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

Meet Lighthouse Autism Center’s Staff Spotlight of the Month: 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 Shining Example: Hope

Meet Lighthouse Autism Center’s Child Spotlight of the Month: Hope.

When Hope first came to Lighthouse she struggled with flopping, running away, refusal behavior and would often throw objects when she became upset or frustrated. She also had challenges with speech, following routines and directions. Since enrolling at Lighthouse, Hope has made incredible progress.

Hope’s Progress at Lighthouse Autism Center

  • Increase the amount of time she can sit and work independently without reinforcement
  • Nearly eliminate refusal behavior, throwing objects and flopping
  • Increase her school readiness skills such as identifying numbers, letters, turn-taking, peer play and more

Lighthouse Autism Center Staff Perspective

“Hope is doing so well and making tremendous progress. We are all so proud of all she has accomplished thus far at Lighthouse. She continues to work hard and gain new skills within the center and at home daily. We are so grateful to be with Hope on this journey and can’t wait to see what the future holds for her. Keep up the great work Hope!”

– Chelsea Gibson, Lighthouse Autism Center Clinical Director

Contact us with any questions and enroll your child today at Lighthouse Autism Center!

At LAC, we are seeing incredible progress made by our learners every day.

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

Lighthouse Autism Center is Expanding Services 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

Safe 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

Sensory-Friendly Tips for Children with Autism on July 4th

Navigating the Holiday with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Holidays in general can be overwhelming and overstimulating for children with autism. The 4th of July Holiday can be one of the more overstimulating holidays consisting of large social gatherings, fireworks, parades, festivals and more! Preparing for these upcoming activities is crucial.

There are various ways to ensure that the holiday is safe and memorable for children with autism. Here are a few tips for families and caregivers of children with Autism:

Prepare your child in advance

Prepare your child in advance by telling them what is going to happen at the fireworks display or celebration. Focus on the fun aspect and let your child know that you are excited for these upcoming activities. Engage your child in the excitement and get them excited! Tell them about the holiday and stories of the good food, friends, and activities.  You can read your child books about similar celebrations or show them videos online or even take them to the location beforehand to introduce and bring familiarity to the situation. Create a plan for activities including timing, location, safety, and helpful supplies. Have a plan B. It is important to understand your child’s limits.

Determine a location and create a safe space

Choose a location where your child can retreat easily, such as at home with a view of fireworks, where a quiet room is available if they need a break from the noise and lights or watch by distance from inside your vehicle. You can also create a special space for your child to make them feel more comfortable by bringing their favorite comfort items such as a pillow and blanket or a chair.  It is important that your child feels comfortable and safe and has a space to prevent overstimulation. Create an escape plan if your child becomes too overstimulated. Events like community fireworks can become hectic, fast. As the crowd’s swell, noise grows, and children on the autism spectrum become prone to meltdowns. That is why identifying an escape route to a quiet place is important.

Bring helpful supplies and favorite items

Pack a bag ahead of time with sensory toys, games, and familiar snacks. Also consider headphones for children who are sensitive to loud sounds. As we all know, fireworks can pack a lot of sensory stimulation. Sensory items and snacks can provide a crucial distraction if your child gets antsy while waiting for activities to start.

Make safety a priority

Put a strong focus on safety around fireworks. Wandering and accidents can happen at any time.  However, being in an unfamiliar environment can increase the risk.

Ask for help

Be clear with other adults around you about how they can help make the event comfortable for your child with autism. Make sure your child knows how to ask for help and how to ask for a break from the party or noise. If your child is verbal, they may only need a reminder.  However, many children on the autism spectrum do best with a visual aid. For example, provide your child with a special card to hand to you when they need a break from the stimulation.

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Children with Autism: Boys Verses Girls

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Boys Verses Girls

According to the CDC, boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.

