Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and causes substantial impairments in language and social interaction skills. Children with Autism usually display unusual or challenging behaviors and interests. Autism is defined as a spectrum disorder because it affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. For example, children with Autism may struggle in different areas including: difficulty expressing their needs, preferring to play alone/aloof, difficulty interacting with others, engaging in repetitive behaviors/interests, having obsessive attachments to objects, difficulty following instructions, and/or throwing tantrums.

According to the Government Accounting Office Report of Autism, early diagnosis and intervention can reduce the cost of lifelong care by 2/3. Therefore, it is critical for parents and professionals to begin treatment for children with Autism as early as possible. Heritage Counseling Center designed a program to provide this type of early intervention with the sole purpose of helping every child and family reach their full potential by providing scientifically proven treatments in a supportive and caring environment.

At Heritage Counseling Center, we provide home and community-based Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for children of all ages with a range of disabilities including: Autism Spectrum Disorders, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, and Pervasive Developmental Disorders. ABA is the science of understanding behavior and how it is affected by the environment. ABA applies the very basic principles of behavior such as reinforcement, punishment, extinction, generalization, and motivation to modify children’s behaviors. It breaks down tasks and skills into easily teachable components one at a time with its central focus on reinforcing specific positive behaviors and extinguishing challenging behaviors.

The counselors at Heritage Counseling Center understand that no two children with Autism will have the same symptoms; therefore, we do not provide a one size fits all approach to treatment. Our approach combines assessment, treatment planning, behavioral therapy, parent training, and consultation in order to meet the unique needs of the child and family. We typically assess the child’s ability and current functioning level using formal and informal assessments like the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP), the Functional Behavior Assessment Packet, behavioral observations (live or videotape), and discussion of parent concerns. After gathering this information, we will formalize an individualized treatment plan that is specific to the child and individualized to his or her strengths and growth edges.

After an individualized treatment plan is formulated, the therapist will discuss the report with the parents and make recommendations about the weekly requirements of intervention for the child, as well as offer suggestions for additional treatments needed (e.g., speech and occupational therapy). Most children will need to engage in behavioral therapy at least two to three times per week depending on the type and severity of their behaviors/symptoms. Again, the recommendations will be based on each child’s individual needs; therefore, we do not provide a standardized treatment package.

ABA depends heavily on parent and caregiver support so a training will be held after discussing the individualized treatment plan in order to teach parents behavior reduction techniques, teaching strategies, implementation of reinforcement and punishment, principles of extinction and generalization, and how to modify treatment goals. The goal of the parent training is to make sure that all caregivers are on the same page and that treatment effects carry over even when the therapist is not present.

The therapist will then meet with the child as often as deemed necessary for effective intervention and the individualized treatment plan will be reviewed and discussed at least every 2 weeks. Parents are always welcome to share any concerns or issues that they are having with their child and are encouraged to observe and ask questions during the behavioral therapy sessions. Parents may also be asked to participate during the behavioral therapy sessions depending on the specific treatment goal that the child is working toward.

At Heritage Counseling Center, we are committed to helping children and families reach their full potential by providing the encouragement and techniques that will help them succeed. We understand that parenting is a hard job and having children with disabilities can make a parent’s job even more difficult. By seeking treatment, your counselor will partner with you and your family in order to provide guidance, support, and a safe environment for learning. For more information about our In-Home Child Behavioral Therapy and Consultation services, please visit Heritage Counseling Center's In-Home Child Behavioral Therapy and Consultation web page or call 815-577-8970 ext. 256.
Written by Amy Braun.