Great Gift Ideas for Autistic Children

With holiday season fast approaching, it’s time to scheme gift ideas! But finding useful and entertaining gifts for kids with autism can be tricky. For the past few years, we’ve compiled lists of gift ideas for autistic children. These categorized suggestions come from experts at our clinics as well as popular preferences from our clients.

A few things to note: Remember to consider the child’s interests and developmental stage. If they love a certain character or sport for example, find something that includes that. Or if they are intrigued by a certain sensory experience, such as fluffy or smooth items, gift from those categories. Their developmental stage also might not match age-appropriate toys and activities, so keep in mind what they might enjoy based on their abilities and interests.

Here is your 2021 gift guide with great gift ideas for an autistic child (or teen)!

Gifts that encourage movement

Many kids with autism often need to incorporate lots of movement into their day to counteract sensory issues. Try an anti-burst peanut exercise ball for core strength development and calming deep pressure, or a balance board for balance and coordination.

monkey jump autism gift guide

Additionally, according to one of our Occupational Therapists, jumping is an excellent way for kids to get sensory input. She suggests a monkey jump, where small children can engage in a game of Five Little Monkeys. A mini trampoline is another fantastic go-to option for kids who need to get energy out.

Sensory gift ideas

Water beads are a huge favorite of our clients. After expanding in water, put them in a bin and let kids run their hands through them for some mesmerizing sensory fun.

tent autism gift guide

Sometimes a child with autism finds solace with alone time. Make a peaceful haven in a tent that you can fill with pillows, stuffed animals, or any other objects that help your child experience calm.

poke a dot autism gift guide

Poke-A-Dot books offer interactive sensory input while enjoying a story. Children can pop the dots on each page, which is a great opportunity for fine motor skills.

If your child often gets overstimulated and likes body pressure, try a weighted vest, blanket, or neck wrap. The added weight can aid in focus and help kids feel safe and secure.

Toys that support fine motor skills

Kinetic sand is a perfect gift for kids that like to squish, mold, and create—another favorite of our clients. As opposed to real sand, kinetic sand prevents big messes as it sticks together. Scoop into molds or build little creatures and sandcastles for fine motor practice.

kinetic sand autism gift guide

Do you have a child who loves taking things apart and putting back together? Check out this take-apart car, complete with a drill. Our OTs utilize these cars during sessions to encourage fine motor skills. The car can also go for a drive when construction is completed, offering an enticing reward at the end of a task.

Do.A.Dot markers help kids work on fine motor skills through learning to hold and control something in their hand. With a sponge tip applicator, they are also mess-free! These markers are a great option for quick art projects.

Gifts for tweens and teens

gear ring autism gift guide

Many of these gifts work for younger children, but may not satisfy needs of older kids and teens with autism. Finding gifts for teens can be difficult, but we suggest fidget-friendly items than can ease stress. As kids get older, they need to concentrate longer on tasks. Gifting a fidget spinner, a Kinekt gear ring, or finger fidget pencils can therapeutically relieve extra energy and stress when trying to focus.

Stocking stuffers

thera-putty autism gift guide

Try these smaller items to stick in a stocking. “Pop-its” are all the rage right now, for both neurotypical and autistic children—we see many around our clinics! Therapy putty often comes in a small container for easy transport to pull out and squish when needed. Our clients also enjoy stretchy tubes that pop and bend. For kiddos who like to mouth items, try packs of fun-shaped chewies such as these shark teeth. An anti-stress toy like this cool fidget or a liquid timer can simultaneously entertain and ease sensory induced anxiety.

anti stress sensory autism gift guide

Gift ideas to treat parents

If you’re planning to give to a child with autism, it’s a nice gesture to gift their parents as well. Parents of kids with special needs often endure a lot of stress. Self-care and fun experiences are excellent options, such as a manicure/pedicure, a massage, restaurant gift cards, or movie gift certificates. A relaxing night out is often a wonderful gift for parents, given all they balance!

We hope we’ve helped take some of the stress out of your holiday shopping this year with these great gift ideas for autistic children. For even more gift suggestions, be sure to visit our previous guides from 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Autism Evaluation Process: What to Expect

Are you a parent seeking an autism evaluation for your child? Or maybe you tried to enter into ABA therapy but ran into insurance issues. Whatever your situation, starting the journey to support your child’s development can be stressful, overwhelming, and confusing. But you are taking the right steps in seeking help. That is why we want to provide you with information on our autism evaluation process. Here is a detailed breakdown of how it works.

Where to Start

Maybe you are concerned about your child’s development, or your pediatrician is recommending an autism evaluation. Whatever the reason, it can be confusing to know where to start. In order to access autism therapies if they are on your insurance plan (such as ABA, speech therapy or occupational therapy), most insurance companies need an autism evaluation. Most insurance companies require an evaluation that includes a series of standardized assessments. Additionally, they need a report with the data of those assessments to support a concluding diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. These evaluations are typically performed by a qualified psychologist or neuropsychologist. It’s important to note that most insurance plans require something more than a simple neurologist diagnosis; neurologists do not use the standardized assessments insurance looks for.

What to Expect

The overall evaluation process at Healing Haven is not very long. It consists of three appointments which total roughly six hours altogether (depending on the child’s age and level of skill.) The turnaround time from the first appointment to receiving the final report averages about one to two months. However, that time depends on the facility performing the testing.

