA they vastly underestimate the power of that relationship. They are often also surprised to learn how many hours of ABA is recommended and how involved their BCBA can be in supporting the child’s care outside of the home.

 

At ATG, these are things that we communicate during the assessment process and parents are usually very pleasantly surprised. We also do our best to schedule a school observation along with the initial assessments and gather information about any other treatment the child is receiving. We ask questions to understand how the child behaves all these situations and what the parent’s challenges are in managing their child’s care.

 

What most parents don’t realize at the beginning of ABA therapy is how central the relationship with the BCBA will become to all aspects of the child’s development. I mean, it doesn’t do the family a lot of good if ABA therapy only applies to the child’s behavior inside the home. All the skills learned in ABA therapy must be generalized to the outside world.

 

One thing that’s important for parents to understand is that ABA therapy is evidenced based. So, if the parent wants their BCBA to implement a strategy for which there is no clear evidence for how it supports ABA therapy, the therapist is not likely to implement it into their therapy sessions. For example, swim therapy is popular with many parents of children with autism but there isn’t evidence that swim therapy directly supports ABA therapy. So, even if a parent wanted their BCBA to implement swim therapy into ABA therapy, the BCBA would not be able to do so.

 

The most important thing for parents to know is how important it is to provide their child’s BCBA with information about every kind of care the child is receiving even if they think it doesn’t apply to ABA therapy. We can often offer advice and support that will benefit the child’s overall care to a significant degree.

 

We are here to support families and their children in every way we can.

 

How to involve your ABA team in the IEP process

Posted on: October 4th, 2019 by Autism Therapy Group

 

We receive a lot of questions from parents about IEP plans. The whole process can be complicated and overwhelming, and it’s challenging to know if your child is receiving all the options they are entitled to. Furthermore, it’s sometimes difficult for parents to understand how they can create consistency for their child as they transition between the school and home environments.

 

To help answer these questions, we sat down with Karyn Olzak, who is one of our amazing clinicians here at The Autism Therapy Group. We asked Karyn how and why parents should get their ABA team involved in the IEP process and what parents need to know about advocating for quality, consistent care and education.

 

Q: What is an IEP and what is involved in creating an IEP for a child?

 

Karyn: IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan and it’s a requirement that must be fulfilled before a child is eligible to receive special education services. The first step is for the child to be evaluated by the school’s special education team who determine the child’s eligibility and then develop an IEP for the child.

 

The IEP can cover a lot of different aspects of the child’s education, but the overall goal is for all the pieces – from test results to special accommodations to progress markers – to come together and create the best possible education plan for the child. Most special education teams rely heavily on the parents’ input during this process and will set up a meeting with the parents to develop an individualized education plan with their input. Once a year, parents will attend the annual IEP meeting to review the child’s progress and develop new goals.

 

For many parents these meetings can feel stressful or overwhelming. It’s not only important for the parents to know what to expect from the IEP process, but to also have an idea about their rights and expectations. For parents who are already working with a BCBA, it’s very important to get them involved right away.

 

Q: Why is it important for the parents to get their child’s BCBA involved in the IEP process?

 

Karyn: The parents are the key players on the IEP team and the BCBA’s role throughout the process is to support them in advocating for their child and ensuring that the child receives the highest quality care. These meetings can feel intimidating to parents because they often involve a lot of different people. Sometimes parents don’t know the things they can and can’t ask for or what their rights are. This is especially true if they are new to special education.

 

The BCBA has likely been through this process many times and can really help to advise the parents about what they can and should expect, and encourage them to voice their goals and dreams for their child. The IEP process is complicated and the BCBA can be a tremendous support for both the parents and the child. Most parents appreciate having someone else there who knows their child and is able to express the challenges and progress of the child inside the home and what they expect to see for the child in the future.

 

It’s also important for the BCBA to be involved to ensure clarity and consistency. In most cases, consistency is one of the most important aspects of a child’s progress. It’s in the child’s best interest for everyone involved in their life to be on the same page, focused on similar goals, and working on the same behavior plan.

 

As progress is being examined throughout the year, the BCBA can offer insights into what they are working on at home, how the child has progressed outside of school hours, and how behavior modifications are evolving. All of these things contribute to new goals so that the IEP is not only consistent across all aspects of the child’s life, but a fluid process that is able to adjust to the changing needs of the child.

 

Q: How does being involved in the IEP process affect the work that the BCBA does with the child outside of school hours?

 

Karyn: Many of the kids we work with have a difficult time transferring skills from one setting to another without specific training. If the BCBA knows that the special education staff is working on specific skills during the school day, they can work with the child to see how those skills transfer into the home and even the community.

 

Teaching kids how to demonstrate the same skills in a variety of settings is not only important for creating consistency, it also allows the BCBA to support the work of the special education staff.

