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ABS Earns Behavioral Health Center of Excellence Distinction

Alternative Behavior Strategies
Earns Behavioral Health Center of Excellence Distinction

Utah and California Autism Treatment Center Named as Top National Behavioral Service Provider


Salt Lake City, UT (8/26/2016) – The Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE) has awarded Alternative Behavior Strategies with an Award of Distinction, recognizing the organization as a top behavioral service provider in the country. The award celebrates exceptional special needs providers that excel in the areas of clinical quality, staff satisfaction, and qualifications and consumer satisfaction. These areas are measured via a wide-ranging audit, including interviews with agency clinical leadership, a detailed staff qualification review, an anonymous staff satisfaction survey, and an anonymous consumer satisfaction survey. 

“Alternative Behavior Strategies is an organization that reflects standards of excellence across all aspects of services. This provider is committed to ensuring staff and caregiver satisfaction equally and utilizes best practices in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA),” said Sara Gershfeld, Founder of BHCOE. “We are pleased to commend Clinical Director, Jeff Skibitsky, and his organization on creating an ethical program with an extensive scope of services that is invaluable to Salt Lake City and San Bernardino County autism community and beyond.”

BHCOE is a trusted source for recognizing top-performing behavioral health providers. Acting as a third-party, the organization systematically measures and reports on existing quality criteria in the behavior analysis community using standardized methods and practices, and awards only those service agencies that meet elite standards.

“At Alternative Behavior Strategies, we pride ourselves on the integrity and comprehensiveness of services, highly qualified staff, and active collaboration efforts to produce meaningful behavioral, social and academic results for our clients with developmental disabilities,” said Jeff Skibitsky, MA, BCBA, LBA, Founder of Alternative Behavior Strategies. “We are excited to be honored by BHCOE with this Award of Distinction and our dedicated team looks forward to providing individualized and ethical behavioral services throughout the Salt Lake City and San Bernardino area in the years to come.”

About Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE) 

The Behavioral Health Center of Excellence is a trusted source that recognizes top-performing behavioral health providers. BHCOE offers a third-party measurement system that differentiates top services providers from exceptional services providers.  The BHCOE criterion features standards that subject-matter experts developed to measure state-of-the-art behavioral health services.  The organization’s partnership with Love My Provider, an online review of services for families impacted by special needs, allows awardees to be featured as a Center of Excellence on For more information, visit

About Alternative Behavior Strategies

Alternative Behavior Strategies, Inc. (ABS) provides Autism therapy and related services, focusing on the use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to help ameliorate deficits and excesses attributable to Autism Spectrum Disorder or Social Emotional Disorders. ABS utilizes a variety of ABA techniques that incorporate motivation and function based teaching into the curriculum or family/community dynamic. These techniques vary from Verbal Behavior, Pivotal Response Training, Natural Environment Teaching and Positive Behavior Supports to more intense teaching methodologies such as Discrete Trail Training. Behavior change strategies focus on the development of alternative behaviors and establishment of skill sets that can replace maladaptive behavior. For more information, please visit

ABS cooperative program with Florida Institute of Technology


“Offering Quality Services” is a large part of our mission. Our senior Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) clinical staff provide trainings several times a month for our staff at various levels.   These trainings focus on applying ABA techniques to our clients’ specific needs and integrating that work with our comprehensive software systems.

At the same time, Applied Behavioral Analysis is a well-established academic discipline and a professional field with its own certification board (the Behavior Analyst Certification Board). Alternative Behavior Strategies is currently requiring all staff to enroll in board certification programs and is covering the cost of tuition for all clinical ABA employees!

Staff are required to complete the standard RBT (Registered Behavior Technician) process. Additionally, it will be mandatory that they be enrolled in applicable college courses toward further professional certification.

Toward that end, ABS has established a special co-operative program with Florida Institute of Technology through which:

  • Staff will enroll in coursework
  • Staff supervision requirements will integrate with work duties — for an intensive practicum experience
  • Staff will work through the four term sequence in applied behavior analysis at Florida Institute of Technology which is designed to prepare candidates for the national certification examinations sponsored by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).

ABS will provide full tuition support for this Florida Institute of Technology coursework for our full time ABA staff and will also cover one-half of the tuition cost for our part time staff.

