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Thank You for Your Confidence, Trust, and Vote!

We would like to extend a huge, heartfelt, and humbled thank you to the community for your confidence, trust, and vote.   You have voted us FredParent’s Family Favorite Special Needs Resource Winner for our ABA services for the second year in a row!  We are honored and humbled to receive this award again this year.  Rest assured that we will continue to work diligently to exceed your expectations as we assist children with communication skill acquisition, social skill acquisition, independent living skill acquisition, and behavior reduction, etc.  We thank you for your continued trust and for allowing us to serve our community in a field which we are passionate about.  We would also like to congratulate the other amazing contenders in the Best Special Needs Resource Category such as:  Helping Hands, Children’s Hospital – Lee’s Hill, Parent Education-Infant Development Program (PEID), and Rehabilitation Services of Fredericksburg -MWH.  You are all fantastic providers who excel in your professions and in your service to our wonderful community.

We were also voted 2019 Runner Up in the Family Favorites Free Things to Do Category for our free recreational and educational Outreach events.   While this award is humbling and appreciated, we do not provide all our free recreational and educational Outreach events for the accolades; we do not accept grants; and we do not accept donations.   We offer these events as ways educate and also “give back” to the community. We encourage families to continue to take advantage of all the free recreational and educational events that Paragon Autism Services offers to the community.  We also encourage professionals to continue to request on-sight workshops so that individuals with special needs may be integrated into all realms of our wonderful community.  Thank you for the opportunity to continue to “give back” to our wonderful community.  Just watch and see what we are planning for the future.   If you have any ideas how we can better serve the community through recreation and education, please let us know!

Because of you, your trust, your confidence, your support, and your participation, we are and will contnue to Make a Difference Together!

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Helping Your Child Increase His/Her Communication Skills–a recap of the Parent Information Series

On Saturday, May 18th, we had the privilege of presenting a workshop to families who were interested in “Helping Your Child Increase His or Her Communication Skills.”  Although many families signed up and a few attended, we received many calls and emails from concerned parents because they were unable to attend the workshop. As many of you who attend our free Outreach events know, we model many of the techniques taught, are available for questions, and help facilitate communication and social skills at all of our events.  As an additional resource, we are going to outline what communication is and provide eight steps for increasing communication skills.