 

Q: How does being involved in the IEP process affect the goals and outcomes of the IEP?

 

Karyn: In most situations, BCBA’s are working very closely with parents. As a result, when BCBA’s are included in IEP meetings, they can provide support in making sure that the plan’s goals are aligned with what the parents want to see. They can also advocate for accommodations that might benefit their child by encouraging the parents to ask for what they think their child needs.

 

In many cases, the BCBA is there during IEP meetings to really listen, make sure that they are getting important school information, and have a clear understanding of how the special education staff is working with the child.

 

Q: A common theme I’m hearing throughout this conversation is the importance of consistency.

 

Karyn: Yes! It’s so important for children with autism to receive consistency of care. If everyone involved in educating and supporting the child’s growth has similar goals, the child will progress faster. That’s the simple truth.

 

The special education staff, BCBA, parents, and any other caretakers need to know that they aren’t overwhelming and confusing the child by having different goals and expectations in different situations. There must be a focus on skills being transferred and generalized from one setting to another. That’s really is key. The ideal situation is for everyone in the child’s life to be on the same page, teaching the same replacement behaviors and following a similar reactive plan.

 

How can we help you?

 

For more information about The Autism Therapy Group and what makes us different, please click here.

 

For questions about how we can support you and our child, please contact us. We are always happy to talk with you.

How to be an Active Participant in your Child’s Therapy Services

Posted on: September 11th, 2019 by Autism Therapy Group

 

Every single day, we meet with parents of children with autism who want what every other parent on the planet wants – to do all they can to set their child up for success. In many cases, the parents are stressed, overwhelmed, and struggling to do what’s right for their child while managing their many other responsibilities.

 

We sat down with Lisa Guerrero, M.Ed, BCBA, the Regional Director of Texas for The Autism Therapy Group to talk about how parents can be an active participant in their child’s therapy sessions and the options they have when time and resources are tight.

 

Q: In most cases, what is an ideal level of parent involvement in ABA therapy?

 

Lisa: Ideally, we want the parents or primary caretakers to be as involved as possible during ABA therapy sessions with their child. We always schedule a meeting with them prior to the first therapy session so that we can go over the treatment plan, answer questions and clarify expectations. We also spend a lot of time talking with parents about how the treatment plan will be implemented.

 

This is an important first step, because in order for the parents to be successful participants in the therapy sessions, they have to understand the treatment plan.

 

Once sessions with the child begin, we prefer for parents to be readily available to observe what the therapist is doing and how the treatment plan is being implemented. We encourage them to ask a lot of questions. As therapists, when a parent is willing to ask a lot of questions, it helps us know that they are really engaged in the process and ensures that we can clear up any misunderstandings or incongruities about the strategies being implemented.

 

That said, we don’t expect the parents to be present for the entirety of every session, which generally lasts several hours. But it IS extremely helpful for parents to be available to come and go throughout the sessions. This allows the therapist to call them in when they want the parent to observe or model an intervention.

 

Q: Why is it important that parents and caretakers be involved in their child’s therapy?

 

Lisa: ABA therapy is a 24/7 strategy. But, even in intensive therapy situations, the therapist is only there for a few hours each day. It’s up to the parents and caretakers to maintain the consistency of the treatment plan even when the therapist isn’t there.

 

Consistency is extremely important to the success of ABA therapy. If the parents and caretakers don’t understand the treatment plan, the child will not be as successful. ABA therapy is not the kind of thing that the child is engaged in for a few hours before returning to “normal” life. The treatment plan must become the foundation of all the interactions the child has with everyone in their life.

 

Q: What do you do in situations where the parent simply can’t be there during every session?

 

Lisa: Often, parents can’t be available for the entirety of every situation because they are at work or managing activities with their other children. In those cases, we try to schedule appointments with the parents outside of the sessions with their child, at a time that’s convenient for them.

 

These meetings are an opportunity to talk to parents about what we have been doing with their child during ABA therapy sessions, including the things we’ve been training the child’s other caregivers to do. We ask the parents questions such as, “Have you seen them {the caregiver} modeling this behavior with your child? Have they shown you how to implement this particular strategy?”

 

Whenever we train a nanny or family member on aspects of the child’s treatment plan, we always leave notes for the parents instructing them to watch the caretaker to see what they are doing with the child. This helps ensures a higher level of consistency in the child’s treatment.

 

As I said earlier, it’s critical that everyone who is involved in caring for the child is on the same page. Consistency is key when it comes to the success of ABA therapy.

 

Q: If the family has other children, is it important for them to be involved in the therapy plan as well?

 

Lisa: Everyone who is involved in the life of a child in ABA therapy will benefit from being trained in the strategies the therapist is implementing with the child. It’s a family effort. It’s in everyone’s best interest to be an active participant in the therapy plan.

