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After a child receives a new diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it’s natural for parents to be full of questions. The good news is that the autism community is full of parents who understand ASD and are eager to share their knowledge with those who are new to the community. We compiled 14 expert tips from individuals with autism, autism professionals, special education teachers, and parents of children with autism and special needs:

 

Chris Bonnello – Autistic Not Weird

Chris Bonnello is the owner and author of Autistic Not Weird. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome when he was 25 years-old. Prior to his diagnosis, Chris had experience teaching both primary education and special education. Since receiving his diagnosis, he has become an award winning writer and an international speaker on autism. Chris says:

“I guess that the most important piece of advice I can offer to families is to define their children by their strengths rather than their weaknesses. It’s a very easy trap to focus on just the deficiencies and the struggles when it comes to autism, but if everything a child does is focused on their weaknesses, they’ll never get a chance to develop what they’re really good at. And a child’s self-esteem can rocket once they see themselves being really good at something.

There were plenty of reasons to have been negative about my prospects, going by the developmental report written about me when I was 4. I’m very glad my parents and teachers didn’t spend my childhood years just being sad about all my “bad points, “ and then being surprised when I didn’t reach my potential as a result of not focusing on the good.”

 

Erin Tracy – Behavior in Balance

Erin Tracy is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and the founder of Behavior in Balance – a website that provides educational resources for parents. She has over 12 years of experience working with both teens and children with autism. Erin says:

“I think the biggest piece of advice I could give parents is to educate themselves.  This is for a couple of reasons.

  1. There is so much noise and inaccurate information out there, that it can be difficult to know what to do or how to best advocate for a child.  Researching reputable organizations and those that promote using evidence based practices is a good place to start.
  2. Sometimes I feel like there’s a perception that we, as clinicians, have it handled.  This may be our own fault for creating that perception or not involving parents enough. The truth is, parents play such an important role in a child’s progress. When we leave, who gets to manage challenging behavior?  

There are a lot of hours in a week outside of therapy time. Using that time to teach a child new skills or manage behavior can be invaluable to progress.  A quality BCBA should be providing this training but supplementing in-session parent training with classes or tutorials can be highly beneficial.

It’s important for parents to learn and understand what evidence based treatments look like, what their child’s rights are for services and in school, and how to carry out behavior techniques and strategies for teaching their child.”

 

Jessica Watson – Four Plus an Angel

Jessica Watson is the author and owner of Four Plus an Angel where she shares stories about her life, parenting, and autism. Jessica has experience raising a child with autism and shares her autism story on her website. Throughout Jessica’s time raising a daughter with autism, she has gained valuable knowledge. Jessica says:

“Appointments or school meetings that involve discussing test results or progress reports related to your child can be emotionally draining. Whether your child made little to no progress or added a new diagnosis to their list, leave that meeting reminding yourself that your child is the exact same, uniquely awesome person they were when you walked into the meeting. No test result or expert opinion will ever change that.”

 

Gina Badalaty – Embracing Imperfect

Embracing Imperfect, created by Gina Badalaty, offers many great resources for healthy eating and autism. Gina has experience raising a daughter with disabilities and autism and has found healthy eating habits can make a major difference in children’s lives. Gina says:

“Kids on the autism spectrum quite frequently suffer from food sensitivities and gut health issues. We have learned, the hard way, that my daughter is reactive to most forms of cow milk. It contains a protein – casein – that disturbs her sleep pattern. For many years, she could not sleep through the night, yet removing products containing cow milk reset her system and she began sleeping through the night in just 2 weeks.

If your child is experiencing behaviors and issues including sleeplessness, eczema, constipation, diarrhea, behavioral outbursts and more, you might want to see if they are reacting to foods that are not good for their system or if their gut is out of balance. A healthy, clean, low sugar diet can make a world of difference to your child!“

 

Mary Winfield – Growing as They Grow

Mary Winfield has experience working in Special Education as well as raising two children with special needs. She is the owner and author of Growing as They Grow. She writes blog posts on a variety of topics and offers advice on many topics relating to parenting. Mary says:

“I think my biggest piece of advice for people wading through the trenches of special needs parenting is to trust yourself. You know your child better than anyone else, and you are their momma for a reason. They need what you have to offer. People will tell you that you are doing it wrong, that you are messing them up, and that if you would just do “insert unsolicited advice here,” that it would be much better. Only listen to advice from a few trusted people, and then weigh it against your heart and what you know about your child. You are not going to mess them up. If you love them and never give up on them, they will have all they need.”

