Applied Behavior Analysis

Therapy room at Lighthouse Autism Center with toys on a table with blue chairs and book shelves above

Applied Behavior Analysis

What is Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy focuses on the principles and techniques of learning theory to help increase or decrease certain behaviors. ABA therapy is a scientifically validated approach to understanding learning and behavior by looking at the function of the behavior and the environment in which it occurs.

Anything a person does is considered a behavior: talking, eating, coloring, tying shoes, etc… ABA Therapy looks at a particular behavior, studies the purpose behind a behavior to understand in what circumstances that behavior occurs, then uses various techniques to change the behavior, teach a new behavior, or a more functional way of doing that behavior.

For children with autism, ABA therapy focuses on three main areas of development: developing new skills, shaping, and refining previously learned skills, and decreasing socially significant problem behavior.

Developing New Skills

ABA therapy is incredibly effective in helping children with autism gain new skills. For example, if a child’s parent and clinical team determine that a goal for a child is to learn to tie their shoes, this would take place over a period of time with several steps. The child may start with going and finding his/her own shoes. Once that is mastered, the child might find them and place them on their feet independently. Following that, the next step might be to cross the strings. This would continue until the child is independently completing all steps of the process. These steps will be different for every child, but the concept is the same, start at the beginning and give the child the building blocks to complete the new skill independently.

Shaping and Refining Previously Learned Skills

Shaping and refining previously learned skills can take many forms. For example, initially a child may engage someone by pulling a caregiver to an item he or she wants. This may be the only way the child may know how to get someone’s attention. With ABA, this communication skills can be shaped into a different and more effective way of communicating. For example, the BCBA might teach the child how to point to an item instead. They might build towards using a picture communication system, using vocal sounds, or an Augmentative Alternative Communication Device. The possibilities are endless! While this is just one example of shaping previously learned skills, in ABA therapy skills can be shaped in a variety of milestones including, play and independent living skills, just to name a few.

Decreasing Problem Behaviors

Some of the first signs a child may have autism may come in the form of socially significant problem behavior such as, intense tantrums, inappropriate behavior, flopping, etc.

For example, if a child typically has tantrums during lunch, ABA therapy could help in many ways. First, the clinicians would evaluate the environment in which that behavior is taking place. Does this only happen when the child is eating at home? Or when the child is eating at a restaurant? Perhaps it happens while eating in a lunchroom setting, but not at home or while eating at a restaurant. What can the environment in which that screaming is taking place tell us about the behavior?

Once the root cause of the behavior, whether environmental, or something else, is identified, the next step is giving the child the tools to appropriately communicate their wants, needs, or what they do not like about the environment. Perhaps they are upset because they see other peers eating something they want. Maybe the lunchroom feels too loud or overwhelming. Whatever it is, we help give that child the tools to be able to tolerate that environment and appropriately express themselves.

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Lighthouse Autism Center Staff Spotlight: Bryn

July’s Lighthouse Autism Center’s Staff Spotlight is Bryn

Bryn is the Clinical Director at our Fishers Autism Center, where she has worked since January of 2021 and has been in the field of ABA therapy for 11 years. Bryn received her undergraduate degree in child psychology at Bridgewater University in Massachusetts, her BCaBA at the Florida Institute of Technology, and then her master’s at Ball State University. She was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana and enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, going to the park and swimming.

What made you decide to apply to Lighthouse?

I am in the field because I love helping clients, families, and my clinical team achieve their individual goals and I enjoy being a part of their journey here at Lighthouse. I love ABA therapy because I love seeing the progress our learners make each day.

What is your favorite part of working at Lighthouse Autism Center?

My favorite thing about working for Lighthouse has been the continued collaboration with my incredible coworkers. I always enjoy the opportunities for career growth and cultivating my skills to become the best supervisor and mentor to my team.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time here?

There are so many memories! I love that I am part of creating an environment with my team and fellow clinicians that has a positive and tangible impact on our learners. I especially love the people that I work with each day and that we get to spend our days working together to make sure our learners are achieving the best outcomes.
Come be a part of our team!

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

Lighthouse Autism Center to Open New Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan!

Lighthouse Autism Center Opening in Kalamazoo, Michigan

Lighthouse Autism Center (LAC) continues to expand, now with a network of centers in three states – quite a journey from its humble beginnings serving four families in one building to now serving hundreds of families across three states for nearly a decade. It’s truly amazing.

Kalamazoo Autism Center Coming Late Summer of 2022

Our newest state-of-the-art children’s autism center is slated to open in the late summer of 2022 and will provide autism services to 28 children and their families and create over 30 new jobs in the area. 

With a mission of providing the highest quality autism services to children and families through our facilities, LAC has sought to do just that in Kalamazoo, MI. As the need for ABA services continues to grow, LAC seeks to fill that need by expanding into facilities that can accommodate a larger capacity of learners, helping more families and children with autism, reach their goals.

Lighthouse Autism Center is the Midwest’s leading autism therapy provider

With beautiful facilities that promote natural and play-based learning, and a team of highly trained and compassionate clinicians, Lighthouse Autism Center brings together compassionate care and clinical excellence to offer the highest quality ABA therapy to children with autism.

With a unique clinical model called Lighthouse Fusion, children at Lighthouse are making greater progress, faster, all while having fun. While other ABA centers typically keep ABA and speech therapies separate, Lighthouse Fusion brings these two therapies together into one enhanced therapy solution. We invite you to learn more about how this innovative clinical model is helping to unlock each child’s potential.

