love hearts
5 Ways to Help Your Child with Autism on Valentine’s Day

We all hold precious memories of Valentine’s Days from our childhoods. Cupid hearts, handmade cards and crafts, and more candy than was ever sensible to eat. But while they form a part of our cherished childhood memories, Valentine’s Day can create difficulties for children with autism. However, with some careful planning, you can ensure that your son, daughter or child in your class with ASD can form their own special memories of the big day.

Autism and Valentine’s Day – possible problems

Firstly, it’s important to understand the potential triggers that can accompany the day, which can include:

  • A break from routine
  • Different social norms and signals
  • Unfamiliar words and phrases
  • Unusual decorations and displays  
  • Group activities with unclear purposes

While it’s of course impossible to avoid all of these, there are however plenty of steps you can take to help prepare your child. And in this article I’ve listed what I consider to be the five most important, which any parent or carer can do.  

1. Write a Valentine’s Day social story

Social stories are short descriptions of a particular situation or activity which provides specific information on what to expect and why. For children with autism these can really help to build greater social understanding of everyday situations. It does this by enabling them to visualize and predict their role and its outcome.

First developed by the therapist Carol Gray, the great thing about social stories is that anyone can write one about any situation. All you need to do is consider the end goal of the story and what your child needs to understand to achieve this. You then create a story and place your child as a key character within it. 

So for a Valentine’s Day social story, you could write a story that has the end goal of your child giving Valentine’s cards to classmates. The story would show the significance behind this gesture, by explaining how other children feel when they receive these cards.

2. Incorporate your child’s specific interests

Incorporating your child’s interests is a great way to get them to engage with the day. So if your child loves Frozen they could draw their favorite character on the cards that they make. Or alternatively you could buy some cards that feature this.   

It’s also important to bear in mind, particularly on a day like Valentine’s Day, that your child may form friendships based on shared interests. Meanwhile, they may be less engaged in the emotional side of relationships. Therefore, ensuring that their specific interests take a lead role in their creativity and gift giving helps to ensure that your child remains engaged in these activities.    

3. Plan ahead with the school

As with any change of routine, these need to be planned carefully, by giving your child plenty of notice. So check with the school what Valentine’s Day activities they’re planning on doing and when. Make sure you get all the small details from the school as well. This includes things like the decorations they plan on putting up and any colored clothing that children are going to be encouraged to wear.  

Once you know the schedule for this, you can gradually increase your child’s exposure to this in the days running up to it. You can also incorporate elements of what the school has planned into a Valentine’s Day social story, as discussed above.

4. Prepare for specific activities with role plays 

As with social stories, role plays are another great way to “learn by doing”. This helps children with ASD to familiarize themselves with common social interactions. This in turn helps to equip them with the language and actions that are required to engage appropriately when in these situations.   

To prepare for Valentine’s Day, you could role play giving out cards to classmates, where you and other family members play the part of the classmates. This can help your child to practice what they say and how they act when they do this. Once you’ve completed this role play, reverse it so you’re giving cards to your child. This will help them learn how to process receiving cards as well as giving them.

5. Discuss the meaning behind Valentine’s Day

All of the above steps are of course quite abstract, so it’s important that you also discuss the meaning behind Valentine’s Day. How you do this and the level of detail you go into will depend on your child’s age and level of development. 

However, the most important aspect to get across is that Valentine’s Day is about celebrating the people in our lives that are the most important to us. This can therefore be used as a great way for your child to identify all the people in their life that are special to them.

Want to explore more autism resources for parents?

For more autism resources for families in New Jersey, visit our blog directory. Or if you would like to find out more about the ABA services we provide to children with autism, you can get in touch here.

Featured image photo by Laura Ockel on Unsplash

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The Science Behind ABA Therapy

Receiving an autism diagnosis can be a big shock for any family. Once you’ve had time to process the news, the coming weeks and months will most likely be taken up by researching what’s the most effective autism therapy for your child.

If you’ve already started this research, then you’ll know that the sheer amount of advice and treatment options out there can be overwhelming. But while there is a near endless amount of choices, ABA therapy is scientifically proven to be an evidence based best practice treatment.

How ABA therapy works

ABA treatment is based on proven scientific theories from the behavior field of psychology, including positive reinforcement and Antecedent-Behavior-Consequences (ABC). Essentially, ABA seeks to encourage desired behavior through a system of rewards and consequences.

Positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement helps to encourage specific behaviors through rewards: 

  • An ABA therapist identifies a skill that requires improvement
  • The skill is then taught to the child, and as the child engages in the desired skill they gain access to reinforcing items
  • Over time, these rewards encourage the child to continue engaging in the targeted skills 

Antecedent-behavior-consequences

This is a scientific model which helps us understand what triggers certain behaviors and how different consequences can affect whether it will happen again. An antecedent is what happens before a behavior occurs and a consequence is what happens afterwards. For example   

  • Antecedent: You ask your child to get ready for bed
  • Behavior: Your child refuses 
  • Consequences: You lose your temper and your child gets upset 

With ABA therapy, we can use this model of behavior to encourage a better outcome, such as:

  • Antecedent: You ask your child to get ready for bed
  • Behavior: Your child asks if they can finish what they’re doing
  • Consequences: You let your child finish what they’re doing before bed time

Using DATA to track progress

ABA therapy is grounded in scientific principles. Therefore, the collection and use of data is vital in order to constantly monitor progress and optimize the treatment plan. 

Data is used to carefully track outcomes from the above two approaches, as well as to monitor all behavior goals. Ultimately, all future changes and modifications to the treatment plan can then be based on data. The treatment plan can therefore be personalized to the specific needs of your child.

Is ABA scientifically proven?

Yes, ABA is scientifically proven to be an effective therapy for the treatment of autism. Both the US Surgeon General and the American Psychological Association consider it an evidenced based best practice treatment.

In addition to this, more than a dozen scientific, federal and state organizations have classified ABA therapy as a best practice approach to treating autism.

Over 20 studies have proven that ABA therapy delivered for between 1 to 3 years, improves outcomes for many children with autism. These improved outcomes include intellectual functioning, language development and social functioning.

What to find out more about ABA therapy?

We’ve written a wide range of resources to help parents discover more about ABA therapy, including:

Or if you would like to find out more about the ABA services we provide to children with autism, you can get in touch here.

Featured image photo by Maxime Bhm on Unsplash

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5 Tips for Throwing an Awesome Autism Friendly Birthday Party

A child’s birthday party can be stressful for any parent. Keeping tabs on dozens of over excited kids is not everyone’s idea of a relaxing Saturday. But as parents we do it as they bring so much joy to our children, as well as creating those family memories that last a lifetime. When it comes to autism and birthday parties, while the challenges can be more difficult, the rewards can be even greater. 

So to help you with your party planning, here are five autism friendly birthday party ideas.

Firstly, why can parties be difficult for children with ASD? 

Children’s parties have a lot of sensory stimulation as well as unfamiliar social norms, which children with autism can find overwhelming. Loud music, shouting and singing happy birthday all have the potential to cause sensory overload.

Then there are both the explicit and implicit rules that kids need to follow when playing party games, which again can be a struggle. 

And while parties are a great way for kids to learn how to socialize outside of the structures of school, this adds further stress to those that struggle with communication.

But careful planning can help you throw an autism friendly birthday party which avoids many of these problems. 

1. Keep it small and brief            

Possibly the most important piece of advice is to start small. If this is the first birthday party you’re throwing for your child, then maybe just invite a couple of friends. Parents often feel like they need to invite the whole class, or to reciprocate any invitations their child has previously received. But you need to do what works best for your child, and other parents will understand this.   

Or you may feel more comfortable only inviting a few family members that your child has a close bond with, such as grandparents and cousins. Then, as your child gets a bit older, you can start inviting a few school friends.

As well as keeping the guest list small, it’s also a good idea to keep the running time brief. Plan this around your child’s attention span and energy levels. If you think just half an hour of activities and half an hour for food is sufficient, then that’s fine. 

2. Pick a suitable location    

Next you need to consider where the most suitable birthday party location is. Do you think your child would feel most comfortable in the familiar environment of the home, or would they get more enjoyment from their big day at another location?

If you decide to go somewhere such as a restaurant or indoor play center, it can help if your child is already familiar with the place. Doing a “practice run” the week before can also be a wise move, as it prepares them for what to expect. Even little things like knowing where the bathrooms are or where the table will be can help with the preparation. And some party venues now host sensory friendly days, such as Chuck E Cheese.

3. Carefully plan the activities 

The birthday activities you choose will of course be based on your child’s interests and ability (after all, you know you child your best!). But generally speaking, activities that have lots of rules, turn taking, or loud noises can pose the biggest challenges. So things like musical chairs or pass the parcel may be best avoided. 

Therefore, focus on what your child enjoys playing with. For example, if your child loves playing with Lego, the main activity could be unstructured play time with Lego. Or if your child likes to try their hand in the kitchen, you could do a make your own pizza topping activity. 

4. Decide the best approach for gift giving  

The ceremony that comes with accepting and opening gifts can be tough for some kids. Again, you’ll know best how your child responds to gift opening, but it’s common for many children with ASD to become overwhelmed by being the center of attention. Therefore, some families prefer to save the gifts and open them later with just the immediate family present. While other families ask that guests don’t bring gifts.

