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LAC Blog

All posts by Maggie Gendel

Autism, Early Intervention and ABA Therapy

What is autism?

child with autism
Those with autism often have sensory sensitivity.

Autism, as defined by the Autism Society of America, “is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. Symptoms and signs of Autism generally emerge between 24 and 36 months of age. There is no known single cause of autism…”

Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are general terms used for grouping complex disorders of brain development. These developmental disorders are characterized in different degrees by:

  • Social interaction difficulties
  • Nonverbal and verbal communication difficulties
  • Repetitive behaviors

While the signs and symptoms of autism can appear as early as 6 months, and typically by age 3, there are many children who are diagnosed much later, and some individuals may not diagnosed until much later in life. It’s critical that parents and families are educated on the signs of autism as well as the steps to take if they think their child may have autism, in order to achieve the best outcomes for their child.

Diagnosis

If you suspect a child may have autism, the first step is to contact the child’s pediatrician or their general practioner. The pediatrician will perform an assessment and will typically be able to determine if a child has autism or not.

In some cases, a pediatrician will refer families to a psychologist, a physician that specializes in mental health. The psychologist will perform a standardized assessment (included but not limited to CARS, ADOS, MCHAT, etc…) to evaluate if the child has autism and the severity. This step is critical in the diagnosis and evaluation process, as most insurance companies require a standardized assessment (such as those listed above) in order to approve an authorization for treatment (such as Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, ABA Therapy and more).

Early Intervention

Data shows that the earlier children are diagnosed with autism, the earlier they start receiving interventions and the better their outcomes are. This leads to a better overall quality of life for the child and the family. This is one of the biggest reason’s families are encouraged to understand what autism is, recognize the signs of it, and take the steps to get their child the help they need.

Types of Intervention – ABA Therapy

ABA therapy
ABA therapists working one-on-one to administer therapy.

Once a parent receives an autism diagnosis, they often are left in shock and confusion as to what to do next. While a physician or psychologist may refer them to a specific therapy center for services (whether that be ABA therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, or something else) but that is not always the case. The best thing you can do for your child is research the services and interventions available to you in your area.

Specifically, many doctors will recommend Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy services for children with autism. This is the only type of therapy recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General for the treatment of autism. ABA therapy aids in the development of new skills, shapes and refines previously learned skills and decreases socially significant problem behaviors. It often involves the following components:

  • Qualified and trained BCBA’s (Board Certified Behavior Analysts) lead and oversee a child’s therapy program
  • After a detailed assessment of a child, the BCBA will create a unique program with consideration given to the child’s ABA therapy goals, preferences and the overall family goals.
  • Goals will be developmentally appropriate for that child and will include things like sociability, communication, play, self-care, motor development and academic skills.
  • Highly qualified and trained therapists will help a child achieve these goals through detailed instruction plans that break down skills into skill sets. The child will then work on the most basic skill sets and build up to more complex skill sets, with each skill set building off of the previous one.
  • Therapists continually collect data on your child to determine which skill sets are improving, which one’s are not, and how the therapy program may need to be modified in order to make sure your child achieves their goals
  • Regular meetings with family and staff take place to allow for planning, review of child’s progress and to make any needed adjustments.

 

If you would like to learn more about early intervention and ABA therapy, contact us here.

 

5 Tips for Celebrating Halloween with a Child on the Autism Spectrum

1.) The Costume

Let your child pick out a costume that works for them. If they love soft things, try a fuzzy costume onesie, if they love dinosaurs, let them be a T-rex. Whatever it is that gets your child excited, channel that into a costume!

2.) What to Expect

Make sure your child knows what to expect. Talk about the trick or treating and exactly what your child should expect. Consider creating a visual schedule or countdown to the big day!

3.) Practice

Help your child practice for the big day by practicing putting on their costume and going through the routine of the day. Enlist the help of a neighbor or friend and have your child practice trick or treating at their homes.

4.) Trick or Treat Alternatives

If your child does not enjoy trick or treating, or if you are choosing to stay home due to Covid-19 related reasons, consider other alternatives. Take them to other Halloween-related activities in the community or consider a “not-so-scary” night in with their favorite movie and treat.

5.) Have Fun!

Whatever you choose to do and however you do it, remember to be flexible, do what is best for your child and family, and have fun!

 

 

Staff Spotlight: Chelsey

Lighthouse Autism Center’s Staff Spotlight highlights the incredible people who work on our team. The Staff Spotlight will feature employees across all different centers in a variety of positions. This is an opportunity for our community to get to know the people who work so hard every day to deliver the best aba therapy to the kids and families we serve.

