The Benefits of Small Group Instruction for Kids With Autism

Many forms of ABA therapy stick to a one-on-one structure, but small group instruction can help kids with autism develop social skills and prepare them for a standard school setting.

Are you worried that your child doesn’t get enough social interaction during his or her ABA therapy sessions?

Since most applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy relies heavily on repetition in a one-on-one setting with a child and his or her instructor, interaction with peers can stagnate, which can cause kids with autism to miss out on crucial social skills development.

That’s why the Spark Center for Autism, which is located in Farmington Hills, incorporates small group instruction into the ABA therapies that they provide.

“That one-to-one format you see in ABA therapies are great for building foundational skills,” says Reena Naami, the owner and director of the Spark Center for Autism. “The whole idea of small group instruction is to get kids to work in a less restrictive setting so they are more prepared (for a typical school format).”

In other words, it helps kids transition from ABA to traditional school or special education classes more smoothly.

“The whole idea is we want our kids to be set up for success. When you go from one-on-one to a lesser ratio of staff to kids, it can be difficult for a child to adjust,” Naami adds. “We want to be able to work on things before they get to the classroom.”

Spark Center for Autism offers small group options for the kids they work with, based on a child’s age and ability, but really kick it up a notch with their Star Program, which focuses on building kids’ independence in the classroom.

Kids that participate in this program spend their day in a small class of about four kids with one instructor at the front of the class. Each student’s individual technician is in the room, but stays in the back of the room unless they are needed.

“It’s the same expectation of what it’s going to look like if they move into a special education classroom,” Naami says. They learn self-management, self-motivation and how to get along with their peers.

At the same time that they’re learning these skills, they’re working on some of their own personal goals.

“Some may be working on fine motor skills and that may fall under writing circle time,” Naami explains. “We may have a book and the teacher is reading to the class – they’re all working on different skills.”

Because this type of instruction is done alongside peers of similar abilities, kids get the social aspect that many parents seek for their child with autism.

“Parent’s biggest hesitation about ABA therapy is that their child will be alone instead of getting the social piece and are hesitant to pull their child from a school setting,” Naami says. “We work on that so parents don’t have to choose.”

And once a parent sees the structure and benefits of small group play at the center, they can begin incorporating the techniques at home, which increases the level of social interaction their child is getting even more.

“Kids can have this opportunity with siblings or by having friends come over,” Naami adds. “There are different ways to set that up and it might take some planning, but when it comes to those kinds of skills, as long as you have the peers available, the setting isn’t as big of a deal.”

For more information on the benefits of small group instruction for kids with autism, and how Spark Center for Autism incorporates this instruction style into the work they do, visit them online at


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