  • What is communication and reinforcement?  What are the modes of communication, and types of communication?
    1. Communication is behavior for which the reinforcement of the behavior is delivered by another person.  
      • A child points to a cookie.  Mom gives the child the cookie.  Communication!
      • A child asks for a cookie.  Mom gives the child the cookie. Communication!
      • A child hits mom, throws themself on the floor, hits their head against the floor, and cries.  Mom tells them not to hurt themselves and gives them a cookie. Communication!
      • A child gets their own cookie.  Not communication!
    2. Reinforcement is adding something or taking something away from the environment after a behavior occurs, that increases the likelihood of that behavior occurring again in the future.
      • Reinforcement could take the form of a tangible object, an activity, or attention.
        • Child asks for a cookie.  Mom gives the child the cookie.  Child asks Mom for cookies in the future.  Reinforcement!
        • Child says “rain” when it is raining outside.  Mom says “you are absolutely right, it is raining.”  Child tells mom about the rain, a dog walking by, or other environmental events in the future.  Reinforcement!
        • Child says “all done” while eating.  Mom takes the remainder of the food away.  Child in the future tells mom when they are finished.  Reinforcement!
    3. Modes of communication include: speech, gestures, speech generated devices, sign language, textual, PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), and inappropriate/dangerous behaviors.
    4. Types of communication (verbal operants):
      • Echoic-repeating
        • teaches the child how to say words
      • Mands–requests
        • Easiest to start with because of immediate, specific, and usually tangible reinforcement.
      • Tacts-Labels and comments
        • Seeing a cat and saying or signing “cat”
        • Commenting about their favorite show.
      • Intraverbals-back and forth of communication, answering questions, fill in the blanks.
        • Twinkle, twinkle, little ______.
        • What is your name?
        • Holding a conversation.
  • What are 8 steps to increasing communication skills?
    1. If your child does not have an appropriate means of communication, consult with a speech therapist or ABA provider.
      • Understand inappropriate and dangerous behavior is a means of communication which can be replaced with a  safer, more appropriate form of communication.
    2. Create motivation and opportunities to request.
      • Allowing your child to get everything themselves may increase independence but does not increase communication skills.
      • When your child is hungry or thirsty, prompt the request, and reinforce.
        • If you give small amounts, more requests will be needed.; until they are full of course.  Generally, a child won’t request if they have had a lot of something and are full. Would you?
      • Work on a request for outside after long periods of rain. (Don’t you want to go outside now with all the rain we have had?)
      • Don’t push your child on the swing right away.  Wait for a push request. If your child doesn’t request, prompt the push request and then push your child.
      • Put things up high so they need to request.
      • Withhold glue if they are doing an art project they like which requires glue.
      • Hide a shoe when they are getting ready to go outside.
      • Turn on their favorite show and talk to them about it or provide them opportunities to fill in the blank when talking about their favorite shows/movies (To infinity _______!)
    3. Understand what natural stimulus or condition evokes various types of communication and what type of reinforcement would be appropriate.
      • I answer a question or continue with the conversation because of something you said or asked; attention will reinforce my intraverbal.
      • I talk about the rain because I see the rain; attention will reinforce my (tact) commenting about the rain.
      • I ask for the loud music to be turned down because it hurts my ears; only the music being turned down would reinforce the removal of the loud music request (mand).
      • I ask for a cookie because I want a cookie; only the cookie would be a reinforcer for the cookie request.  
        • We want our children to ask for a cookie independently because they want the cookie not because someone is asking “what do you want?”.  While we often need to start with asking questions such as “what do you want?” we eventually want to fade that prompt.
    4. Provide prompts (cues) when necessary to assist your child in communicating.  Remember to fade your prompts. You don’t want your child to wait for someone to ask them “what do you want”,  to say “say cookie”, or “c”. to ask for a cookie.
      • Parents generally ask us “how do I know my child wants a cookie?’  or complain because they ask their child “what do you want” or “do you want cookie” and when they give their child the cookie, the child cries and throws the cookie.
        • The best way to determine if a child wants something is to observe them.  If he/she reaches for a cookie, prompt the cookie request and then give him/her the cookie.  
          • If your child leads you to the counter and points and you are unsure between two objects on counter, hold out both items and see which one they reach for, then prompt that request.
    5. Reinforce your child’s communication behavior (immediately and every time at first) with the correct reinforcer.  Eventually you will be able to tell them no, wait or provide an alternative but not in the beginning. At first you need to teach the value of communication through consistent reinforcement.
      • Your child asks for a break, give them a break right away.
      • Your child taps you and says “mom” give them your attention right away.
      • Your child starts to tell you about their day, talk about their day right away.
      • Your child asks you for a cookie, give them a cookie right away.
    6. Never stop at just requesting.
      • Think of your day.  Do you only request all day?  Do you only comment or label all day?  Do you only respond when asked a question or when someone says something to you?
    7. Slowly increase goals for articulation, sentence length, length of conversation, and number of topics of conversation.
      • A child usually can’t pronounce things perfectly if they are not speaking at all.  That comes with time, practice, and help.
      • A child usually can’t speak in full sentences at first.  That comes with time practice, and help.
      • A child can’t speak on multiple topics if they are only used to talking about their favorite topic.  That comes with time, practice, and help.
    8. Reinforce, reinforce, reinforce.  Fade later.

if you have questions regarding the information above, Autism, or are in need of local resources, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Tina@paragonautismserices.com.  We would love to answer questions about how ABA can assist your child with communication skills, how we can help increase other skill deficits areas and how we can help reduce inappropriate/dangerous behaviors. Remember not all ABA models and companies are the same.  Paragon Autism Services provides award winning ABA services to children diagnosed with Developmental Delay and Developmental Disabilities (including autism) who are covered by Medicaid and reside in Prince William, Caroline, Stafford, Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg, or King George.  Call us today and find out for yourself why Paragon Autism Services has been voted 2018 FredParent’s Family Favorite Special Needs Resource for our ABA services and Outreach endeavors.

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Early Diagnosis and Early Intervention is Crucial!

As many of you may have seen on our Facebook Page, Governor Ralph Northam has declared May 2019 Early Intervention Month because “some children are born with developmental delays and disabilities, and it is crucial that these children receive immediate intervention treatment upon diagnosis.”  According to the CDC, “recent estimates in the United States show that approximately one in six, or about 15%, of children aged 3 to 17 have one or more developmental disability” and the latest prevalence rate for autism is 1 in 59.”  The CDC also states, “early intervention can considerably improve children’s long-term development and social behaviors.”  A study published last week in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics stated that “new data suggest that autism detection and diagnosis can start as young as 14 months old with high accuracy, which could lead to children with autism having the option to start therapies early.”  Early diagnosis and intervention is vital while the frontal cortex part of the brain is more capable of absorbing information and changing (brain plasticity).  The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states that “Individuals can learn and benefit from interventions and learning at any age, however, the earlier the better.”

