As preschoolers in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Group Therapy at The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh play together, they learn helpful tools to interact with others.
“Our new Group Therapy services are the next step in building on skills developed during individual therapy sessions,” explains Allyson Paracat Dixon, MEd, BCBA, regional director of autism services at The Children’s Institute. “ABA Group Therapy provides children with autism and related disorders a safe space to practice valuable communication and social skills with close support from our
ABA is the science of behavior and learning that focuses on decreasing problematic behaviors while building skills needed to engage in one’s environment. The Children’s Institute offers individualized ABA services in Squirrel Hill for kids ages 18 months to 21 years old that also incorporate training for parents. Additional therapies, such as physical, occupational, speech, or behavioral health, as well as nutrition/feeding programs, are added as needed. The goal of ABA Group Therapy is to generalize skills learned in individual therapy to home, school, in other life activities, and with different types of people.
Group Therapy for preschoolers is expanding to four afternoons each week, while programs for early and late elementary students are now being offered twice weekly from 4-6:00 p.m. Curriculum has also been developed as plans to offer Group Therapy for middle schoolers move forward. While a core focus for preschoolers includes language development – through sounds, signs, and/or technology – emphasis for older children is placed on social skills, from sharing, cooperating, and tolerating to finding ways to connect with others.
“ABA is a high-intensity service, and The Children’s Institute sets a high standard for staff education, training, and competency,” Allyson describes. “Individual sessions are always one therapist to one child, or even two therapists per child when additional services are needed. Group Therapy is structured for small groups of eight children or fewer, with a therapist-to-child ratio of 1:2 or 1:3.”
The Children’s Institute receives hundreds of referrals annually for ABA services and conducts a rigorous screening process to ensure the specific needs of each registered child and family can be effectively met by services the program provides. A new gross motor room has been added for younger children to integrate behavioral and physical health, and age-appropriate small-group environments for older students are now being considered to accommodate the growing ABA Group Therapy program.
Learn more about ABA services at The Children’s Institute on our Autism Services page