But does this mean that boys are more likely to have autism or does this mean that girls are just being underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed? Signs of autism in girls can be easily missed, especially in cases of high-functioning autism. The signs and characteristics displayed by children with autism is more easily recognizable with severe and problematic symptoms, often observed among boys. Therefore, boys get referred for diagnostic testing and treatment services earlier in development than girls typically do and are more often diagnosed. Autism in girls and autism in boys do not always look the same. In fact, recent research suggests that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may look quite different in girls—so different, that it can be difficult to diagnose. It may not get noticed in girls until later teen or pre-teen years, when it becomes harder for a child to “cover up” their autism-related characteristics. As the gender differences among children with autism get more closely examined, many experts are beginning to observe that girls may be better at imitating socially appropriate behaviors and have fewer behavior problems than boys. This creates a masking of autism symptoms for girls that prevent them from being referred for services.

Some of the differences in girls with autism verses boys with autism based on resent research are:

  • Boys with autism often have very repetitive and limited areas of play. Girls with autism are less repetitive and have broader areas of play.
  • Girls with autism are more likely than boys to be able to respond to non-verbal communication such as pointing or gaze following. They are also somewhat more focused and less prone to distraction.
  • While boys’ social communication issues become challenging very early in their lives, girls may be able to manage the social demands of early childhood but run into difficulties as they enter early adolescence.
  • According to the Kennedy Krieger report, Boys with ASD may tend to engage in disruptive behavior to gain objects, while girls with ASD may tend to engage in disruptive behavior to get attention.
  • Girls with autism are more likely than boys to also suffer from anxiety and/or depression.
  • While girls with autism do have perseverative interests, they are more likely to choose interests (such as TV stars or music) that appear more typical than, for example, many boys’ perseverative interests in schedules, statistics, or transportation.
  • Girls with autism are less likely to behave aggressively and more likely to be passive or withdrawn.
  • It is fairly common for girls with autism to appear socially competent as youngsters because they are “taken under the wings” of other girls who enjoy mentoring their peers. These mentors often fade out of the picture as they enter adolescence and find other interests or groups of friends.

What is autism?

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder is defined as the broad range of conditions that include challenges with communication skills, social skills, motor skills, daily living skills and more. In the most recent study performed by the CDC, 1 in every 44 children are diagnosed with autism. Furthermore, boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls.

How to Identify Signs of Autism and Evaluating Your Child

Having a child tested for autism spectrum disorder is only something that a qualified professional will be able to do. However, knowing the signs of autism can help you decide whether or not to seek further evaluation for your child. The easiest way to be able to determine if a child should have further evaluation for autism spectrum disorder is to know the signs.

Getting an early diagnosis of ASD is key for proper treatment and early intervention. With that in mind, what are the characteristics of autism?




Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

The “Proof is in the Paddington”

The “Proof is in the Paddington”

This week, Lighthouse Fusion Director, Janine Shapiro, CCC-SLP/BCBA, and Lighthouse Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Jessica McCuen, traveled to London.  Tourist sightseeing, international cuisine, and West End shows were not on the itinerary.  Instead, the focus was Hannah*, a doe-eyed, 5-year-old girl with autism secondary to a very rare genetic condition.  In short, Hannah represents another Lighthouse success story, but she also serves as the inspiration and proof of concept for the entire Lighthouse Fusion approach to integrated ABA and speech-language therapy.


A Video Gives Hope

In 2019, Access Behavior Analysis (which has since been acquired by Lighthouse Autism Center) created a video documenting the speech development of a female toddler in Indianapolis with a rare genetic condition.  Given the severity of communication deficits of most individuals with this disorder, this young girl’s gains proved shocking to her family and professionals in the medical community.  The video highlighted the benefits of an integrated ABA and speech-language approach with the goal of providing hope to families traveling the same uncharted road. Not long after the video posted, Hannah’s mother stumbled across it, recognized similarities between the child featured and her own, and reached out to the dually certified practitioners with a plea for help.