5. Consider treat alternatives

We all know the problems that come with too many sugary foods and drinks. Therefore try and substitute traditional party snacks for healthy alternatives. Fruit and carrot sticks always make a great alternative, as does diluted natural fruit juice. And a birthday cake isn’t mandatory either. If for example you feel your child would prefer ice cream, then do that instead. 

And remember, don’t feel pressure to have a “traditional” party

As with Christmas and the holidays, parents can often feel pressure to throw a “traditional” birthday party for their little ones. But as any parent of a child with ASD knows, autism and birthday parties need to be carefully planned and considered. After all, it’s about doing something your child will enjoy, rather than doing what others might expect.

For more autism resources for families in New Jersey, visit our blog directory. Or if you would like to find out more about the ABA services we provide to children with autism, you can get in touch here.

Featured image photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

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How to Choose the Right Autism School in NJ for Your Child

How to choose the right school for your child with autism in NJ is one of the biggest questions parents face. The hopes and dreams we have for our children are heavily dependent on giving them the best possible education. But when it comes to a child with autism, what we mean by the “best” education varies greatly from child to child. 

Therefore, forget about searching for “the best autism schools in NJ”, and instead focus on assessing possible schools based on your child’s specific needs. To help you with this process, we’ve put together this quick guide to choosing autism schools in New Jersey.

First off, know your rights

Choosing the right school for your child with autism can be a tough decision. This is especially the case if it’s the first time anyone in your close family has been in this position. Therefore it’s important to be aware of the support that’s available and the rights that you and your child have. 

Children with autism in NJ (and all other states) have the right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). What this means in practice is that you have the right to request an evaluation from your local school district’s special education service, who will then work with you and your child to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This is a legal document which must:

  • Provide a detailed explanation of your child’s special education program
  • Summarize your child’s current performance and specific instructional needs
  • Provide measurable goals and objectives
  • Allow your child to make reasonable progress based on their individual circumstances

Consider your choice of schools 

Public schools autism programs

As the above information shows, public schools are required to adapt their lessons in order to support children with autism. However, there are still plenty of pros and cons you need to carefully consider. These environments can be great for inclusion, for children that are functioning well socially and are comfortable being placed in a large institution.

However, for some children, the stimulation and social structures of a mainstream school can be overwhelming. Furthermore, some public schools unfortunately lack the resources to provide all the support that some children may need.    

Charter schools for autism

If you feel that a mainstream education provided by a public school isn’t the best option for your child, then you may consider a charter school for autism. Charter schools receive government funding so are free to attend, but are independently run and usually based around a specific mission.

Therefore, these schools are able to provide a far greater range of support and services for children with ASD, such as ABA therapy and sensory rooms. However, children don’t get the benefit of interacting and building relationships with the broad range of peers that they would at a public school.  

Private schools for autism

Private schools for children with autism and other disabilities are similar to charter schools. However, the big difference is that these schools charge tuition fees. Also, these schools are not bound by the students’ rights discussed in the above section, so do not need to provide IEPs.

The support and services provided by these schools varies, as do their educational philosophies. Therefore, you should thoroughly research each of these schools, to evaluate if they’re a good fit for your child.

What to look for in a school  

Now you know your rights and your choices, you can begin evaluating individual schools for autism in NJ. Here are some of the important factors you need to consider:

  • The distance from your home. Decide the maximum daily travel time that you consider appropriate for your child and calculate what the radius would be. This should be the first filter you apply as you start your search.
  • Read online comments and reviews. Research what other parents have to say about the schools in your area on autism and parenting blogs and forums.
  • Visit each school during a regular school day. Arrange a visit to each school on your shortlist during a regular school day. Get a feel for the environment and culture and speak to the teacher your child might have, as well as the principle.
  • Question the staff on their approach to children with ASD. Ask how they handle specific behavior situations such as bullying, as well as examples of support they’re provided to other students.
  • Take your child with you during each visit. Observe how your child behaves and interactions in each school, to see which environment they respond to the best.
  • Inspect the facilities. Check what facilities each school has for children with special needs, such as a sensory room.

And remember, trust your gut

Ultimately, the school you choose has to feel right for you and your child, so just as when choosing an ABA therapist you have to trust your gut. Therefore, do your research, visit each school, read reviews and speak to other parents, but make your decision based on what feels right. If you follow this process you’ll choose the right autism school in NJ for your child. 

For more autism resources for families in New Jersey, visit our blog directory. Or if you would like to find out more about the ABA services we provide to children with autism, you can get in touch here.

Featured images photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash.

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ABA Therapy Techniques You Can Use at Home

ABA therapy is often considered the “golden standard” of autism therapy. This is a scientific approach to therapy which is designed to improve specific behaviors and skills in many arenas in life, but is most notable for those with autism. When delivered in a professional setting, it’s overseen by a qualified expert known as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).       

