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Northville Learning Center Grand Opening

Our new Northville, MI Learning Center had a successful grand opening! 🎉 We are so excited to offer ABA services in a clinic-based setting at our new center in Northville.

Contact Us for More Information.

Advocating for Your Family and Good, Contemporary ABA With Arfa Alam

Arfa Alam is a senior manager at the Partnership for Public Service, a non-profit that envisions a dynamic and innovative federal government that effectively serves our diverse nation. Prior to joining the Partnership, Arfa performed labor human rights and social responsibility work in more than 40 countries in both the public and private sectors. Arfa joins us to share her experience and deep conviction for the appropriate care, and rights for all. She is the proud mother, wife, and sister of disabled and differently-abled individuals, including her two autistic sons, her husband who lives with early onset Parkinson’s disease, and her twin sister, who is deaf and was the first person in life to teach her about differences and empathy. 

As she shares, “As a first-generation American, it is particularly important to me to bring awareness, acceptance, and inclusion to our communities for individuals with disabilities and neurodivergences.” Arfa’s passion for public service stems from her experience as a first-first-generation Muslim-American with special needs family members. We are grateful for the opportunity to have this discussion with Arfa and we look forward to having her with us again soon.

For more information:

https://www.bestbuddies.org/

https://marybarbera.com/

All autism talk (allautismtalk.com) is sponsored by LEARN Behavioral (learnbehavioral.com).

Mt Pleasant Learning Center Grand Opening

Our new Mt Pleasant, WI Learning Center had a successful grand opening! 🎉 We are so excited to offer ABA services in a clinic-based setting at our new center in Mt Pleasant.

Contact us for more information.

Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin, Learning Center Opening

Mount Pleasant Learning Center: Specialized Autism Therapy in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Early Autism Project (WEAP) and Total Spectrum proudly announce the successful opening of the Mount Pleasant Learning Center.

The Learning Center, which focuses on providing specialized and comprehensive applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy services for children with autism, officially opened on March 20.

It’s a place that fosters learning, socialization, and independence for children on the autism spectrum.

Tailored Treatment for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

“At our Mount Pleasant location, we hope to bring families in the Greater Racine County area compassionate, contemporary ABA therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder,” Linda Klotz, WEAP’s clinical director, said at the opening event.

“With a focus on tailored treatment, this new Learning Center offers individualized interventions to meet the specific needs and interests of each learner,” she said. “We couldn’t be more excited to open our doors to the community and provide these necessary services.”

Partnership Focuses on Helping Kids with Autism Thrive

Operated jointly by WEAP and Total Spectrum, organizations with a combined 35 years of experience serving children with autism across Wisconsin, the Mount Pleasant Learning Center provides a holistic approach to assessment, diagnosis, and treatment to help children achieve their full potential.

The grand opening of the Mount Pleasant Learning Center allowed families to meet key members of the leadership team and featured participation from the local community, tours of the facility, and spring-themed activities for families.

“In Kenosha, we’re honored to be included at such a great event,” Kenosha Chamber of Commerce President Dave Strash said at the opening. “We are all about the business community celebrating business successes, and one of our favorite things to do is a ribbon cutting — especially celebrating a much-needed service like the one you guys are providing to the community goes beyond words.”

To find out more about the Mount Pleasant Learning Center, visit https://wiautism.com/blog/tour-our-mt-pleasant-aba-therapy-learning-center

Advancing Autism Services: Our Commitment to Public Policy

Written by Dr. Ashley Williams, Ph.D., LABA, BCBA-D, Vice President

National Social Justice Day is a time to reflect on the progress made in creating a more equitable and inclusive society. At LEARN Behavioral, this commitment goes beyond the confines of our therapy rooms; it extends into the heart of public policy advocacy. Our dedication to social justice is evident through our active involvement in various organizations and our continuous efforts to champion policies that support the autism community.

1. Advocating for Autism Services Nationwide

LEARN Behavioral is proud to be an active member of the Council for Autism Service Providers (CASP). Our leadership team actively participates as CASP Special Advocacy Group Leaders in 11 states where LEARN Behavioral operates. This engagement allows us to contribute firsthand to the shaping of policies that impact individuals with autism and their families. Additionally, our membership in the National Coalition for Access to Autism Services (NCAAS) underscores our commitment to addressing state and federal barriers to autism services. By collaborating with like-minded organizations, we strive to create a unified voice advocating for positive change on a broader scale.