 

Amy H – Taking it Day by Day with Developmental Delays

Amy H is the author of Taking it Day by Day with Developmental Delays (and Autism) and is the mother of a son with autism, physical impairments, and mental impairments. In her blog posts, Amy discusses her adventures through life raising her son and shares helpful information relating to autism and developmental delays. On her website, she writes a letter to special needs parents. In this letter Amy writes:

“Don’t let the stress of raising this child eat you up inside. Don’t let it be the only thing going on in your life. You need distractors, and a chance to get out of your head. Take breaks from your child when you need them. Sometimes we just have to put him in his room and walk away to decompress. It’s okay. Please don’t try to bear the brunt of everything, because you don’t want to trouble anyone else with your child. Let teachers help. Let therapists and social workers help. They will lighten your heavy load. Let them be a part of your child’s life, they will make your journey more enjoyable.

Search your entire county and beyond until you can find a support group, and if you don’t find one, create your own. Seek out a counselor to touch base when you need to. When your child goes to school, get to the gym, or take a walk to combat stress. Get together with friends at least a few times a year. You need to socialize with others and feel normal again. Communicate at all times any stresses you are feeling to your partner/spouse, parents, siblings and don’t keep this stuff inside. Try to stay hydrated, get enough sleep and eat healthy when you can to help your overall well being. His pediatrician used to tell me, “You can’t take care of him, if you don’t take care of yourself.”

 

Tameika Meadows – I Love ABA!

Tameika Meadows is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and the blog owner of I Love ABA! Her blog posts offer many tips and resources for understanding autism and ABA therapy. One blog post in particular offers excellent advice and strategies for making life easier for both parents and their children. This post is titled “My Top Ten List” and explains what Tameika believes are the essentials to everyday life for a child with autism. Some of the essentials that she discusses are creating structure and routine, creating visual daily schedules, using a choice board, and creating a cool down area. She goes further into detail about each of the top ten essentials and provides examples of how to apply them to everyday life.  

 

Jolene Philo – Different Dream Living

Different Dream Living is a website created by Jolene Philo which offers resources for those who are caring for others with special needs. She has experience raising a son with special needs and has gone on to become a published author and speaker for special needs. Jolene says:

“On the days when parenting your child contains no Hallmark moments, remember one thing. You stand between your child and the big, scary world he can’t understand, but you don’t have to stand alone. By seeking resources, advice, and support for your child you will become a better advocate and protector. So ask for help when you need it and give help when you can.”

 

Kate Hooven – The AWEnesty of Autism

Kate Hooven blogs about her life raising three children, one of whom was diagnosed with autism. Her website, The AWEnesty of Autism is filled with honest accounts of everyday life raising her son with autism, as well as tips to help other parents in similar situations. Kate, along with the help of her son and niece, developed a poster to help others befriend children with autism:


Credit: Kate Hooven. *Disclaimer: Per Kate’s request, no edits may be made to this poster.

 

Erin Hagey – You AUT-a-Know

You AUT-a Know, created by Erin Hagey, shares the knowledge that she has gained from her experience as a Special Education teacher. She bases her classroom on ABA principles and offers many resources for other Special Education teachers. Erin Hagey says:

“Look at your IEP team as just that, a team. Working with multiple service providers can be tough, but the more we can work together, the more benefit our students will receive. I love working alongside families to develop goals and objectives to make our students more successful at school, home, and in their communities. Working together as a team allows all members to share what is important for the growth and development of our students and I find that it makes for greater student achievement. Doing this is not always easy, but I suggest using open, honest communication as a key tool to build a collaborative team that can best support our students.”

 

Rebecca Branstetter – Thriving School Psychologist Collective

Rebecca Branstetter is the founder of Thriving School Psychologist Collective. Thriving School Psychologist Collective is a community of school psychologists who are dedicated to improving mental health services in public schools. Rebecca has over 15 years of experience as a school psychologist. She has written many blog posts and books sharing what she has learned throughout her career and also offers online courses. Rebecca offers advice for families deciding what school support is best for their children:

Getting a diagnosis of Autism can be understandingly overwhelming for parents. One of the first things to do to reduce overwhelm is to build your child’s school support team and find a “guide” in navigating the process for garnering the right supports at school. In the public schools, the school psychologist is a professional who can serve as a guide in the process. It is not always widely known, but public school psychologists are available to support families from ages 3-21, even if your child is not enrolled in a public school. You can contact your child’s local school district to find out who the school psychologist is.

