LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--According to Alternative Behavior Strategies (ABS), families with children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are frequently tempted to cut back on their child’s therapy during the holidays. However, it’s very important that families maintain fidelity to their child’s treatment plan and stay with the prescribed therapy hours—or even increase them.
“Holidays can be challenging for families with children on the autism spectrum. But the season can also offer more and varied learning opportunities for children with autism. Parents can do two simple things to make the holidays more joyful and less challenging. First, adhere to their child’s ABA therapy schedule and second, look for opportunities to use the holiday disruptions to their child’s advantage,” says Jeff Skibitsky, MA, BCBA, LBA and president of Alternative Behavior Strategies, a leading provider of services to children with autism spectrum disorders.
Maintaining, or even increasing, a child’s therapy program during the holidays doesn’t mean parents are taking the holidays away from him or her. Rather, by keeping a child’s treatment plan on point parents will help them to not only enjoy the holiday season but keep them progressing toward their goals.
The following tips from ABS can help make the holiday season more enjoyable for everyone:
Incorporate ABA therapy into holiday traditions
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy can take place anywhere the child happens to be. It doesn’t have to be in a static location, it can travel with him or her. ABA can be used as a teaching tool regardless of where the child is or what time of day it is. Parents can use the holiday time to practice learned skill sets and introduce them into the novel environments children will be encountering. Going on a shopping expedition provides an opportunity to work on learned skills in a new place. For example, parents can take advantage of the opportunity to work on delaying impulses to help their child with his or her planning skills or support reinforcement schedules by helping them sit with Santa.
Increase the opportunity for therapy instead of pulling back
The new holiday environments can be used to enhance a child’s ABA therapy. For example, parents can have his or her therapist join them for a shopping trip to buy gifts for siblings. This will also provide parents with the support they may need to help them work on potentially problematic behaviors and help desensitize their child to loud noises, lights or crowds that most likely will be encountered. They can use reinforcement and motivation as a way to help maintain the desired behavior in this environment. Also, by being flexible in how their child’s treatment is being delivered this time of year, they can create more opportunity for structure than what would typically be allocated for their child. Change can be difficult for many children with ASD, so parents can focus on establishing predictability when possible. For example, they can help prepare their child with visual schedules to help reduce the anxiety that abrupt changes can bring about.
Think ahead and when in doubt reference the ABA therapy program
Parents can plan ahead and anticipate what triggers might be lurking in an upcoming environment. Then be sure to provide some accommodations to allow their child to have success. One way to do this is to introduce and prepare their child for novel stimuli and situations before introducing the real life situation. For example, if decorating the house all at once might be overwhelming for their child, parents can instead try putting out a different holiday decoration or do a different thing (like decorating the tree) every day. This helps desensitize their child to the situation.
Maximize skill sets with additional therapy
Parents can plan for their child’s independence when applicable and provide support when necessary to avoid failures. For example, understanding delay and the ability to plan are typically difficult concepts for children with ASD. So he or she may want to open presents today because they don’t understand that Christmas isn’t here now or even coming tomorrow. Therapy can help children understand that Christmas will come and help them prepare for it.
Don’t overlook different venues for staying on track with therapy
Parents can also take advantage of center-based ABA therapy for their child. Centers provide them with the opportunity to drop their child off to receive services, when school or daycare is closed and while they are at work. Receiving center-based services provides their child with consistency in their therapy and generally offers more opportunities for socialization.
About Alternative Behavior Strategies
Alternative Behavior Strategies (ABS) is dedicated to providing services to children with developmental delays and their families. The company provides wrap-around care enabling children and their families to obtain the services they need in one place. Services include applied behavior analysis (ABA), and speech therapy and occupational therapy designed to complement ABA services, as well as diagnostic evaluations and social skills groups. ABS operates in California, Utah and North Carolina. ABS is designated as a Top Behavioral Service Provider by the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence. For more information: https://abskids.com