Once coursework and testing are successfully completed, staff will be eligible for promotion:

  • Junior Consultant BCaBA (BA level)
  • Senior Consultant BCBA (MA level)

It is our goal, through the implementation of this training requirement, to improve our practice. We believe that the requirement for higher education will have many positive effects. It will enable us to have a highly trained, long term staff which will

  • Maximize program benefits for our clients and families
  • Enhance the stability of staff teams
  • Encourage consistent ongoing schedules
  • Enable the professional advancement of our staff within coherent, supportive programs coordinated with our clients’ needs


A Collaborative Model for Speech-Language Therapy Services

A Collaborative Model for Speech-Language Therapy Services

(Michelle Turkoglu, M.S., CCC-SLP;  Speech-Language Pathologist)

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as many other children with developmental delays experience a constellation of symptom that can affect many areas of development. The SLP’s (Speech-Language Pathologist) scope of practice includes evaluating and treating many of these areas, including: speech (articulation disorders, oral-musculature disorders, apraxia, stuttering), language (vocabulary, syntax, grammar), social-pragmatic skills (eye-contact, body spatial awareness, tone of voice), play skills (turn-taking, pretend play), eating/feeding skills, swallowing (dysphagia), reading (phonemic awareness), auditory processing, voice & cognitive skills.

Typical private speech-language services are often performed 1:1 in a clinic setting. In the school system, therapy is often performed in small groups within the classroom (push-in model) or in the speech room (pull-out model). Overall therapy time can range from 20 minutes to a couple of hours per week. While each of these therapy types is important, treating the wide range of needs for some of these children is challenging if not impossible. Since speech, language and social skills occur all day, every day, in various settings and with various people, forming a collaborative model with teachers, parents, aides and other therapists becomes essential.

Many children with Autism receive Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy and/or attend a specialized classroom or school. These children will spend a significant amount of time each week working with their ABA team and attending school. Also, many of the goals of the ABA team, the school and the speech-language pathologist will overlap. Therefore, it makes sense that a collaborative model will give each child an extended period of time to work on their goals as well as to have the opportunity to generalize these goals into various settings and with various people.

The following are some examples of how a collaborative model would work:

Behavior Management

With ABA’s expertise in behavior analysis and behavior management techniques, the ABA staff can advise the SLP on types of rewards and consequences that work or don’t work for the child. For instance, the SLP is working on labeling actions in pictures with a child. Whenever this task is attempted, the child “tunes out” and/or tries to leave the table. After many hours of behavior analysis, ABA has found that all labeling tasks are difficult for this particular child and he greatly benefits from the use of a token economy system with a reward at the end. Now, the SLP has the tools she needs to keep the child engaged during labeling tasks.

Alternative-Augmentative Communication

Some children will need to use some form of augmentative or alternative communication system such as Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) or an electronic system such as a tablet equipped with a communication app (i.e. Proloquo2go). The ultimate goal for the child would be that he/she is using their communication devices independently to communicate their wants and needs throughout the day. If the child were to only practice communicating with their device during speech-language sessions, the goal of truly learning the system and using it independently would be unlikely. Again, collaboration with the ABA team, parents & teachers would help shape what types of words & phrases will be needed for the device or the PECS system. The staff and family who spend the most time with the child will know best the types of things that are important to the child and the types of things that will help the child succeed at communicating with others. The SLPs knowledge of language development can help guide the team in choosing a realistic amount of vocabulary or sentence structures that would be most helpful.

Speech Production

For children who have speech disorders, it is often very difficult to understand the child when he or she is speaking. Some speech disorders can be as simple as misarticulating a sound or two. Other disorders could be muscle-based making speaking sound mumbled and imprecise. And still other speech disorders could be neurologically based such as apraxia, causing the child to speak infrequently and/or speak with unusual speech patterns/errors. These types of disorders will require direct therapy from the SLP in a 1:1 or small group setting. But the ability to learn to have clearer speech will take a significant amount of practice. This is where a collaborative model will be exceptionally helpful to the child’s growth. Speech exercise is much like physical exercise in that if you don’t engage in it consistently and with purpose, it’s unlikely that you’ll see change. Collaboration could include the SLP providing lists of sounds/words to practice (accompanied by pictures if needed) as well as techniques for eliciting sound production to parents and ABA staff so they can incorporate the needed repetition and practice into the child’s day. For teachers of a classroom, the SLP can consult with her and perhaps come up with a cuing system (such as a visual reminder on the board or a hand signal) that will remind the child to “use their clear talking” when it’s the child’s turn to speak aloud in class.