One reason starting your journey in the world of deciding what the best school support options are with your school psychologist is that they are experts in not only diagnostic assessment, but also helping parents navigate the sometimes complex and daunting menu of options for their child. From general education all the way to special schools for students with Autism, the choices and process for getting the “just right” level of support can leave parents feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Whether a medical professional or the school psychologist provided the initial diagnosis, ask for an appointment to meet to discuss the new-found diagnosis and learn the next steps. The school psychologist may also have knowledge of community agencies that offer ongoing support to parents of children with Autism.”

 

Kara Dedert – Live Better

Kara Dedert is mother to five children and the author of Live Better. One of her sons was born with special needs, and she discusses many topics relating to special needs parenting. She offers wise words and tips for parents in similar situations as her own, as well as a Facebook group for other mothers raising children with special needs. In one of her blog posts titled Your Child Needs Friends Too, Kara writes, “Not only does my son need friends, they need him.” It is important to remember that children on the spectrum and neurotypical children can both benefit from having a friendship with each other.

 

Alicia Trautwein – The Mom Kind

Alicia Trautwein is the author and creator of The Mom Kind. She has experience raising four children with different diagnoses, and she writes blog posts discussing topics relating to autism, special needs, parenting, and managing money. Alicia says:

“Remember, your child is the same child who walked into that office without a diagnosis that walked out with one.

Not only is it okay to grieve, it is normal.  We all have different steps in the cycle of grief (denial, shock, anger, sadness, depression, even relief).  You are not necessarily even grieving your child, but the idea of who your child might have been in your head.  What is important is that you actively move through the cycles of grief into action. As Dr. Rick Solomon of The Play Project says, ‘There is a feeling much worse than grief and that is the guilt of looking back on what you should have done.

You are the expert in your child’s life and their strongest advocate.  Though you may not be a doctor, you’ve known your child since day one. You know what they need and are the only one who is going to fight for your child’s needs. So do not doubt yourself!’”

 

Stephanie DeLussey – Mrs. D’s Corner

Mrs. D’s Corner is a website created by Stephanie DeLussey. On this website, Stephanie writes blog posts and provides resources for teaching Special Education. In her blog posts, she shares knowledge that she has gained from her experience as a Special Education teacher on topics such as disability awareness, parent communication, data collection, schedules, and more. Stephanie says:

My biggest piece of advice for special needs families is for them to 1. Become involved in the community where they live, and 2. For parents to become involved in their child’s education with information from outside of the school district. Do your homework, study up on the laws and what rights you and your child have under IDEA. In my experience, most families don’t know how much power they hold over school districts when it comes to asking for and getting the services their child needs to succeed.”

 

When raising a child with autism, it’s important to remember that many other parents are experiencing the same challenges. Thankfully, the autism community is full of parents and professionals who are happy to help others along the way in their own journeys with ASD.

 

For autism tips, check out our Autism Travel Guide.

There is a recent and growing need for qualified professionals in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA therapy, the leading treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), helps children on the Spectrum improve in many areas of development, including communication, social skills, and day-to-day living skills.

The ABA field is led by Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) who are responsible for creating all of the individualized treatment plans and supervising one-on-one therapy sessions with Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs).

For students seeking a career as a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), below are the top 50 colleges (in no particular order) that offer fully web-based ABA or autism-related programs in the United States.

Auburn University

Auburn University’s distinguished degrees and teacher certification programs, such as the Graduate Certificate in Intervention for Students with Autism and Developmental Disabilities, have earned Auburn University a spot in the top 25 percent of all Schools of Education in the United States, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University provides their students with a variety of education programs, including those in the special education field. ASU offers programs like the BACB-approved graduate certificate in ABA, as well as a M.Ed program with an emphasis in ABA. These programs equip graduates to feel comfortable with a diverse range of client populations.

Northern Arizona University

Northern Arizona University solidified a spot on our list by offering its Positive Behavior Support, Graduate Certificate program to aspiring BCBAs.  This 100% electronic program allows students to engage in group work that involves communicating via video chat with classmates during real-time situations.

The University Of Arizona

The University of Arizona has a fast-track web-based BCBA course sequence for Behavior Analysts who are looking to make a quicker transition into the field. The program can be finished in a short time of 16 months, allowing students to work through the program while actively holding a job.

The University of Arkansas

The University of Arkansas offers a flexible learning environment for the Master’s in Special Education with Graduate Certificates in both Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The ABA program’s recognized faculty is one of the most noteworthy factors of their online program.