Virtual Therapy Success

Local client and family obligations precluded an immediate trip to London, so Jessica and Janine scheduled a virtual intake via SkypeHannah initially presented with very few sounds and never produced them in an imitative context.  Jessica and Janine virtually coached Hannah’s mom how to leverage the principles of behavior in combination with speech prompting techniques to teach Hannah to imitate a variety of sounds.  Six months following the first email, Janine and Jessica finally met Hannah in person.  By the end of the three-day international consultation, Hannah was producing a variety of vocal words to request her favorite items and activities.  Here again was a child given a very low likelihood of ever developing more than a few vocal words defying the odds with behavioral speech techniques, and this time, most targets were achieved virtually!  Janine and Jessica left promising to return soon, but just a few months later, the world shut down. Virtual sessions resumed and progress continued.


Lighthouse Fusion™

Meanwhile, Lighthouse Autism Center wanted to offer all of its learners the opportunity to benefit from therapy with practitioners who were dually certified as speech-language pathologists and Board Certified Behavior Analysts.  Often referred to as “unicorns” these practitioners are as effective as they are rare.  Lighthouse also envisioned a more collaborative model with its BCBAs and SLPs working together with the learners, rather than simply housing speech and ABA under the same roof.  The experience with Hannah demonstrated the power of behavioral speech strategies within a virtual format.  Though instead of a parent taking direction, Lighthouse’s talented BCBAs develop objectives and implement therapy alongside the speech-language pathologist.  This is the Lighthouse Fusion approach to ABA therapy, and it takes place every day at every Lighthouse Autism Center.


Janine, Jessica, (and Paddington) returned from their second trip to London thrilled with Hannah’s progress and energized for the week’s Lighthouse Fusion co-treatment sessions with learners in Indiana, Michigan and Illinois.  Lighthouse practitioners will soon be packing their bags again, this time for Ireland, where they will share Lighthouse Fusion techniques at an international ABA conference.  As Janine and Jessica joked on the flight home from London, the proof was “in the Paddington!”


* Name has been changed for privacy.

The Lighthouse Way

Meet Janine Shapiro, M.S., CCC SLP-BCBA

Meet Janine Shapiro, M.S., CCC SLP-BCBA

What made you decide on a career in therapy?

I have two younger siblings who presented with developmental speech disorders. I grew up in clinical waiting rooms! My parents had enormous respect and gratitude towards my brothers’ speech therapist; she was a hero in our house!

What inspires/drives you?

I’m inspired by the progress I see each day. I am driven to create new techniques- Fusion procedures- that produce results parents and other practitioners never dreamed possible.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Working alongside and collaborating with some truly brilliant speech and behavior analytic clinicians. I look forward to going to the office each day. I’m passionate about my career, which I don’t view as work. I’m extraordinarily lucky.

How has this career path impacted you?

I do not take anything for granted. I live a very grateful life. I’m most thankful for the families who trust me to give their children a voice.

What advice would you give to those seeking a Similar career path?

When offered an opportunity to learn, raise your hand! Add as many techniques to your toolbox as possible; each one will one day bring a learner a step closer to better communication and a more independent life. Seek out great mentors.
To learn more about Lighthouse Fusion™, click here.


Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

Lighthouse Autism Center Shining Example: Oliver

Meet Lighthouse Autism Center’s Child Spotlight of the Month: Oliver.

When Oliver first came to Lighthouse he struggled with communication, toileting, and aggression. With the help of his dedicated team of clinicians at Lighthouse, Oliver has made incredible progress!

Oliver’s Progress at Lighthouse Autism Center

  • Oliver now independently asks for things he wants or needs using his picture exchange system.
  • When Oliver started he would rarely use vocal words to communicate. With Lighthouse Fusion, we have seen Oliver drastically increase his vocal communication.
  • Oliver was not toilet trained prior to coming to Lighthouse. He has made great progress! While he still wears pull-ups, he stays dry all day and can now ask to use the bathroom.
  • With his new vocal communication skills combined with the help of a picture exchange system, Oliver is now able to communicate his wants and needs which in turn, has significantly reduced the amount of aggressive behavior seen at home and in the center. These newfound skills are having far reaching impacts for Oliver and his family!