Auditory Processing

Children with processing difficulties often benefit from learning strategies that will help them “listen better” and “hold on to information”. Again, these types of strategies should be taught by a SLP during speech-language sessions. But the child is only going to truly benefit from these strategies if they can use them in school or social interactions. Collaboration with the school and having the teacher involved in helping the child with processing difficulties could really make a difference in whether or not the child will succeed in group settings. Ideas for collaboration for children with processing difficulties would include: having the child sit at the front of class, asking the teacher to use visuals aides and supports, using an amplification system if possible, recognizing signs that the child is “getting lost” and then asking the class if anyone would like clarification. Additionally, children with processing difficulties have great difficulty processing novel words within a lesson and being able to try to figure out how that new word is associated with the lesson. Asking a teacher to provide lesson plans ahead of time could help the SLP or parents go over the information and new vocabulary ahead of time so when the lesson is taught during class, the child can “keep up”.

On a personal note, I have worked in both the schools (typical K-8 programs, Montessori schools & specialized classrooms) as well as private practice where children were typically seen 1:1 in the clinic or in small social-development groups. These were all amazing opportunities where I’ve had the pleasure of consulting and collaborating in a variety of ways. The collaboration here at Alternative Behavior Strategies has been a whole new experience in working cooperatively with an ABA team. It is so helpful to sit down with a member of the ABA team and talk about the child’s needs and goals. It’s nice to brainstorm ideas with other professionals and come up with strategies that will help a child succeed. It provides great insight into what the child is like during his/her day. This collaboration helps me to understand the child better; to see what makes them happy or triggers their behaviors. This information enables me to plan therapy and visual supports to help the child become more successful. It’s been amazing to watch the growth of the children who have had their speech-language goals incorporated into their ABA programs. The consistent practice has truly made a difference in seeing progress!

Autistic Spectrum Disorders and Sleep

Autistic Spectrum Disorders and Sleep (by Natalie Roth, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist at Alternative Behavior Strategies)


I remember being at dinner with some friends a few years ago. We were reminiscing about the early infancies of our children and how we celebrated the moment when our youngsters began sleeping through the night (or somewhere close). We joined in the discussion with the enthusiasm typical of mothers speaking to other mothers who’ve “been there”, but whose travail was somewhere in the past. That is, most of us did. One of my dear friends reacted to the conversation by putting her hands over her ears and joking that she “didn’t want to hear it”. Her two children had Autistic Spectrum Disorders and, into early elementary school, were not predictably sleeping through the night. While her reaction was impressively good-natured, the long-term struggle with something as basic as sleep had real-life, everyday ramifications for their family, and underneath her lightheartedness, it wasn’t a casual matter.


Practitioners and researchers who work with Autistic Spectrum Disorder have increasingly taken notice of the wide-spread and serious matter of sleep disruption in ASD children, teens, and adults. Sleep problems are very common in this population, with studies indicating difficulties in this area occurring for between 50 and 83% of ASD children, often extending into adolescence. More and more, as professionals are developing intervention priorities, improving sleep is at the top of the list. Sleep difficulties can take different forms including:


  • Problems with sleep latency (difficulty falling asleep)
  • Waking through the night; sometimes staying up for prolonged periods of time.
  • Early waking
  • Persistent need for co-sleeping
  • Poorer quality of sleep, such as restlessness


The reasons for the rate of sleep disruption in this population is an on-going question for researchers, but some likely causes include:

  • Possible abnormalities in brain systems that regulate sleep
  • Differences in hormones such as melatonin and other brain chemicals that affect sleep.
  • Poor sleep hygiene (the environment and routine that are provided to support sleep)
  • Behavioral issues such as difficulties setting and maintaining limits.
  • Medical issues such as epilepsy or gastroesophageal reflux that can disrupt sleep and are more common in children with ASD
  • Psychiatric issues such as anxiety and/or depression
  • Difficulties reading social cues: children with ASD may not “read” the signs that the family is getting ready for bed because they are not attending or interpreting the meaning of these behaviors.
  • Sleep disorders such as apnea, sleepwalking, nightmares, night-terrors, and restless leg syndrome. (


