For a child with autism, supportive therapy is important and necessary for building skills for a successful future. Experts agree that the earlier a child can begin therapy, the better the chance for long-term positive impact. But how do you know what type of autism therapy will offer the most success?
“One of the most important things for parents to do is find therapists that they trust and who can advocate for you and your child,” says Cindy Mrotek, CEO and founder of a.c.e. Therapies.
At a.c.e. Therapies locations in Merrionette Park, Lockport, Palos Heights and Naperville, individuals with autism and developmental disabilities work with board certified behavior analysts using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, which is clinically proven to provide positive outcomes for children with autism.
While there are many options and supportive therapies for children with autism, parents should recognize the individual nature of autism spectrum disorder when seeking therapy for their child. “You’ll hear people say that if you meet one person with autism, you have met one person with autism,” Mrotek says. “This means that because autism is a spectrum disorder, it has many characteristics and affects each child differently.”
Just as no two children with autism are exactly alike, each autism therapy center is unique and a good fit is very important for the best possible outcome, Mrotek says.
Time is precious, so parents should plan to be assertive and explore a few therapy centers to find a good fit and get started with therapy right away.
Here, Mrotek offers some expert tips on finding the right therapy center for your child with autism.
Goal-oriented approach for autism therapy
Your therapy center should match the goals that you have for your child, and that starts with thorough exploration. Therapists should openly share their approach to autism therapy.
“If the therapists at the center are not asking what you want to achieve in the next six months, the next year and the next five years, how will they know what you think is important for your child to learn?” Mrotek asks. “If they aren’t explaining their philosophy on ABA therapy, that might not be the right center for you.”
For instance, if your goal is for your child to learn an effective communication method, but the therapy center focuses solely on school readiness, ask the therapists to refer you to a center that will more appropriately meet your child’s needs, she suggests.
“At a.c.e. Therapies, we really focus on essential skills that are important for a successful life for your child. That includes how to transition from one activity to another, how to share, how to wait — and many other skills we know are important. These elements are critical before a child can even begin to learn to read or write or sit in a classroom,” Mrotek says.
Honesty is important
It’s not unusual for parents to develop daily routines that revolve around their child with autism, and some will go to great lengths to keep the peace. Sharing information about your daily life is very important, as is finding a therapy center that recognizes your family’s need for flexibility and will work with you to achieve it.
“If your therapist judges you, move on,” Mrotek advises. “You are surviving right now and need help, and if you can’t be honest with your therapist, you should be going to a center that will work with you to achieve what you need for your child and your family right now.”
Prepare to share what your routines are like and what you may have put in place at home just to get your child out the door. “Be honest about how challenging your life is so that your therapist can create a plan to help your whole family thrive,” she says. “Being completely honest will help your therapist give your child the best treatment possible, but they also have to respect your need for that help.”
Too good to be true?
You will have goals for your child and your experienced ABA therapist will know what is realistic to expect. It’s a good situation when you can meet in the middle and agree upon workable short- and long-term goals.
“It has to be a good match. You may have a list of your must-haves and a list of what would be nice to have but that you can do without,” Mrotek says. “What are you expecting to hear from the therapist about outcomes of their program?”
In some cases, you may need to compromise. For example, the center may not offer in-home therapy, but its therapists may have a great deal of experience working with children to generalize their skills across many environments. Or, you may just get a really good feeling from what you witness at the therapy center.
Therapists should never offer something that sounds too good to be true, warns Mrotek. ABA therapy is not a cure for autism.
“Stay away from those who make false promises, even if they say what you want to hear. They should be honest with you that successful therapy is based on a whole host of factors, but that they will work hard to make sure your goals are met and communicate with you openly, honestly and regularly,” she says.
Content brought to you by a.c.e. Therapies. Learn more about ABA therapy at ace-therapies.com.