• Helping Children with Autism Learn to Communicate

    For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), communication can be a major challenge. Children whose language skills do not develop typically often have difficulty conveying their wants and needs effectively, which leads to frustration. This puts these children at risk of potentially harmful and misunderstood behaviors like tantrums, aggression, or self-injury. That’s why it’s vital to focus on working with children with ASD to help them develop communication skills.  

    One effective way of doing this is with functional communication training (FCT). Rather than teaching kids to label an item, FCT focuses on using language to get something needed or desired. This information is conveyed with language, signs, and pictures, to help individuals achieve a desired result. The object may be obtaining something like a toy or food, expressing the desire to participate in an activity, or stating a need for something like a trip to the bathroom or a break from something. Using positive reinforcement, FCT helps teach children about language and communication, in order to increase their ability to have their needs met by interacting effectively with others. By rewarding appropriate methods of communication, whether verbal or nonverbal, we’re able to empower children with ASD to advocate for their own wants and needs.  

    • How does FCT work? The first step in the process is to identify something that highly motivates the child. It could be a favorite television show, a toy, a favorite snack or an activity. The child is taught a sign or given a picture that represents that thing. Using errorless learning, the therapist guides the child to use that sign or picture in order to get the reward. Repeating this process, with the presentation of the picture or sign always bringing the earned reward, helps children become familiar with the process and more independent in communicating. As signs, words, or pictures are being consistently used correctly, new ones can be added gradually, to increase the child’s vocabulary.  
    • What are the goals of FCT? The goals vary between children, depending on the child’s level of communication. For children with complex needs or significant language impairment, it may be challenging to build a small repertoire of functional communication. Children with a higher level of function and less complex needs may be able to gain as much language as their typically developing peers, by using FCT. Using assistive tech, some children may be able to speak in full sentences. Others may only be able to use single words. It’s important to tailor the goals and the treatment to each unique child. That’s why functional communication training is typically taught one-on-one by a clinician with a speech or language pathology background, or by a behavioral psychologist trained in applied behavior analysis (ABA). A major factor in the success of FCT is reinforcement of the training by parents and teachers. It’s important for children to learn that the appropriate sign, word, or picture must be presented in order to obtain the desired reward.  
    • How does FCT help with behavioral issues? The development of functional communication training originated as a way to reduce troubling behaviors exhibited by children with ASD. By assessing the function of the inappropriate behaviors, we can determine the reason the child is behaving that way. If it’s because of a lack of communication, then teaching a child to communicate reliably and effectively should extinguish the behavior. For example, a child might engage in self-injurious behavior to get attention, access something he or she wants, escape something undesired, or serve a sensory need. When this succeeds, it’s accidentally reinforced, but with FCT, these unhealthy behavioral patterns can be broken. When a child learns to self-advocate using a word, sign, or picture and discovers that the reward is given quickly and efficiently, he or she is likely to choose the easier path of appropriate behavior.  
    • Does the age of the person with ASD matter in FCT? Functional communication training can work with every age, and some adults who have been introduced to FCT have been known to gain skills quickly. However, the earlier the intervention can happen, the better, because the younger the child is when the communication repertoire is built, the better off he or she will be.  

    If your child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, STAR of CA is here to offer support. Founded in 2006, we provide behavioral and psychological services to people with ASD and related disorders in a nurturing environment that offers support for the entire family. We love what we do, and are devoted to improving lives through focused, caring services. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896. 

  • How Does Natural Environment Teaching Work?

    Natural environment teaching is an approach to teaching children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that focuses on their daily surroundings. Think about the environments your child sees and explores on a daily basis: home, school, daycare. These places are the context in which your child’s learning takes place and his or her development happens. Natural environment teaching uses these surroundings to teach important skills, often through the creation of specific learning opportunities for your child. Ultimately, your child should be able to independently use the skills he or she learns in each of these environments.  

    At STAR of CA, we offer a fully integrated approach to providing the education and resources families affected by ASD need. Our team offers a wide array of services, from ABA therapy to family support. If you’re in need of ASD services in the Ventura area, you can reach us by calling (805) 644-7827 today 

  • The ABCs of DTT

    Discrete trial teaching (DTT) is an approach to teaching skills that works by breaking them down into the smallest component possible.  Skills are taught as discrete behaviors and then linked together to create a larger behavior. If you have a child who has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), then you may want to become familiar with how DTT works.  

