On The BI Blog

The Benefits of Center-Based Therapy Compared to Home-Based Therapy

September 19, 2019
By: BI Saff

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is the most effective, early-intervention treatment for children with Autism.  ABA therapy sessions can take place via center-based, home-based, or a combination of the two.  At Behavioral Innovations, we have chosen to focus on the center-based model.

No two children are exactly the same, and center-based services supply variables that may increase opportunities to facilitate new skills and interactions.  Many of these variable, are afforded by having your loved one in a shared space with other individuals

That isn’t just our opinion!  According to a recent study published by the National Institute of Health (NIH), children with Autism learn and master skills more quickly when participating in center-based model than they do in home-based model:

“Supervisors may be more available and provide additional direct supervision in center-based settings than in home settings. […] In order to better account for individual differences, we also compared learning within the same participant for those who received both home and center-based models.  The results of this analysis showed on average, individuals achieved 100% more learning per hour during center-based related to home-based models.”

What are center-based programs?  Why do we employ this model?

Center-based services are those that are provided on-site at one of Behavioral Innovation’s Treatment Centers, rather than in the home, school, or community.  We have chosen, as an organization, to employ a center-based model in light of its many advantages.

Behavioral Innovation’s center-based model is designed to promote growth in your child’s skills across many facets of development including social interaction, skill acquisition, play skills, communication, and adaptive skills.  Our state-of-the-art facilities offer a fun, welcoming environment where learning and social interaction occur more naturally.

Benefits of the Center

The vast majority of families participating in early intervention want their children to eventually transition to a mainstream environment; particularly a school.  A therapy schedule that’s primarily home-based doesn’t achieve that goal as quickly.  Here is why center-based therapy  offers a higher quality of therapy:

  • Access to peers which create more opportunities for social interaction and imitation of appropriate peer behavior
  • Heightened supervision and consultation opportunities with multiple Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBAs) on-site. This makes it easy for clinicians to observe together, consult on programming, discuss opinions, and evaluate options
  • Ideal setting for generalization of skills in a setting that is less familiar than home
  • Opportunity to practice following classroom routines which may increase the likelihood of child transitioning to traditional school environment more easily
  • Minimization of difficulty in staff transitions; in-home program transition may mean that the child has not yet met their new therapist. Within the center, it is very likely that this team member has already interacted with your child during sessions
  • Quicker access to impromptu supervision and oversight. At any point during the therapy session, the BCBA can observe, assess, and modify the therapy in real-time.
  • Opportunity to integrate in-home services when clinically relevant to support generalization and skill building
  • Centers have complete control of the environment with all professionals, including BCBAs, working together to support the child’s needs, as well as different individuals available to help ensure generalization
  • Help children focus on making the transition between 1:1 to group learning environments
  • Offer access to a variety of reinforcers as compared to home setting

The NIH report noted that center-based model also helps children acclimate more easily to new people and new situations.

Lastly, the presence of other individuals with ASD and unfamiliar practitioners may allow for more opportunities for socialization as well as generalization of skills.  There present some aspects of treatment that may differ as a function of location and may ultimately influence a child’s progress.

What does center-based therapy provide that home-based doesn’t?

Center-based model offers your child a more consistent therapy experience.  For children with autism, routine and consistent expectations/environment are crucial to their success.  Although some families strongly prefer home-based therapy, the NIH study found that it may not be the best option for children or their families:

Once argument for favoring home-based sessions over center-based sessions is the idea that parents or caregivers are more likely to participate in treatment sessions if the sessions are located in their home.  However, the idea that simple proximity to treatment will improve parent participation is similar to the failed strategy that Stokes and Baer (1977) noted as “train and hope”.  In contrast, center-based sessions may provide more structure and a more intentional environment for parents and caregivers to be trained within.  Center-based services may allow for more control over the environment and therefore result in a decrease in potential distractors, which may facilitate increased rates of learning.

A combination of center-based therapy, parent training, and homework encourages your child to generalize the skills he or she learns with the therapist.  A skill isn’t really a skill if the child can only perform it inside a therapy session.

No parent’s goal is to keep their child inside the family home forever.  When it’s time to transition to a school or even work environment, children need to know what to expect and what others expect from them as part of their behavior and social interactions.

“When you’re choosing the type of therapy for your child, ask yourself: “What is the goal?  What future do I envision for my child? That’s the therapy roadmap that we help you create.  At BI, the parent is in charge.  We’re here to help you make the best decisions for your child.”

- Regine Booth, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA
BI McKinney Center Director

If you’d like to learn more about center-based ABA therapy, you can take a tour of one of our facilities. We have ABA centers across Texas and Oklahoma.