However, the wait to receive the assessment is generally the biggest issue. Most facilities that offer quality evaluations have waitlists of several months or more. But time is precious when it comes to a child’s development. Those several months can make a huge difference when it comes to receiving services.

One of the most impactful things you can do as a parent is obtain a clearer understanding of your child’s difficulties. At Healing Haven, we try to keep all evaluations–from the time parents contact us to when they receive results–within three months. This way, if intervention is necessary, it can be accessed as soon as possible.

The Autism Evaluation Process

Our autism evaluation process is typically divided into three appointments.

First Appointment

During the first appointment, a parent or guardian meets with the clinician. They will discuss background information, family history, and any concerns regarding their child’s development.

Second Appointment

The second appointment involves the direct assessment of the child. The clinician utilizes several standardized assessment tools to gather objective data on the child’s skills and their behaviors. The clinician will use this data to reflect the child’s developmental progression in comparison to other children of the same age.

Third Appointment

After these two first meetings, the clinician compiles all the information gathered into a report. In the third and final meeting, the clinician goes over the report with the parent(s)/guardian(s). Based on data and historical information, this meeting will specify whether a child may fall within the criteria of Autism Spectrum Disorder. If the child does not meet the criteria, parents and guardians may learn if something else is going on that better addresses their concerns (e.g. speech delay, learning impairment, anxiety, etc.)

Whether your child is on the spectrum or not, a developmental assessment provides a detailed evaluation of your child’s current level of skill and developmental status. A developmental assessment identifies factors contributing to your child’s difficulties, rules out diagnoses that may mislead treatment, and provides you with direction to address your child’s specific needs.

What to Look for in an Autism Evaluation Provider

The most important question to ask a facility offering evaluations is, “If my child is diagnosed, will this report unlock insurance covered ABA services?” You’re investing in a lengthy process. So you’re entitled to all the necessary information to access insurance covered services (if needed). Make sure you know which questions to ask to understand exactly what insurance requires for ABA services.

However, many facilities that offer autism evaluations are unaware of the specific insurance requirements for ABA services. So, many testing facilities may be honest saying that they can provide an autism evaluation but are unsure if insurance to cover ABA services will accept the type of evaluation provided.

At Healing Haven, we’ve had countless families who had their child previously evaluated. But they found their diagnostic report was missing components insurance requires in order to accept the diagnosis and access services. Thankfully, some insurance companies are lenient and allow us to fill in the missing components. Other times, too many components were missing, requiring an evaluation re-do. Obviously this is time consuming and costly. It is also a significant barrier to receiving services. So again, do your best to make sure that what the testing facility offers will be sufficient for your insurance.

An Important Note about BCBS/BCN of Michigan

Many families in our area have insurance through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or Blue Care Network of Michigan. For BCBS/BCN members it’s important to know that they have a list of centers for which they will accept an autism diagnosis. These specialized locations are called Approved Autism Evaluation Centers (AAEC).These AAECs are spread throughout the state, but unfortunately can have long waitlists – sometimes up to 12 months. As a result of these long waitlists, and because early intervention is so critical, BCBS and BCN will accept an autism evaluation from a qualified psychologist or neuropsychologist if it meets its standards. They call this type of evaluation a “Bridge Authorization”. This authorization serves as a place holder, allowing families to access services while they remain on a waitlist at an AAEC.

We understand how time-consuming and worrisome the autism evaluation process can be as you strive to get support for your child. But we are here for you and you are not alone in this journey. If you have questions or you’re interested in starting an evaluation, please reach out to us.

Toilet Training Tips for Kids With Autism

toilet training and autism

Toilet training is a fundamental skill to teach all kids. But it can be a tricky skill for children with autism to master. Some parents may find toilet training a smooth process, while others find it a huge battle. Many parents try to start the process and feel discouraged, then decide to take a break. Wherever you are in your child’s journey to using the toilet independently, know that success is definitely possible.

Is Your Child Ready for Toilet Training?

The first step in helping your child with autism use the toilet? Determine if they’re ready. Our Director of Clinical Standards, Dr. Jennifer Thomas, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA, suggests a list of pre-requisites to consider before starting the toilet training process.

Can your child…

  • sit on the toilet or potty chair for a few minutes?
  • pull pants up or down?
  • hold urine for at least 30 minutes?
  • imitate skills such as sitting and wiping?
  • find the bathroom or potty chair in the house?

Your child doesn’t need to be proficient in each of these steps all at once to start toilet training. However, keep in mind that the process will be easier and more successful if your child can complete most steps first. If your child struggles with fine motor strength and control, consider occupational therapy (OT). OT can help with skills such as pulling pants up and down, wiping, etc. Additionally, there should be minimal behaviors occurring with bathroom use. If behaviors arise often, be sure to address them prior to starting the toilet training process.

Reinforcement and Encouragement

It’s important to utilize reinforcement and encouragement when working on toilet training your child with autism. You can reinforce their success in using the toilet in a variety of ways, including:

  • Food, such as candy or a small treat
  • A sticker chart
  • A highly preferred activity such as tablet time, a game or favorite toy
Child sitting with teddy bear

Along with reinforcers, use lots of verbal encouragement. Make sure it’s specific and descriptive: “I love how you asked to go to the potty.” Or “You did an amazing job sitting on the toilet for x amount of time!” etc.

Barriers to Toilet Training

Toilet training kids with autism can definitely have its setbacks. You might encounter challenging behaviors from your child, such as fear of using the toilet, refusing to use it, misusing toilet paper or other materials, or tantrums when encouraged to use the toilet.

