Two kids work with their therapists in Westside's IGNITE ABA Program.

IGNITE: Westside’s school readiness ABA therapy program for preschoolers

Is your child not quite ready to be in a school setting all day? Let Westside IGNITE your child’s readiness to be ready! Pretty soon, your child will be able to make that transition into a traditional school setting and be able to thrive.

Westside’s ABA-focused IGNITE program

IGNITE is the first in a sequence of Westside’s three ABA therapeutic programs. RISE (kindergarten-aged kids) and FOCUS (school-aged kids) are the other two therapeutic programs that follow IGNITE.

IGNITE is an intensive, therapeutic preschool program for children that are typically 2-6 years old, or functioning at an equivalent preschool level. If a child is put into a regular school setting everyday and they are not ready, it can have a negative effect on their ability to learn and grow alongside their peers.

Since the children in this program often do not attend school outside of therapy and IGNITE, our therapists are dedicated to making IGNITE structured similar to a school setting. IGNITE allows children to acquire the skills necessary to successfully function in a typical school setting.

The program uses the principles of ABA therapy for the programming and allows for kids to gain skills in: receptive language, simple expressive communication, interacting with peers, imitation, following group directions, sitting in groups, taking turns, raising their hand to answer questions, and more. 

How is IGNITE scheduled?

IGNITE is available year-round as a therapeutic ABA preschool program. It takes place 9 a.m. -3 p.m. and is divided into two sessions — (1) 9 a.m.- 12 p.m. and (2) 12 p.m. – 3p.m. — so parents have flexibility to choose which schedule works best for them. Parents can also discuss with their therapist the number of days per week they’d like to attend and the sessions that they prefer. For families seeking supplemental therapies or support, extended scheduling options beyond 3 p.m. or before 9 a.m. are available. 

Since this ABA therapy program is built around ABA treatment, each child’s program plan is specific to them. Class sizes range from 5-10 kids (when larger gatherings are permitted). This allows for social interaction, but it is not too large so as to overwhelm kids. 

Because of the small classes, Westside can keep a 1:1 staff to child ratio at all times, even through group activities. Each child attends the program with a designated therapist. The therapist monitors and records the child’s progress toward their specific IGNITE goals. Parents can see goal updates from sessions through our online parent portal.

IGNITE’s Curriculum
With the program’s setup, the curriculum is broken down by age and skill level. The curriculum is a combination of structured group activities and individual activities. As IGNITE progresses, parents meet regularly with their therapist to ensure that goals are being met and the parents understand what is being worked on. 

IGNITE focuses on children gaining communication and social skills. As such IGNITE is run at the same time as RISE (the kindergarten-aged program), and the groups often come together. For example, during circle time, the two programs join each other for the shared activitiy. Think of it as a “blended classroom.” Being able to foster such socialization is one of the reasons why we advocate for conducting therapy in-clinic.

IGNITE begins the day with welcome songs to help the children transition away from their table to sitting in a group. Their attendance is conducted through song, as well. This helps children learn each other’s names and work on greeting each other among other things. 

When the programs are together for circle time or other group activities, a goal for the RISE kids is to act as good role models for those in IGNITE since they have mastered those skills already. 

For a child in IGNITE during circle time, we may work on sitting in a spot, holding our materials, following directions, participating, and making choices for preferred items or group songs. During this time, the children also go over the calendar and weather. Currently, IGNITE students dress a felt bear appropriately for the day’s weather!

The children also do crafts and physical activities. Some crafts have them follow directions and others allow them to show their creativity. Physical movement days use yoga and dance songs to mimic movements.

photo of a girl having fun during IGNITE preschool readiness session, a program at Westside in Illinois

What benefits will my child get with IGNITE

If a child is in need of ABA therapy, studies have shown that the earlier the child is put into a program with intense intervention, the better the results can be. 

Some goals of IGNITE include: low risk activities that stimulate the demands of a traditional classroom, access to activities that improve social skill development, an individualized treatment plan that focuses on each child’s unique needs, high frequency of learning each day, and an increased likelihood of a smooth school transition.

Since the children involved in IGNITE — while having different specific goals — are there for the similar reasons, it is a safe space for each child to practice and gain confidence in what they have learned. 

Hear from our therapists

Here is a real story about a Westside kid: When a boy started IGNITE, he couldn’t sit in a chair without jumping out. He was put in a cube chair with a tray to help encourage sitting. He still struggled with it. 

After a year in IGNITE, he now sits in small groups, picks out his preferred songs to sing during circle time, greets his peers, and gives directions and comments on the natural environment (e.g. “boy is crying,” “girl is singing”). 

Our therapists were told that not only is it making his life easier but also his family’s and teacher’s, too, as he can now communicate more effectively with those around him.

What’s next? 

Children will move out of IGNITE when their goals have been met and mastered. At this time, programming can advance into the higher-level RISE curriculum. However, your child’s graduation will not come as a surprise as our therapists’ reports will show that your child is nearing the completion of their IGNITE goals. 

By no means is it mandatory to take the next step into RISE. That is a parent-driven decision that can be made through conversations with the therapist prior to the child’s IGNITE graduation. 

If you’re looking to IGNITE your child’s growth into a school setting, reach out to us to learn more!