Brandman University

Brandman University offers a remote based Master’s in Special Education program with an emphasis in ABA. The university provides students with the tools they need complete the course in accelerated eight week sessions. BU also facilitates bi-weekly webinars for students to participate in trainings and communicate with other students and instructors.

California State University

California State University offers a BACB-accredited program for BCBA candidates through their ABA Certificate of Advanced Study. CSU also helps students by staying flexible with through their quick-paced program and lower financial costs.  

National University

National University’s Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis is recognized for equipping students with the ability to offer behavior management techniques and strategies in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, mental health agencies, businesses, and group homes.

University of Colorado

The University of Colorado has a known history of accommodating the needs of students who are already in the workforce. The University of Colorado’s 100% electronic Applied Behavior Analysis course sequences help best prepare students to sit for the national Board Certified Behavioral Analyst exam.

University of Northern Colorado

The University of Northern Colorado’s BACB-verified online courses are available for those seeking a career in ABA. UNC’s flexible program permits students to complete their BCBA course sequence simultaneously with a master’s degree. The expert faculty and impressive UNC resources exemplify the university’s dedication to its web-based program.  

Western Connecticut State University

Western Connecticut State University is an institution dedicated to higher standards of education and research. WCSU provides high-quality behavior analytic instruction to practitioners, earning its online ABA program a spot on this list.

Florida Institute of Technology

Florida Institute of Technology offers students much more flexibility than the average ABA program with the opportunity to enroll in FIT’s online program multiple times throughout the year – the new course sequences for the program start every three months. This allows students interested in a BCBA certification, particularly those who are already in the workforce, to plan enrollment around their busy lives.

Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University operates through the Southern Regional Education Board’s Electronic Campus, which facilitates an advanced coursework program to help students qualify for BCBA certification while they work. The flexible learning program  makes it easy for students to access all resources and materials needed to complete all courses 100% electronically.

University of West Florida

The University of West Florida stands out for their remote flexibility, offering five different start dates per year. This allows students to kick off the program at their utmost convenience. UWF offers a BACB-Accredited program for BCBA candidates, with an optional Master of Arts in Exceptional Student Education.  

Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Chicago School of Professional Psychology makes it extremely simple for students to access their computer-based work through a program called Global Student Dashboard. Global Student Dashboard allows students to access their assignments and interact with fellow peers in the class, as well as the professor.

Southern Illinois University

Southern Illinois University’s BACB-approved course sequence is comprised of a total of 18 credit-hours, which can be completed entirely online. SIU’s program effectively prepares students who already hold a master’s degree or higher, in an approved field of study, to earn their BCBA credentials.

Ball State University

Ball State University offers a BACB-Accredited program for BCBA candidates with its Master of Arts with an emphasis in Autism. BSU was the first university in the state of Indiana to offer online ABA Master’s programs. This program is perfect for people seeking employment with children or adults with Autism.

Purdue University Global

Purdue University Global gives students the option of zero on-campus requirements and many different start dates, allowing them to begin an ABA program when it’s most convenient. Each student is offered personalized support by career services, an online library, and many social networking communities to keep in touch with classmates and stay up-to-date on new trends in the ABA field as a whole.

University of Kansas

Impressively, the University of Kansas is the second most research-productive university in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. KU offers a Master of Arts or a Doctorate of Philosophy in behavioral psychology, which are BACB-accredited programs for aspiring BCBAs.

Nicholls State University

Nicholls State requires students to complete a field-based research seminar, which demonstrates firsthand how to work with and evaluate student learning environments. NSU offers computer-based programs for its M.Ed of Curriculum and Instruction, High Incidence Disabilities with an ABA option.

University of Southern Maine

University of Southern Maine offers a BACB-accredited ABA program through their Master of Science in Educational Psychology. USM’s program is known for its flexibility, with the program being 100% electronic so students are able to attend classes and complete coursework remotely.

Endicott College

Endicott College offers a diverse array of options for students seeking a career in ABA. All of Endicott’s programs are 100% electronic and do not have a residency requirement. The 36-credit online program makes it easier for those who are already working professionals to earn their degree. They also offer a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio, enabling faculty members to really focus on their students.

Northeastern University

The BCBA exam pass rate for Northern University is at an extremely high rate of 83 percent, recieving world-wide recognition and attention. Northeastern University offers a flexible learning environment that is BACB-Accredited for BCBA candidates.