It can be difficult, especially for new parents, to determine when a child has a problem with sleep that may require intervention, and those that fall in to the category of “typical” disruption. It may be helpful to use the following as a guideline for trying to determine whether normal variations in sleep have reached the level of a sleep disruption:


  • If it takes longer than 30 minutes from the end of the bedtime routine to get to sleep.
  • If a child is unable to get to sleep without the presence of another person.
  • Frequent night waking, particularly if he/she is not able to get back to sleep easily.
  • If a child/teen/adult isn’t getting enough sleep per night. Based on review of the research in the area, The National Sleep Foundation recently revised their sleep recommendations for specific age groups and now recommends the following ranges:
    • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
    • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
    • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
    • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
    • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
    • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
    • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
    • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
    • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)


We have all experienced the effects of the lack of good sleep on our daytime functioning, but these effects may have more profound implications for children with ASD. Research has shown that ASD children with sleep problems have lowered cognitive functions (particularly with verbal skills that typically require more effort and concentration on their part), have more difficulty with social skills and increased emotional distress, increased hyperactivity, and poorer motor control. These impairments in turn make it difficult for ASD children to benefit as much as they might from the schedule of interventions that often make up their day. Sleep problems in an individual child have implications for the entire family: studies indicate that the parents of autistic children sleep less, have poorer sleep quality, and wake up earlier than parents of non-autistic children.


I want to pause for a moment to acknowledge the obvious: Parents of children with ASD want their children to sleep well and in many cases have gone to great lengths and have made personal sacrifices to accommodate, let alone address, their child’s sleep difficulties. Sleep (along with eating and toileting) is behavior that parents can not directly control by physically manipulating or exerting their will on their child. There is a significant amount of stress involved in attempting to improve sleep, and parents need to feel supported rather than judged as they begin to make changes. I will be making some suggestions about how to support better sleep in the next few paragraphs, but acknowledge that sleep difficulties are rooted in problems with neurobehavioral regulation and, as such, are often challenging to alter.


While keeping this in mind, parents should know that there is encouraging evidence to support the idea that parental efforts at improving sleep can lead to very positive outcomes. Researchers at Vanderbilt University have been studying sleep disruption in children with ASD for over a decade and have found that educating and supporting parents in understanding sleep disruption was critical to improving sleep for their children, and that most families in the study were able to make long-term improvements with parent-implemented interventions (Malow, Adkins, Reynold, Weiss, Log, Fawkes, Katz, Goldman, Madduri, Hundley, & Clemons, Parent-Based Sleep Education for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2014 Jan 44(1): 216-228).


The first step in addressing sleep problems is to discuss the issue with your child’s primary health care professional. This is an important step because your doctor can help rule out potential medical issues or determine whether a more specialized appointment is necessary (such as a sleep specialist, ENT, or a neurologist). Your primary care provider would also be the appropriate person to see in order to discuss whether medication or a supplement such as Melatonin would be a reasonable avenue to consider. Melatonin is a naturally occurring neurochemical that assists in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders have been found to have abnormal Melatonin levels, particularly at night. Over twenty clinical studies have shown a significant improvement in sleep length and sleep latency for ASD children who were given Melatonin before bedtime, even at relatively small doses (1-3 mg.). Negative side effects have been described as “minimal”, although experts note that long-term effects deserve further investigation. (Rossignol DA, Frye RE. Melatonin in Autism Spectrum Disorders, Current Issues in Clinical Pharmacology, 2014; 9(4):326-34). Medications used to treat other ASD symptoms can sometimes affect sleep regulations and sharing information about this dynamic will be important for your pediatrician or psychiatrist as they work with you to find an optimal regimen.


