We get it. You probably have a lot of questions about ABA, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and what to expect. Find answers here. (And if you have more questions, we’d love to talk.)
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is based on the science of human behavior, and relies on positive reinforcement to learn skills. At Waypoints, we use ABA as a skill-building tool to help autistic children and youth gain the life skills they need to achieve their goals.
There is no cure for Autism Spectrum Disorder—and that’s not a bad thing! ABA skills training can help people with ASD develop the skills they need to thrive, rather than erase what makes them unique. If another organization is promising to “cure” your child or erase any evidence of their neurodivergence, they’re not being honest with you, and they likely don’t have the best interest of your child in mind.
ABA provides individualized learning opportunities to build everyday life skills. Clients build these skills in one-on-one sessions ranging from 10 to 40 hours per week depending on intensity level. Sessions include direct practice with skills related to specific goals, along with practice applying those skills in real situations within the home, family, and community. Skill development occurs through a combination of Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Natural Environment Training (NET).
Initial sessions focus on “pairing” to build rapport and a trusting bond. This increases learning effectiveness and individualizes the client experience. While pairing will continue throughout the entirety of services, skill-building programs will be added over time. Skill-building programs can include using examples and materials that are directly relevant to the learner, breaking down long-term goals into achievable shorter-term checkpoints, and providing personalized learning during each step toward mastering new goals.
Our priority is establishing an environment that the learner is excited to engage with and optimizes individualized learning experiences. At Waypoints, it is not our goal to change a person to meet a mold, it is to build and develop the skills they need to support their path for success.
Our ABA therapy services are covered by Medicaid in Ottawa County, Michigan. We also accept Blue Cross Blue Shield and out-of-pocket payments. (For more information about self-pay pricing, please contact us.)
Like any tool, ABA can be used in harmful ways. The key to successful, safe ABA skill-building techniques is ethical application and a holistic perspective. We consider ABA a valuable tool to help autistic children and youth gain skills, not erase signs of their autism. We know that other providers in the industry don’t always share this approach, which is where the stigma and negative reputation comes from. It’s our goal to provide the highest level of safe, ethical treatment, and we’re proud to hold ourselves to this standard.
Historically—and even to this day—some ABA practitioners have focused on changing behavior to fit societal norms rather than changing the environment to accommodate individuals’ needs. While the Ethics Code for Behavior Analysts emphasizes “respecting and actively promoting clients’ self-determination,” some practitioners set goals and interventions without the client’s input or consent. Specifically, they may prioritize compliance with authority and reduction of atypical social or motor behaviors (like stimming). To achieve these goals, some practitioners use extremely restrictive procedures (up to and including electric shock) in the name of ABA.
These practitioners have caused undeniable harm. While the Waypoints team takes a hard stance against these harmful tactics, we know it would be dismissive of that harm to simply claim that not all ABA is like that. However, we do want parents and clients to understand the controversy and the difference in our approach so they can make the best choice for their future. If you have questions about the ABA controversy, our approach, and how it’s different, we’d love to speak with you.
As the Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s motto states, “nothing about us without us.” In addition to closely involving clients with every step of the process and prioritizing self-advocacy and consent, we pledge to consult with and listen to the autistic community on an ongoing basis to ensure that we are fulfilling our commitment to the neurodiversity movement.
Our practices will not include harmful practices like seclusion or restraint, nor behavior reduction unless there is a clear risk of danger to oneself or others. We will do our part to “advocate by platforming the disabled and demanding their human rights, dismantle systemic ableism within the field, and rebuild trust and truly helpful services.”
Again, if you have question about our approach, please reach out to us.
Everyone is different, so if you want to understand your child’s needs, they will need a diagnostic assessment and to speak with a professional who can help them make a treatment plan. At Waypoints, our goal is to train ourselves our of a job. We want to equip your child so well that they can go on to live full, skillful lives without the need for ongoing treatment.
We take a pragmatic, ethical approach to treatment, ASD, and finding the way forward. We don’t believe an autism diagnosis is a catastrophe, nor do we believe that ABA therapy is a magic solution to your child’s struggles. Neurodiversity makes our communities stronger and more rich—it’s our job to make sure people on the spectrum have the skills they need to live a fulfilling life. When you work with our team, you can expect the highest level of care, meaningful insight, and practical advice.
Diagnostic testing is an examination used to identify an individual’s strengths and where they have an opportunity to grow. Diagnostic testing is used to determine a condition, disease or illness. This testing is often a requirement for determining qualifying mental services.
Diagnostic testing helps your team understand your child’s baseline and their progress as we work together. Your child will undergo an initial assessment, ABA assessments every six months, and a diagnostic assessment every three years.
No one’s brain functions in the exact same way as another person’s brain. When some brains function in different ways and influence different needs, they’re considered neurodiverse. Like other facets of diversity, neurodiversity includes a broad, natural spectrum of human experience. Autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities are examples of neurodivergence.
The neurodiversity movement is deeply tied to the cause of disability rights in general, as well as to autistic self-advocacy. The neurodiversity movement believes that autism should be accepted, not merely acknowledged or understood. In the context of behavior analysis, our goal is not to eliminate autism, but rather to celebrate individuality while ensuring that day-to-day life accommodations are provided and advocated for.
Every person should be referred to as they want to be referred to. Some will prefer to be referred to as “people with autism,” and others as “autistic people.” However, in general, the autistic community has made a clear statement in favor of identity-first language. Saying “autistic person” acknowledges autism as a part of that person’s identity, without the connotation of it being something to be minimized or eliminated. As such, this is the language we use at Waypoints. (If you or your child prefer something else, let us know!)
Get in Touch With Waypoints
Whether you’re looking for diagnostic testing, one-on-one in-home ABA therapy and skill-building resources, or simply want to learn more about our unique approach, please don’t hesitate to reach out! (We love getting mail.)