Acorn Health - ABA Autism Therapy and Treatment Services

Acorn Health combines ABA best practices with pioneering next practices

ABA is the gold standard of autism treatment

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) methods are data-driven and have been studied for decades. ABA is endorsed by the US Surgeon General, the American Psychological Association, Autism Speaks, and dozens of other leading research, medical, and advocacy organizations.

Our Services

What ABA does for your child

While it’s a disciplined and well-researched system, ABA is not one-size-fits-all. Treatment is tailored to the individual child, family, and agreed-upon goals.

ABA looks for functional relationships between a child’s behaviors and his or her environment. The goal is to increase desirable behaviors that lead to quality of life, and reduce behaviors that interfere with your child’s ability to communicate and learn.

Treatment is organized around positive reinforcement

We all repeat behavior that produces a reward we value. This very simple, human inclination is central to ABA therapy.

Your child’s Acorn Board-Certified therapist identifies a goal behavior for your child. When your child displays the behavior we want to see, he or she receives something personally meaningful (and you’ll help us identify ideas).

We’ll also learn what precedes challenging behaviors

We call them “antecedents.” They’re things that happen immediately before the behavior we’re trying to change. An antecedent can be a request, like “clean up your room”; a feeling or reaction; a specific object; bright lights or a noisy crowd.

ABA therapy looks for these antecedents and finds alternatives that influence your child’s reaction.

We all respond to consequences. So they’re part of ABA to help promote positive behavioral change.

A consequence is what comes directly after a child’s specific behavior and it can be as simple as a lack of a reward, or no reaction if the behavior is inappropriate.


Our Board Certified Behavior Analysts conducts skills assessments to understand your child’s specific needs: his or her language development, practical life skills, ability to generalize learning, and more. We also conduct functional behavior assessments and analyses for children with challenging behaviors.

Custom Therapy Plan

With all this data, we draft a custom therapy plan and share our clinical recommendations with parents and caregivers. Therapy plans are developed only after we understand your family’s goals and preferences. We also openly collaborate with your child’s school and other therapists (for example, speech language pathologists or occupational therapists). Consistency and a team approach lead to optimal outcomes.

Skill Building

Acorn Health focuses first on the child’s activities of daily living. We begin with improving communication and social skills. Then, we address activities like mealtime challenges, and intensive toilet training. Where appropriate, we also develop vocational skills.

Family education and training is an integral part of each therapy plan. Consistency helps children acquire skills, then maintain and generalize the learning for new situations.

Behavior Reduction

Children with challenging behaviors benefit from function-based behavior reduction plans. These plans often include eliminating triggers and providing opportunities for the child to demonstrate the replacement behavior.

We have protocols for managing these behaviors and functional alternatives (e.g., asking for a break rather than engaging in problem behavior to achieve that break). Here, too, collaboration matters. Consistency at home, school, and other environments creates lasting progress.

Board-certified ABA services

At Acorn Health, your child will be treated by a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst with training and experience in ABA.

The Certification Board approves ABA therapists with graduate-level education.

You know you have a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst with a master’s degree and appropriate training when you see “BCBA” after his or her name.

How Acorn Health measures progress: our Behavioral Health Index

Download the Behavioral Health Index

Another New ABA Standard

With the consistent, evidence-based intervention of ABA, a child’s behavior, language and social interactions are all likely to improve. Acorn Health uses this “Behavioral Health Index” to track progress over time.

We developed it with the head of our Clinical Advisory Board, Gregory P. Hanley, Ph.D., director of the Behavior Analysis Doctoral Program at Western New England University and an adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Download the Behavioral Health Index

The Acorn Approach

The Acorn Approach: best-in-class standards for ourselves and anyone who practices ABA

To establish best-in-class standards for ourselves and anyone who practices ABA, we studied the research and underlying evidence; spoke with leading researchers and clinicians to understand what quality care should look like. With a Clinical Advisory Board of leaders in the field, we also established Acorn Health’s five foundational pillars and a bedrock principle: accountability.


We’re in this together

Acorn Health’s staff have standard-setting ABA expertise, but you are the expert for your child. We are here to support you and collaborate with you.

    What to expect
  • Every therapy plan includes practical goals for families, which each family helps us set
  • While lines of communication are always open, twice a year we formally ask families and caregivers about their satisfaction with family training, staff communication, and collaboration


Your child is one of a kind

Children on the autism spectrum are individuals with their own needs, behaviors, and skills. Treatment is tailored to the individual child and family.

    What to expect
  • Assessments are done at intake and every 6 months, measuring your child’s language development, practical life skills, and ability to generalize learning
  • We identify specific behaviors that interfere with educational progress
  • From there, we design a function-appropriate, developmentally-appropriate therapy program for each child


We are accountable

While we’re driven by family satisfaction, Acorn Health has assembled a Clinical Advisory Board of leaders in the field. We’re accountable to the highest professional standards.