In his Proclamation, Governor Northam stated that “it is important that Virginia’s citizens know about the early intervention services available for infants and toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities so families may utilize every opportunity to provide for the health and well-being of their children.”  Children under the age of two who are suspected of having a developmental delay or developmental disability to include autism may qualify for publicly funded Early Intervention services such as Speech and Occupational Therapy under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) which are facilitated by PEIDS and the  Infant Toddler Connection.  Children of any age may also qualify for private intensive therapy covered by private insurance and/or Medicaid.

  • Speech Therapy  assists children in the areas of speech, language, thinking, and swallowing.  A Speech Therapist can provide nonvocal children with an alternative form of communication; assist a child in expanding their length of communication; improve articulation; assist with receptive language deficits; as well as assist with feeding issues.
  • Occupational Therapy assists children in succeeding in their daily activities such as:  playing, learning, and socializing.  An Occupational Therapist can assist children with sensory processing issues,  problem solving, and provide environmental modification solutions.
  • Applied Behavior Analysis assists children with skill acquisitions in areas including but not limited to: communication (receptive and expressive), social skills, play skills, toileting, food acceptance, etc.  Applied Behavior Analysis assist children with decreasing dangerous/undesirable behaviors to include but not limited to: aggression, tantrum, self-injury, property destruction, elopement, non-compliance, etc.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development lists Applied Behavior Analysis among its recommended treatment methods for Autism Spectrum Disorder and states “ABA is a scientific approach to changing behavior.”  Applied Behavior Analysis has been supported by research and noteworthy/respected organizations for decades:
  • “Investigators have suggested that, to achieve the best possible outcomes, children with autism should begin intensive behavioral treatment as early as possible, preferably before the age of 4 years” (Green, 1996).
  • “Intervention for childhood autism based on applied behavior analysis and delivered intensively at home during the preschool period can bring about significant changes in children’s functioning”  (Remington et al., 2007).
  • Thomas Frazier, Chief Science Officer for the autism advocacy group Autism Speaks, states: “there is compelling data from many studies that early intensive behavioral intervention is effective.  Many children who receive early intensive behavioral intervention show substantial improvements in cognitive function, language, and daily living skills.”
Paragon Autism Services provides award winning ABA services to children diagnosed with Developmental Delay and Developmental Disabilities (including autism) who are covered by Medicaid and reside in Prince William, Caroline, Stafford, Spotslyvania, Fredericksburg, or King George.  We utilize individualized assessments and research driven interventions such as positive reinforcement to increase communication/language skills, social skills and play skills, adaptive life skills, self-help skills, and generalization while working on reducing unsafe behaviors such as aggression, elopement, self-injury, and non-compliance.   If you have any questions about Autism, local resources, early intervention, or how our ABA model can help your child, contact our office at 540-479-3889.  Find out for yourself why Paragon Autism Services has been voted 2018 FredParent’s Family Favorite Special Needs Resource for our ABA services and Outreach endeavors.
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April is Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month

As many of you know, April is Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month.  In 2016, 1 in every 68 children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.  As of April 2018, that number increased to 1 in 59 — a 13.2% increase since 2014.  This article will discuss autism, the signs of autism, and the importance of early intervention.

Autism spectrum disorder, ASD, is a developmental disability.  Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions which present themselves during early childhood and persist throughout one’s lifetime.  Many teenagers and adults are currently being diagnosed with autism based on the DSM5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which now states:  “Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifested until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life)” https://cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/hcp-dsm.html.  Autism is a spectrum disorder meaning it affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.  As with all individuals, individuals on the spectrum possess individual strengths and weaknesses.  Some individuals with autism may require a high level of support while others require minimal to no support to achieve independence throughout their daily lives.  Although individuals with autism spectrum disorder are as unique as all other individuals, individuals with autism spectrum disorder experience deficits in the areas of communication, socialization, and behavior.  Some individuals may be non-vocal and prefer to be by themselves; while others may communicate through assistive technology and lack the skill to socialize beyond greeting others; yet other individuals may speak in complete sentences but may not know when to end a conversation or recognize when peers are no longer interested.

