Transitioning From ABA to School

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

Transitioning From ABA to School

It’s difficult to know when, or even if, you should move your autistic child from ABA therapy to a mainstream school. We take a look at all the different elements you need to factor into your decision so that you can make the right choice for your child and family.

Moving From ABA Therapy to a Mainstream School 

As a parent to a child with autism, you don’t have to worry about asking yourself whether you understand “what is school readiness” or “why is school readiness important” if you’ve been working with an ABA therapy provider. ABA therapy is an important tool in helping your child gain the specific skills they need to ready them for a transition into a traditional schooling environment and to ensure they tick all the boxes on a school readiness checklist.  

However, there is still a lot for you as a parent to understand if you’ve been thinking about when to transition your autistic child into a mainstream school, and you may even have doubts and questions about the process (you can also find out more about autism with our dedicated autism resources).  

This is why we’re going to take a closer look at why the move into a traditional school is important for so many children with autism, the pros and cons you may need to consider, and many other important elements related to this transition. 

Can my child with autism fit into a regular school?

As a parent, the first question you’ll probably ask long before you make any decisions is “Will my child manage in a regular school environment?” The good news is that an overwhelming majority of autistic children are placed in a typical school environment. The article “Educating Autistic Children”, written by Aubyn Stahmer and Laura Schreibman from the American Federation of Teachers, shares how 89% of autistic children attend regular public schools (even if the time they spend in a regular classroom may vary depending on their individual needs).  

There’s no doubt that it may not be as easy for many children with autism to adapt to a mainstream school, but they can make the switch from an ABA therapy program with the right skills and support. 

Should my child with autism transition to a school environment?

But as you’ve undoubtedly realized yourself, just because your child can attend a mainstream school doesn’t automatically mean that they should. There are various pros and cons for a child with autism entering the traditional school system that you need to consider first. Let’s unpack the advantages and disadvantages that your autistic child may experience in a mainstream schooling environment. 

The pros of attending a mainstream school

There are many advantages to moving a child  with autism into a regular school. These include: 

  • A child with autism may feel better knowing they are included in a regular school with other children, even if they know they are different from their peers. 
  • A mainstream school environment will help them develop the social skills to navigate life both during and after school, directly from their peers 
  • It will help your child with autism develop relationships outside of their immediate family or therapists they work with in other programs 
  • Public schooling is not only free, but many public schools offer support to help an child with an autism diagnosis make progress in a traditional classroom, such as Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs). 
  • Your child will play an important role in helping neurotypical children better understand neurodivergent children through their daily interactions. 

The cons of attending a mainstream school 

However, just as there are advantages, there are also disadvantages that may affect an child with autism in a regular school. These include: 

  • Your child may feel left out in a mainstream school if their social skills are lacking. 
  • Neurotypical children may not understand the differences children with autism have which could lead to isolation or difficulty connecting to peers. 
  • As much as a mainstream school may offer some degree of support to your child with autism, there may be a lack of teaching resources and academic support to empower your child’s success at school. Though teacher may have the best of intentions, they might not have the resources to support your child the way they want to. 
  • Your child’s confidence may suffer if they aren’t able to keep up academically with their peers. 
  • Depending on their symptoms of autism , your child may struggle with handling the day-to-day tasks of a regular day at school, such as making sure you’re at the right class on time or navigating a large school building. 
  • Negative experiences may lead to additional negative outcomes as your child with autism grows older.  

Ultimately, it depends on your child as an individual 

It’s undoubtedly difficult to weigh up these pros and cons, but ultimately, the decision to move a child from ABA therapy into a mainstream schooling environment very much depends on your child and whether they meet the requirements for school readiness. While some autistic children have great difficulty adjusting to regular school life, it may be much easier for others to adapt to traditional schooling offerings. 

Signs that your child with autism is ready to start mainstream school 

While you are likely working with your ABA provider who can help you gauge when your child is ready to make the move into a mainstream school, it’s also important to better educate yourself on this important time in your child’s life. The article “When Is a Child Ready for Mainstreaming?” written by Yael Goldmintz-Rosenbaum, Ph.D., and Susan J. Schwartz, MAEd, covers this topic for the Child Mind Institute, an independent nonprofit that works with children struggling with mental health and learning disorders.  

