- Posted by Dr. Eric Lund
- On September 11, 2017
- 0 Comments
It’s that time of year again, when parents are faced with the question of whether their child should be in school full-time or continue with their personalized (ABA) Treatment program. This is a difficult decision for Parents as they often feel pressure to put their child in school for full days due to the child’s age. How do you as a Parent prioritize school education vs. continuing their treatment? This blog will outline my thoughts on school verses individualized ABA treatment and when each should be made the priority.
Understanding Basic Motivations
Understanding if a child is motivated by a desire to please or controlled mostly by what is happening around them is an important first step in this decision process.
A child who is controlled by what is happening around them in the sensory/motor world will be:
- Difficult to keep on task
- Fidgety and often moving
This type of child learns best with one-on-one instruction and often requires an aid to keep them on track.
A child who is motivated by a desire to fit-in and please other people in their life will:
- Inhibit their desire to move and react to what is happening around them in the sensory/motor world
This motivation will be most obvious when the child is in the presence of a nearby authority figure. We can also see this when a child will inhibit his or her desire to react to extraneous events in his or her environment because of their concern for what their peers will think. Eventually a child will suppress their basic and sensory/motor impulses because of a distant and eventually not present peer or authority. A child who is motivated by fitting in with and pleasing others will eventually understand and abide by societies expectations and internalize their family’s morals and values.
Not sure if your child could be on the Autism Spectrum? Use our screening tool to find out.
Importance of School
Goal: The goal of School/education is to provide academic information to a child.
School is excellent at teaching typically developing children academic skills. In school, academics are usually taught by providing educational information in a mostly verbal format. A child who is verbal and motivated by a high desire to please other people can benefit from school.
A child who is not primarily motivated by a desire to fit in with their peers and please other people has a more difficult time learning in a school environment. A child who is on the autism spectrum will often have a more difficult time learning in a group setting at school because they are motivated by different things.
An additional concern is that what is learned in school does not lead a child with significant delays toward independence and self-sufficiency. In my opinion, I would rather see a child get straight F’s in school and be able to function independently in the world than for a child to get straight A’s and never be able to live independently.
Academic success and the building of academic skills are often much less pivotal to a child with developmental delays than a typically developing child.
Importance of ABA Therapy
Goal: The goal of ABA therapy is to move a child from reacting to the world though their senses (feeling, tasting, touching etc. – sensory motor world) to reacting in the world because they are trying to please others and live up to their parents and society’s expectations.
Children with developmental delays benefit most from individual instruction. Individualized treatment focuses on first teaching core competencies to verbally relate to family and peers. When this is established through one-on-one teaching of verbal and social skills, a child is ready for social interactions through peer play. Alternatively, a child with special needs will benefit most from the building of self-help, independent and adaptive skills.
School vs. ABA Therapy
When a child inhibits the desire to run from their classroom in the middle of class because their peers will look at them differently or they know they will get in trouble, they are motivated like a typical child. They have learned the rules of their society, and this is the goal. A person who is motivated by a desire to fit-in and please their peers and family can move out of the house, get married, hold down a job and work toward fulfilling their dreams.
Many programs within an individualized ABA treatment program may look similar to what is being taught in school. The reason for each program in an ABA treatment plan is to build a skill that will move a child closer to typical motivation. Most children on the autism spectrum are controlled mainly by sensory stimuli. ABA treatment moves them toward being motivated by fitting in and pleasing family, friends and teachers within the larger context of the verbal/social world.
For example, a child needs to become proficient at communicating with others in the verbal/social world before he or she will be comfortable interacting with others in that world. If a child never becomes proficient, the child will turn away from the world of people and toward the world of objects.
Prioritize ABA therapy
Until a child is mainly controlled by a desire to fit-in with peers and please the people they love in the verbal/social world ABA treatment should be the priority.
School should be the priority when a child demonstrates the ability to control their attention, behavior, and emotions because they are concerned about what other people think about them. The child craves interaction with others and cares enough about others to want to please them so the interaction continues. At this point a child can begin to learn like a typically developing child through staying with and watching their peers.
Looking for more information on ABA therapy? Learn the specific skills ABA therapy addresses.