Child Programming  

Your Child’s First Day

Starting a new program is a change for both you and your child. Each child will react differently to this experience. Some children may adjust easily; others will take longer. Some children may cry or refuse to participate in activities. This is all to be expected. Our staff is trained specifically to guide you and your child through this process. The length of time could vary from a few hours, days, and up to a few weeks. Your child’s teacher will work with you to develop a schedule to help your child make this transition successful.

  The principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) serve as a premise to all of our children's individual programs, as well as classroom group activities. As an ABA program, we are focused on specific behaviors (e.g., pointing, saying "juice," sitting in a chair and completing a puzzle, passing a toy and receiving a toy from a peer, etc). We will place demands on your child and work hard to expand his/her repertoire of skills and interests. This may be difficult for your child, and perhaps for you, initially. Your child may cry, sometimes for extended periods of time. Using behavioral techniques, we will carefully attend to information such as your child's motivation (e.g., he loves cars) and what reinforces your child (e.g., he says "car" more often to gain access to his favorite red car) in order to modify his/her behavior. We will use this information, in addition to a variety of ABA techniques, to enhance your child's skill set and work collaboratively with your family for continued progress.  
  During the first few days, we will continue to assess your child's preferences and interests on a daily basis and use this information to create a successful and nurturing environment. When your child first arrives, staff will initially spend some time getting to know your child by finding his/her preferred items and activities to utilize as reinforcers, or rewards. We initially use a process called pairing. We will pair the Center and staff with preferred items encouraging the Center to be a happy place to visit. During this time, we are building rapport, assessing your child's skills, and hopefully becoming rewards ourselves (i.e., the Center, staff, and the classroom become preferred). Our structured program focuses specifically on the areas of communication, socialization, and independence. Using the principles of ABA, we consider each moment a teachable moment. Our goal is to work closely with your family so your child understands the clear expectations consistently set across home and the Center. It is important that as a team, we work together to gain skills and understand your child's motivations to assist with gaining functional skills.  
  Each child has an individualized program that is used to plan for progress. Prior to designing your child's program, our team will complete a comprehensive review of the goals identified in the IFSP, formal and informal assessments, direct observation, along with input from parents/caregivers and other related service providers. At the Center, we use standardized assessment tools to measure your child’s progress and to guide program development. Some of these instruments include:  
  • Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP)
  • Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, Third Edition (Bayley III)
  • Childhood Autism Rating Scale, Second Edition (CARS2)
  • Parenting Stress Index (PSI)
  Your child's individualized program will involve daily data collection, and will be monitored routinely and adapted as needed to most appropriately meet your child's needs. We use research-based techniques consistent with the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis to create a program that maximizes your child's strengths and builds upon his/her areas of weakness while incorporating your family's values.  
  Teaching Methods  
  At Hand in Hand Early Childhood Center, we use various teaching methods throughout your child's programming to teach new skills. Through observations and assessments, we find the most appropriate teaching method for your child and start at his or her level to build mastery, independence, and foundation skills. In addition, our goal is to teach your child through natural play and in their environment, as this is how typical children learn.
  To achieve our goal, we utilize a combination of Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) and Natural Environment Teaching (NET) formats. Our teaching focuses on developing your child's skills in all developmental domains (i.e., cognitive, social, behavioral, motor, adaptive, language). All of our teaching occurs in a 1:1 format, with small group and whole group learning activities throughout each session. Instruction utilizing DTT methods breaks down skills into small sub-skills that are taught intensely with frequent delivery of reinforcement (i.e., motivators, rewards) and repetition of teaching trials. We use the DTT format to teach most age and developmentally appropriate foundation skills, such as building eye contact, responding to name, attending to tasks, following simple instructions, and basic imitation skills (i.e., gross motor imitation, imitation with objects).

Upon mastery of most foundational learning skills, we begin to utilize Natural Environment Teaching (NET) methods. This teaching method focuses on teaching students through play and group instruction, and students receiving this type of instruction are now focusing on play skills, social skills, independence, and preschool readiness. For these reasons, NET looks very much like play and interactions that you would see in a typical preschool classroom. The main goals of our NET-based classroom are to teach through play, have children socialize with peers, promote successful group participation, and support student independence.

In both teaching formats, we use a continuum of prompting (i.e., physical, gestural, modeling, verbal, positional) to teach new skills or correct errors on mastered skills. One of our main concerns is ensuring that as teachers, we fade away our prompts and delivery of reinforcers to maximize your child's independence in completing learning tasks and activities of daily living. In addition, as an ABA program, we are consistently taking and monitoring data to analyze your child's progress, therefore making objective instructional decisions to provide the best quality of services your child deserves.

  Generalization is the process of taking a new skill that is learned and applying it across different people, materials, and places. For example, if the child has successfully mastered learning colors at the table, the teacher will practice this skill in natural environments such as while walking in the hallway or in the bathroom. Parents are encouraged to assist with this process outside of school so that the children can use their acquired skills in many different environments. Our teachers and therapists will work very closely with you to train you on techniques to use in the home to foster the carry-over of skills across environments.  
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