Whether you decide to pursue a diagnostic assessment with us, or your child has already received a diagnosis of Autism or ASD, our licensed psychologists can provide you with a clear roadmap to helping your child reach his/ her fullest potential. All too often, families receive an Autism diagnosis for their child, but little information to guide them towards effective treatment options. We believe that YOU are an expert on your child, and are an important part of making decisions that affect your child’s future. We will work together with you to guide you toward the most effective and scientifically supported treatments, assist you in understanding and navigating resources, school options, scholarships, and other benefits to which you or your child may be entitled.
The most important thing to do after getting an ASD diagnosis is to take action and begin effective treatment. When deciding what treatment options to pursue, examining the scientific support for the selected treatment option (or the lack of it), should be the top priority. Overwhelmingly, the scientific literature supports therapies based on applied behavior analysis (ABA) as the gold standard for effective intervention with children with autism and autism spectrum disorder. Although free early intervention for children with significant delays or identified developmental disabilities (including ASD) is mandated across all 50 states, the actual treatment provided varies widely from state to state. Currently, the state of Florida does not provide ABA as a standard early intervention option. Insurance coverage for ABA still remains difficult, leaving many children and families uninsured or underinsured, dealing with extensive waiting lists, or working primarily with minimally qualified therapists.
Pivotal Response Treatment® (PRT®) is an innovative, evidence-based treatment approach based on the principles of ABA that includes parents as a critical part of their child’s treatment. PRT® focuses on targeting key or pivotal behaviors, such as motivation and self-initiations, that lead to widespread gains in other untargeted areas. The licensed psychologists at Nicole Valdes, Ph.D., & Associates, P.A. are trained and certified in delivering PRT® by the developers of this model, Dr. Robert Koegel and Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel and their team from the University of California Santa Barbara. What makes PRT® so unique? Pivotal Response Treatment® is a naturalistic and child-centered approach that involves following the child’s lead and using play strategically to elicit language and social skills, promote independence, and reduce challenging behaviors. This means that your child will have fun while learning and developing new skills! More traditional approaches to ABA therapy, such as Discrete Trial Training (DTT), are highly structured, therapist-led, may take place in artificial settings, may not involve parents, or involve them to a lesser extent, and may use rewards and reinforcers that are unrelated to the skill the child is learning. Despite its proven effectiveness, this tends to be a very labor intensive and costly approach that requires up to 40 hours of therapy per week with a trained therapist. Often, there is little room for spontaneous learning, skills may not readily transfer to other settings or caregivers, and parents may not receive training or be considered an integral part of their child’s therapy. Finally, many families are unable to afford such a large amount of therapy hours, and health insurance rarely provides coverage for such extensive treatment.