Regardless of the cause or nature of sleep disruption, there are environmental and behavioral mechanisms that can be put in place to support sleep. While the initial effort required to implement some of these strategies may seem overwhelming, often substantial change can be seen within a relatively short period of time (two weeks is a commonly reported time frame for seeing improved response). One of my preferred resources for sleep intervention is the “Tool Kit” offered without cost by Autism Speaks. A tool-kit is also available for teen and young-adults: ( Their research-based suggestions focus on the following strategy for tackling sleep problems:


  1. Provide a Comfortable Sleep Setting: Think SENSORY issues at this stage. Is the room too hot, too cold, too bright, too dark (a dim night light is usually optimal)? Pay attention to trying to keep the room and the surrounding environment quiet. Some children benefit from increased sensory input such as weighted blankets.  Enlist the advise of your Occupational Therapist for suggestions about what alternations might best incorporate your child’s sensory profile.
  2. Establish a Regular Bedtime Routine: A reasonable routine should be between 15-30 minutes before bedtime and followed primarily in your child’s bedroom (other than tasks that require the bathroom). The routine should be done in the same order each night. To the extent possible, it is important that all adults involved in putting the child to bed follow the same routine. The more consistently the routine is implemented, the more it will be useful in helping your child regulate to sleep.
    1. Tips for ensuring a successful bedtime routine:
      1. Consider the use of a visual schedule to help your child anticipate sleep. The Autism Speaks tool-kit has a variety of examples that can be modified depending on your child’s language abilities.
      2. Choose activities that are calming (listening to music, rocking, reading a book, a massage) rather than those that are stimulating. For example, if bathing is a stimulating rather than a relaxing activity for your child, move this activity to a time earlier in the day.
  • Try as best as possible to keep bedtime and wake-time the same throughout the week.
  1. Restrict the use of electronic equipment while a child is winding down at night as this can be emotionally and visually stimulating, and the light from the equipment may interfere with Melatonin production.
  2. Try to create a “getting ready for sleep” environment across the household, including dimming lights, speaking in quieter tones, helping siblings and other family members understand the need to model self-regulation behaviors.
  1. Teach your child to fall asleep alone: Many modern parents place some value on co-sleeping, which is not necessary wrong in itself. However, if a child is unable to get to sleep by him/herself they will not be able to independently get back to sleep after experiencing the normal periods of wake/sleep that occur throughout a night of sleep. One approach to teaching a child to sleep alone incorporates principles of graduated sleep training (e.g. increasing the distance between parent and child on a gradual basis as he/she learns to regulate to sleep). The Autism Speaks Toolkit also describes the use of a “Bedtime Pass” that helps to communicate rules and a system of reinforcement around staying in bed long enough to get to sleep.
  2. Promote Daytime Behaviors: Regulate nap-times to end before 4:00 p.m. to ensure that a younger child is appropriately tired when bed-time rolls around. Avoid giving your child caffeine (watch the chocolate!) and sugar close to bedtime. Daytime exercise can make it easier to fall asleep and children who exercise tend to have deeper sleep. Children with a high need for sensory input may require more intense, “heavy” sensory-oriented activities throughout the day.


If you’d like to explore more detailed information about sleep in children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, the following resources may be helpful:


  • Solving Sleep Problems in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Guide for Frazzled Families by Terry Katz & Beth Ann Malow, 2014.
  • Sleep Better!: A Guide to Improving Sleep for Children with Special Needs, Revised Edition, by Mark Durand, Ph.D.
  • The Autism Show Podcast: Dr. Beth Malow: Solving Autism Sleep Problems (



As always, the providers at Alternative Behavior Strategies are here to support you. Feel free to reach out with further sleep questions if you have them.








Autism and HighTech

The large IT company SAP is hiring autistic adults for tech jobs, as noted in a recent article at CIO:

How SAP is hiring autistic adults for tech jobs




In order to compete in the innovation economy, companies need employees who think differently. That’s why, in May 2013, SAP launched its Autism at Work program, which is aimed at recruiting and hiring adults on the autism spectrum. The program has been such a success, SAP is currently working to expand it, with the goal of having 1 percent of its total workforce — approximately 650 people — fall on the spectrum by 2020, says José Velasco, head of the Autism at Work program at SAP.

For the full article, click: How SAP is hiring autistic adults for tech jobs.


