The TAP Center at The Hope Institute for Children and Families is starting the second month of their new preschool program for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) under the age of five. The group meets for two hours following a typical preschool routine that incorporates group play, circle time, structured group activities, and one-on-one work with a trained therapist. Functional communication is one of the most important goals of this program as all three children have limited use and understanding of language.
Teaching methods based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) including discrete trial training and naturalistic teachings are used throughout group and individual activities. For example, play time is not just a time to run around the room, but instead is used to capture the child’s motivation and teach language and play skills. Structured group activities are based on common preferences to increase attending and language in a group. Requesting bubbles, balloons, and turns on a slide seem to be common motivators for this group of children. Improvements in selecting desired items by pointing and the use of picture exchange has been observed for two of the children, and vocal approximations have increased for the third child.
Other goals include remaining in a designated area during a group activity, following one-step instructions given by the lead teacher, and transitioning independently using a picture schedule in preparation for kindergarten routines. Planning is under way to increase services to reach more families and to increase the parent teaching portion of this service after the holidays. The center would like to share some great feedback from the families that it serves.
From a parent: “It is very helpful in trying to get her to communicate, and I would very much like to see it continue as long as it can.”
From a grandparent: “My grandson was having behavioral problems in school, and my family and I are so grateful we have this program for him to help him succeed in his class.”
We are looking forward to sharing about the center’s progress in the New Year.
Leigh Grannan – TAP Center Director at The Hope Institute for Children and Families