Some children with autism might be hesitant to use the toilet due to sensory issues. If this is the case for your child, identify the sensory issue. It could be that the toilet seat is uncomfortable, they may feel cold, or feel afraid of the loud flushing sound. Perhaps utilize a toilet seat and let your child hold a stuffed animal or toy while sitting to help them feel safe and comforted.

Another barrier to toilet training is constipation. Kids with autism can be prone to constipation due to selective eating. If you notice your child struggling to void with bowel movements, consult your pediatrician.

General Tips for Toilet Training Kids with Autism

  1. Take toilet training one step at a time! While many parents are eager for their child to gain independence in the bathroom, try not to rush through the process.
  2. Have your child use pull ups or underwear as they transition from diapers.
  3. Use visuals in the bathroom such as a step-by-step laminated sheet with photos to help your child remember the toilet use process.
  4. When starting toilet training, plan a time to be at home with your child (Ideally, a week).
  5. Take data. You could create a chart, take notes in a notebook, or find a data sheet that works for you through an online search. For each toilet session, list the date, time, accident, success, location, and any independent request.
  6. Make the experience fun and rewarding! Ensure your child is comfortable on the toilet by having them pick out a preferred toilet seat. Keep toys and books in the bathroom and even play music. The more enjoyable the experience is for your child, the more likely they will pick up skills and move towards independence.
Parent hugging child

If your child receives ABA therapy, check in with your child’s BCBA. They can give suggestions specific to your child as well as general support throughout toilet training.

Toilet training, though necessary, is a huge task to undertake as a parent. While it can be discouraging at times, remember to celebrate the successes. And with encouragement and consistent reinforcement, your child will learn in his or her own time.

Building Skills For Your Autistic Teen’s Future

building skills autistic teens

ABA therapy programs often focus on younger children through establishing communication and social skills, as well as managing behavior. While early intervention is incredibly important for young kids with autism, not many ABA providers serve tweens and teens with autism. However, it’s critical to provide environments where teens with autism can build skills for their future. Moreover, so many individuals with autism are often underestimated in professional and social settings when in fact, they have amazing gifts that positively impact companies and our world.

As a result, we at Healing Haven believe in teaching our middle and high school age clients valuable life skills. We want to empower them to contribute to society and share all they have to offer. To do this, we’ve re-launched some foundational skill-building programs in our Life Skills clinic and are expanding on new opportunities.  

Life Skills Clinic Programs

Café and Grocery Store

Before the pandemic, we operated an internal Café where our clients learned how to bake cookies and brownies and make coffee. The program involved  learning how to take orders from parents and staff, operate a cash register, practicing taking money and making change. This program was paused over the past two years, and we are excited to bring it back.

In addition to the Café return, we are creating a mock grocery store, coming later in the summer. Some clients will have the chance to operate the cash register to practice job skills. Other clients might use the grocery store to learn how to independently shop for groceries. After practicing paying  for their groceries, clients can make a tasty treat by following a recipe in the Life Skills kitchen. To further acquire social and vocational skills, clients can also serve the treats to peers, staff and parents at the Café.

Motor Room

Our Motor Room will feature crafting projects, such as building different toys from scratch or by following instructions from a kit. Clients will have the opportunity to create bird houses, garden boxes and more. We plan to eventually establish a room where the items made in the Motor Room can be jazzed up through painting and decorating.

Computer Lab

We are creating a computer lab where teens with autism can learn technology skills. They’ll practice checking and writing emails, creating documents and slideshows, entering data into Excel, etc.

We also want our clients to have an active role in stock management of building and grocery store materials. Computer use comes in handy for this as well!

Gardening Room             

In the Gardening Room, clients can practice planting, arranging, and caring for their own flowers and vegetables. We will expand our current outdoor garden as well.              


Another feature of our Life Skills clinic is our Classroom. It’s set up like a school classroom with desks, a whiteboard, and a smart board. Clients socialize and interact with their peers and learn to take instructions from the group leader. The group leader plans and implements activities for the clients that incorporate social and living skills. It’s a blast in the Classroom! Teens and tweens participate in chat time, games to practice turn taking, crafts to work on following instructions, and even karaoke as a self-expression and performance opportunity. The Classroom serves as a place for teens with autism to practice the skills they need in school, jobs, and life altogether.

We are beyond excited to re-open these Life Skills building programs and continue to develop new ones. It’s incredible to watch our older kids thrive in an environment that helps set them up for success. And if you are interested in your teen or tween receiving therapy services, please reach out to us here.

What Is Chaining in ABA Therapy?

Chaining in ABA Therapy
chaining ABA therapy

Have you ever felt overwhelmed learning something that requires multiple steps? Maybe it’s taken you multiple tries to learn how to change a flat tire. Or maybe you still need to follow all the steps to make your grandma’s Thanksgiving gravy recipe, while she knows it by heart. In short, it’s hard to master multi-step processes all at once.

For a child with autism, even daily tasks we deem as second-nature may take a lot of work to learn. Not to mention, it can be hard for you as the parent to teach your child these everyday functions. Perhaps you want to teach your child more independence. This is why breaking down complex tasks into steps can be incredibly helpful. In ABA therapy, we call this “chaining.”

The process of chaining provides a smooth path for learning multi-step tasks. But chaining isn’t just meant for ABA therapy. Parents like you, as well as teachers or any other caregivers, find chaining effective in helping kids acquire daily skills.

