Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Play-Based Early Intervention Therapy, Toronto

Our play-based approach is really the cornerstone of our therapy programs; it's how we reach the littlest ones. We (my incredibly dedicated team and I) use play to target goals from all domains (that is, from fine motor to gross motor, from toileting to self care using the ABLLS-R to guide our assessment).  We are constantly looking at the whole picture to make sure meaningful change can happen that lasts overtime, and across environment...otherwise, what's the point?
 All of our learners are unique in their specific profiles, but many share similar needs including a large focus on the development of communication skills. Our team of therapists acknowledges that before meaningful two-way communication can occur, a child has to be willing to accept feedback from another person. This is important in how we relate to early-learners, who are still developing these essential learning to learn skills. 
In early-intervention we want to set the child up for success (that's why we use error-less teaching to inspire confidence), so we always add "demands" but let's call it, invitations to perform... in a very calculated and systematic way using the principle of shaping to gradually impact overall performance ability. It is so  important to remember that a 1:1 experience can be intense for a child that is most comfortable in isolation or with their parent/caregiver. It is important not to place demands quickly with an early-learner, or at all (with any learner) if it "seems like" a demand (this is true at any age).  I am not saying the child should never have to follow rules, there should be rules for safety and even conformity, BUT and this is the big BUT...I cannot stand when I go to a school a school, or class, and there is a rule for EVERYTHING. Here's my rule about rules...if you cannot remember all the rules off the top of your head, you have too many. You are not a drill Sargent, even if you are strict in your requirement for the top priority rules to be followed. Like, we are strict about no running in the halls, that is an safety issue. We are strict about not leaving the room without a teacher, it's a safety issue. We try to remember to put caps on markers, and we try to remember to listen when the teacher is talking. We are not perfect! We don't let kids run loose, but we also know rules won't do the teaching!
I tend to remind my team that if  an instruction or SD sounds like "do it or else" you are doing something wrong. Instead, I guide my  team to use play to entice the child into the world of whatever your subject matter is; to set the environment up so the child comes across poignant materials, and relevant stimuli. I recommend using gestures, issuing consistent and specific social praise, and maintaining a high level of energy. That's the difference between a good therapist, and a great therapist.
It's so important to be hands-on, but also to stand back long enough to follow your child's lead and to assess what he or she already knows about the subject matter/skill. Following the child's lead is one of the only ways we can truly ensure that our play-based approach remains child-centered and authentic. It's not to say that we don't have overriding goals, like eye-contact, increased speech, answering what questions, labeling various items, performing motor imitation and so on, but we are using novel stimuli.We strive to be very natural in delivery, so as not to come across as a someone who will tell you "how it is", but rather as someone with whom you can explore the world, and better yet, someone you can invite into your own play. We set up mini-discoveries all over the room, and explore the stimuli with the child, as a partner not a drill Sargent (I always go back to that word because of the bad rep. ABA has). 
Why exactly is what we do called Applied Behaviour Analysis and not just Autism Education?
We use principles of reinforcement to shape behaviour/skill development! We analyse behaviour by acknowledging that each behaviour, or habit, plays an important role in communicating something. We know that by analyzing its trends, we can figure out the function it serves and ensure that the child continues to have his or her needs met. This kind of analysis helps us gain a deeper understanding of the child, and when children are nonverbal, or even non conversational, this can be really meaningful. We use principles of verbal behaviour developed by B.F. Skinner, to elicit communication skills in children with language delays. 


  1. Thank you for your write up on your company. I am in the process of starting up my own company focusing also on Play and ABA.

    1. Amazing! A much needed addition to the industry

  2. This is a very nice play therapy. I very liked your this therapy.

    1. Glad you enjoyed! I hope you have been to our new blog, MagnificentMinds.ca in the BLOG section. Best,