Lighthouse Autism Center Staff Perspective

“I have overseen Oliver since July of 2021. In this time, Oliver has grown tremendously. He’s been using the toilet consistently, utilizing his picture icons to request preferred items and even the bathroom. His speech has just soared over the last 2 months with Oliver’s participation in co-treat sessions with Janine. With the Lighthouse Fusion model, we have seen Oliver echoing words consistently, vocally saying hi and bye while he waves, and he vocally addresses his pet cat “Ivy” whenever she’s in the room with him, all things Oliver could not do before coming to Lighthouse. While Oliver has absolutely blown everyone away with his progress, I cannot wait to see what his future holds through his time at LAC and even beyond!”

– Elizabeth Zeese, Jr. Program Manager at Lighthouse Autism Center


Contact us with any questions and enroll your child today at Lighthouse Autism Center!

At LAC, we are seeing incredible progress made by our learners every day.

Acronyms Used With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Acronyms and What You Need to Know

Do you have a child that has recently been diagnosed with autism but do not understand all the acronyms being tossed around with autism?  Let us help you breakdown some of the most commonly used acronyms used with autism.

There are so many! Let us start with the basics:

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism Spectrum Disorder is defined as the broad range of conditions that include challenges with communication skills, social skills, motor skills, daily living skills and more. Autism and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are general terms used for grouping complex disorders affecting brain development. These developmental disorders are characterized in degrees by the severity of the below indicators:

  • Rett syndrome
  • Autistic disorder
  • Pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder
  • Asperger syndrome

ASD can be associated with the following:

  • Social interaction difficulties
  • Language, speech, and communication difficulties
  • Behavioral and sensory difficulties
  • Intellectual disability
  • Physical health issues and difficulties in motor coordination

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior. 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. ABA Therapy principles have been applied since the early 1960s to both children and adults with various developmental diagnoses. There has since been an evolution and improvement in the therapy techniques used, but the core teaching of ABA has stayed the same and remains to be the therapy that shows the best outcomes for those with autism. Today, ABA is the only therapy endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General as an effective treatment for autism and is endorsed by several other state and federal agencies, in addition to physicians and advocates in the autism community.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)

A graduate-level professional in behavior analysis who provides supervision for RBTs. BCBAs evaluate children and create personalized treatment plans.

Registered Behavior Technician (RBT)

A paraprofessional in behavior analysis who practices under the close, ongoing supervision of a BCBA. This role is also often referred to as a behavior therapist. RBTs work one-on-one with a child with autism to help them develop new skills and decrease socially significant problem behavior. RBTs receive in-depth training in behavior analysis, speech therapy, and more.

Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)

SLPs are experts in communication. SLPs work with people of all ages, from babies to adults. SLPs treat many types of communication and swallowing problems. These include problems with:

  • Speech sounds
  • Language
  • Literacy
  • Social communication
  • Voice
  • Fluency
  • Cognitive communication
  • Feeding and swallowing

Dually Certified Clinician (BCBA/SLP)

Dually Certified Board-Certified Behavior Analyst and Speech Language Pathologist (BCBA, SLP). BCBA/SLPs are highly skilled and very rare – with only a couple hundred in the entire world, they have a master’s degree in both ABA and speech-language pathology and are certified BCBA’s and SLP’s.

Occupational Therapy (OT)

Occupational therapy is a field of healthcare that treats people who have injuries, disabilities, or other conditions, including autism. The main goal of occupational therapy for autism is to improve the patient’s quality of life. Through interventions, occupational therapists can help people with ASD gain independence.
After completing the evaluation, the occupational therapist works with the patient and family to develop an intervention plan and treatment goals. Occupational therapy interventions for autism may include:

  • Focusing on sensory integration and sensory-based strategies.
  • Emphasizing mental health and wellness.
  • Implementing emotional development and self-regulation strategies and programs.
  • Organizing peer groups, social participation, and play activities.
  • Improving self-care routines to help with daily activities such as bathing, feeding, and grooming.
  • Working on motor development.
  • Supporting an adolescent’s transition into adulthood and helping them build skills to enter the workforce.
  • Using cognitive behavioral approaches to support positive behaviors.
  • Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) Training
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
  • Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) testing
  • Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) testing

Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) Training

CPI can best be described as nonviolent crisis intervention training designed to teach best practices for managing difficult situations and disruptive behaviors. Therapists learn how to identify at-risk individuals and use nonverbal and verbal techniques to defuse hostile behavior. This type of training not only ensures the utmost safety of the children at our centers, but also, the safety of our staff.