In this piece, they identify four important factors to keep in mind when deciding to move your child into mainstream schooling, which we go through in detail below. 

School Readiness Checklist

These are the four elements that you should consider part of your school readiness checklist for your autistic child: 

1. What grade is your child going into? 

There are specific years when children are introduced to new academic challenges, and these could be very difficult or even too much for an autistic child to handle. It’s important to make sure that your autistic child has the necessary skills to meet these demands before you move them into a specific grade at a regular school. 
 

2. Can your child meet expectations in the new class?

An child with autism who may not  have the cognitive skills to match their peers may become demoralized, resulting in them falling even further behind. It’s recommended that your child undergo testing to see what their cognitive and academic strengths and weaknesses are to make sure they are put into a grade in a regular school environment where they are able to perform adequately. 
 

3. How resilient is your child?

If your child has the mental and emotional fortitude to push through and overcome their challenges, then they might be able to manage a mainstream school environment despite any academic or social weaknesses they may have. However, a child who isn’t quite as confident in this regard might need a more supportive schooling environment. 
 

4. Is your child comfortable being an advocate for themselves?

If your child is able to speak up and let the teacher know they don’t understand and they need help, they are more likely to manage in a traditional classroom. Children who aren’t quite so confident may not be able to express themselves properly and struggle with the learning process as a result. 

How to support your autistic child during this process 

One of the most important things to remember once you’ve decided to place your child in a mainstream school is that your ABA provider will be there to assist you. They will play a role in ensuring that your child with autism understands all the things to do to get ready for school, and some providers specifically teach goals to achieve school readiness skills in mock classroom set-ups. Your ABA provider should also engage with the school you’ve chosen to ensure it is properly equipped to meet your child’s needs and support the IEP as needed 

By working with your autistic child, ABA provider, and your chosen school, you’ll be able to help your child make the move from ABA therapy to mainstream schooling as easy as possible. 

Ensure your child is ready for a mainstream school with Lighthouse Autism Center

At Lighthouse Autism Center, we offer the Lighthouse Fusion ABA therapy program, a unique program that combines the best elements of ABA and speech therapy to ensure that your autistic child can achieve the best outcomes. We also provide a variety of autism resources to help you better understand autism and any issues related to it. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

What You Need To Know About IEPs – Lighthouse Autism Center

IEPs are an important educational tool that can help autistic and other special-needs children develop the skills they need to navigate life. We explain what IEPs are, who is involved in their development, whether your child qualifies for an IEP and the benefits an IEP can provide.

Learn About Individualized Education Programs

Parents of  children with autism may have heard discussions of an IEP for their child, or may already be involved in the IEP process but are unsure of their role in it, or what qualifies a child for an IEP. In this blog, we’ll take a look at exactly what IEPs are, how they work, who’s involved in the IEP process, and how they can help your child. 

What is an IEP? 

IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. It is a specific type of education program that is aimed at helping special needs kids and is a part of the PreK-12 education system. This means an IEP aims to address the education needs of special-needs children from 3 to 21 years old, when in a public school system. 

The IEP must lay out achievable educational goals for a child for a school year, while also outlining what services will be necessary and available to achieve these goals.  

How does an IEP work?

The creation of an IEP consists of several phases.  

The process begins with an assessment and eligibility phase that aims to identify whether your child qualifies for special education services. This is usually initiated by a teacher (who must get consent from a parent or guardian) or a guardian who recognizes the child may be struggling with learning.All parents have the right to request their child be evalutated for an IEP. The evaluations and assessments are typically conducted by a multidisciplainary team within the school system.  

After the assessment is completed and it is determined by a group of qualified professionals that a child qualifies, the creation of the IEP itself will begin. The IEP will aim to create specific, detailed, and measurable short- and long-term goals, take into account any educational accommodations or modifications that are required, as well as ensuring that your child has all the support services they need. This may include supportssuch as occupational or speech therapy, assistive technology, additional time on tests, or transportation. 

As your child works through their IEP, progress will be recorded and feedback provided to you. An IEP is regularly reviewed to ensure that it adapts to your child’s needs as your child grows. These reviews are usually annual but could occur more frequently, depending on your child. Parents can also request to meet with their IEP team at anytime throughout the school year.  

