The FirstSteps Team is inspired by the belief that every child deserves the opportunity to achieve his or her fullest potential. To that end, our mission is twofold…to provide the best possible humanistic behavior-analytic treatment to our children, and to offer a positive, collaborative and dynamic work environment for our staff. In other words, the FirstSteps program aims to marry the evidence-based power of behavior analysis with the sense of wonder, exploration, joy, and fun of childhood.
While each child’s program is unique and driven by individual needs, the FirstSteps curriculum is comprehensive of all developmental areas – those skills essential for a child to be independent, interactive, and find joy in their daily lives. Instructional targets are selected from several areas, following a general progression closely mirroring the emergence of skills in typical development. Programming in the areas of Verbal Behavior and Communication, Play Skills, Social Skills, Perspective-Taking, Executive Functioning, Safety/Self-Help Skills, and Caregiver Collaborative Education may be targeted as appropriate to your child’s individual needs. Please visit the Our Program page for more details on our instructional programs.
FirstSteps employs only the most highly qualified and dedicated behavior analysts to design and implement each of our learners’ treatment programs. All Program Directors have master’s level or higher degrees and are Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) with extensive experience treating children with autism and other special needs. Having a BCBA is only the minimum criteria – FirstSteps Program Directors are carefully selected for their creativity, initiative, and passion for partnering with families on their early intervention journey.
Those hired as Instructors to implement behavior intervention plans with children require a great deal of theoretical and applied training prior to providing any services to children. As such, after selecting only the brightest and most enthusiastic candidates, FirstSteps Instructors participate in an extensive training and evaluation period, culminating in certification with the BACB as Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT). While many agencies have moved to video-based training for staff, FirstSteps remains committed to providing in-person, responsive classroom-based and hands-on training. All potential Instructors complete an extensive series of fieldwork competencies before joining children’s teams, and have passed a rigorous written exam.
Depending on the intensity of your child’s behavior intervention program, anywhere from 2-5 Instructors will work with your child on a weekly basis and are supervised regularly by your child’s Program Director to ensure consistency of intervention. This team approach affords our children many benefits, including increased generalization and flexibility of skills, a balance of different levels of experience among the interventionists (teams include very experienced Lead Instructors, as well as those newer to our team – the Leads of tomorrow are the newest Instructors of today!) and the advantage of having several creative minds contributing to the intervention plan.
FirstSteps provides behavior intervention services across a variety of settings, to include the home, community, and school environments. Further, center-based services in our centers are also specifically scheduled as part of our children’s social programming and in preparation for group-based learning (such as preschool).
Yes, we do! Each child’s FirstSteps treatment program is based in the scientifically validated principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), and our learners benefit from a variety of well-researched teaching procedures. Further, as ABA is an evolving science, FirstSteps Program Directors keep abreast of the current research in the field of ABA and are members of professional associations such as the California Association for Behavior Analysis and the Association for Behavior Analysis International. Not only do Program Directors regularly attend professional conferences in which the latest research is presented by colleagues in the field, but we regularly conduct and present our own research and treatment evaluations on programming and teaching methodologies, both at national conferences and in peer-reviewed journals.
It is not! Or at least, not necessarily. Like any service, there may be considerable variation in methods used and results obtained depending on the training, education, skill, and perspective of those delivering the service. The basic principles of ABA can be applied in various ways, but there’s absolutely nothing inherent to the science that prevents ABA services from being humanistic, thoughtful, silly, compassionate or fun, all while teaching meaningful, real-life skills (as is done at FirstSteps). All FirstSteps clinicians will partner with you to select goals and treatment strategies based your child’s interests and your family’s values.
At FirstSteps, on-going assessment of progress is a necessary and valued process. As an ABA program, objective data plotted on graphs allow easy inspection of learning trends by all involved (including YOU!). During regularly occurring Team Meetings, your Program Director will review the daily program data and graphs, introduce new targets, and modify teaching
procedures to increase learning. In addition to regular Team Meetings, Program Directors meet with families twice each year to review overall response to treatment, curriculum completion, and short- and long-term goals.
Before beginning behavior intervention services, your child will first be assessed across many areas of development, and a treatment package will be recommended with consideration of your child’s age, individual needs, and family goals. Based on decades of research comparing different models and intensities of treatment, many children benefit from participating in early and intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI), which research suggests is generally between 25-40 hours per week of intervention.