 

When everyone is involved, the child will experience faster progress and more overall success. However, the level of involvement from other children depends largely on their ages. This is one of the things we assess and talk with parents about right from the start.

 

Q: How do you and the other therapists at The Autism Therapy Group involve parents in their child’s treatment plan right from the start?

 

Lisa: In most cases we conduct a thorough intake with families before we even do the first assessment with the child. This is a good opportunity to set expectations about parent and caretaker participation. At that time, if there are going to be any barriers to participation, we work out a plan for how to deal with those barriers in light of what’s best for the child and the family.

 

Most parents who are seeking out ABA therapy not only understand that their involvement is necessary – they want and expect to be involved. They already understand the level of dedication to really see progress and are willing to do what they need to do for the success of their child.

 

That said, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits all approach. Every situation is different, and so we try very hard to be very flexible to what the child and the family needs and work within the time and resources that the family has. Whenever possible, we arrange treatment sessions to ensure that there is consistency across all situations and with all the different people that are involved in the child’s life.

 

For example, if a grandparent is the primary caretaker of the child several days a week, we do our best to schedule some sessions during the times when the grandparent is there. Again, consistency is key to success.

 

Q: What is the most important thing you want parents to understand about their involvement in their child’s ABA therapy?

 

Lisa: ABA therapy produces significant long-term benefits if parents and caretakers can manage to devote a lot of time up front. All the time spent now will serve to reduce stress and time-consuming behaviors, like temper tantrums, later on. That’s one of the most important things for parents to understand. If they put the effort in up front, they will reap the benefits later.

 

It’s also very important that parents understand the different variables that may come into play and how important it is to be open and honest with their child’s therapist. Many parents are working full time jobs, parenting other children, and managing busy lives with multiple responsibilities. Maintaining a consistent treatment plan is easier said than done! It’s very easy to become discouraged and overwhelmed.

 

Because of this, it’s extremely important that lines of communication are open between the child’s therapist, parents and other caretakers so that we can adjust the plan if something isn’t working.

 

We want the plan to be a positive experience for everyone involved!

Top Questions You Should Ask an ABA Provider

Posted on: August 9th, 2019 by Autism Therapy Group

 

For parents and caretakers of a child with autism, finding a high quality, long-term ABA partner who can accommodate your child’s changing clinical needs and support your family can be a challenging, overwhelming responsibility.

 

To help navigate the road towards quality care and narrow the broad landscape of information to the most critical areas, we asked our clinical team a simple question: “What would YOU ask an ABA provider if one of your loved ones had autism?”

 

Here is what they said.

 

Q: Do you require all your one-on-one therapy staff to maintain RBT credentials?

 

A: Yes! It’s mandatory for all newly hired therapists to attain their RBT certification within 90 days of their start date. As an organization, we provide the training and resources our therapists need to achieve this nationally recognized certification, ensuring that every one of our clinicians is equipped to consistently provided high quality therapy.

 

Maintaining the standard of RBT (Registered Behavior Technician) certification is a promise to our clients that our clinicians practice under the highest standards of care in the industry. To obtain an RBT certification, clinicians must meet age and education requirements, submit to an extensive background check, complete a 40-hour training course, pass a competency assessment, and a comprehensive final examination. In addition, RBT certified clinicians must adhere to a strict code of ethics covering responsible conduct, their responsibility to clients, and competence and service delivery standards.

 

RBT training covers primary tasks that are likely to be performed in the course of ABA therapy and includes education in Measurement, Assessment, Skill Acquisition, Behavior Reduction, Documentation and Reporting, and Professional Conduct and Scope of Practice. Therapists learn ABA techniques that encourage communication, social, and everyday living skills and reduce problematic behaviors.

 

In addition to the extensive support and ongoing training we provide to every one of our therapists, the RBT process gives the clinicians the training and tools to help every child they work with succeed.

 

Q: How many clients do your BCBAs supervise on average?

 

A: Our primary focus is to offer parents of children with autism the best possible resources so that their child can thrive. In order to achieve this goal, our BCBAs are only asked to work with clinically responsible caseloads.

 

Unfortunately, overworked therapists are a serious problem in our industry. Burnout from being tasked with an overwhelming case load is a primary cause of turnover within ABA therapy providers. As a parent, receiving a new therapist every few months can be difficult for your family and detrimental to the progress of the child.

 

To address this, we’ve committed to do everything we can to ensure that our therapists have a sustainable work-life balance. This is the right thing to do for our people, but also the right thing to do for our clients because it allows us to deliver the highest standard of care.

 

This quality over quantity approach is in line with our child-first philosophy and gives our therapists the room to do what’s right for the child without being driven by billable hours. In addition, by pledging to be an organization that works hard to not overload our therapists, we are able to attract the best clinical talent.

Q: Do you offer in-home ABA therapy?        