What is chaining?

Chaining is the active process of stringing together a series of skills in time. When we consider how to teach a skill, the first step is to look at how it can be broken down into smaller components. This is called a task analysis. The components are then linked or “chained” together in a particular order. Research proves chaining is highly efficient for children learning multi-step tasks.

Breaking down tasks, can make learning more rewarding and easy for children with autism. For example, when brushing your teeth, you need to put toothpaste on the toothbrush. But a child with autism might need specific details on how to do that step, such as “Take cap off of toothpaste and squeeze on toothbrush.”

For example, here is a step-by-step task analysis for brushing teeth to be linked through chaining:

  1. Take cap off toothpaste.
  2. Squeeze toothpaste onto toothbrush.
  3. Turn on water and get toothbrush wet.
  4. Brush top teeth.
  5. Brush bottom teeth.
  6. Spit into sink.
  7. Sip water and rinse mouth.
  8. Spit water into sink.
  9. Put away toothbrush and toothpaste.

Types of chaining in ABA therapy


Forward chaining in ABA therapy teaches behavior in chronological order. Each step is reinforced one at a time until that step is mastered.

For example, when teaching a child to dress themselves, start with the step, “Put on underwear,” or whichever piece of clothing goes on first. Praise the child for their effort, even if it takes them a while or it’s a struggle. Then assist them with all the following steps and identify each of them (“Now we’re going to put on pants/shirt/shoes”).  Once they have mastered putting on underwear independently, focus on high praise for the next step until mastered and so on until the child can perform each step without assistance.


Backward chaining is the opposite of forward chaining. Instead of reinforcing the child for the first step completed independently, a caregiver reinforces the very last step.  

In the same example of a child getting dressed, the caregiver helps the child put on underwear, pants, shirt, and socks. The final step is putting on shoes. When the child can get their shoes on independently, give them lots of praise just as in forward chaining. Once shoes are mastered, work on socks, and so on backwards through the task analysis. Teaching in a backwards order ensures you always end the task on a positive.

Visuals for Task Analysis and Chaining

Visual aids are helpful for chaining and following task analysis. They’re a reference for kids to use as they work on mastering skills. If you went into the bathroom in our clinics, you’d see laminated task analysis visuals for brushing teeth and washing hands posted on the mirrors in the bathroom that look like this:

brushing teeth task analysis

You can create your own colorful, fun visuals such as this one to motivate your child!

In conclusion, chaining in ABA therapy helps both children and caregivers by establishing the child’s independence in daily tasks. Chaining can be used in a child’s ABA program, but also at home, school, or any other place they might spend time. Be sure to reach out to your child’s BCBA if you need help creating a visual or need modeling on how to incorporate chaining into your child’s daily routines.

Click here for more information on our ABA therapy programs.

Eating Issues and Autism: 5 Tips to Help

eating issues and autism

Parents of children with autism know eating issues all too well. From mealtime tantrums to picky food preferences, dealing with the eating issues that come with ASD can be a major stressor. However, rest assured that these issues can be addressed by seeking support, establishing routine, and lots of patience.

Food selectivity

Children with autism often have selective food preferences. According to our Director of Clinical Standards, Jennifer Thomas, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA, these preferences can occur due to learning, tactile, and/or olfactory sensitivities. Children might prefer soft foods like yogurt or soup, or crunchy textures like snack crackers. Another common preference of children on the spectrum are foods with high starch and sugar content such as snack foods. “Sometimes, the way a food tastes or feels in the mouth, or the way it smells is aversive to kids and therefore physically challenging to try new things,” Dr. Thomas explains.  

Not eating enough

Sitting through a meal and finishing food can be a challenge for kids with autism. As a result, kids may not receive the calories and nutrients they need to maintain health. Chronic malnutrition can lead to physical, emotional and cognitive decline.

Inflexibility in trying new foods

Autistic children may avoid entire food groups such as fruits and vegetables. When parents attempt to introduce non-preferred foods, challenging behaviors often occur. This can make mealtimes difficult for the whole family and eating out undesirable.

From these eating issues come behavioral and health issues such as:

Challenging behaviors

Parents often experience behaviors at mealtimes, such as their child consistently getting up from the table, crying, or throwing food or utensils.

Nutrient deficiencies

Lack of nutrients can cause several health issues, such as difficulties in cognition, iron deficiency, constricted physical growth, and an increased probability of obesity and heart disease. Dr. Thomas also points out that kids are more likely to get sick and take longer to recover because the immune system isn’t as strong without nutrients.

GI issues such as constipation

The struggle to help your child eat well is hard enough. In addition, parents may try to accommodate to their child’s eating issues, such as packing preferred food during restaurant outings or gatherings. Accommodating to eating issues may cause increased stress and relationship strain in parents.

Parents often find it easier to simply give their child preferred foods rather than battling behaviors to change eating habits. But it’s important to know that the longer these issues become ingrained the harder they are to address in the long term.

5 Tips to Address Eating Issues

1. Make mealtimes routine

Kids with autism often thrive with routine. Help them know what to expect by serving meals at the same daily time. You could give your child reminders 30 minutes to 5 minutes before meals to prepare for the transition. It’s great to involve your child in meal preparation, such as having them set the table or help cook if they enjoy it. Give your child choices during mealtimes by letting them select a food to serve or choose where they sit at the table.

