norwood park autism services

All about services at the Norwood Park Autism Center

Welcome to our Key Autism Services, Norwood park ABA Center! Below you will find detailed steps of what to can expect if you are considering enrolling your child in our center-based ABA program!

To get started you will need to speak with our intake team and get approval from your insurance for an ABA assessment. After completing an assessment with a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), your child will be assigned to a team of highly qualified behavior therapists (BTs).  The BCBA will create a custom-tailored program for your child, targeting a variety of skill areas such as communication, social skills, daily living skills, and behavior reduction. Your child will have the opportunity to target these skills in an individualized setting with their team of BTs, as well as attend one of our unique NPC programs. Parents are informed about their child’s progress with regular updates from their BCBA, as well as receive a weekly newsletter from the center director.

Behavior Therapy Programs:

Each of our programs are put together by the team of BCBAs at NPC.  Our BCBAs work together to build a curriculum and program that targets the individual needs of each child. Each child will attend individual, group, or a combination of those programs with his or her assigned behavior therapist, who help the BCBA’s facilitate the programs and groups.

Early Learners:

Our Early Learners program is geared toward the 2-4 – year-old age group.  This program is structured like a preschool day, allowing the learners to practice the skills they would need in a school setting, while receiving individualized programming. Some of these skills include following group instructions, group transitions, waiting in a group, sharing and turn taking, fine motor activities, and sensory and movement activities. Each learner will work 1:1 with a behavior therapist, as well as spend much of the day with his or her peers, providing opportunities for communication, socialization, and toleration of less preferred activities. Our curriculum for the early learner program creates fun and exciting opportunities for learning throughout the whole day!

School Readiness Program:

Our School Readiness program targets children ages 5-7.  This program follows a daily schedule of a mix of group time and 1:1 sessions with each child’s team of therapists. Some of the goals targeted in this program include reciprocal conversation, collaborative play, gross motor play, self-advocacy, transitions, and toleration. The learner’s individual goals are incorporated to the group goals, allowing for more natural opportunities to practice. The school readiness program curriculum allows the children to learn about different topics in a variety of modalities, making learning fun and exciting, and preparing the children for attending school with their peers.

Pre-Teen Social Group:

The pre-teen social group meets 1-2 times weekly and is targeted toward leaners aged 10-13. This group follows an evidence-based curriculum and targets a variety of skills. Some of the skills targeted include executive functioning, daily living skills, conversational skills, collaboration and compromise, puberty, emotional regulation, money management, and team building.  Each member has individual goals which are then incorporated into a small group setting.

Speech and OT:

KAS has recently partnered with Pop Pediatric Therapy to provide onsite speech and occupational therapies at the Norwood Park Center. This allows for collaboration and goal building across disciplines, providing a well-rounded approach to the child’s therapy.

Special Activities:

We often have special activities and events at NPC such as spirit weeks, birthday celebrations, and milestone celebrations.  Additionally, the staff create fun and creative opportunities to target the strengths and unique abilities of each child, allowing everyone to shine!

Ready to see how we can help your child? Contact us here:

Sensory-Friendly Places to Learn, Do and Watch in Houston

Summer is a great time to get out of the house and beat the heat by experiencing some of the amazing activities that Houston has to offer adults and kids of all ages and needs.  Whether you are looking for a place to learn by experiencing, be active, or a place where you can be entertained, Houston has what you are looking for, especially for those with specific sensory needs.  Below is a list of places by category that make it a priority to provide daily accommodations for those with sensory sensitivities.

Places to Learn:

Houston has several wonderful Museums where children and adults can engage in learning while exploring different exhibits with room, to roam and accommodations made for those with sensory needs.

Children’s Museum of Houston

  • Sensory friendly days
  • Weighted lap pads, noise reducing headphones and sunglasses
  • Designated quiet rooms

Space Center Houston

  • Sensory friendly days
  • Sensory backpacks
  • Designated quiet rooms

Houston Museum of Natural Science

  • Sensory friendly days
  • Sensory backpacks

The Health Museum of Houston

  • Sensory friendly days
  • Sensory backpacks

Places to Do:

For a more physical experience, theses venues offer sensory-friendly days with a more-calm atmosphere where lights and music are turned off.

We Rock the Spectrum Gym

  • Trampolines, tactile toys, climbing wall
  • Sensory friendly every day

Urban Air Adventure Park

  • Sensory friendly days
  • No flashing lights, no music, no whistles

Chuck E Cheese

  • Sensory Sundays
  • Reduced lighting and sound

Places to Watch:

If you are looking for an opportunity to sit back and be entertained, Houston has live theater and movie theaters with specialized accommodations.

The Hobby Center

  • Sensory-friendly shows
  • Lighting and sound adjusted

AMC Theatres

  • Sensory friendly films (2nd and 4th Saturday of every month)
  • Lights turned up and sound turned down

Main Street Theater

  • Sensory-friendly shows
  • Lighting and sound adjusted

Be sure to check with each facility to get the most up to date Covid-19 restrictions and policies to make sure your child is able to participate.

Your Child is a Sunset: Strategies for Managing Stress as a Special Needs Parent

Stress is a normal and unavoidable part of life, but families with children with autism can experience more stress than other families. Many families feel immense pressure to “parent perfectly”, following all of the recommendations and strategies provided by their BCBAs, SLPs, and other providers 100% of the time. This approach, however, as a “fixer” of our child’s challenges, often leaves us feeling like we are falling in quicksand. The more we try to fix, the faster we fall in. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy offers a different approach, focusing on strategies to move through inevitably difficult and stressful situations. Here are just a few strategies derived from the ACT:

Your Life is a Movie:

Think back to a time in your life when you felt stressed. Maybe your child was having a meltdown in the grocery store, and all the tips and tricks you usually implement aren’t working. Imagine yourself as a bystander in the situation. What’s something kind you would say in this moment? Maybe you’d say something such like, “I’ve been there!”, or “You got this”. Practicing self-compassion will not only help you move through stressful situations in the moment, but also model these skills for your child. 

