Families of children with autism spectrum disorders confront a wide range of challenges. Raising a child on the autism spectrum is difficult, both for the children as well as the parents. Autism’s influence on the family can be exhausting, isolating and troublesome.
A child with autism may be withdrawn, frequently playing alone, and may be inappropriate in their play and conduct. Autistic children sometimes make strange noises or engage in repetitive behaviors that can be frightening to other children and adults not used to being around someone with additional needs. Some children with autism may have sensitivities to certain foods, eat special diets to lessen their symptoms, or have strange eating habits. Many children with autism may have altered sleep patterns and be particularly devoted to doing things a certain way.
Sara’s Garden is committed to providing an education to children on the autism spectrum through the use of Applied Behavior Analysis. By creating a central resource for education, assessment and treatment, we aspire to replace fear and uncertainty with hope, knowledge and support, to aid in re-establishing family balance, and to help put children on the path to realizing their fullest potential and becoming an active part of their community.
Applied Behavior Analysis is the science of learned behavior through motivation and reinforcement of these behaviors. The principles of ABA create opportunities and motivation to teach and increase desirable behavior such as improving attention, communicating wants and needs, increasing academic skills or building play skills, just to name a few. Behavior Analysts and their team focus on the function of behavior based on what happens immediately before and after the area of concern. ABA is based on the science of learning and behavior. Ongoing assessment and data collection drive decision making.
Through decades of research, the techniques of Applied Behavior Analysis have been shown to be highly effective in altering the developmental outcomes for individuals with Autism. Based on further studies, we now know that children learn more effectively by using a combination of rewards for, and teaching of, positive behavior and extinction or punishment for negative behavior as consequences instead of punishment alone. “Reinforcement” refers to something that will increase the likelihood a given behavior will happen again in the future. “Extinction” refers to withholding reinforcement for an unwanted behavior. “Punishment” simply refers to something after a behavior that will decrease the likelihood a given behavior will happen again.
Every child is unique. Therefore, Sara’s Garden uses a variety of teaching techniques compiled into a multi-disciplinary approach. Applied Behavioral Analysis, speech and language and sensory integration techniques are all seamlessly integrated into the academies core curriculum. This multi-faceted method helps children to learn in a variety of different ways. The ability to apply different self-educational methodologies helps children to become more flexible learners in the classroom and in the community at large.
An essential component of our program is the generalization of skills. The skill sets that are taught here are generalized, so a child can take their skills from the classroom and use it in the home and community. Parents play an important role in this aspect of the programming, and Sara’s Garden encourages their participation and an environment of open communication to reach a successful model of achievement.
ABA is individualized to meet the needs of each person. The amount of support often varies depending on the specific needs of the individual.
Programs are focused on increasing skill levels in the following developmental areas:
- Telling Time
- Recalling Events
- Motor Development
- Throwing a Ball
- Riding a Bike
- Friendship Building Skills
- Eye Contact
- Choosing Appropriate
- Conversational Topics
- Language Structure
- Spontaneous Language
- Communication of Needs
- Feeding (Food Selectivity and/or Mealtime Routine)
- Safety (Crossing Street, Strangers)
- Household Duties
Excessive maladaptive behaviors are targeted for reduction in frequency, intensity, and/or duration. Some examples include:
- Property Destruction
- Self-Stimulatory Behavior
Only positive behavioral interventions are utilized throughout the process of treatment. As such, the following behavioral strategies may be employed:
- Reinforcement Analysis
- Token Systems
- Behavioral Contracts
- Differential Reinforcement
- Replacement Behavior
Understanding and modifying behavior in the context of environment is the basis for ABA.
- “Behavior” refers to any action that is observable and measurable. It is not merely limited to misbehavior.
- “Environment” includes a number of physical and/or social events that may change or be changed by one’s behavior.
ABA is a means of maximizing learning socially appropriate behavior and, in turn, minimizing inappropriate behavior. It focuses on positive reinforcement stratagies to bring about meaningful behavior change.
Staff use the sound evidence-based practices that fall under the ABA umbrella, including but not limited to:
- Clear and explicit expectations with consistent consequences
- Classwide reinforcement systems for appropriate behavior
- Individual differential reinforcement of appropriate behavior
- Breaking down goals into small steps
- Visual schedules
- Self-management (to promote independence)
- Modeling skills to teach and priming new skills
- Peer models
Our Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Behavior Specialist provide daily consultation and collaboration for teachers for on-going, data-driven decision making.
Depending on the student’s developmental level, class instruction may include a wide variety of areas to meet the socially appropriate, functional skills needed to be as independent as possible. Using the teaching strategies listed above students are able to learn not only academic skills but functional communication (requesting, protesting, self-advocating), living skills (dressing, brushing teeth, arrival/dismissal, cooking), peer interactions and leisure skills (turn taking, sharing, board games, independent activities) just to name a few!