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Social Clubs focus on building social skills within a variety of settings and activities through the use of ABA. Groups are formed based on the individual strengths and needs of each student, which are evaluated through a Social Skills Assessment before placement. Throughout each program, teachers implement specific social skills programming to guide each participant toward individualized objectives while maximizing opportunities for peer engagement. Systematic data is collected and analyzed frequently to ensure that each child makes effective progress.
SEP group leaders have extensive experience with children with special needs and a comprehensive knowledge of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Most groups have an assistant who is available to provide support to the students and collect data on progress being made. One-to-one assistance may be provided if a student requires additional support. Group leaders and assistants are supervised and supported by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, who oversees curriculum, teaching methodologies and student progress.
Group leaders will promote a number of social, emotional, and behavioral targets during group including: forming and maintaining peer relationships, nonverbal communication and body language, social perspective taking, self-regulation, impulse control, and frustration tolerance.
Our intake process is designed to assist families in navigating the complex special education system and identifying areas of strength and need for each individual. Beginning with diagnosis, we assist families in designing an early intervention program to fit their particular circumstances. We often begin with an intensive behavior analytic program as extensive research in the field indicates that 25-30 hours a week of one-to-one behavior analytic intervention is the treatment of choice for young children with Autism.
A treatment plan with skill acquisition objectives and behavior reduction goals is then presented to the family. The treatment plan is modified every six months (or sooner if the child is turning three). A re-evaluation using the same criterion and norm referenced instruments is conducted every year. This is an opportunity for the entire team and the family to re-evaluate priorities, decide whether to increase services, and, most importantly, recognize and celebrate the child’s accomplishments.
The majority of families choose to continue receiving ABLS services after their child turn three. Given our extensive experience with school systems and the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) process, we often collaborate with the early intervention staff and provide the family with specific recommendations that can be presented to the receiving school district. Depending on the services offered by the school and the timing of the third birthday, families often continue receiving services without interruption until the child goes to school.
Consultation to parents is provided by behavior analysts to help parents:
• Understand their child’s challenges and educational needs
• Assist in the implementation of behavioral interventions to teach new skills
• Generalize skills learned in discrete trial training
• Address feeding problems, sleep disturbances, and other behavioral concerns
• Develop Behavior Support Plans that can be realistically implemented in the home and community by parents and caregivers.
Consultation to schools:
Our behavior analysts work with the educational team to design skill acquisition or behavior reduction programs using discrete trials, naturalistic teaching methods, and other behavior analytic interventions.
1. Functional Behavior Assessment
Indirect, descriptive, and/or analog assessment methodologies are utilized to ascertain the function of the target behavior. The behavior analysts then collaborate with the educational team to develop Behavior Support Plans that can be realistically implemented in the public school setting by teachers and teacher assistants.
2. Independent Program Educational Evaluation
Curriculum-based instruments are combined with direct observation in different settings to assess a wide range of skills. An IPE will deepen individualized treatment and guide the current/future design of behavior analytic programs.
3. Transition Assessment
A Comprehensive Transition assessment combines criterion referenced, norm referenced, and behavioral evaluation techniques to assess learning and developmental strengths and challenges and to identify vocational interests. Standardized instruments are combined with observation, interviews with the student, the family, and the educational team, and criterion referenced instruments to develop a vocational profile that will guide recommendations for transitional needs and specific career exploration opportunities.
4. Diagnostic Assessment
Diagnostic Assessments combine criterion and norm-referenced instruments to confirm diagnosis of Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, or other behavioral or development disorders.
Following an initial academic assessment, an Individualized Learning Plan that outlines specific objectives for each child is developed. The principles of Applied Behavior Analysis are then used to teach particular areas of need or to support online learning. Prompting, reinforcement, and shaping techniques are utilized to help students actively participate in online learning or to supplement the academic instruction provided by their local school district.
Out Patient Therapy
At ABLS we believe that the entire family may need support when a child receives a diagnosis of Autism. Our team of Clinical Social Workers and Psychologists specializes in ongoing weekly psychotherapy with children on the Autism Spectrum, their parents, and siblings.