2. Advancing Autism Equity Through State Organizations

At LEARN Behavioral, we understand the importance of grassroots efforts in promoting social justice. Our active involvement in local trade and professional organizations, including CalABA, BABAT, WAPA, ORABA, MAC, MIBAP, reflects our dedication to the larger behavior analytic community. Through volunteering and membership in these organizations, we aim to contribute to the development of equitable services for the diverse communities we serve. We believe that fostering connections within the behavioral community is crucial to creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for all.

3. Leading National Advocacy Efforts for Autism Policy Reform

LEARN Behavioral is fortunate to have resident experts in public policy who actively contribute to the
advancement of the autism community. LEARN leaders have published peer-reviewed journal articles on
public policy, presented at local and national conferences, and provided numerous testimonies
advocating for access to care. Our chief clinical officer, Dr. Hanna Rue, is a beacon of leadership in this
regard. Her participation in NCAAS’s “day on the hill” in Washington, D.C., exemplifies our commitment
to effecting change at the highest levels. By engaging with House and Senate offices, we strive to
influence initiatives that positively impact the autism community on a national scale.

4. LEARN Advocacy Network

The LEARN Advocacy Network, led by Dr. Rebecca Thompson, is a vital part of LEARN Behavioral’s public policy efforts, providing a monthly meeting ground for leaders from each state. Driving our advocacy initiatives, this collaborative team engages in meaningful discussions, sharing insights, and staying abreast of the latest developments in public policy. The network serves as a platform where LEARN Behavioral leaders exchange information, ensuring a well-coordinated and informed approach to navigating the complex landscape of policy initiatives.

As we observe National Social Justice Day, it is imperative to recognize the multifaceted approach LEARN Behavioral takes to contribute to a more just and equitable society. Through active participation in national and state organizations, as well as championing public policy initiatives, we are dedicated to making a lasting impact. Our commitment to social justice extends beyond our therapeutic interventions, reflecting our belief in the power of advocacy and policy to create positive change for individuals with autism and their families.

The Advances and Challenges of DEI Initiatives in ABA

Brandon Whitfield, Sr. Clinical Director for AST, part of LEARN Behavioral has presented at several conferences including BABA’s (Black Applied Behavior Analysts) inaugural conference to share ways ABA agencies can bring more equity to the field of ABA. In this conversation, Brandon discusses his role in helping to create The Black Master’s cohort and mentorship program as well as the ongoing need to prioritize DEI advancement in ABA. 

For more information: 

https://learnbehavioral.com/culture

https://learnbehavioral.com/culture/dei

The Importance of Ethical Decision Making For Behavior Analysts

Dr. Linda LeBlanc, a Licensed Psychologist and author of 3 books on supervision joins us to discuss her latest book about ethics which she co-authored with Dr. Amanda Karsten, who is the Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Grand Valley State University. Their new book titled Proactive and Practical Decision Making for Behavior Analysis explores the critical need for continually examining and evolving the role of ethics in providing services. As Dr. Karsten shared, “I hope we can help normalize the range of emotions that early career folks may be experiencing but also empower them with strategies they can put into motion and navigate step by step. And to know that being in a difficult ethical situation is not going to overwhelm them.”

For more information:

https://sloanpublishing.com/ethics

All Autism Talk (https://www.allautismtalk.com/) is sponsored by LEARN Behavioral (https://learnbehavioral.com).

Making the Most of Summer Break by Building Essential Skills

As the school year draws to a close, summer break ushers in a bit of a recess for parents — a hiatus from packed lunchboxes, school runs, and homework.

For families with children with autism, though, summer break can also mean disruption to your routine. It can create a lack of social interaction, and it can mean there are more demands on your time as a parent.

Here’s where you can turn those challenges around. Summer doesn’t have to be a lull in the progress your child with autism has been making all year. All you need is a strategy to leverage summer break to be a time to help your child build essential skills.

That starts with setting clear goals, creating a new routine, and incorporating skill-building into fun activities. But how do you do that?

Look for Structured, Play-Based Programs

The first step is to find a program that can keep your child engaged in social activities. Providers in cities across the country offer structured, play-based social skills programs. These programs are crafted with children in mind, aiming to bolster key skills such as socializing, communication, cognition, and sensory perception — all through the power of play.

These summer programs often take place in play-based, group settings, mirroring the school environment, but with the added benefit of one-on-one support. They foster collaboration and inclusion, often welcoming siblings to join, too.

Building a More Trusting Environment

Next, make sure your child is engaged in the process. In the world of applied behavior analysis (ABA), behavior technicians and behavior analysts lead summer social skills programs and promote group activities that help children build friendships.

