Q: Can I do spark* or spark*EL at the same time as other programs, like ABA or OT?

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A: spark* and spark*EL work on foundation skills for learning. By helping children develop self-regulation, you’re making it easier for them to translate their ideas and thoughts into action. You’re also helping them balance their wants and desires with responsibilities.

Better body, cognitive and emotional self-regulation will make it easier for children to benefit from teaching of most other therapies, and in classrooms. They’ll be better prepared for learning with a calmer, more alert brain and body. Your occupational therapist, speech-language therapist, psychologist, etc. will thank you.

spark* and spark*EL can also be done within regular classroom programs. Intersperse each day with short periods where spark* and spark*EL activities are introduced and practiced.

We’ve found that spark* and spark*EL can be incompatible with strict behavioral (ABA) practices if the ABA program:

  • Focuses only on the student’s behavior or performance at a task.
  • Expects the student’s behavior or performance to consistently improve with the use of reinforcement and rewards.
  • Provides motivation solely through external rewards.

We focus on children’s thinking and how they take in and process information, not just external behavior. We also work collaboratively with children to figure out what affects their learning. Then we help them learn to regulate their bodies, thinking and emotions.

Children are given more control over their own behavior and thinking with less adult input and direction.

A major focus within spark* and spark*EL is on building intrinsic motivation, rather than having children expect external rewards. Intrinsic motivation is the desire to do something for personal satisfaction, fun, or challenge, not for rewards or fear of punishment. It can be counterproductive when children are more concerned about what they’ll earn when they finish a task than about the task itself. In life, we can’t expect to receive rewards for everything we do. When children feel competent and challenged, they’re more likely to be intrinsically motivated and enjoy achievement in its own right. That’s what we do in spark* and spark*EL.