Usually, from the age of 14, the IEP will also start to include post-school transition goals. The IEP will then look at what services are needed to help your child achieve these objectives and be ready for adult life. 

Who is involved in the creation of an IEP?

An IEP is a team effort that requires input from a child’s parents and education specialists. Other highly qualified health practitioners, such as behavioral specialists, psychologists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists, may also be required to assess your child’s needs.   

As a parent or guardian, you will have an opportunity to review the IEP and provide feedback. This way, you can flag any issues you have with the IEP with the people involved in putting it together and work on producing a program that best suits your child. 

It’s important to get as many of the original team involved in the IEP’s creation as possible for IEP reviews. 

How does a child qualify for an IEP?

There are 13 criteria that make a child eligible for an IEP under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These include: 

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) 
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 
  • Developmental delays 
  • Emotional disorders or disturbances 
  • Intellectual disabilities 
  • Physical disabilities 
  • Sensory impairments, such as hearing or vision impairments. 

A child is also covered if they are affected by multiple disabilities that are listed under the IDEA. 

The benefits of an IEP

Now that you understand how an IEP works, you might be wondering if it’s worth all the effort. Here are the benefits that an IEP offers to children who need it. 

Can help a child with special needs achieve better educational outcomes by providing an opportunity for success

Without access to additional supports in a traditional learning environment, children with special needs may be constantly behind their peers, not because they lack the ability to learn, but because material isn’t being taught in a way that works for them. An IEP can provide the child with an education that suits their needs or style of learning. 

It is a planned and structured system for learning for a special needs child

For the child, parent, or guardian, it’s reassuring to know that you can go into each lesson knowing what to expect from an educational program and how it is going to be presented. You can also look ahead to see how the educational process will unfold for your special needs child, and you also have an idea of each person’s role and what is expected of them. 

Has advanced measurable objectives to track progress more accurately

While all educational programs have some metrics that allow you to monitor a student’s progress, many IEPs take things a step further with SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, and Time-bound. This means that very detailed goals will be created for the child to reach, as opposed to aiming for any improvement in general. For example, a non-SMART goal would be that a child’s reading speed will improve, versus a SMART goal that says a child’s reading speed will improve to 150 words per minute. This elevates IEP goals and objectives above the goals and objectives of a traditional educational program. This also means that progress can be tracked and available to the parent at their request. 

Ensures a quality education is provided

An IEP is more than an ordinary educational program. IEPs fall under the IDEA, meaning there are even stricter requirements that will ensure a special needs child receives a high-quality education. For example, an IEP must be planned and taught by professional educators and other highly qualified individuals.What is written into an IEP is considered law, and must be follwed by the team working with the child.  
 

It caters specifically to the needs of an individual child

Not only is an IEP created that caters to the specific strengths and weaknesses of an individual child in mind, but many IEPs ensure that a special needs child gets additional one-on-one time with a teacher to improve their educational outcomes. 

Help your autistic child gain the skills they need at Lighthouse Autism Center

Lighthouse Autism Center is the home of the unique Lighthouse Fusion ABA therapy program, a special program that combines the best of ABA and speech therapy to help your autistic child achieve their goals. These, when combined with our in-depth autism resources, can provide your autistic child with a solid foundation to develop their skills so that they can successfully navigate through life. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Medicaid Waivers and Autism – Lighthouse Autism Center

Medicaid helps millions of people across the United States to gain access to much-needed health services using special Medicaid waivers. These waivers allow states to provide services to those with specific needs, including low-income families that have an autistic family member. Learn more here.

Everything You Need to Know About Medicaid Waivers & Autism

If you’re in need of financial assistance for your autistic child, you may be able to get that help from Medicaid’s waiver program. Join us as we take a look at what Medicaid is, what they are, how a Medicaid waiver could help your autistic child and how you can apply for assistance.

What is Medicaid?

According to the official Medicaid website, “Medicaid provides health coverage to millions of Americans, including eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities. Medicaid is administered by states, according to federal requirements. The program is funded jointly by states and the federal government.”

In a nutshell, it’s a public health insurance program for those who can’t afford to pay for specific health-related services on their own. 