To learn more about Lighthouse Autism Center or enroll your child, contact our Family Outreach Coordinator at 269-249-1490

New Kalamazoo East Center Contact Information​

3744 Gull Rd.
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49048

Family Outreach Phone: 269-249-1490

Don’t see an autism treatment center listed near you? Contact us and let us know the area you are in, and we will notify you when we have a center opening near you!

Construction is underway and we cannot wait for the center to be completed!

Find an Autism Center Near You

Interested in finding an autism center near you? Click Find a Center below to view a full list of current autism therapy centers.

Safe Activities for Children with Autism

Activities for Children with Autism

Safety is a prominent concern for any parent or caregiver of every child regardless of being on the autism spectrum. There are wide variety of activities that can help children with autism learn life skills, work on socialization, and so much more, all while having fun! Children with autism enjoy a variety of activities based on their abilities, skills, and needs.

Pretend Play

While playing with blocks, dolls, puppets or trains, children can create stories that match their interests, expand their imaginations and deal with real life. Pretend play also helps children with autism develop social skills and learn motor and life skills like going to the grocery store, dentist, or vet. All Lighthouse Autism Centers have play-based therapy rooms that immerse children in imaginary play spaces as well as naturalistic play spaces. These spaces offer more motivated learning opportunities. These naturalistic play-based spaces also help with children with autism learn how to tolerate overstimulating situations by bringing familiarity and even prompt speech and language opportunities.

Pretend restaurant

Help your child with their creativity by playing restaurant with them. A lot of kids love to do this as it becomes fun imaginative play. Use play food or hand-drawn food, a notepad and pen. You can also make play money to enhance the experience. Kids will love eating at the restaurant and taking orders.

Object Sorting

Sorting is an occupational therapy activity for children with autism. Collect various items such as play foods or toy blocks and have your child sort them into categories. Kids can also sort snacks by size, color, and similarities. Work on adding and subtracting with the snacks. This helps kids with colors, shapes, basic math, counting and more.

Imitation and Mirroring

Children with autism often struggle to make eye contact. A fun way to encourage the child to do so is by asking them to imitate you and/or others. Use a mirror or a game like patty cake as you help your child develop social and language skills. Games like Simon Says or Follow the Leader can also encourage imitation and mirroring skills for children with autism. These games can help improve social skills as well as motor skills in children with autism.


The rhythm, repetition and sounds of music can calm children with autism and teach them important language, communication, and rhythm skills. Share songs that rhyme, include physical actions, or incorporate daily activities like getting dressed or eating food, and provide kids with opportunities to shake maracas, bang pans and play other instruments as they make music.


Encourage children with autism to sing. This is not only very important to child development, but for children to express themselves and be creative. Learn new songs together as a family. Play some of your favorite songs from when you were growing up.


Lighthouse Autism Center celebrates Fun Fridays with a dance party! It’s important for children with autism to be creative in their movements. Dancing is very fun and expressive and supports motor skills and socialization!

Outdoors Activities and Playgrounds

Playground visits help children with autism stay active and calm their emotions and senses. Visit a park and allow children to slide, swing and run as they play alone or with peers. Lighthouse Autism Center offers private playgrounds at all our centers for active outdoor play.


According to the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation (ASDF), swimming provides invaluable therapy for children with autism, as well as providing improved speech, coordination, social skills, self-esteem, and cognitive processing. Enrolling your child with autism into swimming lessons can be highly beneficial! Many children with autism are drawn to water for its calming, sensory experience. However, water can present as a major safety concern. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children and adults on the autism spectrum. According to the National Autism Association, accidental drowning accounted for approximately 90% of total U.S. reported deaths in children with an ASD under the age of 14. Furthermore, introducing your child to water in a safe way and seeking swim lessons has been proven to be highly beneficial for children with autism.

Sensory Water table

Use a water table or a small inflatable or plastic pool, a bucket, or a bathtub. Drop items into the water to have your child scoop out with a kitchen spoon or tongs. Add toys, pompoms, balls and anything else that would engage your child in this fun and sensory exploration.


Swinging is a very therapeutic activity for children with autism! There are so many ways to use a swing for therapy. All Lighthouse Autism Centers include a swing in our play spaces.  They are versatile in that they can be used for calming and self-regulation, or just a fun, enjoyable activity! Many parents of children with autism purchase sensory swings for at home use.

Water Balloon Toss

This is a simple and fun way to play catch while getting wet and staying cool in the heat. Toss balloons into buckets and knock over objects you have set up. Smaller balloons are harder to pop, so the smaller you make some balloons for games, the longer the play can continue.

Bubble Blowing

Blowing and catching bubbles is a favorite activity at Lighthouse Autism Center! This activity helps children with sensory and joint attention difficulties.

Drawing and Coloring

Drawing helps children with autism develop fine motor skills, work through emotions and experiment with colors, textures, and shapes. Provide crayons, paints, and pencils, and let them color a picture or create their own design on a blank canvas.

Story time

Story time is another favorite at our centers. Books are a great resource to work on various skills. Ask kids questions as you read. For example, if you were reading Cinderella you could ask, how would it feel to be the main character? What are some ways her stepsisters can show her kindness? If you were reading Aladdin, you could ask, if you had a magic carpet, where would you go? This helps children with autism learn empathy and helps them with perspective taking.

To learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder, Visit:

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

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