Making a decision of choosing continuing Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy, better known as ABA therapy, in replacement of mainstream early education, whether part-time or full-time, is a difficult decision to make. Does a combination of school and therapy most benefit my child or is one superior to the other?
Parents often find themselves with this question when their child has reached Pre-K age or when their child has been in the public school system but behaviors are impeding progress of learning in their special education classroom.
Let’s review where school and ABA therapy may differ:
- IDEA: Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), your child with Autism must receive a Free and Appropriate Education (FAE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) available to them. In the public school setting this may look like an inclusive classroom where they are with neurotypical peers or in a self-contained classroom. This does not require a 1:1 aide for the learner and the teacher to learner ratio may vary on available resources to the school.
- Opportunity for Socialization: The opportunity for socialization is an important facet that mainstream schools provide that appeals to many parents. Mainstream schools provide a greater exposure to neurotypical peers and may provide them with a model for appropriate behavior if they qualify for an inclusionary setting.
- State Education Goals: All learners with a diagnosis of Autism are required to have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that outlines the child’s goals, special needs or barriers, and benchmarks to measure success. The goals chosen are based on a combination of your child’s needs in addition to state curriculum that must be met for that school grade. Accommodations may be provided but the overall goal is to have them achieve the state’s requirements for academic progress.
- 1:1 Therapy-ABA therapy is provided in a 1:1 setting typically with an RBT with ongoing supervision and reassessment by the BCBA. A variety of therapists may be used to allow for generalization of skills and to assure the skills learned can be demonstrated across a variety of people.
- Socialization with Peers– ABA therapy breaks down the components of socialization in smaller steps for the learner in order to increase success in the real world. Exposure to typically socializing peers may not be enough if specific skills are not taught. Socialization goals may include greetings and farewells, turn taking, answering questions, asking questions, and how to request something of a peer, such as a game of chase or joining in on playing Legos. Each goal playing a building block for the next to create a solid foundation.
- Individualized Goals– Goals identified for a learner receiving ABA services focuses on increased independence and skills that will allow that learner, and their families, a better quality of life. This may include skills such as safety in the community, feeding, activities of daily living such as dressing and/or toileting, as well as a breakdown of more complex cognitive skills through programs such as PEAK. All of these are custom tailored to the learner and adjusted as needed during supervision which is received on a weekly or biweekly schedule based on the learner’s therapy schedule.
Every child is unique, as will be the combination of services that will help them thrive. If you need additional support with school readiness, making progress on IEP goals, or if you need help defining what your child’s success will look like and a plan to achieve it, reach out to BCOTB and ask about our School Readiness Program and School Success Program!