The Value of an Assessment after an Autism Diagnosis

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By Chisato Komatsu, PhD, BCBA-D

When you have decided on a provider for ABA services, one of the first things a provider will do to better understand your child and family’s needs is conduct an assessment.  You may wonder, “Why is an assessment necessary? Why can’t we jump right into intervention and teach my child new skills?”  I’d like to clarify that the purpose of conducting an assessment is not to identify what is “wrong” with your child, but rather to identify your child’s needs and to help develop the most effective intervention possible to meet those needs. To develop an effective intervention program tailored for your child, the initial program goals need to be developed based on your child’s current skill level. The initial and ongoing assessment process, therefore, is critical in identifying the current skills and levels and the specific needs for your child.

The assessment process usually  consists of interviews with the client and/or caregivers, direct observations, and additional assessment tools and analyses depending on various factors (e.g., client’s engagement in challenging behaviors, requirement of the funding source, etc.). Through the assessment process, the assessor evaluates the client’s current skills and performance levels and also focuses on the environment and how it impacts the behavior.

Based on the assessment results, an intervention program is developed. Many factors, such as the client’s age, are taken into consideration when developing programs. For teenage clients, for example, the intervention may focus more on the client acquiring independent living skills, helping them be more independent in the community, whether that be completing the daily routine independently, going to college, or getting a job. Priorities of the family are often taken into consideration during the development of the intervention program.   For example, if the family travels across seas to visit other family members, successfully completing a long flight may be of high importance.

When starting an assessment process, be sure to ask questions. Ask questions to find out what is included in the assessment process, how it is going to be conducted, and how the intervention is developed based on the assessment results.

Watch our video on the value of an assessment.

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Creating Successful Play Dates

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For a child, afternoon and weekend hours can be an ideal time for a little adventure or bonding with a friend. Play dates have become a regular practice for most parents who want to make the most of their child’s free time.  These coordinated get-togethers can also be a great way to help your child practice social skills, play skills, and communication skills with peers in a safe and structured setting. Preparing for a play date and having it go as planned can be a challenge for many families with a child who has special needs. Here are some tips for creating a successful play date.

  • Be thoughtful about the invitation. Choose a child who is close to your child’s age and displays age appropriate communication, social, and play skills. The peer should be able to play cooperatively and be flexible. It can be helpful if the child enjoys giving lots of help and suggestions to friends. Your child’s school, neighbors, or members of your religious congregation may be able to connect you with peers.
  • Plan the activities ahead of time. Choose activities which both children will enjoy. Some great options are activities that are structured, organized and require some level of cooperation. Planning this way can help make the time fun and special for all.
  • Pre-teach the activities to your child. Prepare your child for the play date by practicing the planned activities in advance. Try role playing and pretend to be the other child.
  • Consider what you want your child to learn during play dates. Play in and of itself is valuable but it is also an opportunity to learn new skills. Having clear goals will increase the likelihood that specific skills can be practiced during play dates. Have two or three specific goals (e.g. taking turns, asking questions, responding to questions, changing play activities appropriately), and consider taking notes on how your child did on each goal.
  • Keep it short. You may want to stick to 30 minutes for first few play dates. The 30 minutes can be further broken down into several 10-15 minute activities. Make sure transitions between activities are short and smooth.
  • Facilitate the play and provide reinforcement. Encourage cooperative play and guide the children to interact with each other. Provide frequent treats and praise as reinforcement for positive interactions.
  • Suggested activities. Consider activities where the children need to work together, problem solve, and share the same materials. Treasure hunts are great activities – hide toys and treats around the house and give the children a map to the treasures. Art projects are also fun with friends – make a collage, paint a poster or mural. Yard games to try are Freeze Tag, Hide and Seek, Red light Green Light.

For more helpful tips, check out our other blogs here.

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