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ABA Therapy and School Readiness

Preparing children for success in the classroom by teaching skills and positive behaviors that foster independence and confidence in academic settings.

Inner Circle Autism Network | School Readiness and ABA Therapy

How does ABA Therapy Help with School Readiness?

The goal of school readiness at Inner Circle is to prepare children for success in school by teaching skills and positive behaviors that help them navigate school situations and environments with as much independence and confidence as possible.

School readiness adds routines, activities, and situations that closely resemble those found in a traditional school environment into a child’s ABA therapy program.

By teaching social and communication skills and behaviors in school-like settings, children gain experience navigating the situations and expectations a typical school day brings.

Teacher in classroom with smiling children
Teacher in classroom with smiling children

School Readiness Prepares Children with Autism for Success in School

School readiness is a component of ABA therapy that can be added to your child’s program if one of their goals is to transition or return to school.

It’s important to note that while school readiness activities resemble common classroom situations in school-like settings, school readiness is not the same as school and ABA therapy does not replace school. The goal of preparing a child for success in the classroom is used to inform and create natural and inclusive settings where children with autism can learn important skills in an environment that better prepares them to use those skills in a real classroom.

What Skills does School Readiness Teach?

  • Sharing and taking turns: Encourages cooperation and collaboration with classmates.
  • Following group instructions: Helps with classroom participation and academic readiness.
  • Learning social cues: Enables positive interactions with teachers and classmates.
  • Small group play: Teaches social skills in a play-based environment similar to a school classroom, and encourages making friends.
  • Verbal communication: Learning to ask for help, express their ideas and needs, and initiate conversations.
  • Responding to your name: Enables classroom participation and engagement.
  • Nonverbal communication: Teaches nonverbal communication skills like raising your hand and understanding facial expressions.
  • Listening skills: Promotes active listening to improve comprehension and academic engagement.
  • Gross motor skills: Enhances coordination to encourage playing with others and participating in activities like:
    • Running, jumping, and playing on playground equipment.
    • Playing group games and common recess/outside time activities.
    • Dancing and participating in learning songs. 
  • Fine motor skills: Promotes essential skills for success in the classroom like:
    • Holding a pencil.
    • Participating in arts and crafts.
    • Manipulating small objects. 
  • Following classroom routines: Helps with moving from task to task, remaining seated, and waiting in line.
  • Understanding the classroom: Teaches names of common classroom objects to foster independence and confidence in classroom settings.
  • Pre-academic skills: Even though school readiness is not the same as school, learning some basics helps prepare children for school. Our programs often help children learn things like:
    • Colors
    • Numbers and letters
    • Days of the week
    • Months of the year
    • Names of common classroom objects

School Readiness Skills in Action

Inner Circle School Readiness Success Story

 

Hear from an Inner Circle parent about her son’s experience with school readiness and ABA therapy and what it was like to see her child using the skills they learned at Inner Circle at school.

What does a typical day of
ABA Therapy with School Readiness look like?

While every child’s ABA therapy program is unique to their needs and goals, a typical day might look like this:

Time
Activity
Skill
9:15 – 9:30 AM
Check-in and take attendance
Group instructions and responding to their name
9:30 – 10:00 AM
Small group “circle” time
Group play, sharing, listening skills
10:00 – 10:15 AM
Movement break
Gross motor play, following instructions
10:15 – 10:30 AM
Bathroom
10:30 – 11:00 AM
Art activity/Music
Fine motor skills, following instructions
11:00 – 11:30 AM
Lunch
11:30 – 11:45 AM
Daily living activities
Tooth brushing, hair brushing, putting away toys/classroom objects
11:45 AM – 12:00 PM
Outside/Recess
Gross motor skills, group play, social interactions
12:00 – 12:15 PM
Bathroom
12:15 – 12:45 PM
Mock classroom
Following group instructions, listening skills
12:45 – 1:00 PM
Movement Break
1:00 – 1:15 PM
Snack
1:15 – 1:45 PM
Group Games
Peer play, initiating conversation and social interactions
1:45 – 2:00 PM
Clean up
Transitioning to 1:1 therapy

Meet Inner Circle’s Experienced BCBAs

Madeline Birchfield

Madeline Birchfield

BCBA | Edmond

Maddie is a licensed behavior analyst in Oklahoma and joined Inner Circle as a BCBA at the Edmond location. Her educational background is in psychology and ABA, and she has experience providing education in an elementary setting. She has been in the field of ABA since 2020 and brings valuable experience as a BCBA. 