In one example of this body of research, Howard et. al. (2014) found that (in brief):
- Preschoolers who received intensive ABA (35-40 hours) were more than twice as likely to score in the “normal” range on measures of cognitive, language, and adaptive functioning as compared to children who received “eclectic” school-based intervention (i.e., a mix of specialized class instruction, speech, OT, PT, and other therapies)
- Preschoolers in the “eclectic” school-based treatment groups were unlikely to attain scores in the “normal” range, and many of those who did early in treatment fell out of the normal range in subsequent years
- No consistent differences were found between children who received “intensive” vs. less intensive eclectic school programming (25+ hours vs. 15-17 hours).
So how does it work? Here’s where the magic is! The thing is, EVERY moment can be turned into a learning opportunity. Our interventionists use a combination of structured learning opportunities to help prepare learners for more formal education, and capturing naturally occurring learning opportunities in everyday life – from free-play, to snack time, to yard games, to play-dates, every moment can be turned into a meaningful chance for your child to learn something new! Visit the Association for Science in Autism Treatment for a list of such studies.
Some children may benefit from having a smaller number of ABA hours as a piece of an overall treatment package with other service providers. Following initial assessment then, a recommendation for a clinically appropriate level of service for your child will be made. Please contact us for more information.
While FirstSteps specializes solely in the provision of applied behavior analysis (ABA) services, the beauty of behavior analysis is that most skills may be broken down into observable, measurable behaviors. At FirstSteps, we use a verbal behavior approach as part of our comprehensive curriculum. Should additional supports be necessary, we are happy to provide referrals to and collaborate with other service providers that may work with your child, such as speech and occupational therapists, though such services are not provided by our agency.
Great question! Please see the Get Ready! portion of our website for helpful tips for maximizing this time.
Enrollment + Service Initiation
We do! Every child’s program is unique, and designed with consideration of their individual strengths, needs, and goals. An essential part of determining those needs and developing those goals is through an initial assessment. Our intake process includes:
- An initial phone discussion
- Your submission of any diagnostic reports and previous assessments, as well as our intake questionnaires
- Clinical observation and interview with you and your child, where we review your child’s history and probe current skills
- Observations of your child in their natural environment, including home and / or school / community
- Writing a detailed report with recommended goals and services to address your child’s unique needs, which is a requirement for all 3rd party funding sources
- 3rd party review of report and authorization for services. The entire process – from intake to authorization, generally takes 4-6 weeks.
The timeline for service initiation varies depending on funding status, assessments to be completed, and current availability of our Program Directors (BCBAs) and Instructors (RBTs / Interventionists). Please contact us personally for more information on our availability at this time, as it varies. If we are not able to start the intake process at this time, we would love to help connect you with a provider who can, and/or add you to our interest list for potential future services.
This is not recommended. The power of ABA lies in no small part in the intensity. Delivering even the highest quality of services at a dosage lower than that recommended as necessary to help your child meet their goals is akin to taking only a portion of necessary medications = it’s not likely to be effective. We can work with you to evaluate the utility of your child’s other activities to help determine those which may be prioritized in your child’s day. If we are not able to deliver FirstSteps services at a therapeutic dosage, we’re happy to work with you to find a provider that can better meet your needs.
We do not, but we are happy to provide referrals to local diagnosticians.
Yes you can. If you do not live in one of our service areas, we may provide workshop services for your child. Workshop services consist of providing an experienced and qualified ABA consultant to travel to your home and assess your child. Your consultant will then design an individual intervention plan for your child and train your family and staff in implementing the treatment program. On-going consultation is provided via video review, phone meetings with your family and staff, and regularly scheduled on-site visits to observe and update the behavior intervention program. We have served families throughout the United States as well as internationally. Please contact us personally to discuss the initiation of workshop services.
Funding + Collaboration With 3rd Parties
Yes. FirstSteps has contracted with the majority of California’s health insurance carriers and can verify your plan benefits prior to scheduling your intake assessment.
At this time, we are a provider of many California school districts and regional centers. Even if we are not currently a provider for your child’s school district or regional center, it may be possible for us to arrange a service agreement.
We are willing and able to contract with your local regional center or school district. Please contact us to inquire.
Yes, we are happy to be a member of our children’s IEP teams. The extent of FirstSteps involvement in your child’s IEP may depend on whether we are contracted to provide school-related services. Your Program Director can answer specific questions regarding FirstSteps’ role in your child’s IEP.