University of Wisconsin Whitewater

The University of Wisconsin Whitewater offers an online ABA graduate certificate that can be taken as a post graduate program, or may be applied toward a Master’s in Special Education. The university’s dedication to online learning is evident through their thorough and challenging modules that concentrate on evidence-based interventions.

West Virginia University

West Virginia University, one of the top 100 public universities in the U.S. according to U.S. News and World Report, offers a BCBA Course Sequence for post-graduate students or for students earning a graduate degree. WVU allows students in these programs to engage in live sessions through the university’s web-based learning platform.

University of Texas at Austin

With the growing need for ABA therapy in Texas, UT Austin is helping to foster new generations of BCBA supervisors with its online program that emphasizes ABA and Special Education. UT Austin also made it easy to enroll in their certificate program by not requiring any entrance exams.

Texas A&M University

A&M’s Department of Educational Psychology, also known as EPSY, has one of the nation’s largest outputs of special and bilingual education teachers in the state of Texas. The university offers up to 21 practicums each semester for students participating in online ABA courses.

Simmons College

With Simmons College’s online courses, students are able to earn their degrees in as short as 19 months with class sizes as small as 15 students. Simmons’ flexible learning environment has also proved to earn a BCBA exam pass rate of 83%, which is impressively the same rate of on-campus students

Drexel University

Drexel University’s ABA courses include traditional coursework, research, and some hands-on experience. Students also have the opportunity to accumulate their practicum hours required in order to sit for the national exam.

Cairn University

For those looking for a biblically-centered learning environment, Cairn University provides just that. Cairn University’s Online MS in Special Education (ABA) was the first Christian university program worldwide that was verified to meet the eligibility requirements to take the BCBA exam. Cairn also offers a 50% tuition discount for educators working in Christian schools.

St. Cloud State University

St. Cloud State University is one of the most affordable web-based ABA programs, with tuition as low as $12,000 for out-of-state applicants. The university offers students the opportunity to learn from PhD-level instructors. Not only is St. Cloud affordable, it is also ranked by the U.S. News and World Report as 35th in top public schools. Admission into the ABA program requires a bachelor’s degree and a minimum GPA of 2.75.

University Of Southern Maine

Another very affordable online program, the University of Southern Maine offers a rigorous ABA track to prepare students for the BCBA exam. Their programs include a Master of Science in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Applied Behavioral Analysis, as well as a Certificate in Applied Behavioral Analysis.

University of Massachusetts Lowell

The University of Massachusetts Lowell offers courses taught by world-wide expert behavior analysts who work at some of the most renowned autism treatment and research facilities. Such experienced faculty ensures a highly credible learning experience for students.

Michigan State University

Michigan State University’s Graduate Certificate Program in Applied Behavior Analysis equips students with the skills and knowledge needed to design, implement, and supervise ABA therapy sessions. MSU has provided post-secondary education for 60+ years and is one of the leading universities in the United States.

Capella University

Capella University provides students with several remote learning opportunities. This includes the university’s Masters of Science in Psychology with ABA specialization, which meets all of the requirements in order to sit for the BCBA exam. Some benefits of participating in Capella’s program include access to their career center for post-graduate job opportunities, as well as employer, association, and military discounts.

Southeast Missouri State University

Southeast Missouri State is a recognized leader for their online education programs. SMSU’s Masters of Arts in ABA is a 100% web-based program that allows students to complete their supervision through the required fieldwork.

Webster University

Webster University is known for its distinguished faculty and globally-minded curriculum. The university does an outstanding job at preparing students for practicing behavior analysis in different scenarios such as schools, residential centers, and community agencies.

Montana State University

Montana State University offers a Master of Science in Special Education Advanced Studies with an ABA emphasis. Graduates of this remote learning program have a high rate of employment and job offers. MSU also serves students with faculty who have a wide range of experience in the Special Education field, including those with their BCBA certification.

Arcadia University

With a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Arcadia faculty members are able to give students a highly individualized educational experience. This 36-credit online program gives students the option to choose elective coursework that focuses on ASD, as well as emotional and behavioral disorders.

Kaplan University

Kaplan University, which was acquired by Purdue University to create Purdue University Global, now offers more than 180 remote-based programs. With Kaplan’s program, students will develop the skills they need to cultivate effective intervention strategies for their future clientele. Kaplan also offers multiple start dates that allow flexibility for those seeking higher education while still working.

Pennsylvania State University

Students are able to choose from three different focus areas when earning their online degree at Penn State. The focus areas include Academic and Behavioral Supports, Applied Behavioral Analysis, or Autism. Full time students are able to finish the program in about one year, while part time students are able to complete it in two years.