Some of Maddie's passions in the field include fostering effective communication among the children, training staff, and making a positive impact on families' everyday lives. 

Outside of work, Maddie enjoys being a proud dog mom to Elle, her Boston terrier!

Ashley Cheatham

Ashley Cheatham

BCBA | Springdale

Ashley is a BCBA in the state of Arkansas at our Springdale location. Ashley started in the field of ABA in 2017 as an RBT, and earned her BCBA in 2023. Ashley has worked in home, clinical, and telehealth settings, with a variety of clients who have dual-diagnoses in addition to Autism Spectrum Disorder. Ashley comes with an educational background with a bachelor's in exercise and sports science from the University of Central Arkansas. Ashley then attended Florida Institute of Technology where she received her master's in behavior analysis practice.

Ashley's passions in the field include teaching adaptive living skills, empowering others through any modality of communication, collaborating with families in her treatment approach, and mentoring RBTs who will primarily be working 1:1 with her clients.

Outside of work, you can find Ashley rock climbing, backpacking, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

Lily Darnell

Lily Darnell

BCBA | Jonesboro

Lily C. Darnell became a BCBA in 2013. Lily received her undergraduate training at the University of Florida, where she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2010. She was accepted into graduate school at the University of Maryland, where she completed her practicum at the Kennedy Krieger Institute – Neurobehavioral Inpatient Unit at Johns Hopkins Medical Campus. Lily graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with her master’s degree in human services psychology in 2013.

After graduating, Lily became the first BCBA for the State of Tennessee’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Disorders. Lily worked for many years in the community and served as the Clinical Director of the Arc of Alachua County in Florida.

She has presented research on a national level at multiple professional conferences. Additionally, Lily is a published author on the topic of behavior analysis.

Grace Erington

Grace Erington

BCBA | Springdale

Grace comes to Inner Circle with an educational background in psychology, child learning and development, applied cognition and neuroscience, and ABA. Grace has been in the field of ABA since 2016, bringing experience from a variety of settings as a BCBA. Some of Grace’s passions in the field include adaptive living skills and functional communication training.

Grace uses the science of ABA to work toward happy and independent lives for all of her clients. Outside of work, Grace enjoys spending time with her husband and young son, Jax!

Calli Glover

Calli Glover

BCBA | Oklahoma City

Calli is a Licensed Behavior Analyst in the state of Oklahoma and joins Inner Circle as a BCBA at our Oklahoma City location. Calli comes with an educational background in family science/human development, psychology, and Applied Behavior Analysis. She has been in the field since 2019 and has experience providing in-home, clinical, and telehealth services with children and adolescents. Some of Calli's passions within the field include teaching communication with any modality, increasing independence, and technician growth and development. Outside of work, Calli enjoys cooking, spending time with family, and traveling! 
Lexi Lippoldt

Lexi Lippoldt

BCBA | Oklahoma City

Lexis is a BCBA in the state of Oklahoma who has an extensive educational background in psychology, with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis.

Some of Lexi's passions in the field include collaboration, increasing independence and autonomy, parent and staff training, and participating in continuing education opportunities. Outside of work, Lexi enjoys spending time with her husband and rescue dog Poncho.

Jessica Nuessen

Jessica Nuessen

BCBA | Bentonville

Prior to becoming a BCBA, Jessica spent 8 years as a special education teacher in Kansas working with middle and high school aged students.

She started in the field of ABA as an RBT in 2019 and earned her BCBA in 2021. She has worked in a variety of settings with clients between the ages of 3 and 18. She enjoys collaborating with staff and parents through ongoing training, using a naturalistic teaching approach to help clients develop daily living skills as well as teaching functional communication. Outside of work she enjoys spending time outside with her family and traveling.

Mallory Shelton

Mallory Shelton

BCBA | Jonesboro

Mallory Shelton is from Jonesboro, Arkansas, where she works as a BCBA. Mallory Attended Arkansas State University for her undergraduate degree in exercise science. Mallory then attended Ouachita Baptist University, where she received her master’s degree in Applied Behavioral Analysis.

Mallory started in the field of ABA as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) for two years in Little Rock before joining the Inner Circle team as a BCBA in 2022, where she has been able to continue growing her passion for helping others and improving the lives of the families she serves.

For Mallory, each child she works with gives her the inspiration to continue with her dedication to families who need support. Outside of work you can find her working in her flower beds and spending time with her family at the lake.

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