Children on the low functioning end of the Autism Spectrum greatly benefit from intensive therapy. Receiving services five days a week up to twice a day can show dramatic improvement in retention of skills acquired.
In my seven years of providing 1:1 ABA therapy, I have seen the benefits of intensive therapy first hand. By intensive, I mean a lot of hours. In my opinion, two and a half hours throughout the week should be standard. The intensity comes from adding one more session to each day. My clients that were able to snag morning and afternoon sessions five days a week saw the most improvement during that time.
This is because we were going over skills repeatedly. Specified by the results of our assessments, we focused on breaking through certain targets to attain skills. For example, I've spent an hour with a kiddo moving our mouths and dancing around. In that time we were working on motor skills and preparing the mouth to make sounds. I've also sat with a little one and his favorite toy for the day for thirty minutes while identifying the same 3 colors. Being repetitive makes a difference.
A break in receiving services is equally negative. It is so sad when a kiddo comes back to me and isn't speaking as much as before. When there was an extended break in sessions there was noticable loss in retention of skills previously acquired. As little as a week away can have a dramatic impact on behaviors and skills.
So, what is a family to do? Kids get sick, families go on vacation, and sometimes the hours aren't available for therapy. Take advantage of parent training offered through the agency providing the therapy services. Find out where your kiddo is on the step to building a certain skill. Integrate activities that help them reach step. For example, if identifying colors is a nonexistent skill, you may have to start w a couple of sounds or you may start with a couple of actual colors. On any given day you can be armed with the sounds or a few trinkets of the targeted colors in your pocket. As you guys play, you slip in the sounds you aim to hear. " Say rrr." Or take a trinket out of your pocket and say the color. Briefly give the trinket to the kiddo once the sound is repeated. A tickle may do just fine instead. Both of those scenarios can be repeated at the store, the park and many other places.
Intensive therapy doesn't have to be a drag. It can be fun, spontaneous, and include the whole family. There are so many ways to create natural learning opportunities. It's important to be consistent. It may seem like a lot to find a way to get a kid to rub their hands together fifty times in a day. However, that is a critical step in hand washing! The high exposure to an action increases the likelihood of imitation and then spontaneous performance. It's best to really focus on one or two things at a time. Reviewing what has been learned once a week is impactful as well.