We all want our children to get the best start in life. It can be tough for parents who have children with learning disabilities, as they may feel their child isn’t getting the same treatment or head start in life as other children. The one size fits all approach that is found in many public schools often doesn’t fit what children with learning disabilities in school really need. Luckily, there are schools for children with learning disabilities, like autism, with focused strategies and techniques like ABA therapy (applied behavior analysis) that can help both the parents and children get the education and specialized attention they rightfully deserve. Working with learning disabilities is certainly more challenging, but doesn’t have to be viewed as the arduous uphill struggle that many see it as, by using the right tools and attitude. ABA therapy goes a long way towards proving that.
How Can I Tell If My Child is Autistic?
Autism will usually manifest itself before the age of three — indeed, the diagnostic criteria require that the symptoms occur before then. It’s a neural development disorder, usually manifesting itself by impaired social interaction or problems with communication, and behavior that’s somehow repetitive or restrictive. It’s one of three disorders that fall under the autism spectrum (ASD) — the other two are Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD-NOS).
Although it may feel like it, if you’re the parent of a child with autism, you’re not alone. The number of people who have been diagnosed with autism has been increasing since the 1980s and and about 1 in 50 children who are in school have some form of autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control. You can usually tell early on — autistic infants aren’t as attentive to social stimuli and won’t smile or look at others as much as infants without autism. They’re also less responsive to their own name. The signs increase as they reach toddler age — they’re less prone to taking turns and can’t use simple movements to express themselves. Between the ages of 3-5, they tend to communicate without words, show erratic social behavior, and simply imitate emotions instead of displaying them genuinely. They can understand emotions, but often have trouble processing them.
What is ABA Therapy?
ABA stands for applied behavior analysis, which helps bring the practices and ideas of behavior analysis to life for a positive change in behavior. Methods like using positive reinforcement have been shown to increase good behavior and lessen the amount of behavior that can be disruptive or harmful to a good learning experience. ABA therapy can help people also learn new skills, such as social, communicative, or life skills, and help maintain behaviors that are already learned. It provides good guidelines and practices for those with autism and does so in a friendly and positive manner.
How Will ABA Therapy and Other Unique Learning Approaches Help My Child?
ABA therapy has made great progress with autism and is often cited as a safe and healthy way to treat autism. The US Surgeon General and Department of Health have both endorsed it and research and long term studies have found it to give people with autism positive and productive lifestyles. Starting children with autism down this kind of path early can help autistic children learn self-care and aid in their social and communicative skills, which are crucial in all parts of today’s world and will ultimately make their life much easier. School and employment opportunities may also be made easier.
Some special needs schools will offer ABA therapy or alternative learning approaches for children with special needs, which cater specifically to that child’s learning curve or behavioral ability at the moment. These kinds of schools also recognize that children with special needs may need special services, like alternative ways of teaching them, special use of technology, or a resource room.
Don’t feel frustrated if you feel like your child isn’t getting the education you think they deserve. There are other opportunities out there that can help give your child an equal footing in life and a great head start.