Summer vacation for many children means a break from school — and its strict schedules. But for children with autism, a change in daily routine can be a source of great stress.
Julie Mower, executive director at the Phoenix Center, a not-for-profit school in Nutley serving the educational, therapeutic and behavioral needs of students ages 5 to 21 with autism, said keeping some type of routine is important. Many children with autism crave a schedule that is the same every day.
She offered parents or caregivers some tips for a less stressful summer:
• Create an anticipatory schedule, basically a laundry list of events of a particular day.
• If a family is taking a trip or vacation, talk about that vacation with the child in advance. Look on the destination’s website with the child so he or she can see what the new environment is going to look like.
• Summer camps are a great way to engage an autistic child. Mower said it’s important to visit the camp and visit the counselors ahead of time so the child gets used to the new environment.
• A timer or an alarm is also crucial. Some children respond better to auditory cues than visual ones. So for example, Mower said if a family is getting to leave an event in 10 minutes, have the child set the alarm so he or she understands it’s time to go when the alarm goes off.
• Swimming can be a fantastic fun summer activity for a child with special needs. Mower said it’s important to pick a pool that can accommodate a child’s needs. She said an indoor pool can amplify sound and trigger auditory sensitivities that outdoor pools may not. An outdoor pool may not have the echo effect, but factors like temperature and chlorine may affect a child’s experience in other ways.
• Headed to the beach? Mower said sand can provide a totally different sensory experience for children who are not used to having bare feet. Have them use water shoes so their feet are not directly exposed to the sand. She suggested towels for them to sit on and for those with tactile defensiveness, bring digging tools for them.
Mower said the bottom line is not to get stuck in maintaining the same routine — but if a family is going on a trip, create a new routine. Embed some normal routines such as consistent dinners and bedtime. Have activities planned and take some breaks — with those tips, families with autistic children will be able to better enjoy the summer months together.
Avery enrolled at Lighthouse Autism Center nearly two years ago. When Avery first came to Lighthouse, he was a very different boy than he is today. “Avery was a very shy and quiet boy. He did not want anyone to look at him or interact with him in any way,” said his Program Manager. With consistent ABA therapy, supportive therapists and a highly qualified BCBA designing unique programs just for Avery, he has made huge strides in school readiness skills, social behavior, and daily living skills.
When asked about Avery’s progress, Program Manager and BCBA, Krissi Borkholder said, “Avery has made incredible progress. He can work independently, read at a third-grade reading level, has full conversations and even requests to play with his peers!” Avery continues to work on other school readiness skills such as writing short stories, typing, learning math concepts and working appropriately on group activities.
Avery’s parents could not be more happy with his progress. “We have had the opportunity to see him grow and blossom in virtually every aspect. Being able to see him come into his own and be able to express himself, articulate his feelings, and express his emotions has almost been like we’ve really gotten to know Avery for the first time. Words are not enough to express our appreciation to the incredible staff at Lighthouse for all of their had work and support along the way.
This past May, Lighthouse Autism Center celebrated it’s seven year anniversary. It’s hard to believe we have been open seven years already. It seems like not all too long ago we were welcoming our first group of kiddos to our center in Mishawaka. Since then, we have grown so much, opening six centers and preparing to open a seventh. We have provided services to hundreds of kids and families and had the opportunity to work with some of the most wonderful and talented colleagues. While Lighthouse has grown and changed, our mission has remained the same – bringing quality, center-based ABA therapy to children and families in need. On this anniversary, we celebrate the joys and successes we have achieved together with our kiddos, families and staff, and look forward to the many more that lie ahead!
Lighthouse Autism Center, a therapy center for children with autism, is excited to announce it will be opening a new center in Elkhart, Indiana. This will be the seventh location for Lighthouse Autism Center, which opened its first center in Mishawaka, Indiana in 2012.
Lighthouse Autism Center provides intensive, center-based therapy utilizing the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The therapy programs are year-round and each child’s therapy plan is uniquely tailored to their specific needs. Currently, ABA therapy is the only behavioral intervention recommended by the United States Surgeon General for individuals with autism.
Lighthouse was founded by Gregg and Sandy Maggioli, who are parents to a son with autism and have nearly a decade of experience working in autism services.