Psychotherapy at ABS

(by Melissa Snyder)


Therapy works to:

• Understand the behaviors, emotions, and ideas that contribute to depression and/or anxiety.
• Understand and identify the life problems or events — like a major illness, a death in the family, a loss of a job or life issues such as divorce that can lead to depression.
• Restructure ways of thinking, negative attributes and attitudes someone has about himself/herself, and ways in which faulty thinking may perpetuate depression
• Regain a sense of control and pleasure in life
• Learn coping techniques and problem-solving skills
• Learn coping skills such as distraction, relaxation, non-judgment and acceptance and how to apply them in your daily life.

Psychodynamic Therapy for Depression and Anxiety
Psychodynamic therapy because of unresolved, generally unconscious conflicts, often stemming from childhood. The goal of this type of therapy is for the patient to understand and cope better with these feelings by talking about the experiences. Psychodynamic therapy is administered over a period of weeks to months to years.
Solution Focused Therapy for Depression and Anxiety
Interpersonal therapy focuses on the behaviors and interactions a depressed patient has with family, friends, co-workers, and other important people encountered on a day-to-day basis. The primary goal of this therapy is to improve communication skills and increase self-esteem during a short period of time. It usually lasts three to four months and works well for depression caused by loss and grief interpersonal conflicts, major life events, social isolation, or role transitions (such as becoming a mother or a caregiver).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) includes several different approaches to therapy, all of which focus on how thinking affects the way a person feels and acts. The idea of cognitive behavioral therapy is that you can change your way of thinking about a situation, and when you do, you also change the way you feel and act. As a result, you can feel better, and behave differently in response to life stresses, even when the situation stays the same.
While other approaches to therapy rely heavily on analyzing and exploring people’s relationship with the world around them, the focus of CBT is on learning. The therapist functions in many ways similar to a teacher. He or she guides the client through the process of learning how to change his or her way of thinking and then how to act on that learning. Because there is a specific goal and a process for arriving at it, CBT is often more narrowly focused. It also is typically completed in less time than other therapies.
Two examples of different types of CBT are:
• Rational emotive behavior therapy or REBT. REBT focuses on the way emotions affect thinking and actions. It helps the client recognize that the intensity of negative emotions can change the quality of his or her thinking. The result is often overreaction and loss of perspective. The emphasis of therapy then is on learning how to restore emotional balance by thinking more realistically about situations.

• Dialectical behavior therapy or DBT. DBT emphasizes the validity of a person’s behavior and feelings and reassures the individual that those feelings and behaviors are understandable. At the same time, it encourages the individual to understand that the responsibility for changing unhealthy or disruptive behavior is his or her own.

Therapeutic Play Therapy is a well established discipline based upon a number of psychological theories. Research, shows that it is highly effective in many cases. According to PTI, 71% of children referred to play therapy will show positive change.

A safe, confidential and caring environment is created which allows the child to play with as few limits as possible but as many as necessary for safety. This allows healing to occur on many levels. Play and creativity for children operate on impulses from outside our awareness. Play is a natural environment for kids to express their thoughts and feelings.
During play, the therapist may reflect back to the child observations of what has happened during the session. Sessions may last from 45 to 50 min.
During play therapy the therapist may utilize puppets, sand trays, art, role play, storytelling, games, etc.

Art Therapy is a form of play therapy, it is an expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
The creative process involved in expressing one’s self artistically can help people to resolve issues as well as develop and manage their behaviors and feelings, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and awareness.
You don’t need to be talented or an artist to receive the benefits, the therapist can work with you to dive into the underlying messages communicated through your art, which will aid in the healing process.
Therapists are trained to pick up on nonverbal symbols and metaphors that are often expressed through art and the creative process, concepts that are usually difficult to express with words. It is through this process that the individual really begins to see the effects of art therapy and the discoveries that can be made.

Social Skills Programs at ABS

ABS Social Skills

 We are changing the way Social Skills programs are run here at ABS. We will be running the 8 week programs, with three possible levels of classes for each of the two programs, 4 times a year with the next classes running Sept 28-Oct 2 through Nov 16-20. The program includes a one hour screening with Andy (for new clients who have not worked with Andy) and has a total cost of $320 which must be prepaid at first visit. If client/parents have already seen Andy and he knows the proper placement then the cost would be $280 ($35 per class which is typical group therapy insurance reimbursement rate).

