Spark Center for Autism has been providing services to children with autism in the metro Detroit area since 2014. The work and care of their therapists and clinicians has not only be recognized by the families they serve, but the organization is also honored as a Behavioral Health Center for Excellence for the service it provides.
“We provide early, intensive behavioral intervention in the form of ABA therapy for children 18 months through the age of 8,” says Reena Naami, owner of Spark Center for Autism. ABA therapy, or Applied Behavior Analysis, helps children with autism make strides in their lives by examining and adapting the way they interact with the environment around them.
Spark Center for Autism opened after Michigan representatives passed legislation that covered ABA for autism in 2013. Prior to that, Naami helped children in other states using ABA therapy and saw the impact it could make. Once the legislation passed for insurance coverage, she returned to metro Detroit to help those close to home.
Spark Center currently has 5 Board Certified Behavior Analysts and 17 behavior technicians.
Naami says Spark therapists work with kids with autism in all ranges of severity.
“Whenever we get new clients, we assess their skill set and mark any deficits. We come up with an individualized plan for them that includes things like communication, adaptive living skills, behavior reduction such as reducing self injury. The goal is to get each of them as independent as possible, while working on socially significant behaviors,” Naami says.
With most children at Spark, the therapists use the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program, or VB-MAPP, to determine the most effective and individualized program for the child.
Being a center-based facility allows clinicians to focus on social skills and interactions, which is often an area of deficit for those with autism.
“Center-based services also allow our clinicians to minimize or alleviate many variables that are difficult to control in a home setting, such as toys, pets or other unnecessary distractions that many interfere with treatment,” Naami says.
Being in a center also provides continuous supervision, which Naami says can facilitate more consistency between staff members and provide a way to solve problems, should teaching issues arise.
Each child’s progress is monitored and reviewed daily. Therapists use this to make adjustments in treatment and fine-tune the approach used with each child. Parents review the progress at least once a month and a larger scale reevaluation is completed every 6 months.
Spark therapists continue to work with children once they are in school.
“We strive to collaborate with schools and help our clients thrive in school without needing major support,” Naami says. She says the therapists teach the necessary skills to the children, but they also work with parents and teach them how to enable positive behavior in their children. The Spark Center facilitates group parent trainings, which Naami says cultivates a sense of community among the parents.
Spark Center for Autism was the first ABA therapy group in Michigan to earn the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE) designation. The company was anonymously nominated and went through a rigorous and demanding audit to prove it provides superior quality therapy to its clients.
“Since we opened, we have strived to ensure that we provide the highest quality services we can, which will lead to the highest level of progress for our clients. The BHCOE’s feedback was invaluable in helping us achieve this goal and to ensure that excellence is a minimum standard,” Naami says. “It helped us see that, while there will always be room for improvement, the hard work and dedication that my staff has put into the Spark Center has certainly paid off, and we can see the results through our clients.”
Spark is not only a learning facility for families dealing with autism, but also a teaching facility for those in the field. Graduate students work with Spark clients in a very controlled and structured environment that provides growth for the client and the students, Naami says.
Graduate students and therapists meet weekly for discussion of clinical case reviews, interpretation and presentation of articles and readings, organizational behavior management to improve staff performance, and to discuss and implement research opportunities. Additionally, the graduate students meet weekly with their supervisors and participate in regular in-house trainings.
“The staff at Spark Center undergo rigorous training, both initially and ongoing, to ensure high quality services are being rendered. In addition, many of the staff members at the Spark Center have been with the company for long periods of time. This dedication to our clients and our company has led to significant improvements in the lives of all of our clients,” Naami says.
For more information on the services available, visit the Spark Center for Autism website or call 248-238-9772.