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Dordt Opens Center for Applied Behavior Analysis

Dordt Opens Center for Applied Behavior Analysis

The Thrive Center for Applied Behavior Analysis is the newest affiliated academic center to open at Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa. A teaching and a clinical center, the Thrive Center will assist families and children with autism, offering ABA to children 2-6 years old and social skill groups for older children. Dordt announced its launch Jan. 11.

Kathleen VanTol, associate professor of education at Dordt is the center’s faculty director and will coordinate student placement and experiences. VanTol and Sarah Hawley, the center's clinical director, are board-certified behavior analysts.

VanTol said the approach involves identifying “barriers to learning and modifies the environment to increase learning opportunities. It is individualized to each client’s strengths, needs, and goals.”

Both women saw a need for these types of therapy in Sioux Center. Families who needed these types of services would have to travel out of town to get them and often had to wait for availability, VanTol said.

“We know the potential this therapy has to help children reach their goals, and we struggled with seeing families lose out on the benefits of early intervention due to long wait lists,” VanTol said. She noted that while applied behavior analysis is best known for its applications in the area of autism, “it is also a recognized strategy that applies widely to the instruction and support of students with varying abilities in our schools and community homes.”

Stepping Stones preschool, also run by Dordt University, just off campus, is now also the home for the Thrive Center. Both are associated with Dordt’s education department.

“Some early childhood classes are offered on site at Stepping Stones, which provides our students opportunities to immediately see application of course concepts. Currently, students who are studying special education are also able to participate in practicum experiences at the Thrive Center,” VanTol said. “We are excited to invite students to the center for observations, field experience and practicum placements, and employment opportunities. We hope that students who are learning about these concepts in their classes can then see them implemented in the center.”

Dordt said startup costs for the Thrive Center were in part covered by the gift of a donor, and it will continue to run by accepting insurance reimbursement for therapy and receiving grants, donations, and private payments.

“Our hope is that Thrive can grow into a center that provides a variety of services in our community while giving Dordt University students from a variety of fields a great place to learn,” VanTol said.

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