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Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

PECS is a unique alternative/augmentative communication system developed in the USA in 1985 by Andy Bondy, PhD, and Lori Frost, MS, CCC-SLP. PECS was first implemented with pre-school students diagnosed with autism at the Delaware Autism Program. Since then, PECS has successfully been implemented worldwide with thousands of learners of all ages who have various cognitive, physical and communication challenges. The primary goal of PECS is to teach functional communication.

Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS)

This is an activity-based assessment administered by trained clinicians to evaluate communication skills, social interaction, and imaginative use of materials in individuals who are suspected to have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS)

This is 15-item observation-based rating scale designed to accurately differentiate children with autism from those with developmental delays without features of autism.

Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (MCHAT)

This is a parent-report screening tool to assess the risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In approximately 10 minutes, parents can complete the 20 questions and receive an autism risk assessment for their child.


Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

What is Stimming and Why Does my Child with Autism Stim?

What is stimming?

Stimming or self-stimulating behavior includes the repetitive actions of twirling or spinning, hand-flapping, head-banging and many other complex body movements. It also includes the repetitive use of an object, such as flicking a rubber band, twirling a piece of string, or repetitive activities involving the senses (such as repeatedly feeling a particular texture). Stimming is often one of the most outwardly signs in Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Some of the classic forms of stimming by a child with autism include:

  • Staring at objects — especially anything with lights or movement
  • Gazing off into space
  • Blinking repeatedly
  • Looking out of the corner of their eyes
  • Flipping lights on and off repeatedly
  • Random humming, shrieking, or making other vocal noises
  • Finger snapping, tapping or putting hands over their ears.
  • Tapping on ears or objects
  • Covering and uncovering ears
  • Tasting or licking — including thumb sucking, finger sucking, or tasting something one wouldn’t normally taste
  • Unusual or inappropriate smelling or sniffing

What are Repetitive Behaviors?

Scientists categorize repetitive behaviors into two groups. So-called ‘lower-order’ repetitive behaviors are movements such as hand-flapping, fidgeting with objects or body rocking, and vocalizations such as grunting or repeating certain phrases. ‘Higher-order’ repetitive behaviors include autism traits such as routines and rituals, insistence on sameness and intense interests. Repetitive behaviors are among the first signs of autism to emerge in toddlerhood. They are seen in people across the autism spectrum. They tend to be more pronounced in those with lower cognitive ability, however, repetitive behaviors have been recognized as part of autism since the condition was first described.

Why do children with autism resort to stimming?

Although the activities used for stimming varies from child to child, the reasons behind it may be the same:

  • For enjoyment
  • To mask the unoccupied mind and fill the void when bored
  • An attempt to gain sensory input, such as rocking may be a way to stimulate the balance (vestibular) system; hand-flapping may provide visual stimulation
  • An attempt to reduce sensory input, such as focusing on one sound may reduce the impact of a loud, distressing environment; this may particularly be seen in social situations
  • Repetitive motions can allow children with autism to keep focused, and clear their head of distractions
  • To deal with stress and anxiety when feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or uncomfortable
  • Self-regulation and a way to express needs and feelings

Should you be concerned or prevent your child from stimming?

Although stimming can be viewed as disruptive and socially unacceptable, stimming is often very enjoyable and is a way to reduce stress. If the actions of stimming are deemed safe, it should not be stopped or reduced. There may be times that your child will function better if they are allowed to stim. However, in some instances stimming can sometimes be deemed as unsafe.

Sometimes, intense or constant repetitive behaviors prevent children with autism from engaging in important activities, such as learning in school. Occasionally, they can result in harm to others or self-harm, such as when a person repeatedly bangs his head against a wall.

If the behavior restricts the child’s opportunities, causes distress or discomfort, impacts on learning, causes difficulties, or is in some way unsafe, they may need support to stop or modify the behavior, or reduce their reliance on it.


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