Thursday, December 25, 2014

What therapies does Max get at school?

Each week Will goes into volunteer at Giant Steps.  This is part of being a family in the Giant Steps program.  They didn't have us volunteer in the classroom until Max was settled and in school for a month.  I think this is so smart. 

Max has a strict routine he follows at school. 
His school color is yellow.  Everything he does, every line he walks in, every bin he uses has yellow. 
When he comes to school in the morning he puts his name marker in the yellow pocket. 
He loves the color yellow now, for obvious reasons.  It is HIS color. 

He has speech group work, ABA therapy, social group, and then "work" centers. Max also does Kindermusic at school twice a week.  Each time he finishes these activities he gets to play with toys and other classmates.  It is very preschool oriented.

What is ABA therapy? 
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the use of these techniques and principles to bring about meaningful and positive change in behavior.
Behavior analysis focuses on the principles that explain how learning takes place. Positive reinforcement is one such principle. When a behavior is followed by some sort of reward, the behavior is more likely to be repeated.

For Max his reward is playing with special trains and cars that Will and I bought for him.  They keep these special cars and trains in a yellow bin just for Max.  He only gets to play with them after ABA therapy sessions, so for him they are very special.  We have already put in new toys and try to mix things up for him once a month or so.  Each child is different, but usually food isn't used as a reward. These children are only 3 and 4 years old, so toys usually fit the bill as a reward.  

Max is working specifically on "hands down feet down" when sitting, and then "hands down feet down eyes up" when spoken too.  They play games with him and do activities that help him learn how to do this.  It is repeated over and over.  And it works.  He is doing much better at looking at people, he responds, and he is learning.  He is also learning about social situations like saying "hi" and "goodbye" and "thank you" and "you're welcome."  Which is funny because Max will put all of those together, just to make sure he gets them all in.  My favorite is when he says "thank you mom, you're welcome."  I don't even need to respond, he did it for me!

We get daily and then weekly reports on how he is doing.  There are a lot of stats that are recorded and as a teacher myself I am AMAZED at all the data that they have on Max.  

Playing after Speech
ABA therapy session with Evan.  He is fantastic with the kids. 
Max is learning how to take pictures and smile for pictures in one of his ABA sessions. 
They have a place for everything and a picture to go with every toy. 
I need to do this in my own house!  The organization is amazing. 
There are a lot of different experiences with ABA therapy in the Autism world.  There are mixed feelings.  A lot of parents feel that it doesn't work, that it is to formulated, and that the students don't get enough play.  There are more strict ABA therapists, and then there are more relaxed "play" rewarded ABA therapies like at Giant Steps.  Max is 3.  I want him to still enjoy school.  I am really happy with how ABA therapy and how all the "work" groups are run at Giant Steps. 

I am also glad that Will gets to see how the school runs the different therapy sessions so we can be involved with Max and how he learns.  We are all learning together. 


  1. Obviously I don't know all the nuances of ABA, but from what I've learned from Steve about CBT, this sounds similar and like an excellent method. This school sounds amazing.

    1. Oops, didn't mean CBT... That's probably too cognitive for Max at this point. I meant behaviorism. The very structured nature of it is great for his age group and diagnosis.

  2. I love reading about Max and am so grateful for your frankness and honesty in these posts. We are cheering for you all!