Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Spectrum of Services

There are many types of autism and understanding of its causes and diagnoses have changed over time. In 2013, four diagnoses that were once separated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) were combined into the umbrella diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the DSM-5. These four diagnoses were autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive development disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. ASD in more prevalent in boys; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the prevalence of ASD as 1 in 68 children in the United States.

Autism is a complex brain-based disorder that affects a person’s behavior, social and communication skills. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and no two children with autism are exactly alike. Each person with autism, like all of us, has unique strengths and differences. Common problems exhibited by those with ASD are difficulty in social situations; some never learn to speak, while others speak, but use language in unusual ways. Others are sensitive to loud noises or bright lights. There is no single treatment for autism, though many benefit from highly structured educational programs and other services. You can visit our website for more information about these services.

If a child is diagnosed with autism, early intervention is critical to gain the maximum benefit from existing therapies. In addition, after children have been diagnosed by psychologists, developmental pediatricians, psychiatrists and neurologists, the need for treatment and services are abundant.

At NCSS, there are several programs designed to serve individuals with autism. The School-Based Autism Program assists local schools in providing effective, strengths-based interventions and programming for students with ASD, intellectual and developmental disabilities and/or Down Syndrome. The program is based on the principals of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA); students typically need a behavior support plan to help decrease maladaptive behaviors while increasing prosocial and coping skills. 

We, at NCSS, believe that students, regardless of their abilities, belong in their local community schools. The school-based services include behavioral interventionists, available on a one-on-one basis; individualized services like this provide opportunities for students to maintain positive relationships with peers and access their education on a level that works for them. Behavior specialists, autisms specialists, service coordination and case management are also available.  The programming is flexible and the child drives the program, making service delivery unique and individually tailored.

The Program for Adaptive &Expressive Arts (PAEA) offers therapeutic and recreational music, art and sensory exploration experiences to children and adults with autism and developmental disabilities as well as communication supports and socialization opportunities. Like the services within the School-Based Autism Program, PAEA sessions—private and group—are consumer-driven, allowing individuals to explore personal goals set by them and their support teams. Music, art and sensory exploration offer emotional, social, and physical benefits by facilitating creative expression, fine and gross motor skill practice, and stress reduction.
The PAEA music and art room at The Family Center is brightly lit and filled with instruments and art supplies; the space invites creativity! The newly upgraded sensory room provides a relaxed space with a variety of sensory stimulators that can enervate or calm depending on the participant’s needs.  At NCSS’ various events, such as the Buddy Walk and the Autism Walk, you can find the PAEA Team at their station, a large table full of instruments and sensory items. PAEA also offers workshops in cooperative play, family life and sexual health, American Sign Language (ASL) and Alternative and Augmentative Communications (AAC). There are seasonal concerts and recitals and art shows where everyone can show to the community-at-large what they’ve accomplished!

Camp Rainbow, a creative summer camp for children with autism or other developmental disabilities, provides stimulating activities such as swimming, singing, crafts, outdoor play and more. Camp Rainbow incorporates sensory exploration, fine/gross motor skills, communication skills, academic skills and social skills into the activities each day. This year, Camp Rainbow will run from August 7-August 11, 2017 and be held at the Soar Learning Center. And who knows…there might be some surprises in store! You can find registration information here by visiting our website.

The Applied Behavior Services team of Northwestern Counseling & Support Services provides treatment in the home, community setting, and in our new building, the Applied Behavior Center. Services are provided to children of all ages diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disabilities using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). This team adheres to best practices and ethical guidelines of ABA.

Each program is tailored to meet the needs of the individual child and their family, with a strong emphasis on specific skill acquisition, behavior, and communication. These skills are taught through ABA and B.F. Skinner’s model of Verbal Behavior. Individual acquisition and behavior management programs are created from individual assessments.

Skills are reassessed frequently and progress is monitored and measurable via weekly data tracking. Teaching strategies and content are modified as needed to fit each child’s needs and all teaching techniques are based on what research studies have proven to be the most effective.

Program Components:

  • Functional language skills: vocals, sign language, picture exchange communication system
  • Consultative model consisting of parent training in ABA procedures
  • Self-care: toilet training, tooth brushing, dressing, shoe tying
  • Reductive procedures for non-desired behaviors
  • Video modeling
  • Skill acquisition
  • Social stories
  • Social skills


NCSS believes daily programs for people with autism or intellectual and developmental disabilities should also be unique and individualized to each person’s specific needs.

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