In an ABA therapy environment, success is best achieved when the approach is child-centered, flexible and fun. That’s why one-size-fits-all is never a strategy at Roots Autism Solutions and Therapeutic Academy, an ABA therapy provider with locations in Buffalo Grove and Lake in the Hills.
In Roots’ warm, engaging environment, kids with autism work with their ABA therapists on a variety of individualized goals, all while experiencing the variety and stimulation they’d find at school. By design, the two founders of Roots — one with decades of experience in public schools and the other an experienced Board Certified Behavior Analyst — curated an environment they knew would bring success to children and their families.
“We saw evidence that a natural environment was best for children, and we used the experience we gained in our own professional work to shape an environment that will help children transition to school, if that is the family’s goal,” says Jillian Burgard, President and CEO at Roots.
By learning how to access a variety of coping skills, children at Roots are more successful and adaptable in the preschool or public school environment. “Independence is the point,” Burgard says. “We work with children so that eventually, they don’t need us anymore.”
When families come to Roots, they explore with ABA therapists the overall needs for the child and for the family. “How we build their schedule has to do with family obligations, other therapies needed and the amount of therapy parents are looking for,” explains Jen Link, Co-founder of Roots.
“There are many ways to build out the day that are impactful for the child and can include occupational therapy, speech therapy, music therapy, art therapy and social groups,” Link says. “Children will never spend eight hours sitting in one place. Their day is always fluid and active.”
Unique to Roots is inclusive small group and circle time that all children can participate in — regardless of whether they are taking part in a single session, half day or full day of therapy. Each child, together with their ABA therapist, joins in and works on individual goals, even while in the group setting.
“There can be multiple things happening within circle time. The person leading is aware of the goals, and each therapist is working with each child individually,” Link says. “One might be working on letters or numbers, while another is learning to raise their hand or sit appropriately.” Each circle time incorporates a story, songs, movement and other skill building activities, and is then followed by an art project, giving kids even more opportunities to learn to ask for a crayon or share with a friend while experiencing fine motor skill and sensory development.
Consistency and change
Each session at Roots starts with a greeting from the child’s therapist and a routine that is familiar to the child. They may visit the bathroom, wash their hands and change their shoes. “It’s always consistent but flexible,” Link says. If a child arrives in need of sensory time in the gym or a walk to calm and center, that comes first. Then, they grab their materials and work with their ABA therapist.
If the child is scheduled for speech-language or occupational therapy, that takes place at Roots, too, to maximize convenience for the family. Or they might participate in art or music therapy or a social group. “It’s all built right into their schedule,” Link says.
When kids stay for a half or full day at Roots, they work with several different therapists to gain a varied experience that helps generalize skills. “Both the staff and the kids love this change. They may be working on the same skills with a different therapist. For example, they can work on naming colors with one therapist in the gym, and on a walk or with pictures with another therapist,” Burgard says. “It’s not just about memorizing a puzzle, but kids can demonstrate that they know the color.”
In the varied but flexible routine at Roots, kids learn and progress, and staff members are satisfied too, which translates to a very low turnover rate. “This consistency is a benefit for parents. They feel comfortable dropping their kids off every day,” Burgard says.
But the true testament is the child’s happy face at the beginning and end of each day. “A smiling face means they have a level of trust that they are going to a place that will make them happy,” Burgard says. Both parents and kids can get a good sense of fit by taking a tour at Roots, she adds.
“We always say bring your child with you so that you can see their happiness while they are there,” she says. “It’s so important to see how happy your child is from the get-go.”
Learn more about Roots Autism Solutions and Therapeutic Academy in Buffalo Grove and Lake in the Hills at rootsautismsolutions.com.