2. Keep introducing non-preferred foods

Continue to offer non-preferred foods in small amounts. It’s tempting to simply remove them altogether in order to avoid behaviors. But it’s important to continually give your child opportunities to try the new foods. Shape behaviors by starting small. For example, have your child try one grape or half a carrot. Give lots of praise for their effort of trying and remember it’s ok if they don’t like it right away. “It’s also okay if they don’t eat the new food right away,” Dr. Thomas adds. “Even if they touch the food, or smell it, it’s a step closer to the goal. It’s important to be gentle about the process so food avoidance doesn’t increase.” For example, the novel food can be placed on a separate plate near your child throughout the meal, though they do not need to eat it. Having a special reward for trying something new, or even just tolerating something new nearby, can help move things along faster.

3. Keep reasonable expectations for mealtime

Changing behaviors and your child’s food preferences will take time and patience. Try not to expect big changes all at once. In the meantime, model your expectations for your child. Perhaps you’d like them to sit at the table for a minimum length of time and gradually increase that time. Keep phones and toys away from the table to demonstrate focus at mealtimes. Ignore non-desired behaviors as long as they are safe.

4. Give LOTS of specific praise!

Praise your child consistently for anything they are doing (or not doing) to increase desired behavior. Give specific praise such as “I love how you are sitting so calmly at the table,” “Way to go trying that bite of food!”, or “I’m proud of you for eating those two more bites.” There is most likely always something for which to praise your child!

5. Consult your child’s pediatrician

Eating issues and autism aren’t always preference based. Medical issues are often a culprit, such as acid reflux or allergies. Be sure to consult your child’s pediatrician if you suspect health issues.

Though navigating eating issues in children with autism can be tricky, you are not alone in the journey. And it doesn’t have to be so difficult—the trajectory can change! Seek out resources and support for not only your child but for yourself as well.

Receiving an Autism Diagnosis: What To Do Next

autism diagnosis what to do next

You’ve just received an autism diagnosis for your child. You may be feeling a mix of emotions, from shock, fear, guilt, overwhelm, confusion, or perhaps relief and clarity. Whatever may be going through your mind, know that you are not alone in this journey. You are one of thousands of parents navigating the reality of having a child with autism. This journey brings both joy and struggle, and we are here to help you through it.

In the meantime, here are some helpful steps to take.

Learn about ASD

According to recent 2021 findings by the CDC, 1 in 44 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD can cause social, communication, and behavioral challenges. Yet symptoms of autism greatly differ from person to person.


Social challenges within ASD may include making eye contact, lack of recognition of nonverbal cues, lack of emotional facial expressions and obsessive interests.


Communication challenges may include difficulty developing language skills, understanding others, slower tempo of speech, and making appropriate facial expressions.


Behavioral challenges may include repetitive behaviors such as hand flapping or rocking, sensory processing issues, aversion to touch, rigidities in routines, emotional meltdowns, refusal to follow demands, and self-injurious behavior.

In addition to the above, children diagnosed with autism may also struggle with fine and gross motor skills, such as balance and grasping objects. This can also lead to difficulty acquiring daily living skills like dressing, brushing teeth, writing and more.

If you are just learning about autism or want to continue educating yourself, check out these autism education and awareness organizations:

Autism Alliance of Michigan

National Autism Association

Find support for yourself

Receiving an autism diagnosis can cause stress and worry in parents. It’s crucial to get support for yourself and your partner if you are going through this journey together.

Some ways to ensure you have support include:

  • Reach out to other parents of children with ASD to hear how they have navigated their journey
  • Taking time to process for yourself or with your partner. Maybe have someone watch your child(ren) so you can have space to take in the news of the diagnosis, sift through any information you’ve received, and formulate questions for medical professionals and autism specialists.
  • Seek counseling to help you process. At Healing Haven, we help parents process their child’s diagnosis through our counseling program. In counseling, parents identify triggers for stress, develop goals to manage stress, and learn to navigate relationships. Additionally, we have an ABA Parent Training program, created by our director, Jamie McGillivary. In this program, parents acquire stress management techniques while learning principles of ABA to help support their child’s development.

Seek therapeutic help for your child

Once a child is diagnosed, the evaluation team will often recommend various therapies to support the child’s development. It is important to check with your insurance plan to see what coverage your plan has for an autism diagnosis. The most common therapies recommended include the following:

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy

ABA focuses on developing social, communication, play and learning skills through positive reinforcement. ABA is one of the most common therapies used in autism treatment and is backed by 50 years of research. At Healing Haven, we provide high quality ABA therapy in our clinics. We believe in a more natural and holistic approach to help the child carry over what they are learning into other settings. We also leverage incidental teaching, utilizing the child’s natural interests and motivations.

Occupational Therapy (OT)

The goal of Occupational Therapy is to increase skills in daily living and the use of everyday objects (such as eating and drinking, dressing, writing, etc.) Benefits of OT for individuals with autism include sensory processing, focus, emotional expression, and independence in everyday tasks.

Speech Therapy

Speech Therapy treats speech and communication disorders. It is incredibly beneficial for those with autism, as ASD contains a wide range of communication abilities, from nonverbal to extremely verbal and talkative. Speech Therapy helps individuals communicate through picture icons, electronic talking devices, reading body language, asking and answering questions, and grammatically correct sentences.