    What to expect
  • Acorn Health’s Clinical Advisory Board helps us be a transformative leader in autism therapy, providing inspiration, oversight, and expertise
  • Your child’s treatment plan receives input and oversight from a team of experts, never just your one, consistent therapist


What matters is progress

A high-quality ABA treatment program is nimble, evolving with clinical best practices, updates to the science and applied practice and, most importantly, your child’s success.

    What to expect
  • We evaluate parental stress levels at regular intervals to understand the effects of our work on you
  • For your child, expect regular evaluation of life skills like dressing, safety, making friends, and his or her freedom from challenging behaviors
  • We also ask about your confidence level in recommending Acorn Health to others, a proxy for gauging satisfaction
  • Acorn Health’s “Behavioral Health Index” tracks a child’s progress over time. Download It


We create lasting change

Effective ABA treatment teaches to and ensures meaningful, lasting skill acquisition and behavior reduction gains across settings, environments, stimuli, and people.

    What to expect
  • We monitor the child’s behavior change among family and caregivers, and across settings: home, school, community, Acorn Health clinic
  • Therapy plan sets clear, individual criteria for transition and discharge from ABA services

    Frequently asked questions

    • What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

      Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder associated with persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. These impairments vary in severity with each individual. Some children may rarely use words to communicate, while others may hold extensive conversations and use rich language. Some children may not like to be hugged or touched, while others seek out and enjoy physical touch. ASD is diagnosed four times more often in males than females.
    • Is there a cure for Autism Spectrum Disorder?

      Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is usually noticed in the first few years of a child’s life and lasts throughout a lifetime. While there is no definitive cure for ASD, there are educational, behavioral, and therapeutic interventions and strategies for families and instructors to teach motor, cognitive, and social skills. These plans and programs are highly individualized, as the needs of each child diagnosed with ASD are different. Treatment plans frequently include a cooperative team of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), speech and language, occupational, and physical therapists. In general, the earlier a child diagnosed with ASD receives services, the better these interventions will work to enhance a child’s development and help to reduce challenging behaviors.
    • What is the prognosis for someone diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder?

      Each individual diagnosed with ASD is different, but all have strengths that can be capitalized on for skill building. While some individuals diagnosed with ASD will have a job and even graduate from college, others will need intensive lifetime care. Services for adult individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and their families, while not as widely available as they need to be, are growing in number. They include social coaching, job training, and accommodated living arrangements in regular communities.
    • What causes Autism Spectrum Disorder?

      Though Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) research has come a long way in the past decade, the exact causes are not known in most cases. Only about 10-15% of cases have an identified primary genetic cause. (For example, we know that about one third of people with Fragile X syndrome are also diagnosed with ASD.) For the other 85-90% of cases, the precise cause is still unknown. Research suggests, however, that genetics are strongly involved. Sometimes ASD runs in families and there appears to be a significant genetic connection. In other cases, there is no family history or only subtle examples of ASD-like symptoms in a relative. Even in these cases, there is probably a strong genetic component, but the types of genetic influences likely differ. Researchers believe that there are multiple and different risk genes that combine in various ways to lead to an ASD diagnosis in any individual. Many of the risk genes seem to have only a small influence, and they require a specific combination of risk factors to cause ASD. In most cases, though, it is apparent that genes cannot be the whole story — genes are likely combining with other non-genetic (also known as environmental) sources of influence to lead to an ASD diagnosis.
    • How is Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosed?

      It is important to remember that children develop at different rates. However, because Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is diagnosed based on severity, meaning that difficulties vary in severity with each individual, sometimes it may be difficult to diagnose. ASD can only be formally diagnosed by a trained clinician after conducting formal diagnostic tests. The clinician may be a developmental pediatrician, psychiatrist, neuropsychologist, or other trained and experienced professional. Tools created for the purpose of diagnosing ASD rely on observing the individual with a suspected diagnosis of ASD in structured and/or unstructured settings and asking questions of caregivers on the individual’s history and behavior. A clinician may also suggest a neurological evaluation or genetic, metabolic, and electrophysiological testing. There is no definitive medical test for a diagnosis. Instead, a medical diagnosis of ASD will be based on whether the individual meets the criteria set forth in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
    • How do I know if my child has Autism Spectrum Disorder?

      Although Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) presents as a range of severity of symptoms, there are two major categories of signs. The first set relates to deficits in social communication and social interaction. Individuals diagnosed with ASD have difficulty interacting with other people and often are uninterested in or have difficulty with common childhood social interactions (for example, cuddling or playing interactive games). Some individuals diagnosed with ASD use only a few words and have trouble learning more words. Others have incredible vocabularies but have a very literal interpretation of language and great difficulty maintaining conversation. The second set of symptoms includes restrictive, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. Children may insist on certain routines or patterns in everyday life or want to play with toys in atypical ways (for example, spinning the wheels of a toy car rather than “driving” it). Individuals diagnosed with ASD often have a great desire for predictability and consistency in their daily routines or the organization of their possessions. Some individuals diagnosed with ASD may flap their hands or rock back and forth. These diagnostic symptoms must be present in the early developmental period and must cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.


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