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ABA Therapy: Center versus Home

hand-with-blue-heart-for-autismWhen it comes to deciding the best environment for your child to receive ABA therapy, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration. A lot of parents find themselves asking, “Where’s the best place for my kiddo to get therapy – home or center?” The answer is as simple as it is complicated:  It depends!

I started my career in ABA working with a company that provides center-based ABA services. We worked with children and teens in their homes, in school settings, and out in the community but the majority of the services being offered were center-based. Starting at Autism Home Support Services was the first opportunity that I had to provide the majority of services in the home environment. After working in a variety of settings, it’s become clear that there are great benefits to these different settings.

Some of the benefits of center-based therapy:

  • Centers allow goals to be targeted in a highly structured environment. In a center, many variables can be controlled so that specific goals can be targeted without interruptions. This is beneficial for children of all ages, but especially is in younger children in order to fill in the gaps of their deficits and prepare them to be more independent as they grow older.
  • Centers allow skills to be taught in an environment that can be predictable while eliminating distractions that are present in the home. The goal is to teach skills in a controlled environment and then work on transferring those same skills into other settings.

I remember a time working with a child in the center on getting his hair cut. He was unable to work on this at home becausecloseup-of-smiling-little-boy he did not like the sound and often engaged in problem behaviors when his parents would go into the bathroom and get items out of the cabinets (the same place the hair clippers were stored). We started in the center and slowly progressed up to the point where he would allow me to cut his hair for five whole minutes. The next step was for his father to come into the center and cut his hair. The child did perfectly. He was ready to try a haircut at home. A week later, after his hair grew back a little bit, they tried to cut his hair at home. His parents reported that it could not have gone better. We were able to target the skill in a controlled environment and then generalize those learned skills into a different setting.

In-home services provide many great benefits as well:

  • Services that are provided in the home environment allow skills to be targeted in the environment in which they are most likely to occur. Being in the home opens up the opportunities to learn to cook in their kitchen or clean up toys in their playroom.
  • Skills can be targeted in their most natural environment using items and circumstances that the child will come into contact with on a daily basis. Social skills can be targeted with siblings using games that are already owned by the family.

Many times children may do well with other adults in school or the community and just display extreme or problem behaviors in the home. In these instances, behaviors and skills are already learned in more controlled environments.

I have been working in-home with a client that wanted to learn how to make his own snack when he came home from school. His CTM used frozen snacks that were in the freezer and worked on reading the directions, typing the correct numbers into the microwave screen, and waiting for his food to cook. He is now able to be more independent when cooking meals and snacks because we taught him how to appropriately use the items that are already in his environment.

jumping-happy-family-of-fourYou may be saying to yourself, “Well some of my child’s behaviors fit into one category, and some into the other. Then what can I do?” That’s where hybrid home/center therapy comes in. It includes the best of both worlds! Hybrid ABA therapy allows your child to work on some behaviors at home and others in the AHSS Autism Center. In this way, your child is able to work on the skills he or she needs most in the environment most conducive to learning those skills.

At the end of the day, there are a multitude of benefits to services that are provided in home, center, and hybrid! It really all depends on the needs of the child and how they respond in a variety of different environments.

Contact AHSS and discover how we can help your child in the best environment for them!

by Margaret Hatteberg, BCBA Specialist for AHSS

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