However, while ABA therapy is a highly qualified field of therapy, this doesn’t mean that parents or other caregivers can’t apply ABA therapy techniques at home. So to help parents off on the right track, we’ve put together a quick list on how to do ABA therapy at home.

But just a quick note before we start. If you’re already working with an ABA therapist then they’ve no doubt already discussed ABA therapy techniques to use at home. In which case, discuss any changes you want to make or new ideas you have with your therapist first.

First off, what is ABA therapy?

Essentially, ABA therapy focuses on improving specific behaviors and skills in people with autism. This includes social skills, communication and domestic activities.

At a very high level, this is how the process works:

  • An ABA therapist identifies a needed skill
  • As the child engages in the desired skill or appropriate behavior they gain access to reinforcing items
  • Over time, this reinforcement encourages the child to continue engaging in the targeted skills 

ABA therapy in the home  

As you can see the purpose of ABA therapy is to improve skills and behavior. Therefore, ABA therapy techniques at home should focus on this objective. In which case, the techniques that are best for your child will depend on their individual circumstances. But here are some common exercises that many parents find useful and effective around the home. 

Sit in the chair

You can incorporate this into daily activities where your child is required to sit in a chair, such as meal times. Sit down and then ask your child to take a seat opposite you, facing your direction. Make it as fun and tactil as possible. Provide plenty of praise when this is achieved.

Look at me 

This is a good exercise to encourage your child to make and maintain eye contact with you. To do this, use a visual stimuli such as blowing bubbles from your mouth. This can also be incorporated with the above activity, once your child develops their ability to sit still in a chair.

Match the colors 

For this exercise, try and use objects around the home that your child is familiar with and recognises. Examples include toy cars, crayons or socks. Select one item and ask your child to match all the other items that are the same color. Start with colors that are the same shade. As your child develops their skills, incorporate different shades of each color into the activity.

Identify the emotions

This is a great activity for children that struggle with emotion regulation. Print out a range of emojis (such as a smiley, sad and angry face, etc), then place each one face down. Your child then picks up one at a time and has to identify the correct emotion. You can also use this activity to open up broader discussions around their own and other people’s emotions.

Sort household items

This activity requires illustrated boards and cards of rooms in the home and the typical items found in each room. You can find these in most toy stores or online. Your child needs to match each item with each room, which is a great way to build some early level life skills.

Identify the function

Again, this activity requires some materials, which you can either download and print out or buy. Here’s a good example of the type of cards you need for this. Your child then needs to use the context provided on each card, in order to choose the correct object for the function. This helps to develop both their functional skills and their vocabulary.         

Remember, positive reinforcement is vital 

Modern ABA therapy techniques are all about incorporating fun and stimulating activities into your child’s daily routines. But for the newly acquired skills and behaviours to stick, you need to use plenty of positive reinforcement. In practice, this can mean lots of different things, such as praise whenever an activity is performed correctly, or giving your child access to reinforcing items, such as favorite toys.

Ultimately, when using ABA therapy techniques at home, experiment with different activities, at different times of the day, with different family members. This will enable you to discover which activities are the most effective and when are the best times to do them. 

For more autism resources for families in New Jersey, visit our blog directory. Or if you would like to find out more about the ABA services we provide to children with autism, you can get in touch here.

Featured image photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

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What’s True Inclusion? By Guest Contributor Tim Rohrer

This article first was first published in The Source on July 5th 2019. 

People with disabilities have been given a lot more opportunities than ever before. They have the same opportunities in learning new talents, jobs, and education. But there is one opportunity that is missing for them. That opportunity is true inclusion and friendship.

People with disabilities had been stereotyped as anti-social. This is false! Not all people with disabilities are like that. A lot of them want to have healthy able friends in their lives who can look up to them and help them whenever they are struggling. Whether someone has a disability or not, being friends with neurotypical people is a right, not a privilege. People with disabilities complain about being left out from social activities such as texting, calling, going to the movie theater, going out to eat, hanging out at the beach and at parties. When people with disabilities complain about being left out from these social activities, it means that they may feel upset about their lives.

We have the option to participate in activities such as going to restaurants, movie theaters, and going to the beach alone. But doing these activities without friends is not fun. Telling excuses to leave someone with a disability out from fun activities is bad for their health.

Not giving people with disabilities the opportunity to hang out and keep in touch with the general population is not only boring for them, but it can also damage their communication skills, behavior, education, and employment. If it would hurt your feelings for people to restrict you from hanging out or keeping in touch with you, why would you do it to people who are different from you?