Milk, milk, milk:

Have you ever noticed that if you keep saying the same word over and over, it starts to sound strange or loses its meaning? Try saying the word “milk” over and over for 45 seconds straight. Eventually the word loses all of its associations, and becomes a series of meaningless sounds. We can use this same strategy to move through uncomfortable or anxious thoughts. 

Your Child as a Sunset:

ABA Therapy can be immensely helpful in identifying interventions to support our children’s independence. It is also important, however, to sometimes resist the urge to problem solve, and appreciate our children as sunsets. This means we enjoy their beauty and unique qualities without focusing on how long the moment will last, or how we could improve it. 

For more information on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, see a list of resources below:

The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT by Russ Harris

Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life: The New Acceptance & Commitment Therapy by Steven C. Hayes

Additional References:

Hahs, A.D., Dixon, M.R., & Paliliunas, D. (in press). Randomized controlled trial of a brief acceptance and commitment training for parents of individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science

Paary-Cruwys, R. (Producer). (2019, February 13). Acceptance and commitment training with Dr. Adam Hahs [Audio podcast].

Harris, R. (2006). Embracing your demons: an Overview of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Psychotherapy in Australia, 12, 2-8. 

A Deeper Look at ABA

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has evolved in to one of the most effective therapies for Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders. It is a therapy based in science and results. Children with autism that receive the recommended amount of ABA hours per week show a substantial improvement in behavior and learning. Simply put, the goal of ABA is to increase positive behaviors and decrease behaviors that negatively impact learning and daily life. This article will take a deeper look at ABA, and how it works.

Evidence-Based

ABA is an evidence-based best practice treatment of Autism. That means it has been scientifically proven through many valid and reliable experiments to work. This is a very important point. There should be a certain level of confidence associated with the treatments of any condition or illness. In fact, when intensive ABA is provided (between 25-40 hours per week), substantial gains are shown to be made. This has been presented in many studies targeting ABA.

How it works

Behavior Analysts go through a tremendous amount of training to be able to successfully provide the service. For the sake of this article, how ABA works will be simplified. The main goal of ABA as stated above is to increase positive behaviors and reduce negative ones. One of the main strategies behavior therapists use is positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is providing a reward for when a positive behavior has been used. After repetition and time, the behavior should be changed permanently. The reward is appropriate and applies well to the person receiving it.

Behavior analysts and therapists heavily focus on the cause of a certain behavior (Antecedent), what behavior was exhibited, and the consequence of the behavior. The consequence is a direct result of the behavior and may positive or negative. Using this method allows analysts to build programs tailored for individuals that are unique in what they are targeting.

Other helpful tidbits

ABA is provided by Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) and Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT), also referred to as Behavior Therapists. The BCBA’s evaluate the child, build the programming for the child, and then supervise the RBT as the program is implemented. All the data shows that the more hours of ABA a child gets, the more optimal results will be seen. An ABA team may consist of one BCBA and several RBT’s. The important thing is that the programs are followed closely, monitored for success, and adjusted for improvement. Most insurance companies do cover ABA services at this point, though, that wasn’t always the case. Benefits should be verified by the ABA company prior to therapy starting. This is a standard practice. Embarking on an ABA journey is a huge step in the development of any child with autism. Like anything else, the unknown may be scary. Having some information about it in advance can make all the difference in the world.

Helping Children Cope with Changes as a Result of COVID-19

Families across the country are adjusting to the many changes resulting from COVID-19, including changes in daily life, the way we educate our children, and what we will now define as the new normal. This also includes keeping children occupied and focused on what is important. It is important to note that during this stressful time, children look to adults for guidance, so the way you react can have a major impact on how your child perceives and reacts to the changes occurring and information presented. COVID-19 gives parents the ability to model routines, schedules, and remote school lessons in creative ways. The following tips can help:

· Children look up to you. Staying calm, collected, and informed during this unsure time can decrease your child’s fears and ensure your child has the facts. Carefully listen to your child and help your child draw or write out concerns, thoughts, and feelings, then respond with truth, validation, and reassurance.

· Explain what COVID-19 and social distancing are. Children most likely do not fully understand what COVID-19 is and why we are social distancing. Create visuals or hands on activities for your child to explain what the COVID-19 virus does and exactly why we are participating in social distancing.

· Keep a morning routine, and don’t forget to relax. Keeping up with a regular schedule, especially as things start to shift to the new normal, is important to keep your child at ease. Working with your BCBA to identify preferences for activities that are calming and relaxing in nature to your child can help. An example of an activity that may be a preference to your child is yoga, deep breathing, or meditation.

· Model basic hygiene and health practices. Encourage your child to practice regular hygiene like washing hands for at least 20 seconds, wearing a mask in public, and teaching personal space.

· Be aware of your child’s mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to change the way we interact. This can mean decreased contact with friends and family. Pay close attention to your child’s eating and sleeping habits – if you see a sudden change, consult with a mental healthcare professional.

Keeping an open, understanding mind towards your child’s concerns can help your child adjust to the fears of going back to school in the fall and others concerns your child might have.

For more information on COVID-19 and other helpful resources, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/children.html

For more information on hand washing and hygiene, visit https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/pdf/hand-sanitizer-factsheet.pdf