With children with autism, early intervention is a key factor in their overall success. Once your child has their specific diagnosis, the next step is figuring out what services your child needs and where they are going to happen. Therapeutic preschools are a great place for your child to receive all the services they need, as well as help expose them to more realistic social interactions.
The main type of therapy used in therapeutic preschools for autism is ABA therapy. This type of therapy focuses on teaching communication, play, social, cognitive, and self-care skills, as well as reducing behaviors that can be problematic. This is all implemented during the classroom session. Within ABA therapy, there are interventions that are used in therapeutic preschool classes. These include DIR, also known as floortime, and the ESDM model. These interventions can be used within private therapy sessions, but more importantly, they can be used in the classroom setting within a therapeutic preschool.
Therapists use floortime to help the child strengthen their circles of communication by meeting him or her at their development levels. These activities are incorporated into play activities, which is great for child-directed play. This way, the child can lead the play activity and have the therapist follow their lead. This intervention is called floortime because the therapist gets down on the floor to interact with the child and engage on their level. Floortime is also integrated into the classroom time within the therapeutic preschool.
Another intervention that is used is the ESDM model, which stands for Early Start Denver Model. The ESDM is a developmental and relationship-based intervention. It is used to grow communication, cognitive, and language skills. Therapists use the ESDM model because it is designed to be highly engaging and enjoyable for children with autism. These skills that are learned are taught in the classroom because the setting is naturalistic and play-based.
Within these two interventions, there are optimal opportunities for children with autism to be exposed to social interactions and communication. Therapists teach them simple skills like eye contact or more difficult skills, such as asking a peer to play with them. Because the classrooms in the therapeutic preschool are small (ie. 3-1 ratio), there are more opportunities for the child to participate in social communication and activities.
In therapeutic preschools, there are lots of opportunities for growth in many different aspects of the child’s development. Not only do they get the specific therapy they need, but they get exposure to social situations and communication. The therapists use interventions that are designed to not only engage and encourage the child to learn, but also uncover as many developmental gains as possible.