    In very simplistic terms, the parent or therapist presents an SD (cue) i.e., “show me blue”.  The child is then expected to respond to the cue (hopefully [as in the scenario above] by selecting blue).  The parent or therapist then provides a consequence to the behavior i.e., redirection (try again) if they select the incorrect answer) or verbal praise i.e., that’s right, nice job if they choose the correct answer.  For example, if the child carries out the request, then the parent or therapist can provide positive reinforcement to encourage that response in the future.  

    If you’re looking for evidence-based ASD therapy in the greater Ventura area, call STAR of CA today. Our compassionate and caring team will be happy to provide you and your family with the integrated, up-to-date ASD services you need. You can reach us at (805) 644-7827 

  • Mastering the Terminology of ABA: A Guide for Parents

    If you are a parent of a child who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it’s important that you take the time to learn about applied behavior analysis (ABA). ABA is an empirically validated treatment for autism. It focuses on teaching functional skills and address challenging behaviors that may be impacting your child’s ability to learn and navigate his environment. When you read about ABA, you’re likely to encounter a lot of unfamiliar words and terminologies. Here are some of the terms you may see:  

    ABC data 

    This is a type of data collection frequently used to identify the possible function of your child’s behavior. In other words, trying to understand the reason why a behavior is taking place and what is maintaining this behavior. A stands for antecedent, or what happens before a behavior. B stands for the behavior itself. C stands for the consequence that follows.  

    Comorbidity 

    This word refers to an additional condition a person is diagnosed with, in addition to a primary condition. For instance, children with ASD may frequently be diagnosed with epilepsy as well.  

    DSM 

    DSM stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This manual is widely used around the world to classify mental and developmental disorders.  

    Intervention 

    This term is simply used to mean any action that is taken to change a particular behavior.  

    Mand 

    A mand is a volitional request, with the intent of wanting the item. For example, a child saying “ball” because he wants the ball, as opposed to saying “ball” because he sees a ball.  

    Prompt 

    A prompt is something you provide to a child to help he or she perform a particular behavior. A prompt can come in many different forms and varying in how intrusive they are. They can range from physical prompts to a simple indirect verbal prompt.   

    Transitions 

    This term is used to refer to switching from one activity to another or moving from one setting to another. Challenging behaviors are often observed during transitions, especially when going from a preferred activity to a less preferred activity.  

    Inflexibility 

    Children with autism may often have a difficult time with an overall change in routine. Some children have very specific routines that in the event of any slight deviation, it may be a cause for an intense meltdown.  

    Since May of 2006, STAR of CA has been offering comprehensive ASD resources to children, adolescents, and parents throughout Ventura County and beyond. Are you wondering whether getting the right therapy could make a difference in your child’s life? You can learn more about the ABA therapy we provide by calling us at (805) 644-7827.  

  • What Does It Mean to Be “Therapy Ready”?

    When an ABA therapist is scheduled to come to your home, it’s important to make sure that your child is ready to receive the therapy. That means that the child should be calm and in a suitable mood for working with the therapist. If your child is tired, hungry, stressed out, or sick, then the therapy session is not likely to be as productive as it could be. The same is true if your child is already distracted by playing with his or her favorite toy. If the session doesn’t start out on the right note, then it will be very difficult for the therapist to make it as productive as it should be.   Work with your child’s supervisor for tips on getting your child ready for therapy. 

    You’ll always find the up-to-date ASD treatments and therapies your family needs at STAR of CA. We have been providing state-of-the-art resources to families in Ventura County since 2006, and we are continually working to expand and enhance our services. If you’d like to learn more, give us a call at (805) 644-7827.

  • Defining ABA Therapy

    Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is an empirically validated and widely used approach to treating Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and related conditions. It focuses primarily on helping individuals reduce challenging behaviors and develop new skills. Every treatment is customized to meet the individuals’ needs. During the therapy, a skill is chosen and broken up into small, manageable steps using reinforcement as a catalyst to behavior change. The learner’s progress is then carefully monitored throughout so that the therapy can be adjusted as needed to ensure that it stays helpful. ABA therapy has proved to be extremely beneficial in helping individuals with ASD progress in all areas; it is the most common type of ASD therapy in use today.  

    STAR of CA offers a wide array of important services for children with ASD and their families that draw on the principles of ABA. We have been serving Ventura, Los Angeles, and Orange Counties and other areas since 2006. For more information, call (805) 644-7827.

  • Spotlight on We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym

    Play is an essential part of childhood. We Rock the Spectrum Laguna Hills believes that all children deserve the opportunity to play in a safe, inclusive environment. This gym has created a unique place where children can explore, have fun, and make memories. What makes them so special? Keep reading to learn the answer!