“We are excited to bring our services to the Elkhart community. With over seven years of experience providing quality ABA therapy and as parents of a child with autism ourselves, we know how important these services are for families,” says Gregg Maggioli, Founder and Executive Director of Lighthouse Autism Center.
The new center will be located at 23426 US-33 in Elkhart. The center is projected to open in September. To schedule a tour or learn more about enrolling your child, contact our Family Outreach Coordinator at 574-387-4313.
Does the center offer support for dealing with insurance companies and helping you navigate the insurance process?
Dealing with insurance by yourself can be a nightmare. Many insurance companies can prove to be difficult when it comes to covering ABA therapy. That is why it is so important that a quality ABA center has someone on their administrative staff who is dedicated to dealing with insurance-related issues, processes, and questions.
When going through the ABA therapy coverage process, you will likely have many questions. You want someone on your team who is thoroughly familiar with the ABA coverage process. This ABA coverage expert will know what kind of documents you need, what kinds of obstacles you might run into in getting coverage, and how to overcome those obstacles. A quality ABA center should have someone with this skill set on staff and readily accessible to all families. This way, every parent or caregiver who comes to the center will have an insurance expert on their team.
What if your insurance decides to deny coverage in the middle of therapy? Would your child be immediately denied services if insurance won’t pay anymore? You might want to ask them about how they have handled scenarios like this in the past. A quality ABA center would have their ABA coverage expert help you work through a situation like this and work through the appeals process.
Does the center call you back?
When you call the center to inquire about services, how good are they at getting back to you? Were they prompt? Did you have to call back multiple times?
If a center is not calling you back after you inquire about services, that is generally a bad sign. The intake team might be too disorganized and chaotic to promptly call back new inquiries. In this case, this is an ABA center that you will want to avoid.
Does the center provide a clear and comfortable intake process?
The process of giving you a tour of the center, collecting information about your child, providing a therapy program proposal, and ultimately enrolling your child is all part of the intake process. The intake process is essentially the process you go through to enroll your child at an ABA center. You, as a parent or caregiver within the intake process, should be able to answer these questions:
Are you on a waiting list for enrollment?
Are you waiting to hear about your insurance coverage?
Does your child have a start date yet?
You should be able to easily answer all these questions if the intake process is well-communicated and transparent. If you can’t answer some, or all, of these questions, you might need to re-evaluate the ABA center you are working with. A confusing intake process is a symptom of deeper problems within the ABA center’s management and potentially their therapy overall
Does the center have a family outreach/support person to answer questions and provide resources no matter what?
Getting ABA services for your child can be complicated to say the least. An quality ABA center will be there to guide you and answer your questions about autism and autism resources, even if your child does not go to their center.
A family outreach or family support coordinator is someone at an ABA center that families can rely on to answer questions about ABA, finding autism resources in the community, and referring to other agencies if needed, and more . For instance, the family outreach coordinator should be able to answer the following:
Where you can go for a dentist that works with patients with autism?
Who are the local doctors that do autism testing and what are their respective wait times?
Are there different resources in the community for children versus adults?
Without the family outreach/support component, an ABA center won’t be serving the community as well as they could. A lack of family support resources can show you that a center is not very interested in helping families in the community.
Does the center stop talking to you if you don’t have insurance coverage?
You can quickly get a sense for how much a center is focused on your insurance coverage, not your child, when you first speak with them about services. How quickly do they ask you about what insurance you have? Is it among the first 3 questions they ask you?
Generally speaking, if the ABA center staff ask you about insurance before discussing anything else, it shows you what is most important to them. You can imagine that an ABA center like this might see you as a big stack of money. You’ll want to avoid such a provider, because they will not be focused on doing what is best for your child and your family. This type of ABA center will do what is best for their bottom line before they consider you.
Another great way to tell if the center only cares about finances is to see what happens after they find out that you don’t have insurance that covers ABA. Do they quickly end the conversation and get you off the phone? Do they not return your calls afterwards?
An ABA center that puts the needs of the community first will not abandon you after finding out you don’t have coverage. Instead they might:
Show you the various options for coverage such as buying a policy.
Offer to add you to a list for updates as changes might occur with insurance or open enrollment.