Meet Chelsey

Meet Chelsey. Chelsey is a Registered Behavior Technican at our Portage, Michigan center. Chelsey has worked with Lighthouse Autism Center for just a few months and recently graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Psychology. As an RBT with Lighthouse Autism Center, Chelsey is responsible for working one-on-one with children with autism and implementing therapy programs designed by Board Certified Behavior Analysts. She helps children work on refining previously learned skills and helps them develop new communication, social, living skills and more!

Chelsey, a Registered Behavior Technician with Lighthouse Autism Center in Portage, MI

Tell us about why you applied for a position with Lighthouse.

I have always heard great things about Lighthouse Autism Center and thought it would be a great place to further my passion of working with children with autism.

Tell us about a favorite memory with your team at Lighthouse.

While I have only been with the team a short time, everyone has been so welcoming and willing to helping me learn and any questions I may have.

What is your favorite memory from your time at Lighthouse?

On the day I passed my Registered Behavior Technician Certification exam, the whole team cheered for me over the walkies. A client heard the team cheering and wanted to also congratulate me. It was such a wonderful feeling!

How would you describe your Lighthouse experience?

My experience so far has been nothing short of amazing. The welcoming atmosphere of the center makes me look forward to going to work every day!

Chelsey is a cat mom to Nala and Luna and enjoys playing Sims in her free time!

Interested in learning more about a career with Lighthouse Autism Center? We are hiring! For a list of available positions or to apply, click here.

Staff Spotlight: Dana

Lighthouse Autism Center’s Staff Spotlight highlights the incredible people who work on our team. The Staff Spotlight will feature employees across all different centers in a variety of positions. This is an opportunity for our community to get to know the people who work so hard every day to deliver the best aba therapy to the kids and families we serve.

Meet Dana

Dana is a Purchasing Specialist with Lighthouse Autism Center. While Dana has only been with Lighthouse Autism Center a few months, she has enjoyed her time with the company. As a Purchasing Specialist, she is responsible for ensuring centers have all the supplies they need to provide the best therapy to the children and families we serve.

Tell us about why you applied for a position with Lighthouse.

Lighthouse Autism Center has a great reputation in the northern Indiana area. I wanted to work for a company that really made a difference and offered great career opportunities.

Share your favorite part about working with the Lighthouse team.

While I have only met in-person a few of my colleagues due to COVID-19, everyone is so friendly and welcoming!

How would you describe your Lighthouse experience so far?

While it’s strange starting a new job during a global pandemic, I have enjoyed being a part of the Lighthouse team. It’s really great being part of a company that is not only growing but does such important work for families in our community.

Interested in learning more about a career with Lighthouse Autism Center? We are hiring! For a list of available positions or to apply, click here.

Staff Spotlight: Olivia

Lighthouse Autism Center’s Staff Spotlight highlights the incredible people who work on our team. The Staff Spotlight will feature employees across all different centers in a variety of positions. This is an opportunity for our community to get to know the people who work so hard every day to deliver the best aba therapy to the kids and families we serve.

Meet Olivia

Meet Olivia. Olivia is a Jr. Program Manager at our Elkhart – South center and has been with Lighthouse Autism Center for three years. Olivia recently graduated from Ball State University with her Master’s in ABA and received her BCBA certification in July of 2020. As a BCBA with Lighthouse Autism Center, Olivia oversees a small caseload of children and designs and implements custom therapy programs to help children advance social and communication skills, daily living skills, and more.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst

Tell us about why you applied for a position with Lighthouse.

I originally did an internship at an ABA center in Munice, IN while I was in college. Once I moved back home after I graduated, I knew I wanted to continue working in the ABA field because I fell in love with the science behind ABA practices.

Tell us about a favorite memory with your team at Lighthouse.

My favorite memory is that I have made lifelong friends through this company. Being in a service field bonds you to other people because you share the same passion. Lighthouse has introduced me to some of the greatest people I have ever met!

What is your favorite memory from your time at Lighthouse?

My favorite part about working with kiddos at Lighthouse is when they completely surprise you and show you skills that you had no idea they had! These kiddos never fail to impress and amaze me with all of the things that they can learn. Working with them is the biggest blessing and I am so lucky to be their teacher!

How would you describe your Lighthouse experience?

I would describe my Lighthouse experience as memorable. I have gotten the chance to work at two centers and get to know so many different kiddos and therapists. It has been wonderful being a part of this community!

Olivia is a dog mom to a standard poodle named Stella and is looking forward to getting married in the Fall of 2020.

Interested in learning more about a career with Lighthouse Autism Center? We are hiring! For a list of available positions or to apply, click here.