    What the Gym Is All About

    The indoor playground at We Rock the Spectrum is specifically designed to meet the needs of children with autism and is a place where all can play. It’s also designed to be a calming and relaxing place for parents to be. The friendly, energetic staff is constantly working to ensure that everybody has as positive an experience at the playground as possible.

    What You’ll Find

    The gym features sensory based equipment that encourages children with autism and other disabilities to master movement. The equipment you and your child will find here includes a zip line, a crash pit, a tunnel, a trampoline, a hammock swing, climbing structures, and much more! You’ll also find an arts and crafts area for children who want to take breaks and enjoy more restful activities. Children who visit this gym can work on their sensory functions while having fun!

    How We Rock the Spectrum Helps Children

    The positive, upbeat atmosphere at We Rock the Spectrum Laguna Hills is contagious! At this gym, children of all ability levels play together and encourage each other. They learn how to play appropriately, and they have a safe zone to run around and use up all their energy. Once you’ve visited the indoor playground for the first time, you won’t be able to wait for the second trip!

    Do you have a loved one who was recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? STAR of CA provides evidence-based treatments, therapy, and education for ASD and other mental health issues. We offer our services to Ventura and other communities throughout the state of California. Call us today at (805) 644-7827 if you have any questions for us.

  • ABA Providers: How to Avoid “Con Crud” at the next Conference

    With this year’s Annual Western Regional Conference on Behavior Analysis behind us, it’s time to start getting ready for upcoming conferences and to start thinking about next year’s CalABA conference in Long Beach, CA. Organized by the California Association for Behavior Analysis (CalABA), the conference is a great opportunity for industry professionals to learn about the latest findings in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

    If you’re planning to attend, you shouldn’t neglect the importance of taking precautions to protect your own health from “con crud.” You want to enter the conference ready to learn and socially network, and leave the conference with your head buzzing with new ideas and information– not aching from a cold or the flu. Here are some ways to stay healthy when you’re preparing for the conference:

    Start exercising.

    If you spend too many of your hours sitting, it’s a great idea to slowly start incorporating some exercise into your daily routine. Even taking a half-hour walk a few times a week will be beneficial for your health. The better your overall health is when you come to the conference, the more effective your immune system will be when fighting against potential infections.

    Eat a healthy diet.

    When you’re rushed, it’s easy to fall back on the habit of eating quick, unhealthy meals such as fast food or salty snacks. Keeping up a balanced diet, however, will help to ensure that you have the essential vitamins and nutrients you need to power through each day at the conference. Make sure you’re eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, drinking a lot of fluids, and opting for healthy proteins.

    Prioritize your nightly sleep.

    When you’re on a trip, it’s tempting to stay up late and get less sleep than usual. If you’re not getting the chance to recharge every night, you won’t just suffer from fatigue during the day—you’ll also have a weaker immune system, which means you’re more vulnerable to getting sick. Getting plenty of sleep is essential for staying alert and healthy during your conference.

    STAR of CA has been providing mental health services for individuals, families, and communities in Ventura County and elsewhere for more than a decade, and we are continually working to expand and improve the services we offer. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with us today at (805) 644-7827.

  • The Importance of Parent Education in ABA Therapy

    Treatments based on applied behavior analysis, or ABA, have proven to be highly effective in responding to the developmental needs of children with autism spectrum disorder, commonly known as ASD. Parent involvement in a child’s program is a vital part of ABA programs. Parents are the experts of their own children. Professionals can offer education and understanding in the fundamental principles of ABA and how they can be applied to each individual child’s circumstances to ensure the best possible results. With a beneficial ABA program parents should receive the basic training necessary to know how to set goals for a child’s development, how to create an atmosphere at home that is conducive to learning and growth, and how to advocate for their child’s best interests.

    At STAR of CA, serving Ventura County and other communities since May 2006, we work to provide families with the education they need to confront the challenges of life with ASD. If you have any questions about our mental health services , call us today at (805) 644-7827.

  • The Role of Positive Parenting in ABA Therapy

    The way that parents respond to their children makes a tremendous difference when it comes to the effectiveness of treatment for developmental disorders. One of the key themes of ABA therapy is positive reinforcement. Rather than focusing on undesirable behaviors and how to correct them, the recommended approach is to reward desirable behaviors that are incompatable or functionally equivalent to the behaviors one wishes to eliminate. By providing parents with clear, repeatable methods that support desirable behaviors and remove the impetus for challenging behaviors, the learning structures provided by ABA therapy can help this process along.

    The team at STAR of CA is dedicated to providing your family with high-quality resources for dealing with developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). If you’re in need of ABA therapy in the Ventura area, call (805) 644-7827 to find out more about the services we offer.