Some children and teens diagnosed with autism do not require more intensive ABA Therapy. However, they could benefit from individual counseling. This provides a space for those with ASD to process life challenges. In counseling, individuals with autism meet with a certified therapist specially trained in ASD issues. ASD clients learn coping strategies for frustration or anxiety, manage sensory processing issues, and developing social skills.

Create structure for your child

Individuals with autism function well within structured environments. If you haven’t already done so, start creating predictability for your child’s day.

Make a visual schedule for your child to refer to if they are anxious about what will come next in their day. You could fill it out together the night before or in the morning, for instance. There are hundreds of ideas and templates for creating fun, kid-appealing visual schedules. (Try these free printables!)

Another way to help your child with structure is giving time warnings before an activity ends. For example, if your child is engaging in play with a preferred toy or activity, give 15, 10, and/or 5 minute warnings. Setting timers might be helpful as well. This helps your child be aware that change is coming. They will also learn to emotionally regulate better with a heads-up, especially if sudden change can trigger meltdowns.

As mentioned before, you are not alone in this journey of raising a child with autism. Above all, the most important thing you can do is make sure both you and your child get the support needed. And it’s our team’s mission at Healing Haven to provide you that support. We are in your corner.

For more information, be sure to check out these blogs!

6 Ideas for Practicing Social Skills with Autistic Children

Communication and Autism: 4 Resources to Help

The Benefits of Organized Space for Individuals With Autism

Supporting Siblings of Children With Autism

Applying and Interviewing at Healing Haven: What to Expect

Applying and interviewing for jobs often involves a lot of unknown and nerves. As we continue to hire to meet the demand for our therapy services, read some helpful info on our hiring process.


Applying at Healing Haven is incredibly easy. Simply fill out the form on our Careers page and a recruiter will contact you!

For the ABA Therapist position at Healing Haven, we look for candidates who meet the following qualifications:

  • Experience with children or teens—not required, only preferred. Maybe you’re a parent, or grew up with siblings and cousins. That counts as experience with kids! It’s a bonus if you’ve worked with kids with special needs as well. But again, not required.
  • Friendly, positive attitude
  • Strong communication and listening skills
  • Flexibility with change
  • Ability to work in a fast-paced environment
  • Patience
  • A passion to work with children

Everything else can be taught!

There is not a single moment in these buildings where I do not feel like I am supported, and there is always a team member providing help.” -Aaron, ABA therapist


Our interview process starts with a remote meeting. This initial interview serves as a two-way meeting to learn as much as we can about you. Additionally, you’ll learn about our company culture and day-to-day operations.

During the interview, we review the history of our company and provide an overview of the programs offered. The goal of this is to give you a well-rounded understanding of the ABA Therapist’s role and how each department contributes to the client’s progress. Our recruiters review both the highlights and challenges of the position to help you understand what the role is like. This process helps identify if someone will truly be a good fit for the position.

If both parties show interest in moving forward, we schedule an in-person tour of the facility within days of the initial meeting. During the tour, you’ll see how a typical day runs during our hours of operation and observes the one-on-one interactions between the clients and ABA Therapists. Our recruiters are looking for interactions initiated, observations made, and questions asked by you during this meeting. You’ll also observe a few ABA sessions as well as Speech or Occupational therapy sessions.

Finally, prior to a position offer, you need to provide two professional references and must complete a background check.

I admire the clinic’s emphasis on a more naturalist approach to teaching ABA, and I believe that we try our best to create a fun, engaging and safe environment for our children. – Halee, ABA Therapist

Our Advice for Interviewing

For the Remote Interview:

  • Join the meeting a few minutes early to help troubleshoot any technical issues
  • Use a space that is clear of distractions
  • Conduct yourself in a friendly and professional manner
  • Prepare by reading over the company website to understand the organization and the position for which you are applying
  • Show your interest by preparing clarifying questions
  • Be honest and clear about your expectations! Our recruiters want to make sure this is a good fit on both sides. If you are uncomfortable with one or more of the requirements discussed, it’s important to identify them early on to be sure this is the best fit for you!

For the In-person Tour:

  • Ask questions or make observations that show your interest
  • Take the time to say hello to staff and clients when possible
  • Show interest in the observed client’s activities – If a client asks you to throw a ball or clap for them when they get something right, show you are willing to have fun and get involved!

“One of my favorite things about being an RBT is seeing the progress that the kids I work with make. This position is extremely rewarding, and I truly love seeing how much these children can grow. I also love seeing the intelligence from every one of them.” –Melissa, ABA Therapist

Job Training at Healing Haven

Our hands-on, in-person training process for the ABA Therapist position lasts roughly 2-3 weeks, depending on how quickly the new employee picks up on the material learned. We mostly hire applicants without experience, so the training process is very gradual easing them in. During the first few days as a new hire, you will observe a session with an experienced RBT and a client. You’ll see how a typical day is run and acclimate to the new environment.

The next step is a process called “pairing” where you start positively connecting with a client, building rapport and instructional control. Once you and the client have begun building a relationship, you’ll start running goals with support from trainers until the trainer fades themselves out of the session completely.

In addition to the hands-on training, new employees complete a 40-hour online RBT training to become certified as a Registered Behavior Technician®. Healing Haven helps certify all new employees as RBTs within their first few months of employment.

There is so much to learn in the field of ABA – there is no way to learn it all in two to three weeks! During their first 90 days, new staff receive ongoing training and heavy support from the training department. It is important that you feel both confident in the skills you teach and comfortable asking questions along the way.

“When you get to witness the kiddos reach new milestones and you know that you helped contribute to that, it is a feeling that you won’t find in your ordinary work place.” -Akerria, ABA Therapist

Looks like you’ve made it this far, so you’re probably intrigued! Apply now in just minutes. We’re looking forward to meeting you and hope you will be part of our team.  

Why Consider a Job in ABA Therapy

job in aba therapy
job in aba therapy

Over the past two years, our society has experienced job instability, job loss, layoffs and unemployment at alarming rates. Additionally, many employers now have more job openings than people to fill them. Many individuals continue to search for a new career. If you are one of those looking for a stable career that is more than just clocking in and out, jobs in ABA Therapy are plentiful and worth considering.  

This field we work in – behavioral health and autism therapy – provides critical supports for children and teens with autism, and their families. The demand for our services has not stopped, and in fact has grown over the past two years. As a result, we continue to hire for our ABA Therapist position. This role works one-on-one with the children coming to us for support.  

So how does ABA therapy work and what do ABA Therapists do? You may be wondering if this position is the right fit for you. So let’s break down aspects of our ABA Therapist position so you can gain a better understanding. 

What do jobs in ABA Therapy look like?

An ABA Therapist works one-on-one with an individual with autism providing Applied Behavior Analysis therapy. ABA therapy focuses on improving communication, increasing age appropriate social skills, improving independent daily living skills, and decreasing problematic  behaviors while teaching functional replacement behaviors through reinforcement. ABA therapy is high in demand, evidence-based and the most recommended therapy for autism spectrum disorder.  

At the Healing Haven, we receive constant requests from families for our therapy services. As a result, we are regularly looking for flexible, patient and energetic individuals for our ABA therapist position. Our staff come from all different educational and career backgrounds. Many began working here as an ABA therapist before moving on to other roles, some pursue education and certification to become BCBAs (Board Certified Behavior Analyst), Occupational and Speech Therapists, or careers in psychology, education, and more. Others have moved onto other positions within the company like, Human Resources, Recruiting, Insurance/Billing, and Training. You never know where a job in ABA therapy could lead!

So why pursue a job in ABA therapy? Here are several reasons among many that make the ABA Therapist position a fantastic choice.

Teaching Through Play

Working with kids means lots of play and fun. An ABA therapist weaves in learning through naturalistic teaching strategies. These include games, creative crafts, music, and engaging in free play with the client. Not a bad way to “work!”

A Supportive Work Environment

A large part of ABA is either rewarding or ignoring behavior. ABA therapists are trained to observe behavior, record data, and follow behavior protocol as opposed to reacting to occurrences. This creates a reinforcing environment for the child as well as for the staff, promoting healthy teamwork.  In addition, BCBAs (board certified behavior analysts) closely supervise so you feel supported and comfortable working with your client. 

“The culture at Healing Haven is awesome. Everyone works so hard for the kids and they support each other through everything. The work we do is not easy so it is nice to have a place that feels comfortable and supportive!” -Current ABA therapist

Dynamic Days

In ABA therapy, each day is different, allowing for a dynamic workday. Your client’s mood and needs shift from day to day which changes up your work with them. Clients make progress on individualized goals and programs so there is regular growth. This leads to new goals and skills to work on.

Rewarding Impact

Perhaps the best part of being an ABA therapist is seeing your client progress. You form a connection with one child at a time, learn them well, cheer them on and see them grow each day. In an ABA therapist job, you develop a trusting relationship with not only the client but also their family. It is incredibly fulfilling to know that your work positively impacts more than one individual.

“The best part of the job is making gains and progress with the clients and seeing their growth! It makes me so happy and fills up my bucket. It’s an amazing place to work.” -Current ABA Therapist


We provide thorough training for our new ABA therapists. Our Training team will fully equip you so you are confident and ready to begin working one-on-one with a client. Training is a minimum of 80 hours and includes: 

  • In-person instruction module teaching 
  • In-person shadowing at the clinic 
  • Completing online modules for the Registered Behavior Technician® certification  

Once hired, you will spend a couple weeks shadowing another ABA therapist and their client. During this time, you will gradually take on responsibilities from the ABA therapist until you are able to independently run the client’s whole session. This period of training is very important as it establishes a relationship between the therapist and the client so the client will respond positively to what their therapist asks of them.  

Healing Haven also requires each ABA therapist to receive their Registered Behavior Technician certification. This ensures our staff are fully qualified to provide the best services for clients. After completing 40 hours of online training modules, you will take the RBT exam (Healing Haven pays for this.) Upon passing the exam, you become an RBT and may begin to track supervision hours with your BCBA. For more info on this, visit the Behavior Analyst Certification Board website.

Have you gained a better understanding of what jobs in ABA therapy are and where they can lead? If you want to join an in-demand field at a growing company, while making an impact on a child’s life, we encourage you to apply! Get more information and apply here.

Teacher Burnout? 4 Reasons to Consider the Field of ABA

I left teaching just weeks before the lockdown in February 2020. Though left for reasons unrelated to the pandemic, I know I would have said goodbye to teaching sooner or later with the way COVID has impacted education. Increased demands on teachers and school staff, major conflict over mask mandates and safety concerns, and a lack of resources are just a few of the challenges educators have faced, leading to unprecedented teacher burnout. Consequently, a recent survey reports that one in four teachers expect to leave the classroom by the end of 2021.

To leave or not to leave?

