Did you know that, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), early intervention for autism is both more effective and less expensive than later-life intervention? Also, ABA is the only therapy for autism endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General and the Association for Science in Autism (ASAT)?
So while it’s certainly helpful to have in-school ABA services, the first step to helping your child with autism is to begin before your child starts school.
In the post-diagnosis period, you can work with an ABA clinician through your state’s early intervention services program. You can also supplement these sessions with FirstPath Autism video trainings.
An ABA clinician can help your child with autism learn to manage sensory processing difficulties and unfamiliar stimuli. If your child lacks these internal skills, they may struggle to adapt to a school environment. ABA can assist your child in moving past immediate sensory experiences and exploring the possibilities of socialization.
As the Lund Van Dyke Autism and Behavior Specialists note, “The goal of ABA therapy is to develop the verbal and social skills necessary for a child to move from being motivated mainly by the sensory/motor stimuli in their environment to being motivated by verbal social interaction with other people.” This is a challenging goal, but it is possible to achieve it one step at a time!
Early intervention can make a big difference when it comes to educational options. As you look ahead and research local elementary education, know that ABA can empower your child to do more. With age-appropriate ABA instruction, your child may be able to participate in a traditional classroom in the future.
As the Autism Speaks’ Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) web page notes, “Some preschoolers who participate in early intensive ABA for two or more years acquire sufficient skills to participate in regular classrooms with little or no additional support. Other children learn many important skills, but still need additional educational support to succeed in a classroom.” Either way, ABA increases an individual’s capacity for emotional regulation and social skills.
Once you are ready to secure in-school support think carefully about school placement possibilities and pursue ABA services through the school system.
Be sure to consider the type of educational environment best suited to your child’s needs. While one child with autism may thrive in an inclusive public school classroom, another may do better in a private school setting.
Thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), each state is required to provide free and appropriate services for children with disabilities from birth through age 21, and since every child with autism has a different level of need, parents, teachers, and care providers determine the exact supports necessary for each individual through the Individual Education Program (IEP). If your child’s IEP includes ABA services, then the school is required to provide those services.
Be prepared for potential roadblocks.
There are many… including (and especially) a lack of funding. That said, school district funding is just one possible source of ABA support. If money is a problem in your area, you can pursue funding from regional centers, health insurance plans, and fundraising efforts. (The Spectrum of Hope Foundation website provides a detailed breakdown of each funding option.)
FirstPath Autism video trainings will also soon be available to everyone. If you’re interested, sign up to get notified when FirstPath launches.
Another prevalent problem is schools’ unwillingness to welcome outside ABA clinicians into classrooms. If this is an issue in your child’s school, you’ll want to consult with other local parents to learn from their experiences with handling this hot-button topic.
As Tameika Meadows, BCBA, notes in her June 2013 blog post, “School vs. ABA: Which Side Are You On?”, parents in this scenario have several options.
Meadows recommends that parents request in-school ABA services, while articulating the overall benefit to the school and “how helpful it would be to the teacher if the ABA team could provide recommendations and strategies in the moment.”
If this option isn’t well-received, parents might consider advocating for additional autism behavioral management training for their children’s teachers. In some cases, parent groups band together to help teachers get the training they need. In doing so, they equip teachers to educate current students with autism, and pave the way for future students too.
It’s also a good idea to discuss in-school services with an administrator who has the power to effect change, such as a Principal. If such attempts don’t bear fruit, she advises parents to consider another school or take legal action. In some cases, parents have gone to court to fight for ABA services in their local school districts.
While this is a terribly unjust reality, there is evidence that the legal tide is turning in favor of in-school ABA supports. As Robert K. Crabtree, Esq. notes in “Treatment of Applied Behavior Analysis under IDEA”, “Slowly … jurisdiction by jurisdiction, adjudicators are beginning to credit the scientific research supporting intensive ABA therapy over other methodologies.”
Plus, children with autism who receive ABA services early on end up costing the state much less during their lifetimes. Early intervention may cost more upfront, but it’s much more cost-effective long-term.
As the December 2004 American Psychological Association article, “Effective education for autism” states,
“In a landmark study, [Ivar] Lovaas found that nearly half the children who received 40 hours per week of ABA therapy were eventually able to complete normal first-grade classes, while none of the children who received the therapy only 10 hours per week were able to do the same …. Such promising results lead Mulick and other proponents of intensive behavioral intervention to argue that, despite its expense, it should be available to all autistic children.”
That said, the upfront cost of ABA may be too much for a given school district. In that case, it’s best to advocate for additional teacher training, and to supplement your child’s school supports with in-home ABA therapy support.
You can also secure affordable, professional ABA support for your child through FirstPath.