What Does Center-Based Therapy Look Like? Learn from a Hopebridge BCBA
September 30, 2018
September 30, 2018
As parents, it’s tough to trust someone else to look after your children. For families touched by autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental delays, the thought of someone else caring for your child can be even more nerve-wracking, although you know it is likely what is best for him or her.
There are so many unknowns through the process and we want to break down some of them to help put your mind at ease when making therapy choices. As part of the blog’s education series, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) Jamie Hill from Indianapolis East walked us through what it’s like to spend a day at a Hopebridge center.
Before diving into the Hopebridge play-by-play, let’s start at the beginning. Why choose center-based therapy over in-home treatment or school offerings?
Each has its pros. Every child will require different needs – and it can seem scary to take some kids out of their comfort zone – but there are clear benefits of in-center options that make it all worthwhile:
Now that you know the benefits of center-based therapy, you’re probably wondering what it looks like and if your child will be comfortable here.
To create effective spaces, we make sure the center is broken up into designated areas. Physical boundaries provide structure for our learners; informing them where to go and stay within certain parameters, which is especially important for those who are known to ‘elope’ at times.
We work hard to make sure each space is organized and visually represented in a way that makes sense to our kiddos. Labeled bins in the play area, for instance, enable the children to gather items and clean up after themselves. Photos of each space are also included in visual schedules for many learners.
Like the therapy itself, which is tailored to each kid, therapy rooms can vary depending on functioning levels and goals. At a Hopebridge center, you’ll likely find:
Like everything in our centers, sessions fall at different ends of the spectrum and are personalized to the needs of each kid. What doesn’t vary is the focus on building positive relationships throughout our sessions.
No matter what level the learner is at, the first thing we work on is ‘pairing.’ Through this process, we focus on associating highly preferred activities and items with the therapist in order to help build the relationship and instructional control. From there, we branch off, depending on the skill level and current team schedule.
For many, we start with hygiene and adaptive living situations. Typically, this will include brushing teeth, completing a dressing routine or getting ready for a potty training session.
From there, we might move to the tables, or natural environment training for some. Therapy doesn’t always take place at a desk! For younger learners, I often set up for teaching and learning to take place throughout the centers so they don’t even realize they’re ‘working.’ There is a lot of play-based teaching.
For older or higher functioning learners, we might focus on learning to take care of themselves, creating and following a schedule, longer duration of independent work, cooperating with a peer to accomplish a goal, chores or meal prep. Typically, the focus for these learners would be how to best prepare them for the transition to school or another placement.
While the goals, strengths and deficits for each individual might vary, our focus is to increase our kiddos’ social, communication and adaptive living skills repertoire does not change.
The supplies we utilize range from books, crayons, pencils, scissors, paint, Playdoh and gross motor equipment, to communication-centered tools like the Picture Communication Exchange System (PECS) language builder cards and tablets. There are board games for some of the higher functioning learners, which they use to learn to cooperate with peers and tolerate losing, as well as associative learning games that are not as competitive. Visual schedules, timers and electronic data collection systems also play an important role in the progress of sessions.
Center days are pretty mapped out. Every 15 minutes, each team has a specific focus, which include working one-on-one at their table, strengthening their mode of communication, cooperating with a peer or learning how to take care of themselves. Sometimes we have surprises, but all in all, we and the kiddos have clear schedules and targets.
As always, this is a team effort. A lot of the changes that happen in the center can be generalized into the home, but it takes a collaborative effort with families to actually see those changes come to life.
Your role as a parent is significant. I encourage you to ask questions – as many as you want! You have the liberty to come in and check out the space to understand where your child will be and what they do here. You know your child best, so if you think of something that would help him or her, tell us. That may mean providing a visual schedule before they even start services with us. Our teams want to work with you to best prepare your sons and daughters.
We love these kiddos as our own, but it is never our intention to keep your child here with us long-term. Our goal is to best prepare them to be as independent and self-functioning as possible, as well as provide training and education to the people who are most involved with them.
If you’re interested in learning more, get in touch with us online or visit a Hopebridge center near you for a tour.
*Informed consent was obtained from the participants in this article. This information should not be captured and reused without express permission from Hopebridge, LLC.
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