 

A:Yes! At ATG, we take concierge care approach to the treatment of autism, which simply means that we don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all solution. From the moment we first talk to a parent, through the full course of therapy, and into discharge planning, we are focused on taking a thoughtful, personalized approach to each child.

 

Our aim is to impart each child with skills and behaviors that can be applied in the “real world”. As your child progresses, we show them how to use their new skills and behaviors in other settings and situations.

 

Q: Do you offer financial counseling and/or assistance for families who qualify?

 

A: We are committed to maintaining a child-first philosophy that allows our therapists the room to do what’s right for the child without being driven by billable hours. We don’t believe that financial burdens and insurance red tape should keep children from getting the care they need.

 

To ensure that all families have access to quality care, we provide free insurance verification and dedicated financial consultations, insurance advocacy, and grant application assistance at no cost to all of our clients.

 

In the states that participate in a Health Insurance Marketplace (Affordable Care Act) we have a directory of insurance specialists, lawyers, and clinicians that can provide a diagnosis for your child to qualify for care.

 

Q: Do you have restrictions on client ages or hours?

 

A: As an organization, we do not have any regulations on the age of a child who begins therapy with us or the number of hours a week that the child needs to receive the highest quality of care. Instead, we take a concierge approach to ABA therapy, creating a program that is suited to each child’s situation and needs.

 

In most cases, as a child gets older and experiences success with ongoing ABA therapy, the family will begin to see lower hours authorized from your insurance carrier. For many children, this decrease is in-line with the needs of the child. In the instances when the child’s needs would be better met with a continued high level of care, we are committed to working with families to find the best possible solution.

 

What other questions can we answer for you?

 

To learn more about us and better determine if ABA Therapy is right for your child, please call us at (224)509-5608 or (847)465-9556.

 

Or send us an email at info@TheAutismTherapyGroup.com. We are always happy to talk with you and will do everything we can to provide you with the information and resources you need to access the highest quality care for your child.

 

Practicing Social Skills with Your Child

Posted on: November 14th, 2016 by Autism Therapy Group

social-skills

Understanding social cues and having appropriate social skills is incredibly important yet challenging for those with special needs. Just like with any skill, practice makes perfect – check our list of activities you can practice with your child to enhance his or her awareness of social cues and allow your child to run through these actions in a safe and supportive environment.

Not only will practicing these skills be a bonding experience with your child, but it will show him or her that you care while boosting confidence.
 
Interpreting emotions
 

No matter where your child goes – home, school, the cafeteria, playground, soccer field, or out at the mall – it’s imperative to be able to pick up on emotions and understand them correctly. By understanding emotional faces and body language, your child will be able to appropriately respond to various social situations.
 

Imitation:
 
A simple way to work on emotions if to make a face or show body language associated with a certain feeling; then have your child imitate you. You can start off with something silly and goofy to keep the mood light and fun.

imitation
 

Understanding idioms
 

Picking up on idioms can be challenging for children, and for those on the autism spectrum, idioms are downright confusing. To help your child understand the difference between a literal statement and an idiom and to understand what those idioms mean, try some activities with them.

 

  • Books:
  •  

  • Take a trip your library and check out books on idioms. Try this list for a great, fun way to teach idioms from The Best Children’s Book site.
  • books

 

Eye contact
 

Establishing solid eye contact creates interest in conversation and shows confidence. Try these activities to practice strong and appropriate eye contact.
 

  • Sticker on the forehead:
  •  

  • This idea comes from Children Succeed. Put a sticker in the middle of your forehead (you can use a sticker of eyes if you want!) and encourage your child to look at the sticker during conversation. Many people find direct eye contact intimidating, so this is a great stepping stone to train them to look in the right direction in a less threatening way.
  • eye-contact

 

  • Staring contest:
     

    When practicing social skills, why not make a game or contest out of it? Have a friendly staring contest with your child, or if he or she is competitive, it could turn into a serious competition! Let the games begin.

How do you practice social skills with your child? What activities or strategies work for you?

Autism Resources for Teachers

Posted on: November 14th, 2016 by Autism Therapy Group

teachers

When it comes to school, students are often with their teachers for more time than they are with their parents.  For parents of children with autism, their teachers’ understanding of autism, how to reach and challenge their child, and how to meet their child’s emotional and social needs are especially important.

Use these resources complied by the National Education Association to stay comprised on all things autism, from general information and instructional methods to helpful techniques and activities and materials, this will be your ultimate go-to list for helpful information.
 
AUTISM INFORMATION
 

 

INSTRUCTIONAL METHODS AND HELPFUL TECHNIQUES
 

 

ACTIVITIES AND MATERIALS
 

 

© Created especially by ASA for use by the NEA and its members. Resources are listed in accordance with ASA’s Options Policy.

As a teacher, how do you meet the needs of your autistic students? What training, development, or resources do you find helpful?