Many people mistake people with disabilities to be annoying. The behavior of people with disabilities does not mean they are trying to alienate us. It means that they want someone to make them feel better. Friendship and compassion are the most pleasant ways to make them feel better.

Including people with disabilities is more than just being an acquaintance with them and avoiding saying hurtful things to them. True inclusion of people with disabilities means allowing them to talk to you. It also takes compassion, common sense, and an open mind to talk to them. If you witness something different in someone, it means that they have a disability. The disability does not make them a bad person. Don’t always see people with disabilities with your eyes, see them with your heart!

The second ingredient to true inclusion is allowing them to keep in touch with you, whether it is through calling, texting, instant messaging, Face Timing, Snapchatting, or even through a video game server. If they talk in a different way than neurotypical people like the rest of us while keeping in touch with you, take the time and talk to them in their style. Be courteous not to ignore or block them when they want to talk to you.

The third ingredient is allowing them to do fun things with you or even your group of friends. You may meet someone with a disability at school, church, volunteer program, or at work. Talking to them just for when you see them there may be satisfying to them, but it will only satisfy them for a short amount of time. Talking to them in that concept only will make them sad or angry during their free time such as the weekend or summer break.

People with disabilities like going to restaurants, beaches, movie theaters, birthday parties, the bowling alley, and the mall as much as the rest of us. How would you feel if you were forbidden from going to these places? People with disabilities either go to these places alone under supervision by a guardian or they don’t go to these places at all. Imagine going to these places alone under supervision by an authorized guardian without any friends. Do you think people with disabilities would rather be with friends or with authorized guardians better? If we can start hanging out with people with disabilities by giving them the time to chat and have fun together, it would save time and money for parents, guardians, caregivers, and counselors.

Treat people with disabilities the same way you wish to be treated. Let’s educate our youth of how to socialize with the disabled. Similar to Best Buddies, we need to have more extracurricular activities and events that allow people with disabilities to hang out with the rest of us.

Whoever you are, enjoy your passion in sports, cheerleading, band, choir, theater, honors classes, art, computer graphics, video games, comedy, agriculture, or anything you dream of. But just remember this, if someone is lower than you, allow them to talk to you about your passions. For example, your passion in the choir can soothe them or your passion in honors classes can help them memorize things better.

Money can’t buy happiness, but true inclusion can! Remember to let your friendship with the disabled person follow up with them not only when you see them in the hallways, but during the weekends, holidays, and summer breaks too!

You can find out more information about Tim’s great work on his website Tips4Inclusion and on his Facebook page.

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What to Look For in an ABA Therapist

If you’re a parent searching for ABA therapy for your child, then you probably have a ton of questions about what to look for in an ABA therapist. That’s completely understandable, as the right therapist can have a hugely positive and lasting impact on your son or daughter. 

However, you may not be fully confident about what makes a good ABA therapist, especially if this is your first experience with ABA therapy. So to help you along your journey we’ve put together this quick guide on what to look for in an ABA therapist.

First off, what is ABA therapy?

You have no doubt already read plenty of material on what is ABA therapy, so we’ve kept this section brief. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a common type of therapy for people with autism. It focuses on improving specific behaviors and skills in people with autism, such as social skills, communication and domestic activities.

At a very high level, this is how the process works:

  • An ABA therapist identifies a needed skill
  • As the child engages in the desired skill or appropriate behavior they gain access to reinforcing items
  • Over time, this reinforcement encourages the child to continue engaging in the targeted skills   

How is ABA therapy delivered?

ABA therapy services must be provided by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). A BCBA is not a physician, however the training and qualifications requirements are rigorous and include:

  • A masters or PhD in psychology, behavior analysis or education.
  • Passing a national certification exam
  • Seeking a state license (in certain states)

The BCBA writes each treatment plan and then works with Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT) or behavior technicians, who deliver the therapy. 

Therefore, you will be teaming with two people during your child’s ABA therapy. The BCBA, who writes and monitors the treatment plan as well as supervises the person delivering the therapy, and the RBT/behavior technician, who delivers the therapy to the child.

Here’s what to look for in both of these professionals.

What’s the therapist’s previous experience?

As discussed above, all BCBAs have gone through rigorous qualifications and training. Therefore the important variable to check is what their previous experience is in the field. Ask how long they’ve been working as a BCBA and roughly how many families they’ve worked with over that time.

Ask the same questions of the RBT/behavior technician who will be delivering the therapy. Qualifications will also differ among these professionals, as unlike a BCBA, a college degree or masters is not a mandatory requirement. Therefore, inquire about their academic background as well. 

What’s their personality like?

Personality is extremely important when it comes to what makes a good ABA therapist. This is particularly the case at the RBT/Behavior Technician level, as they are the ones delivering the therapy to your child. They need to be fun and engaging and be able to form a close rapport. 