Programs group children of similar age and skill level and include age-appropriate games and activities. This helps them to learn and communicate effectively.

You might hear your ABA provider using terminology like taking an “assent-based practice.” That’s an approach that focuses on making sure your child agrees to participate in treatment. Using an assent-based practice, therapists encourage children in the program to step out of their comfort zone and try new things. This approach is person-centered and fosters a safer and more trusting environment.

Staying Active to Prevent the ‘Summer Slide’

The “summer slide” refers to the learning loss students experience during summer breaks. Social skills programs for children with autism can play a crucial role in preventing the “summer slide” by promoting continuous growth and development.

These strategies can turn summer break challenges into opportunities to:

  • Build a consistent routine: A summer social skills program that provides a consistent daily schedule is often comforting to children with autism.
  • Help your child retain skills: By continually practicing social skills throughout the summer, your child can retain and even improve upon the skills they learned during the school year.
  • Encourage peer Interaction: Summer programs offer opportunities for social interaction with peers, which is critical for building friendships.
  • Foster personal growth: Summer social skills programs can boost self-esteem and confidence by providing opportunities for success and achievement.
  • Give you a respite: Summer programs can also provide parents with a much-needed break, allowing you to recharge while knowing your child is in a safe and nurturing environment.

Summer break can be more than just a pause from school. With the right approach and resources, it can be a valuable opportunity for your child with autism to continue their development and build essential skills.

By integrating structured play-based programs into your summer routine, you can foster a trusting environment that encourages personal growth and social interaction, while also providing a much-needed respite for you as a parent.

So, view this summer not as a challenge, but as a chance to fuel your child’s progress, further nurturing their unique potential.

Click here for more ideas on making the most of summer.

A Fresh Approach: Empowering Children with Autism

Written by Alison Spanoghe, Behavior Analyst, Autism Spectrum Therapies (AST)

When I first started working in a school system with children on the autism spectrum in the early 2000s, my leaders told me to stick to my instructions — no matter what. They told me this would be best for the children in the long run. As a newbie, I followed orders.

Often, though, that approach led to anger, tears, and resistance from the children who needed my help the most. Despite science backing up the “follow-my-orders” approach, it didn’t always feel “right.”

Today, my approach has evolved to something called “assent-based practice.” It’s a model that puts an end to instruction through coercion. It prioritizes the child’s agreement to participate in therapy rather than mandating that they follow orders.

The Old Way: Extinction

If you’re familiar with applied behavior analysis (ABA), you may have come across the term “extinction.” In simple terms, extinction means not reinforcing a previously reinforced behavior. The aim is to reduce the chances of that behavior happening again.

Let’s say your TV remote stops working. After a while, you’ll stop pressing the power button and maybe look for batteries or ask for help instead. The same principle applies to ABA services. If a certain behavior — like screaming — is not encouraged, the child will eventually stop doing it. You could then teach them a better way to communicate their needs instead of screaming.

While that might be good in theory, behavior isn’t always that straightforward. Also, the extinction approach can sometimes lead to other issues, like longer tantrums, aggression, or even distrust toward caregivers. That’s where assent-based practice comes in.

The New Way: Assent-Based Practice

Assent-based practice focuses on making sure the child agrees to take part in therapy — even if that agreement is nonverbal. When a child is actively engaged, that’s one indication that they are communicating that they agree with participating in treatment.

This type of approach involves:

  • Constant check-ins
  • Respecting when the child no longer wants to participate in treatment
  • Adapting the approach based on the child’s response
  • Teaching the child to communicate

The goal of this technique is to equip children with autism with skills that are useful in any situation. It also helps them advocate for themselves and make it clear when they want to say “no.” It’s more of a compassionate way of providing care.

Why Assent-Based Practice?

There are many benefits to using assent-based practice. It can:

  • Build Trust: It helps establish a safe and trusting relationship between the child and the therapist.
  • Promote Expression: The child learns that they are seen and heard. It encourages them to express their feelings.
  • Respect Autonomy: The child’s “no” is respected, promoting their dignity and independence.
  • Enhance Learning: This approach avoids standoffs. It allows more reinforcement of language use and engagement in the session.

Assent-based practice has become a popular topic in ABA services. It emphasizes getting the child’s agreement before continuing therapy. It teaches children to express their feelings. It also respects their dignity and independence.

Therapists can use this approach with any child at any time, leading to faster learning and better rapport with the child. While our understanding of assent-based practice continues to evolve, it is a worthwhile approach to consider because it puts the child first.

Alison Spanoghe is a behavior analyst with Autism Spectrum Therapies (AST).