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.
There are no two children exactly alike, and center-based services offer variables that may facilitate new skills and interactions. Sharing space with other people provides many of these variables.
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 a center-based model than they do in the 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 that on average, individuals achieved 100% more learning per hour during center-based learning than during 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 naturally occur.
We strive to empower children to reach their full potential through our center-based model, providing an engaging and supportive atmosphere for them to explore, grow, and build meaningful relationships with their peers.
Benefits of the Center-Based Therapy Model
Most 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 creates more opportunities for social interaction and imitation of appropriate peer behavior. Additionally, the center-based setting allows for the presence of trained and qualified professionals who can provide guidance, support, and feedback to help foster positive change.
- Enhanced supervision and consultation opportunities with multiple Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (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 the child transitioning to a traditional school environment more easily.
- Minimization of difficulty in staff transitions; an 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.
- Quick access to impromptu supervision and oversight. In real-time, the BCBA can observe, assess, and modify therapy as needed during the therapy session.
- 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 and group learning environments. This can be beneficial for children as it provides them with the support they need to succeed in both environments. With all professionals working together, they can provide more consistent and integrated care, enabling children to make the transition more easily. Additionally, the support of different individuals can help children learn to generalize their skills to different contexts and settings.
- Offer access to a variety of reinforcers as compared to the home setting.
The NIH report noted that the center-based model also helps children acclimate more easily to various people and novel situations.
Lastly, the presence of other individuals with ASD and unfamiliar practitioners may allow for more opportunities for socialization as well as the generalization of skills. There are 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 therapy cannot?
The center-based model offers your child a more consistent therapy experience. For children with autism, routine and consistent expectations/environments are crucial to success. Although some families strongly prefer home-based therapy, the NIH study found that it may not be the most suitable option for children or their families:
One argument for favoring in-home 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 homes. 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 distractions, which may facilitate increased rates of learning.
No parent’s goal is to keep their child inside the family home forever. When it’s time to transition to school or even a work environment, children need to know what to expect and what others expect from them. This is part of their behavior and social interactions. Therefore, it is imperative to have an understanding of appropriate boundaries and social cues, so that when it is time to venture outside, children are well-equipped to handle the transition.
When you are choosing the type of therapy for your child, ask yourself: “What is the goal and what future do I envision for my child?" That’s the therapy roadmap that we help you create. The parent is in charge. We are here to help you make the most informed decisions for your child.”
- Regine Booth, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA
Taking a tour of an ABA center is an excellent way to gain a better understanding of how this type of therapy works. It can benefit you or a loved one. 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, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Virginia.