Patience is also an extremely important virtue in a good ABA therapist. You need to have confidence that even during the most challenging behavioral situations, the therapist will keep a cool head and not lose their temper. 

How personalized is the treatment plan?

The level of personalization in the treatment plan that the BCBA develops is also very important. Avoid a therapy provider that takes a cookie cutter approach to treatment plans. The plan should be personalized to your child’s needs. Therefore, it should only be written once a functional assessment has been completed.

It’s also important that the treatment plan takes into account the root causes of any behavioral issues that it plans to address. For example, a behavior issue may be identified as regular tantrums during bath time. However the BCBA should seek to identify what may be triggering this, rather than just focusing on the behavior.        

How many RBTs/Behavior Technicians does the BCBA supervise and what are the supervision processes?  

There are strict rules in place governing the supervision requirements of RBTs/behavior technicians by BCBAs. However, you should still ask a few questions here, such as how many RBTs/Behavior Technicians does the BCBA supervise and what the monthly supervision process looks like. Also ask what training procedures the BCBA has in place, for both the RBTs/Behavior Technicians, as well as for parents and teachers.  

How do they collect and use data?  

ABA therapy is grounded in scientific principles. Therefore, in order to constantly monitor progress and optimize the treatment plan, the collection and use of data is vital. Ask the provider what metrics they use to measure progress, and how they’re presented and updated. If they are using subjective measures, such as simply commenting on how your child’s general behavior is, this is unreliable.

Ultimately, data should be used to carefully track and monitor all behavior goals. This allows evidenced based decisions on all future changes and modifications to the treatment plan, ensuring it’s fully personalized to your child’s specific needs.  

How are they managing your expectations?

You will no doubt have a lot of questions for the BCBA about the results you can expect to see and how long this will take. It goes without saying that every child is unique, therefore it’s impossible for a BCBA to give any specific time frames or promises at the very start. If a therapist makes big promises and commits to specific timeframes, then they are setting unrealistic expectations. 

And lastly, it’s fine to ask for a trial period first 

As a parent, your number one priority is ensuring that your child is receiving the best possible ABA therapy. In which case it’s fine to ask for a trial period first, before you commit to a therapy provider. 

During this period, examine how well the therapist is interacting with your child and if they’re forming a positive and relaxed relationship. And remember, modern ABA therapy is not aversive and does not use punishments for bad behavior, so monitor how the therapist manages difficult behavior situations with your child. 

Ultimately, you have to be completely comfortable with your chosen provider. If it doesn’t feel right, then find another ABA provider that you feel more comfortable with.   

For more autism resources for families in New Jersey, visit our blog directory. Or if you would like to find out more about the ABA services we provide to children with autism, you can get in touch here.

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How to Choose an Autism Friendly Summer Camp in NJ

Summer camp is a rite of passage that all children should be able to experience. And these days summer camp providers have really stepped up their services for children with autism and other special needs. This means that as a parent you can have confidence that your child is being cared for within a supportive and accommodating environment, allowing them to develop their social skills and build their confidence.

That’s why we’ve put together this quick guide to choosing a summer camp for autism in NJ, to help you find a camp that’s right for your child.

What are your options?

You have two broad choices when choosing autism summer camps in NJ (or in any state):

  • Specialized (Inclusive) programs: These summer camps integrate typically developing children with children with autism and other special needs. The programs are designed to provide support and accessibility for every child, while maintaining a regular activity schedule.
  • Exclusive programs: These summer camps are designed specifically for children with autism and other special needs. They tend to place an emphasis on socialization and other skills building, which can help to prevent regression during the summer break.

These options enable you to choose an environment that is going to best support your child and their development. Here are a few things to consider when making your choice:

  • Will your child benefit from the social interactions and activities offered in an inclusive program?
  • Will your child feel comfortable and confident mixing with children of all abilities?
  • Are you concerned about regression during the summer break if there’s a big interruption to your child’s routine? 

How to start your autism summer camp search?

There are a number of resources you can use to find accredited autism summer camps in NJ, these include:

  • The American Camp Association provides a national camp search. You can search by state and specify that you’re looking for a camp that serves children with autism. It also breaks down your options by inclusive and exclusive programs. 
  • Autism New Jersey is a non-profit agency providing support to individuals with autism and their families. Their autism services database provides a list of New Jersey summer camps with autism programs.

How to choose a Summer camp that’s right for your child? 

Research is the key to choosing a camp that’s right for your child. Once you’ve searched the online databases, make a shortlist based on your criteria. Once you’ve narrowed down your options to just a handful you can then attend camp open days. This gives you the chance to tour the facilities and speak to staff about the programs and provisions they have in place. 

