Getting Started

The first step to obtaining services at Gold Coast Children’s Center is to schedule an intake. This gives parents and their child the opportunity to meet with the directors.  The intake includes parent interview to discuss concerns and identify goals, as well as observation and interaction with the child.  At the conclusion of the intake, recommendations about next steps for services that will best help each child and family are provided.  All services provided at Gold Coast Children’s Center involve hands-on guidance using instruction, modeling, practice and feedback.  This approach allows for additional practice opportunities outside of sessions, across home and community settings.

Parent/caregiver training

Our BCBAs and instructors work hands on with parents to teach their children skills and manage challenging behavior. Our model includes the use of instruction and modeling to show parents how to implement teaching procedures.  Parents are then given the opportunity to immediately practice and receive guidance and feedback.  This promotes successful implementation of teaching procedures at home following sessions, allowing for ongoing practice of skills. Our unique office setting (which simulates a home environment) and our location in the community provide opportunities to program for generalization.

Development and supervision of early intensive behavioral intervention for autism

Many peer-reviewed research studies have shown early, intensive behavioral intervention is effective for treatment of autism.  This involves starting a quality ABA program at a young age (as soon as possible following diagnosis) for many hours each week.  The Surgeon General of the United States, The National Institutes of Health, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have endorsed ABA for autism treatment.

In an ABA treatment program, skills a child needs to learn are broken down into small steps and are systematically taught using repeated practice and reinforcement.  As the child demonstrates mastery of initial skills, more complex skills are addressed and reinforcement systems are faded to more natural schedules.  There is an emphasis on programming for generalization from the start of treatment, to promote use of skills in “real life” situations.  Data collection is used to monitor progress throughout the program.

ABA treatment programs are individualized to each child, based on skills he/she needs to learn.  Some of these skills may include:

  • attending such as making eye contact
  • language/communication such as requesting snacks or toys, following directions, and answering questions
  • social interactions such as showing things to other people, making comments during play, and responding to emotions of others
  • play such as completing a puzzle independently or playing a game with a peer
  • daily living activities such as toileting, eating, sleeping, dressing, washing hands, and brushing teeth
  • community inclusion such as eating in a restaurant, walking with adults, making a purchase in a store, or attending an event (e.g., birthday party, religious ceremony)



Social skills instruction

When children are able to demonstrate pre-requisite skills (including attending and following directions), sessions to specifically provide social skills img_5409
practice may be beneficial. Skills are initially taught in a 1:1 setting; peers or siblings may be incorporated systematically
(i.e., dyads or small groups). All instruction is individualized, and any groups are formed by matching children with similar skills to ensure appropriate practice opportunities for each participant.

Some skills addressed within social skills instruction may include initiating and maintaining conversations, joining in and sustaining play activities, following play directions, identifying and responding to emotions of others, taking turns, expressing frustration appropriately, and following rules.

Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and development of behavior management plans


Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) is a process used to assess an individual’s challenging behavior.  Challenging behavior includes anything that interferes with an individual’s successful participation in home or community or impacts social interactions.  Some examples of challenging behavior include crying or tantrums, aggression such as hitting, property destruction such as throwing objects, or self-injurious behavior such as head banging.

Specific information about the challenging behavior is gathered through parent/teacher interview and direct observation.  Behavior Analysts then use functional analysis to test conditions to determine the situations in which the behavior is likely to occur (i.e., why the problem behavior happens).  This information is used to develop an individualized behavior management plan that includes proactive strategies, procedures specifying what to do when the challenging behavior occurs, and ways to teach appropriate alternative replacement behavior.  This process facilitates efficient and effective interventions to reduce problem behavior.  Parents are trained to implement the behavior management plan, and an objective measurement system is used to monitor ongoing progress.

Skills assessment

Specific assessments are available to provide detailed evaluation of skills (including social, communication, and daily living domains).  These assessments include the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP), the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills (ABLLS), and the Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS).