The simple answer is yes! ABA Therapy can help with your child’s speech! But working on speech in ABA Therapy compared to Speech Therapy itself can be different in how it is approached and what goals we work to achieve.
While the two disciplines may incorporate practices to build a child’s speech and language skills in different ways, the two therapies overlap and build off each other. With both Speech Therapy and ABA Therapy both being offered in Westside Children’s Therapy clinics, a child’s SLP or RBT/BCBA is just a few steps away to lean on for support.
So, we’ll start there to answer the question fully!
How does speech therapy and ABA therapy overlap? A big portion of the Westside Children’s Therapy ABA program focuses on manding, or requesting. As with any therapy at Westside, each child’s program is individualized to best fit their needs and goals and will work on language development in their own way (verbally, PECs, AAC. etc.).
As part of the therapy sessions, our therapists will do LOTS of modeling to encourage independent responses.
When working on speech and language development in ABA Therapy, Westside therapists will help children shape their vocalizations, as well as build their repertoire and tacting skills.
Tacting is the naming and labeling of different objects, actions, or events – describing the things we see, hear, or touch. Having this skill is important because it helps us in our everyday conversational skills.
Since Speech and ABA are both offered in Westside clinics, if a child is working on a specific sound, for example, we can incorporate that into their ABA session.
And if we’re working on transitioning in ABA, we can work with the Speech Therapists to teach them how we’re working on those transitions in ABA.
If a child is in just ABA Therapy and needs more help with their communication, our ABA Therapists can work with the Speech team to look into getting an AAC System or PECs, and teach them how to use it!
Why is it common for children with Autism to need speech therapy as well?
Some kids – with Autism or not – are able to speak clearly where you can understand them and can pronounce words correctly. Then there are some that need speech therapy/ABA therapy because of a limited amount of language skills.
Speech = Using the sounds and annunciations to say words
Language = Using those words appropriately and correctly to get needs met, or share thoughts and ideas.
We’ll focus on the language aspect for the sake of this blog. If you want to learn more about what a Speech Therapy session would look like, where sounds are a main focus, read this blog. We’ve talked about it in our past blogs, children with Autism tend to have behavior challenges and tantrums are a big part of that. Those tantrums typically come from not knowing, or being able to communicate their wants and needs effectively and appropriately.
What are examples of language challenges that can cause tantrum behaviors we see in children with Autism?
A child may want an apple, but not know how to ask for the apple. So they may just start crying in front of the refrigerator. Now as a parent, you may not know what your child is asking for. Do they want milk? Do they want water? Do they want yogurt? Do they want juice?
“NO” they want an APPLE! And now, a child may get upset and begin yelling, or hitting or crying because you have not gotten them their apple yet. Tantrums or problem behaviors are their way of communicating.
In ABA Therapy, we will teach kids the skills they need to request those wants and needs. ABA Therapy isn’t about just getting rid of those problem behaviors, it is about giving kids the tools to engage in more appropriate behaviors that will naturally reduce those tantrums or problem behaviors over time.
Even if it just means pointing to things they want, that is a step in the right direction.
Here’s an example for you: If you go to a restaurant in a foreign country and do not speak the language, how are you going to get what you want? You’re probably going to point at the thing on the menu that you want to order.
How do you get a child with autism motivated to get their wants and needs met in a better way?
Our therapists REALLY get to know your child and know what interests them. Everything at Westside is child-led.
With 1:1 attention, our therapists build trust with your child in the early sessions while learning what motivates them to do an activity, and that lets them guide the sessions. If they love outer space, then we’re going to have sessions built around space.
In our clinics, we may have a planet puzzle, and believe it or not, that is a huge way we can work on a child’s speech and language in ABA Therapy.
How does it work?
- We teach the child to request the puzzle
- Then we work on naming the planets and asking for the piece while putting it together.
We can also work on printing out coloring pages of different planets and have the child as for different colors.
There are plenty of opportunities for Social Time in ABA!
Your child will be in ABA Therapy with others that are similar in age. Depending on where your child is at, or what they are working on, may dictate how those social interactions will happen.
Since ABA Therapy is always 1:1, each child can be working on a different skill.
For example, if two kids are playing with toys and one wants what the other one has, this is a perfect time to implement asking for the toy. We want the child to appropriately request the toy rather than just grabbing it, or saying “give!”
We hope that one is able to ask, and the other answers. Now that doesn’t mean one child has to give the other child the toy. While we do teach children to be flexible and share and not get frustrated if asked to give up a toy, it’s as important for them to know they can advocate for themselves
If the child doesn’t want to give the toy up, we will teach them the way to use their words or whatever their mode of communication is to say something like “maybe later.” But at the same time, think about “have I had this toy for a while and should I share?”
ABA Therapy is always done through positive reinforcement at Westside
What do kids LOVE to do? Play! Think back to when you were a kid. That’s how kids learn best and that is how therapy at Westside is – it is play-based!
We’ll work on skills through play, followed up by some necessary table time, but we’re always going to be using their positive motivators and reinforcers to guide their sessions.
If you’re interested in starting ABA Therapy or Speech Therapy at Westside Children’s Therapy, click below or call (815) 469-1500 to see how we can help.