Central Methodist University

CMU’s online ABA program provides students with the opportunity to gain knowledge in behavior assessment, behavior change procedures, research and data analysis methods, and verbal behavioral analysis. Through CMU’s computer-based program, students will be prepared to sit for the national Board Certified Behavioral Analyst exam.

Ashford University

Ashford University Makes it easy for those balancing work, school, and life by offering one course at a time that lasts 5 weeks. Ashford also makes it easy for transferring students, allowing up to 90 transfer credits. Some courses include Applied Behavioral Sciences, as well as statistics for the behavioral and social sciences.

University of North Texas

With enrollment offered every term, UNT’s BACB-approved program provides students with top notch courses like Techniques in Applied Behavioral Analysis and Ethical Issues in the Science and Practice of Behavior Analysis. UNT also offers 24/7 access to their online courses.

Oregon Institute of Technology

Oregon Tech’s Applied Psychology Program highlights core curriculum such as Developmental, Abnormal, Social, Cognitive, and Behavior Modification. Through Oregon Tech’s web-based program, students will meet the American Psychological Association Standards.

Troy University

Troy University’s courses provide students with the ability to earn a bachelor’s in psychology with no on-campus requirements, while also minoring in Applied Behavior Analysis. Those participating in Troy’s courses have the option to participate in the classroom, online, or a combination of the two.

St. Joseph’s College

St. Joseph’s College’s online courses are made up of 29 credit hours that include courses like advanced research methods in autism and assessment of Autism Spectrum Disorder. St. Joseph also offers an optional 6 credit supervised practicum for students who are eager to gain additional experience.

Pepperdine University

Pepperdine’s School of Education and Psychology offers an online Master of Science program for students interested in becoming a BCBA. The online courses allows students to prepare for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam and become Behavior Analysts. Although these courses are online, students will receive the same curriculum and experience as students taking courses on campus. The online program offers students easy access online course work, face-to-face classes via webchat, and local clinical experiences.

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati makes it easy for students to earn their Behavior Analysis Graduate Certificate with their 100% web-based program. Students can earn their certificate in as little as 1-2 years, while the masters program can be completed in 20 months.

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Action Behavior Centers

When a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) reaches preschool age, many parents ask themselves whether a full-time ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) program or PPCD (Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities) is the best option for their child.

Both programs have value but take a fundamentally different approach.

ABA

After a child receives a diagnosis of ASD, the pediatrician or neurologist will often refer the child to a center for intensive ABA therapy. Based on decades of scientific research, ABA has proven itself as an effective and reliable treatment method for autism. Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) create individualized treatment plans to cater to the specific needs of each child.

ABA consists of two major treatment methods: Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Natural Environment Training (NET).

DTT teaches target behaviors or goals through simplified and structured steps.  For instance, teaching a child to write his name could be broken down into a five to 10 step process. First, he might work on properly holding a pencil. Then, he might learn how to individually trace an “A,” and so forth. A typical DTT session is similar to how lessons are run in a typical classroom setting – oftentimes taught across a table or with workbooks.

NET sessions are more about learning through play and social interactions in a natural setting. Multiple children will play together in the room at the same time to provide a social setting similar to that of a typical school. This also helps children generalize their learned behaviors with multiple people.

The combination of DTT and NET helps children with autism gain improvements in a variety of areas of developmental delay, including communication, cognition, social skills, play skills, and day-to-day living skills.

PPCD

Under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), children with disabilities are entitled to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE).

In order to start PPCD in Texas, children must first be evaluated and approved by the school district, and then if accepted into the program, Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals are set for the child. PPCD services typically happen in a classroom in a public school under supervision of a special education teacher.

PPCD classrooms typically contain around 12 or less students with special needs, supervised by one certified special education teacher and 2 educational associates. Each classroom will include children with a variety of special needs, ranging from moderate to severe disabilities. Based on the level of developmental delay, children will work on appropriate activities to improve language, social skills, pre-reading skills, cognitive skills, and self-help skills.

Breaking Down the Main Differences

  • ABA therapy centers focus specifically on children with autism, while PPCD classrooms focus on children with a variety of special needs.
  • BCBAs and therapists are trained in ABA for children with autism, while PPCD teachers have a background in special education.
  • ABA therapy is conducted in a 1:1 child-to-therapist ratio, while PPCD classrooms typically have about 3 adults to 12 children.
  • ABA programs (typically 40 hours a week) are more intensive than PPCD programs.
  • ABA is backed by decades of research