We can start scheduling for the screening appointments now (call 801 935-4171 ext 0, or email At the screening appointment, Andy will spend an hour clarifying goals and determining proper placement for the three levels of classes. The three levels of classes are designed to place children with others with whom they can interact well.

Social Skills Groups (by Andy Saalfield)


Social skills programs are intended to provide children and teens the opportunity to learn and practice appropriate social interactions in a safe and structured environment. These programs are designed to teach specific social skills that children and teens can take with them into their everyday lives and which will give them more confidence and success in social settings.

Alternative Behavior Strategies offers two social skills programs, depending on the age of the child. Both of these programs are geared toward children and teens who may have difficulty fostering positive relationships, who struggle with engaging in meaningful conversations with family and peers, or may lack confidence in social situations.

Alternative Behavior Strategies offers two social skills programs, depending on the age of the child. Both of these programs are geared toward children and teens who may have difficulty fostering positive relationships, who struggle with engaging in meaningful conversations with family and peers, or may lack confidence in social situations.

For younger children, 5-8 years of age, ABS utilizes the first eight units of the “Super Heroes” curriculum, each focused on a different social skill that, when used in conjunction with previous units, can help children manage a wide variety of social situations they may encounter. The first five units “Get Ready, “Following Directions,” “Reducing Anxiety,” “Participate,” and “Imitation” focus on a child’s presentation and behaviors. These units are more age and developmentally appropriate for younger children and incorporate a combination of videos, comics, and role playing to teach the lesson in a variety of ways. The final three units revolve around verbal communication skill development, specifically “Expressing Wants and Needs,” “Joint Attention,” and “Turn Taking.” At the end of the 8-week curriculum, it is the goal of the program that children will be able to incorporate lessons from each unit into their everyday communication.

For children and teens 9 years and older, ABS uses the “PEERS” (Program for the Evaluation and Enrichment of Relational Skills). This evidence-based curriculum has been used extensively to assist children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental disorders to learn social skills that are present in every day settings. Designed to incorporate parents in the learning process, PEERS involves homework and in-group activities for each unit that may often require the participation of parents or guardians.

The PEERS program curriculum is tailored for adolescents with a greater social repertoire, but still struggle to foster and maintain healthy relationships. The PEERS full curriculum is 14 units and depending on skills and ages, groups may move through these units at different paces. These units cover conversation basics including two-way conversations and entering and leaving conversations, also the curriculum teaches skills regarding electronic communication, choosing appropriate friends, using humor, social outings, sportsmanship, teasing and bullying, and social rejection.   These units are structured and outlined by the creators of the PEERS program to promote and learn from social interactions within the social group settings that can be used at home, school, or at lunch with friends.

Social skills groups such as these are intended to give children with poor or limited social skills the opportunity to learn new ways of interacting with peers, improve communication within the home and school, and to enhance their every day lives. So, if you child has a hard time talking to peers, making friends, or struggles to maintain relationships, social skills groups may be able to help

Social Skills Group Curriculum

Here’s a brief overview of the curriculum for the two programs.

SuperHeroes Kids age 5-8.

All weeks will included homework and in-group and at-home activities for the participants:

  • Week 1. Getting Ready
  • Week 2. Following Directions
  • Week 3. Reducing Anxiety
  • Week 4. Participation
  • Week 5. Imitation
  • Week 6. Expressing Wants and Needs
  • Week 7. Joint Attention
  • Week 8. Turn Taking

(These titles taken from the SuperHeroes manual)

PEERS   Kids and teens aged 9+

For older participants, the groups will focus more heavily on communication skills.

All weeks will included homework and in-group and at-home activities for the participants:

  • Week 1. Introduction and Trading Information
  • Week 2. Conversational Skills: Two-Way Conversations
  • Week 3. Conversational Skills: Electronic Communication
  • Week 4. Choosing Appropriate Friends
  • Week 5. Appropriate Use of Humor
  • Week 6. Conversational Skills: Entering a Conversation
  • Week 7. Conversational Skills: Exiting a Conversations
  • Week 8. Social Outing and Get-Togethers

(These titles taken from the PEERS manual)