A few things to ask during these visits include:

  • What is the staff to camper ratio?
  • What training have staff members received (both general and autism specific)?
  • How are behavioral issues managed?
  • What is the camp‘s experience with children with disabilities?

The American Camp Association also has some useful resources on their website. This includes a guide to what camps have to do in order to accommodate children of all abilities and resources to help children with special needs

What about an Extended School Year (ESY) Program?

Extended School Year (ESY) programs are often brought up when discussing summer camps for autism. This is because ESY programs can often be delivered as part of a child’s summer camp program.

ESY services are provided by local school districts during long breaks to prevent a substantial regression in skills. You may have already discussed this during the annual IEP review. But if you haven’t and wish to discuss this, you should speak to your child’s school as soon as possible. Here’s a useful article by Autism New Jersey on determining eligibility for ESY programs. 

Are you looking for financial assistance?  

If you’re looking for financial assistance to cover some or all of the costs, then there are a number of options available.

  • CARE Family Grant Program provides financial support to people with autism and their families, including summer camp costs. Grants are open to anyone in the US with a household income below $75k per annum.
  • ASDF Social Skills Camp accept applications from families who have found an accredited summer camp for their child with autism and are in need of financial support.
  • VARGHESE SUMMERSETT provide scholarship programs throughout the year for children with developmental needs, which can be used to offset the cost of summer camp.  

Or if you’re eligible for services through the New Jersey Children’s System of Care (CSOC), you can apply for funding for summer camp services. More information is available on the summer camp page on their website.   

And finally

Every child is unique, as is the care and support that each child requires. This guide to autism summer camps in NJ provides general advice on how to find a program for your child. But as a parent, you’ll know what’s best for your child and which summer camp environment will help them grow and prosper the most. 

For more autism resources for families in New Jersey, visit our blog directory. Or if you would like to find out more about the ABA services we provide to children with autism, you can get in touch here.

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Autism Support Groups in New Jersey

There has been a lot of media coverage reporting on the prevalence of autism in New Jersey. Amongst all the headlines is the fact that autism rates among children in our state is now the highest in the country. And while an autism diagnosis can be tough for many families, the good news is that New Jersey provides a fantastic support network of charities and community organizations.

That’s why we’ve put together this article, listing the major autism support groups in NJ. And you can also download a detailed list of 15 organizations here.

The Arc of New Jersey

The Arc of New Jersey is the largest non profit organization in the state that’s dedicated to helping families with autism navigate the system of care. The website hosts an incredible range of resources across lots of formats, including webinars, Facebook Live events and even podcasts

For parents or caregivers in need of immediate help navigating the system, just submit a problem intake form to receive direct support from a member of staff. The organization also provides events on a weekly basis, check their events calendar for more information.     

Autism New Jersey

Autism New Jersey is a non profit organization committed to helping people with autism, their families and professionals that work with them to have fulfilling lives. They offer a range of services within New Jersey. This includes a free helpline (800.4.AUTISM) and online directory which provides up to date advice on autism treatments and services. 

The organization also provides a wealth of online resources for parents and professionals. In addition to this they regularly host a schedule of workshops and webinars throughout the state.   

Parents of Autisic Children (POAC)

POAC is a non-profit that aims to make a difference for every child with autism in New Jersey. They run hundreds of events each year for the autism community. These include everything from support and social groups for parents, pool parties for children and dances for teens with ASD. So if you’re looking for social activities for you or your children, this is a great support network in which to be part.

POAC also provides plenty of online resources for parents and professionals. And finally, another great service you’ll find here is NJ Autism Warriors which is an online support group for parents with children with autism.  

Autism Family Services of New Jersey

Autism Family Services of New Jersey (AFSNJ), an affiliate of the Family Resource Network, is dedicated to ensuring a better quality of life for individuals with autism and their families. They provide a range of services and assistance programs, including after school clubs, career planning assistance and scholarships. 

Once a year the AFSNJ also hosts the Autism Beach Bash. Hosted in Belmar, this is the largest gathering in NJ of people with autism and their families. It includes surfing, arts and crafts, dance and plenty of other interactive activities.

Easterseals New Jersey

Easterseals New Jersey is a non profit with more than 70 years of experience helping people with ASD and other special needs. Their support services are aimed more towards the adult population and are split into three categories: Live, Learn and Work. The Live program provides residential services. The Learn program provides case management and behavior services. While the Work program provides training and supported employment.     

Eden Autism

Eden Autism is a New Jersey autism support group non profit. It aims to provide a lifetime of support to people with autism as well as their families, teachers, employers, caregivers and friends. Their services include an infant and toddler program, a private school and adults services. They also host a regular program of events within the New Jersey community.