While certain federal government rules apply to all Medicaid programs, the programs are run by each state, meaning that specific rules may differ depending on which state you live in.

What is a Medicaid waiver?

A Medicaid waiver is any exception that’s made to existing Medicaid rules in order to cater for a certain individual’s or group’s specific needs. For example, if you’re disabled or have a chronic illness, instead of having to move into an institution to receive assistance, this waiver may make it possible for you to receive assistance in your own home. Each state decides how to implement waivers in order to meet the needs of its citizens. 

Different types of waiver programs

There are many different types of Medicaid waiver programs depending on where you live. That said, three types of waivers are most commonly used across the United States:

Section 1115 waivers

This type of waiver allows a state to experiment with different methods for operating their Medicaid programs, such as using new methods to provide care or additional funding. Basically, any program that can improve assistance to those who need Medicaid can be tested under this waiver.

Section 1915(b) waivers

This type of waiver allows a state to provide its own care delivery system which a Medicaid beneficiary is required to use. While this may sound restrictive compared to allowing a beneficiary to use any Medicaid provider of their choice, care delivery programs that are run under this waiver must demonstrate that it’s more cost-effective, efficient and represents the overall values of the Medicaid program.

Section 1915(c) waivers

This type of waiver allows a state to provide long-term care services to an individual in their own home or community instead of requiring them to seek care at an institution. 

How can a Medicaid waiver help autistic children?

Medicaid can provide financial assistance to families that need help meeting the needs of autistic children. In July 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) federal agency made it clear that states are required to provide services to help treat Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in children who are eligible for Medicaid and are under the age of 21. This is done through the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit.

However, this does not mean that all autistic children will automatically qualify for Medicaid. While there is a Medicaid waiver for autism, the qualifying criteria may differ from state to state and you’ll need to apply for Medicaid to find out if you meet the requirements for assistance through the program. 

How do I apply for Medicaid?

Before you apply, it’s important to know who’s eligible for Medicaid assistance since there are specific requirements one has to meet in order to become a Medicaid beneficiary. Firstly, you must either be a citizen of the United States, a United States national, or have the relevant immigration status in order to qualify. Secondly, once you’ve met this baseline requirement, you need to find out if you qualify for Medicaid in your state. Other factors, such as household income, the size of your family, and age, will play a role in whether your application is successful or not. If you have any questions, you should reach out to your state Medicaid agency to learn more about Medicaid eligibility.

Since your application will be processed at state level, it may be useful to find out more about applying for Medicaid in your state on the Medicaid & CHIP How-To Information page on the Medicaid website. 

Lighthouse Autism Center is ready to help your family

At Lighthouse Autism Center we provide Lighthouse Fusion ABA therapy, an approach which combines ABA and speech therapy techniques to create a unique program which helps to improve your autistic child’s outcomes. You can also make use of our helpful autism resources to improve your understanding of autism and how to approach life with an autistic child. Contact us to learn more about how the Midwest’s leading autism therapy institution can assist your family.

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Lighthouse Autism Center Staff Spotlight: Natalia

Meet Lighthouse Autism Center’s Staff Spotlight of the Month: Natalia

Natalia is a Registered Behavior Technician at our Castleton Center and has been with Lighthouse Autism Center since July of 2022. She graduated from Butler University with a Bachelors in Organizational Communication and Leadership. Natalia loves dancing and originally came to Indiana from Florida on a dance scholarship at Butler University!

What made you decide to apply to Lighthouse?

I applied at Lighthouse Autism Center because I love working with kids and seeing them grow! It’s been so exciting seeing them accomplish different tasks.  

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

My favorite part about working at Lighthouse is meeting the different kids and learning all about them. I have enjoyed every second working with the Lighthouse staff, BCBAs and the Senior Therapists who have all made it so special. They are always there for you when you have questions. Each day I’m excited to go into work and see what my learner and I accomplish.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time here?

My favorite memory is working with Senior Therapists Farris and Katie when I first started training. They made me feel so welcomed and taught me everything I know today. I am so thankful for them.

What advice you would like to share for those interested in a career at Lighthouse Autism Center?

I would advise any future workers for Lighthouse to always ask questions! There is so much to learn and the staff here is always there to help you! 

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?