My son started ABA preschool at a therapy center to help him with his Autism spectrum diagnosis. It didn’t take long before he stopped ABA preschool.

The class had several students, along with a Habilitative Interventionist for each student.

ABA preschool did not go well. 

Although he had a great HI, he would just cringe at everything they tried to do. I prayed and hoped at the beginning of each day it would get better…. it didn’t.

Here he is at ABA preschool.

Why We Stopped ABA Preschool - Thistle Hill

While getting ready to leave the house one day for ABA preschool, he fought with every muscle, cried, screaming no over and over, with a look of absolute terror. Physically, I knew I would not be able to manhandle him, nor did I even want to take that road. 

Being non-verbal, this is one way he communicates. Crying, screaming, throwing himself on the floor from frustration stemming from lack of communication skills along with a sensory overload of it all. These were just some of the symptoms that ABA preschool addressed. But how can we achieve this goal when J is adamant on having nothing to do with the program. 

Support at the center was spotty. One day there would be fantastic communication, other days I would get zero, even if I reached out to them. 

There were days I would stay to help him transition. That is a huge hurdle for J, any type of change crumbles his world. There were times the staff was supportive while I was there (just to make it clear, his HI has always been fantastic!) and other times they would give me unwanted advice. One time, while J was close to a meltdown one of the employees told me that the reason he behaves the way he does at ABA preschool is because I never leave him with others. Of course…. that was one of his goals, to learn to trust others and integrate into a classroom setting.

But, there’s something to be said about his behavior. To me, it was an indication that this program was not working for him. The resistance I felt from staff, the judgemental looks about my decisions, the inconsistency of communication, combined with J’s reactions started to give me major doubts about the path we were headed down.

As I was handling J’s kicking and screaming meltdown. I remembered what his play therapist had told me many months ago, it’s okay to stop ANY type of therapy or plan for J, that I didn’t owe anyone an explanation on my decisions for J. In that moment, I realized, the choice was mine, and since J had clearly stated his opinion, I pulled him out of ABA preschool at that very moment. The plan was not working, and it was time to start finding a new one.

Fortunately, I had already started the process of enrolling J in the local public school. With each visit to the school, my mama bear intuition started to calm down. The teacher was amazing, they had every type of therapist available, and their entire focus revolved around what worked for J. He started visiting the school for testing. He was nervous, shy, acted out a bit, but he didn’t completely shut down like he was doing at ABA preschool. I got his IEP in place and he started attending preschool at our local elementary school. In my state, preschool is only offered to students with special needs, this made the classroom size small.

We stopped ABA preschool and now he is thriving!

His goals listed in his IEP are being smashed, transitioning is getting better, and he finally has the opportunity to be with kids. Hearing the songs he sings, admiring his art projects, and the moments of pick-up time have become the new highlights of my week.

I cannot tell you what the difference is between the two schools. He just prefers one over the other. And that’s okay! I found something that

Oh ya, and his HI was able to start visiting our home to work with J. She works with him by setting goals. He is learning, but the best part about his HI is that J has been able to form a relationship with him. She works on safety and encourages social skills.

Now, J has his HI, preschool, and play therapy in place for services. We are in the process of adding a new type of therapy called Family Support. It includes the involvement of family members. It sounds like a great service for everyone.

Share your experiences with ABA preschool? What works for your little gem?