While children develop at different rates, it is important to know your child and what skills are expected by certain ages in your child’s development.  “Children meet developmental milestones in the way they play, learn, speak, and act.”  The CDC has compiled a list of Developmental Milestones for children up to the age of 5 https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html  You, the parent, know your child best.  As soon as you feel something “just isn’t right” with your child or he/she may not be meeting developmental milestones, discuss your concerns with your pediatrician immediately.  It is imperative that your child receives regular child checkups and that you discuss your concerns with your pediatrician.  Pediatricians will monitor your child’s development and ask you questions.  If your pediatrician identifies concerns or agrees with your concerns, he/she will do a developmental screening and your child may be diagnosed with one or multiple developmental delays. Your pediatrician will then refer your child for a comprehensive evaluation which will be conducted by a developmental pediatrician, a neurologist, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist.  Some signs of autism include:  little or no eye contact; little or no spoken words; little or no interest in other people or under/over reaction to odors, sounds, tastes, and textures; little or not interest in pretend play; lack of pointing to objects or looking at objects others point to; difficulties in changes with routine; and/or loss of skills once had.  Other signs can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends, “All children be screened for ASD at ages 18 and 24 months along with regular developmental surveillance” and states that “research shows that early intervention can considerably improve children’s long-term development and social behaviors.”  While there is no cure for autism and a person can not “outgrow” autism, early diagnosis and intervention is vital while the brain is more capable of absorbing information and changing (brain plasticity).  Early intervention can greatly improve a child’s outcomes and increase the likelihood that the child will meet their full potential.  Early intervention is proven to be effective, therefore, the earlier you can obtain services for your child the better.  The Autism Society recommends early intervention for children diagnosed with Autism.  http://www.autism-society.org/living-with-autism/autism-through-the-lifespan/infants-and-toddlers/early-intervention/.  The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states that “individuals can learn and benefit from interventions and learning at any age; however, the earlier the better.”

Children under the age of two who are suspected of having a developmental delay or developmental disability to include autism may qualify for publicly funded Early Intervention services such as Speech and Occupational Therapy under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).  Children of any age may also qualify for private intensive therapy covered by private insurance and/or Medicaid.  The first intensive therapy your child may benefit from is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).  ABA is a science which combines the laws and principles of learning and behavior to build skills in the areas of communication, socialization, toileting, feeding, independence, etc.  ABA can also reduce maladaptive behaviors and dangerous behaviors such as: aggression, tantrum behavior, self-injurious behavior, etc.  Speech Therapy is another intervention and can assist children in the areas of speech, language, thinking, and swallowing.  A Speech Therapist can provide nonvocal children with an alternative form of communication; assist a child in expanding their length of communication; improve articulation; assist with receptive language deficits; as well as assist with feeding issues.  Occupational Therapy can assist children in succeeding in their daily activities such as:  playing, learning, and socializing.  An Occupational Therapist can assist children with problem solving and provide environmental modification solutions.

Aside from early intervention and therapy, there is a lot of support for individuals diagnosed with autism and their families which are offered through government entities and private entities alike.  Families and individuals are encouraged to get involved in educational and recreational opportunities to include:  support groups for parents and siblings, recreational activities, and training/informational sessions.  Families and individuals are encouraged to explore and apply for government assistance such as:  Medicaid (FAMIS PLUS), Childrens Health Insurance Program (FAMIS), Medicaid Waivers, and private grants.  Children with autism could qualify for government funded Early Intervention services (PEIDS and Infant Toddler Connection) as stated above as well as special education services as listed under IDEA.  Families are encouraged to explore and utilize all options available.  A complete guide to supports and resources in Virginia, Roadmap to Supports, as well as many other resources can be found at http://paragonautismservices.com/blog/.  Paragon Autism Services invites families to utilize Paragon Autism Services for their knowledge, resources, free educational opportunities, and free recreational opportunities.

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Tips for a Successful Halloween

Halloween can be a fun night but it can also be overwhelming and stressful. Follow our Halloween tips to help your child have the most enjoyable Halloween possible! As always if you have any questions about ABA or need additional community resources do not hesitate to reach out to us.

bleed-Cling-for-winners

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Road Map to Support

Do you have concerns about your child’s development, or was your child recently diagnosed with Autism, Developmental Delay or Developmental Disability?  We have created a Road Map to Support for families in Virginia.  The 6 steps detailed in the road map will help you get a diagnosis, understand services for your child, and become knowledgeable about state resources.  Click on the document below:

Road Map to Support.docx

As always, please feel free to contact Paragon Autism Services with any additional questions or requests for services and resources.

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Questions for your potential ABA Provider

Paragon has started a new YouTube channel. Visit our YouTube Page to view our videos. Our first video will teach families 10 important questions to ask your potential ABA provider. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3Gf1IaiHfSbboBtjUg9UOg?view_as=subscriber

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