The Early Learner Program is designed to address the treatment needs of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders who are between the ages of 1 to 4 years. Clients of the early learner age develop best using Natural Environment Teaching (NET), which means that the therapy programming for these children is structured to resemble the natural life environment of a child’s day. Partners In Excellence uses the Hawaii Early Learning Profile (HELP) as a guide in the identification of treatment goals and to measure client progress. The objectives outlined in the HELP are used for the assessment and treatment programming for each child’s individual treatment needs. The HELP is designed around typical developmental milestones, and treatment objectives focus on a variety of skill areas, which include age-appropriate socialization, play, communication, and daily living skills.
The Early Learner Program recognizes that most learning in early childhood occurs within the social context of daily activities and experiences. Therefore, the program is structured to include teaching through everyday routines, a variety of social activities, and planned group activities. Clients in this program will be actively engaged with therapists throughout the therapy day. Each child’s treatment program focuses on developing skills that have been identified as deficits or areas in need of growth. Treatment plans are designed to meet the individual needs of each child. Therapists continually create opportunities throughout the child’s therapy day to practice and teach those skills identified as treatment objectives.
In addition to the therapy programming for children in the Early Learner Program, monthly parent training classes are offered to address the specific treatment needs of this age group and to better equip parents with the skills needed to forward their child’s development and progress. Parents are encouraged to participate in these trainings, and will receive guidance from their child’s treatment team to specifically address each child’s individual needs. Parents are also encouraged to participate in individual in center, hands on training during their child’s therapy day. Parents can work one-on-one with the child’s therapist to learn specific teaching techniques and behavior management strategies to help facilitate the generalization of skills into the home environment.
Clients in this program may attend a morning, an afternoon or all day program.
The Intermediate Learner program is designed to increase the children’s opportunities to practice social skills and introduce them to peer directed learning. Prior to participating in the Intermediate Learner program, the children are intensively taught how to be successful in a therapist-directed learning environment. Once the children have developed adequate cooperation and language skills and readily acquire new skills, they are ready to learn in a structured group environment. Children will continue to work on developing language, social, and school readiness skills through intensive teaching. They will also develop these skills in small group settings. Providing opportunities for the children to work in groups teaches them to place value on belonging to a group. The motivation for the children to complete the task becomes that all members of the group complete the task. The Intermediate Learner program follows a daily schedule that is structured to include everyday routines, such as brushing teeth, dressing, and arrival and departure routines. It also includes a variety of social activities and strategies, such as peer play, video modeling, and interactive and facilitated play. The children participate in controlled group activities, including fine motor and Stepping Stones. This schedule allows the clients opportunities to initiate and sustain social interactions with therapist support and guidance as needed.
The Bridges program is a group therapy setting that children may participate in prior to transitioning into school. It is designed to ‘bridge’ the transition from intensive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to a typical school setting in a classroom. This program is specifically designed to meet the treatment needs of those clients who demonstrate a strong likelihood of being able to be mainstreamed into a typical classroom with minimal to no special education supports. The clients in the program have achieved a level of skill mastery in which they are ready to begin to apply and generalize their skills acquired through intensive therapy in a naturalistic environment that simulates a typical classroom. The focus of the program is to fade the level of behavioral support the child requires to regulate his behaviors and to transfer the regulation of behaviors from an external source to an internal function. The child is taught strategies to cope with, communicate about and manage his/her behaviors in a group setting.
The staff in the Bridges program are trained behavior therapists with experience or education in school classroom settings. There is a lead group facilitator who focuses on implementing the curriculum for the group based activities and routines. During the Bridges activities, there are additional therapists who document treatment goals, take data and intervene when clients need extra assistance. The uniqueness of this program is the blending of ideas from behavioral therapists and experienced educators.
The Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills- Revised (ABLLS-R) continues to be used to guide the identification of treatment goals and measure client progress along with individual supplemental goals developed to broaden and expand the child’s coping strategies.