We work with people ages 5 and up with Autism and other developmental challenges to target a range of issues including: impulse control and other executive functioning challenges, establishing and maintaining relationships, emotional regulation and awareness, perspective taking and reading and understanding social contexts, and navigating specific challenges of having ASD within the school system and/or larger society. We also provide outpatient therapy for parents and siblings to address the unique challenges within a special needs household. Our model includes promoting self-care, coaching for parenting challenges and co-parenting, providing further psychoeducation on a child’s presenting diagnosis and challenges, and processing grief and emotional struggles often associated with raising a child with special needs in our work with parents. We also strive to provide a supportive and facilitative environment for siblings of children with special needs where they can work to strengthen their relationship with their brother or sister, understand and learn more about the challenges their sibling is presented with, and process their own feelings around their family dynamic and potential challenges.
A group of children share a therapist and meet in one of the homes in order to obtain the socialization and other benefits of group learning.
Learning Pods provide the advantages of group learning within a Covid-safe environment. Children need group instruction in order to develop the ability to wait, share adult attention, and maintain focus in the absence of continuous reinforcement. Learning pods provide these opportunities within small groups of two to ten students sharing a teacher. Doctoral level educators participate in the design of the curriculum using the principles of Applied Behavior
Analysis. Progress reports with data documenting each child’s progress towards academic objectives is shared with the family on a quarterly basis.
Applied Behavior Analysis
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the science in which procedures derived from experimental analysis of behavior, applied behavioral research, and behavioral psychology are used to address socially significant problems. ABA is used to develop data-based individualized programs to teach communication, social skills, self-regulation, coping skills and self-care.
At ABLS, traditional behavioral instructional methods, such as discrete trials, are combined with Naturalistic Teaching Methods (e.g., Pivotal Response Training and Natural Environment Training) and other evidence-based approaches to create a program that meets the needs of each child. Programs focus on the acquisition of skills and the generalization of these skills to natural environments. A systematic, data-driven approach to generalization is used to ensure that skills become part of the child’s functional behavior repertoire. At ABLS we believe that in order to provide high quality services for children, it is important to attend to the specific needs of their families and their particular circumstances. In keeping with this philosophy, services are tailored to fit the unique profile of each child and his/her family and may include home visits, community outings, participation in virtual Social Clubs and consultation to the family.
When programming for very young children diagnosed with Autism, ABLS emphasizes the use of positive reinforcement and ongoing assessment of each child’s unique preferences in order to maintain motivation. We believe that expectations need to increase gradually, as the relationship between the child and the Behavior Technician strengthens and the child’s attention span and motivation increases. Instructional demands are carefully titrated according to the unique characteristics and learning history of each child. This systematic and gradual introduction of structure significantly increases cooperation and motivation and fosters the development of a caring, positive relationship between the student and the instructor.
As for specific curricula that guide treatment planning, traditional discrete trial programs are combined with incidental teaching, curricula informed by research on verbal behavior and/or picture exchange communication systems. Regardless of the specific approach used in its development, each treatment goal includes the following components:
(a) Operational definitions for the target behavior,
(b) A teaching procedure, including instructions and necessary materials,
(c) Precise data collection methods,
(d) Response to errors,
(e) Response to correct responses,
(f) Stimuli to be used as reinforcers,
(g) Criteria for advancement and remediation,
(h) Prompt hierarchies and prompt fading methods.
Following an intake to assess the needs of each child and their family, we will customize a service delivery packet that can potentially combine home based instruction with remote social clubs or center based services. For example, a student might receive direct behavior analytic services at home but may also log into our virtual social clubs and attend center based special events.
Center Based Services
The ABLS center is located in Wellesley and is easily accessible to the MetroBoston area. Our center is the ideal location for one-to-one instruction, social clubs, psychotherapy, and other therapeutic services under one roof.
Center based services are provided in our Wellesley location and may include intensive behavior analytic intervention, psychotherapy, social clubs, and other therapeutic services.
At ABLS we believe that behavioral change occurs when we change the child’s natural environment. Services are provided in the home so the parents and caregivers have the opportunity to observe the behavior technician and actively participate in the design and implementation of the program in conjunction with the consulting Behavior Analyst.
Home based services provide families with the unique opportunity to participate in their children’s program by observing the behavior technician and implementing the Behavior Support Plan and the Communication Plan designed by the consulting Beard Certified Behavior Analyst.
ABLS is fully committed to providing culturally sensitive services to families that live in both urban and rural areas. We provide services in Metro Boston, Western Massachusetts and the North and South Shores. Our organizational philosophy mirrors our clinical philosophy: we strive to develop long term relationships with both families and staff, celebrating not only the children’s accomplishments but the successes of their therapists. In our experience, training and mentoring of staff results in increased retention rates and, naturally, better outcomes for the children we serve.