Making the decision to leave teaching is not an easy one. One of our exceptional Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) and former special education teacher, Julie McGregor, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA, knows the difficulty in deciding to leave teaching. “The decision to leave the schools is a tough one. We went into it because we love kids and want to make positive changes in their lives,” Julie explains. “But there is truly no harder job. There is so much pressure.” That pressure often leads to teacher burnout.

For a job field that was already underfunded, under-resourced, and under-supported, it’s no wonder so many teachers have called it quits. But many former teachers are seeking new careers in fields where they can still utilize their leadership and planning skills. These fields include but are not limited to, writing positions, project management, academic advising, and human resources.

Why consider the field of ABA

If you’re a teacher who recently left your position or are toying with the idea of a career change, you might feel inhibited by uncertainty of where to go next. Julie knows this uncertainty all too well. “If I wasn’t going to be a teacher forever, what was I going to do next?”  We might be biased, but jobs in Applied Behavior Analysis are an excellent option for teachers experiencing burnout.

As one of those burned-out educators, I found my new position as an ABA therapist very manageable and much less stressful. Additionally, I still get to make a difference in young lives. If you’ve left teaching, your experience and skills are not lost. Consider these four reasons for why ABA therapy might be the perfect post-teaching career for you.

1. Utilize similar skills

As teachers, we do so much and wear too many different hats. More than most people realize. Yet, in turn, we develop invaluable skills that are not just limited to life in the classroom. These include patience, creative thinking, and excellent communication skills. Put these refined skills to use in ABA therapy as an ABA Therapist/Behavior Technician or Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Both positions require close communication with parents and alert attention to detail when taking data on behaviors. Because ABA is evidence based, it requires the precise organizational skills and attention to detail that teachers acquire. Additionally, thinking outside the box is helpful in ABA when analyzing and creating behavior intervention plans. Teachers experience a range of behaviors in the classroom so they bring valuable insight when understanding motives for behavior in their clients.

2. One-on-one work versus overpacked classrooms

In ABA therapy, working with kids with high behaviors can be difficult at times. However, ABA therapists work one-on-one with a client and receive supervision from the client’s BCBA. BCBAs often work with 7-10 clients total but not all at the same time; they schedule times to be with each client individually. As teachers, we’ve basically championed managing behavior in classrooms of 20+ kids. So picture the ease of only having to worry about one of those kids at a time—you got it in the bag!

3. Continue making a difference

Teachers quite often choose their jobs because they want to make a difference in lives. Good news—you don’t have to leave that behind in ABA therapy. Our own Healing Haven ABA Therapists very often speak to the fulfillment of helping kids and families, as well as seeing kids’ quality of life improve drastically. When Julie went back to school to become a BCBA, she knew she wasn’t sacrificing making a difference in kids’ lives. “[ABA] was perfect. I still got to work with kids, help them grow and learn, and watch them make such huge gains. But I got to do it in a different setting,” she explains. And as a former teacher, working as an ABA Therapist at Healing Haven is a more supportive and less stressful setting at that! Working in ABA therapy means every day you are actively working toward the purpose of changing someone(s) life for the better.

4. Comparable and/or better compensation

Making a difference in lives is the ultimate fulfillment in being a teacher. Yet, it’s realistic to want respectable compensation for your work. Unfortunately, and as well all know too well, most teachers are extremely underpaid. According to the National Education Association’s 2019 annual teacher salary analysis, the average salary of a teacher in the U.S. was $60,477. In comparison, BCBAs make around $63,000 a year while Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) (also called ABA therapists) average $39,000. Since the BCBA position requires a master’s degree and licensing, and the ABA Therapist position does not, this is a justifiable discrepancy.

Though ABA Therapists don’t make quite the same amount as BCBAs, I personally became an ABA Therapist for a similar salary I made as a teacher  because I knew I would have more support, resources, and respect. ABA career salaries line up as comparable and even better compensation to that of teaching. Think of it as making the same amount of money or more as when you taught with much less overwhelm—a commensurate trade-off.

“Teaching is a different mindset. You have to make a lot of adjustments to get into ABA, but it really is worth it. It’s a life changing decision but can be so wonderful.”

Ready for change?

The intensifying issues educators face today are understandably enough to cause teacher burnout. However, the decision to leave teaching and try a whole new career is not made lightly. “I know it’s scary for people that have been teachers for a long time to make a switch, but it can be really amazing,” Julie notes. “Teaching is a different mindset. You have to make a lot of adjustments to get into ABA. But it really is worth it. It’s a life changing decision but can be so wonderful.”

Are you experiencing teacher burnout? If so, take a look at ABA Therapist opportunities as a possible new career path. Still have questions? Head over to the Join our Team page to learn more and apply for a position today! We are more than ready to welcome you to the world of ABA and Healing Haven!

About the Author

Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, Cara Motzkus earned her B.A. from Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. She spent a year as an elementary classroom paraprofessional in Utah and was a 2nd grade teacher for another year before re-locating to Michigan for her husband’s PhD program. After a rough teaching experience in a 2nd grade classroom in Michigan, Cara left teaching and became an ABA therapist at Healing Haven in March 2020. She took on the Marketing Assistant position in April 2021 and continues to work with clients part time. An intuitive creative and intellectual, Cara is also a trained singer, an avid yoga practitioner, guitar dabbler, and lover of excellent food. Her passions include travel, the mountains, adventuring with her husband, and cooking too much. Give her a good mockumentary or period drama and some ice cream and she’s a pretty happy camper.