State of New Jersey Resources

The State of New Jersey provides plenty of resources and support for people with autism and their families. The Department of Human Services provides public funding for services and support that assists New Jersey adults living with autism, while the Department of Education provides these resources for parents and families. You can also download this comprehensive guide to navigating the NJ service systems for individuals with ASD which provides in depth advice to families.

And there are plenty of other Autism support groups IN NJ

The above organizations are some of the largest autism support groups in NJ. However there are dozens of other groups available such as autism parent support groups in New Jersey. You can download here a list of 15 non-profit groups and organizations

For more autism resources for families in New Jersey, visit our blog directory. Or if you would like to find out more about the ABA services we provide to children with autism, you can get in touch here.  

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What is ABA Therapy for Children with Autism: a Guide

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a common type of therapy for people with autism. We know that parents can have a lot of questions about ABA therapy before they feel comfortable making an informed decision.

Therefore, we’ve put together this guide explaining what is ABA therapy for autism. This is based on the questions that parents ask us on a regular basis here at Golden Care Therapy.

What is the purpose of ABA therapy? 

Applied behavior analysis therapy focuses on improving specific behaviors and skills in people with autism. Some of these behaviors include:

  • Social skills
  • Communication
  • Reading, studying and academics
  • Fine motor dexterity 
  • Hygiene and grooming
  • Domestic activities

How does it work?

ABA treatment is based on proven scientific theories from the behavior field of psychology, such as operant conditioning and Antecedent-Behavior-Consequences (ABC). Essentially, ABA seeks to encourage desired behavior through a system of rewards and consequences.

Here’s how it works in practice:

  • An ABA therapist identifies a needed skill
  • As the child engages in the desired skill or appropriate behavior they gain access to reinforcing items.
  • Over time, these rewards encourage the child to continue engaging in the targeted skills   

Where do therapy sessions take place?

Session locations will depend on the therapy provider and your requirements. They can take place in the home, at daycares or within therapy centers. Here at Golden Care Therapy, we specialize in in-home and community ABA therapy, as well as social skills groups.

what’s the recommended amount of aba therapy?

There is no recommended amount of ABA therapy. However, weekly therapy typically ranges from 10 to 20 hours.  

Who provides ABA therapy and what training do they have?

ABA therapy services must be provided by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). A BCBA is not a physician, however the training and qualifications requirements are vigorous and include:

  • A masters or PhD in psychology or behavior analysis or education.
  • Passing a national certification exam
  • Seeking a state license (in certain states)

The BCBA writes each treatment plan and then works with Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT) or behavior technicians, who deliver the therapy. 

What’s an ABA treatment plan and how does it work?

You will hear the term “treatment plan” used a lot in applied behaviour analysis therapy. A treatment plan is a written document that lays out structure of your child’s ABA treatment.

BCBAs use interviews, assessments and observations to create individual treatment plans. This is a collaborative process which parents are involved with throughout.

The treatment plan with contain specific treatment goals. Your child’s ABA therapy will then be based around these treatment goals. To ensure that everyone involved with your child’s development is on the same page, it will also contain strategies for parents, caregivers and teachers. The plan is then  regularly monitored and updated as progress is made.

On a more practical point, insurers usually require a treatment plan before coverage can be confirmed.

DOES my health insurance Provide cover?

The short answer is yes. However, the specifics of insurance coverage depends on a few factors. 

Firstly, you need to check what type of benefit plan you have. This will determine what protections are in place at either the state or federal level:

  • Fully insured plans (or otherwise state regulated plans): These plans are regulated by state law and all 50 states have taken action to require coverage for ABA therapy. Here’s a complete list of autism coverage by state.
  • Self funded plans: These plans are regulated by federal law. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act prohibits insurers from imposing more restrictions on mental health treatments compared to other medical and surgical treatments. Therefore, insurers can’t place limitations on ASD therapies, if no such limitations exist for the treatment or other medical conditions. 

Once you’ve determined what type of benefit plan you have, you can check your state coverage (if on a fully insured plan), then talk to your insurer to confirm coverage. If you live in New Jersey, you can also read our detailed guide to autism insurance coverage in NJ.

What’s the science behind ABA therapy?

Both the US Surgeon General and the American Psychological Association consider applied behavior analysis therapy to be an evidence-based best practice treatment. 

Over 20 studies have proven that ABA therapy delivered for between 1 to 3 years, improves outcomes for many children with autism. These improved outcomes include intellectual functioning, language development and social functioning.

Want to find out more about?

We hope that this blog post has helped to answer some of the questions you have around what is ABA therapy for autism. 

Our blog section provides lots of resources for parents of children with autism, including other information on ABA therapy. The blog also contains other practical advice articles for parents.

If you live in New Jersey and would like to find out more about the ABA services we provide to children with autism, you can get in touch here.

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