From the November 2019 issue

Autism Treatment: The Importance of a Team Approach

When it comes to autism treatment, a team approach is key to a child's success. This is at the core of the new Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center in Novi – and, here, three of its experts explain why collaboration is crucial.

During treatment, children on the autism spectrum may often work with various clinicians from multiple disciplines including board-certified behavior analysts (BCBAs), speech language pathologists (SLPs) and occupational therapists (OTs). Often times, there is limited communication from one clinician to the next – and, in most cases, it’s because these experts are employed at different facilities where they focus on just one piece of a child’s treatment.  

However, that approach can actually prolong and hinder a child’s therapy, says Dawn Montroy, clinical director and BCBA at the new Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center in Novi.  

“When those services are isolated, we’re not always getting clear communication across disciplines, if any at all. Often times it’s very difficult for an ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) clinic to gain access to records from another clinic we aren’t associated with,” Montroy says. “I find that it’s very helpful when I am aware of the current goals and objectives that other therapists are working towards so that I can tailor my specialty in ABA around meeting that child’s specific behavioral goals while at the same time providing support for disciplines like Speech and OT. More importantly I’m making sure to not undo or conflict with what that child is learning from my counterparts in Speech and OT.”  

That support from one clinician to the next is one of many reasons a team approach to autism treatment is essential. And that’s exactly what patients now receive at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, which provides a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to treating autism and other developmental challenges. 

Blossom’s staff consists of BCBAs, SLPs, OTs and licensed counselors.  

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“We are a one-stop shop for any of the potential needs that a family could have when dealing with a developmental disorder,” Montroy says.  

Blossom’s team approach is unique, and it boasts big benefits for patients. Read on for insight from three of Blossom’s experts.    

Meeting milestones  

Achieving a milestone such as toilet training is difficult for many children, but it can be even more complicated for children on the spectrum. A team approach can be especially helpful to successful toilet training.  

Some children may fear using the toilet or don’t like the sound of flushing, which requires the help of a BCBA, OT and SLP in various ways.   

“When figuring out if a child is ready for this kind of training, occupational therapy becomes very important in detecting if a child has the motor skills to complete this skill,” says Katie Fisher, Blossom’s Chief Occupational Therapist.

Mackenzie Barber, Blossom’s Chief Speech Pathologist, also notes that being able to communicate if they have to go or not is a challenge for many kids and that’s where speech therapy comes in to play by helping the kiddos communicate.   

“So those three therapies – ABA, OT, and Speech – are working together to help children meet goals such as potty training in the quickest and most effective way possible,” Barber says.    

Weekly team meetings  

Blossom’s entire clinical team meets every week to review each child’s progress.  

“We are all talking weekly about the child and how progress can be made. Some other clinics offer these same services under one roof as well, but the difference at Blossom is that we all actually collaborate and there are no egos between the clinicians. It’s all about coming together to do what’s best for each individual child and that’s engrained in our culture,” Barber says.   Instead of receiving 10 different treatment recommendations from 10 different clinics, Blossom’s families receive one plan of action.   

Family involvement  

A critical component to what Blossom believes in is helping families put into practice at home the things they learn from the coaching that goes on in therapy sessions. This also results in positive outcomes for children.  

“The progress is going to be faster because we consider parents and caregivers as part of our team, and by having them involved, the children are able to get that extra support when the clinicians are not around,” Fisher says.  

Family plays a key role in a child’s success.  

“The families are heavily involved. So not only are they going to be able to observe, but they also receive training on how to support their children and that knowledge will stay with them throughout the family’s journey through life,” Fisher says.  

“By the time that child grows into that 6- to 8-year-old range and they are transitioning into school, we want the parents to feel comfortable that their child has met his or her goals and that they’ve acquired the knowledge to help their child so that they don’t need us anymore,” Montroy says.  

From sitting in on their child’s therapy sessions to taking part in their own training, parents and other caregivers can feel confident in their ability to help their child flourish outside of therapy.  

“The goal of any therapist should be working to transition the child out and give them the tools that will allow them to thrive out in the world,” Montroy adds.    

For more information on the services offered at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center in Novi, visit blossombehavioral.org.

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