So, your child is doing well in ABA and you think that they’re ready to try out preschool. Luckily for you, when it comes to sending your child to school there are a lot of a lot of options! With these options, decisions that need to be made. Where does my child still need to improve? Where do they succeed? What does their ideal school look like?
The best place for your child to thrive is an environment that’s not restrictive. They should be in a classroom that supports them but also gives them some autonomy. But, just how autonomous should your child be? Depending on what your school district offers you may have a few classroom options. Some of those options will be more restrictive than others (the most restrictive being a self-contained special education classroom and the least being a blended classroom or general education classroom). The goal is ultimately to teach your child to be independent. In order to determine their best starting path toward that goal, here are a couple of things to consider.
- Is 1:1 support required to participate in activities?
Is 1:1 support needed in order to participate in most activities? In Blossom Prep School, we pair all of the kids that participate with 1:1 Behavior Therapists that help to prompt them through the different activities and routines as well as take data on independent successes. With this model, we are able to teach kids how to participate while also systematically fading out the support so that they can be as independent as possible in a classroom setting. We use that data to determine when a child is ready for traditional classroom environment.
- Does your child generalize skills?
Is your child able to generalize the skills that they have learned in a 1:1 setting? The two biggest skills that impact them is the classroom would be the ability to generalize following directions as well as imitation skills. One thing we work on in Blossom Prep School is the ability to follow generalized directions as well as imitation skills through dancing to different songs, lining up with our friends, turning the page of the book, participating in calendar time, raising their hand to participate, and completing various play or listener activities. We work with the supervising BCBA to make sure we know what skills have been mastered in a 1:1 setting so that we can immediately begin to work on them in a more natural setting.
- Can your child function on Generalized Conditioned Reinforcer (GCR)?
A GCR is the fancy term for a secondary reinforcer such as a high five, social praise, or maybe even a token board system. In a 1:1 setting or the preschool readiness group it is a little easier to control reinforcers such as access to certain toys, games, videos, or edible reinforcers, but in a blended or general education classroom it is a little harder. It is important that your child can complete multiple activities for more natural social praise reinforcers or with delayed reinforcement that they can received after participating in several responses rather than accessing their reinforcer after each response. In the Blossom Prep School program, we work to fade tangible reinforcers and pair more generalized reinforcers such as praise from the teacher and peers or using the completion of a task as a reinforcer in itself.
- Does your child have any barrier to learning?
Behavior Intervention Plans are something that are pretty commonly used in ABA programs. Most of the time, these plans are targeting behaviors that interfere with the ability to learn! So, when evaluating if your child is ready for a less restrictive classroom environment, it is also important to evaluate their ability to learn in a group format! Other barriers include severity of problem behavior, toilet training, self-help skills, prompt dependency, reinforcer effectiveness and motivation, and hyperactivity. There are several assessment measures BCBAs can use to help inform you of the barrier to learning as well as if those barriers pose a concern for transitioning into a group learning format.
- Can your child follow routines and schedules?
One of the last things to consider is your child’s ability to follow common classroom routines and schedules. In any classroom if is expected that your child is at least able to follow some classroom routines with or without supports. We target this skill in Blossom Prep School by using repeated practice to practice specific routines such as lining up and transitioning from centers, snack time, using the bathroom, and circle time. We use strategies such as visual activity schedules and fading prompts to allow for independence.
As mentioned in the points above, At North Shore Pediatric Therapy we have a school readiness program called Blossom Prep School that can be offered as part of an ABA treatment plan to work on these very important skills. If any or all of these concerns seem like they relate to your child, do not hesitate to reach out to our main line to discuss your options for enrolling in Blossom Prep School today!