Services are delivered throughout the center to offer children a variety of environments to generalize their learning. Environments such as Intensive Table Teaching (ITT), Natural Environment Teaching (NET), small groups, gross motor, lunch room, etc. offer a multidisciplinary approach to helping children learn new skills.
Intensive Table Teaching (ITT)
Several sections of the ABLLS-R (tacts, receptive language, intraverbals, echoics, motor and vocal imitation, etc.) are most appropriately taught at a child-sized table. This type of learning is called Intensive Table Teaching or ITT. During an ITT session, mastered and acquisition tasks, across several verbal operant categories, are targeted.
There are a variety of effective teaching procedures that are performed when conducting an ITT session. When these techniques are balanced and consistently applied, the child is a willing participant in the learning process and may exhibit few, if any, challenging behaviors.
Natural Environment Teaching (NET)
Natural Environment Teaching (NET) involves generalizing skills acquired in ITT, as well as teaching new skills and appropriate play by using the activities of interest to the child in a natural environment. The use of both NET and ITT provides a variety of environments in which children with Autism can learn language. Unlike ITT, NET is informal, less structured, and the reinforcement given for correct responses is generally related to the child’s interest at the moment rather than being irrelevant. For example, the reinforcement for a correct response with a dollhouse is the opportunity to continue playing with it or the delivery of some item related to it (ex: doll) rather than something irrelevant (ex: movie).
Many children with Autism lack the ability to appropriately manipulate toys and may only manipulate a toy in a stereotyped repeated manner. For example, a child may line up cars or repeatedly spin the wheels versus pushing the cars on a car mat. NET is an excellent forum to teach the child appropriate play skills while also generalizing and teaching new skills. During NET, the focus is to teach all of the verbal operants instead of focusing on only one verbal operant. Therapists attempt to capture or contrive motivation for activities that will also enable NET-type ABLLS-R program targets to be taught.
Being part of a center-based program allows opportunities for small group therapy sessions. In a small group, therapy focuses on peer interaction and the ability to attend to one primary instructor. Small group gives children an opportunity to practice their social interaction skills in a new environment. The goal of small group is to have the children actively participate in the activities with their peers and to learn how to follow the rules and routines of the group. During small group sessions, the therapists start to fade their level of support to allow the children to learn from each other. Therapists are available to redirect each child’s behavior if a child struggles within the group. Small group therapy offers an opportunity to improve a child’s social interaction skills, and to enable the child to develop peer friendships.
- Increasing peer interaction
- Turn taking and waiting appropriately
- Increased discriminative listening and responding skills
- Following novel 1- and 2-step directions
- Naturalistic learning from imitation or observation of peers
- Peer prompting
- Connectedness with others
- Improved self-esteem
- Group cooperation
- Classroom routines
- Requesting information using “Wh” questions
- Independently completing tasks with multiple steps (ex: art projects)
- Generalizing ABLLS-R skills previously taught in ITT or NET
Gross Motor Activities
Children are given the opportunity throughout the day for gross motor activities. These are done in a large open space where children learn to ride bikes/trikes, throw and catch balls, learn and play childhood games such as duck, duck, gray duck and follow the leader. These activities are designed to teach play and leisure skills, along with teaching physical developmental skills such as balance, coordination, isolated movements, and strength and endurance.
Lunch and Snack
Eating is one of the most essential activities in daily living and is an important part of our program. Each child is encouraged to eat a variety of different food types and textures. While this time focuses on eating, it also provides an opportunity to practice and improve areas of learning that go beyond mealtime. For instance, eating works on oral musculature levels, which helps the child improve speech articulation and facial expression. Another example is that the child eats using utensils and drinks using an open cup, which promotes hand-eye coordination. Many children with Autism are “picky eaters” and programs are developed to introduce them to various foods.
Throughout each day, the child is given opportunities to learn and practice self-help skills, including toilet training, hand washing, teeth brushing, and dressing and undressing.