Following an autism diagnosis, the next steps can feel overwhelming and confusing. For many children, along with their diagnosis, a specified number of hours of ABA therapy is recommended by a doctor or psychologist.
The logical following step is to do some research on ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy, and what you can expect from it. ABA has become controversial in the autism community as it's known in its traditional form; however, in more recent years, many centers, including Springtide, have moved towards a more modern approach.
Psychologist Jean Piaget said, “Play is the work of childhood.” Play is how children learn and understand the world. Through that lens, play-based ABA therapy uses play as the primary way to conduct the session. It is more natural and child-led in nature, and allows the child to choose the activities through which they learn.
What is ABA Therapy?
ABA therapy is known as the gold-standard treatment that has been clinically proven to help children with autism navigate the world more independently and confidently. This therapy can take place at home, in the community, and at a center, and caters to the needs of the children and their family.
A highly trained BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) determines the functions of your child’s behaviors, as well as the triggers, and puts together an individualized plan for the child. A skilled RBT (Registered Behavior Technician) works with the child to reach specific goals. Your child might have communication-based goals, social goals, behavioral goals, or academic goals.
How Does Play-Based Therapy Differ From Traditional ABA?
In traditional ABA therapy, the RBT leads the session and sets specific goals for the child to achieve. The technician then uses various techniques, such as positive reinforcement, to encourage the child to engage in desired behaviors. While this approach can be very effective, it can also be rigid and may not be appealing to some children.
Alternatively, play-based, child-led ABA therapy prioritizes the child’s interests and preferences. The RBT and BCBA work to follow the child’s lead and use play as the way to engage the child and encourage them to learn new skills. The environment is created specifically for play and exploration, with a variety of toys, board games, and activities available.
While playing a game, for instance, a therapist can teach a child vital conversational skills, like initiating conversation and transitioning to different topics, and social skills like taking turns and following directions.
Benefits of Play-Based Therapy
Any play-based therapy is a more enjoyable and natural way for children to learn. Children are often more willing to engage in activities that they enjoy and are interested in, and more likely to retain what they’ve learned and experienced throughout the session. The RBT and BCBA can more easily build a trusting relationship with the child, allowing them to help the child reach their goals.
In addition, play-based ABA therapy allows for increased flexibility. As the child is leading the session, the therapist will adapt to the child’s interests and needs, and will modify the session in order to keep the child motivated and interested.
The Introduction of Assent-Based Therapy
Springtide's therapy is all assent-based, and BCBAs are now even required to obtain assent from clients when possible. This was added to the Ethics Code for Behavior Analysts in order to help the clients with autism advocate for themselves. This allows the client to refrain from participation in activities they are uncomfortable with through verbal or nonverbal actions.
At the first sign of assent withdrawal, such as a tantrum, inattention, or turning away from the therapist, the activity will end. That way, the child remains truly in control of the session.
Figuring out the best plan going forward for your child is difficult to figure out. With so much information out there, it can be overwhelming knowing how to proceed. Reach out to learn about Springtide’s program that offers a 360 approach to your child, while treating the child with the respect they deserve through it all.
Reach out today and speak with one of our enrollment specialists to get started with Springtide