Your child has been receiving ABA therapy since he was two years old. He wasn’t talking, now he is, he’s gained a bunch of new and useful skills, but what is the big picture? When your child is first diagnosed, you’re encouraged by your doctor to research ABA therapy, start early intervention services, etc. As the years go by, you start to wonder, “Well, now what?” Is my kid going to go to college, get a job, or both? Okay. Short term. What about kindergarten? Has ABA therapy prepared my child for the “real world?”
How does ABA therapy prepare your child for kindergarten? Good question! This a huge transition for all kids; neurotypical kids and for kids on the ASD spectrum. The structure is going to be so different from anything else that they have experienced thus far. Therefore, anything that can help kids cope with the transition and become better at adjusting to change is going to be major. Most times, someone at the school your child is going to attend will be trained in ABA and working with your child. If that is the case, then these routines previously learned during private ABA therapy carryover more naturally and make school feel a lot safer and more comfortable.
As far as social interactions, this is also considered one of the biggest transitions in any child’s life because they are going to be around so many novel people and the set of expectations is so different from being at home. Essentially, this means all the social skills and rules that they have learned either from their ABA therapist or just from simply observing now have to be relearned and generalized for a new setting. The more adaptable a child is to learn new behaviors as well as decrease behaviors that are maladaptive or inappropriate, the more successful they are going to be in school with academics and peers.
I interviewed a Special Education kindergarten teacher and she said, “The hardest thing for me transitioning kids into kindergarten is the fact that most have never been in a structured school or setting and just the expectations and rules are totally foreign. On top of learning how to be around so many other people, they also have to deal with the input from teachers constantly expecting them to follow one million directions. In my experience, kids who have previously received and/or are continuing to receive ABA therapy help make this transition smoother in general. Kids on the spectrum who have familiarity with learning how to adjust their behavior and maintain their emotional regulation in other contexts have a much easier time with the transition.”
All of the above does not only pertain to kindergarten, but the following grades as well. Once individuals are able to continue within the school setting, their skills will continue to grow with the right care and intervention. ABA therapy is not a cookie cutter treatment, it is a completely individualized process. As your kiddo grows, the trajectory of their ABA therapy will grow too!
Be consistent, stick to a schedule, and reinforce appropriate behavior. What do these things mean? When I go to work, I wake up at about the same time every day, work a similar set of hours, and every two weeks, I get reinforcement. This structure helps me be efficient. Schedules help us be proficient, reduce the need to plan, save time, and build confidence in our daily lives. ABA therapy provides a similar system every day to individuals with autism. Starting with early intervention, kiddos are encouraged to explore their likes and determine their strengths and weaknesses. Throughout receiving ABA therapy, these children are being prepared for a bigger picture – school, work, and socialization.
Think about when you interact with any kid and you ask them the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This question encourages little ones to use their imagination and creates a fun topic of conversation. Growing up and becoming a part of a workplace creates a sense of belonging. ABA therapy techniques are often used as a part of vocational training as your child grows up. Vocational training is conducting ABA therapy with specificities to the individual’s job interest. This could include but is not limited to following a work schedule, teaching appropriate workplace communication, self-regulation in response to a wide range of emotions one may experience in a work environment, etc. These skills are extremely beneficial when navigating any workplace.
Let’s touch on the myth that ABA therapy is only about intensive structure and table time goals or skills. As discussed earlier, ABA therapy is a very individualized type of therapy. If your kiddo is in need of learning how to sit at a table, and everyone agrees that is a socially significant goal, then yes, it will be worked on. If your child needs to learn how to play functionally, independently, with peers, etc., then that will be worked on during their ABA therapy. Teaching functional play skills including pretend play is extremely beneficial to a child’s social development. The more socially developed an individual is, the more successful relationships they will have. In an article by Dr. Rachel E. White, she discusses how play supports children in regulating their own behavior, lays the foundations for future academic learning, assists in figuring out the complexities of social relationships, and helps develop problem solving and executive functioning skills. It is important for adults to assist in directing children’s play to facilitate significant growth. That is where ABA therapy comes in. The therapists working with your child have the resources to consistently contrive different learning opportunities reflecting all of the above.
Everyone wants the best for their kid. Raising a child involves a ton of decisions and sometimes those decisions can be very stressful. When thinking about your child’s future, you want to feel confident in the choices you make whether it is the school they go to, the friends they have, or the food they eat. All in all, every parent hopes their child has a promising future ahead of them filled with happiness and success.
Referencing the topics throughout this post, the purpose of them is to help you organize the steps you will take to prepare your child with ASD for tomorrow. Therefore, the important takeaway here is not only does ABA therapy help your child prepare for kindergarten, the work place, and teach them social skills, it also serves the purpose of helping prepare your child for a better, brighter, and more successful future.
White, R. E. (n.d.). THE POWER OF PLAY: A Research Summary on Play and Learning. In Minnesota Children’s Museum. Retrieved from https://www.childrensmuseums.org/images/MCMResearchSummary.pdf