Blog (more at: ABAinUtah )

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.”


“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!

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

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:


by 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. 


Autistic Spectrum Disorders and Sleep (by Natalie Roth, Ph.D.)  

(This is a brief excerpt from an extensive, 4 page article on our blog).

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.



Alternative Behavior Strategies, Inc. has recently expanded into Southern California. It has taken some time to get established but, we are happy to report, that treatment options are alive and well. Many families have been waiting for us to vendor with Inland Regional Center and San Diego Regional Center. We are happy to announce that this is finally complete and services are available. (Other major insurances are also accepted). Please fill out the interest form on our Service Page. 

 Find us on google maps

Our main office, in Rancho Cucamonga, is easy to locate and access. However, all services- from the Intake Assessment to ABA Treatment are available in home and community settings.


My child’s speech & language skills… are they delayed? by Michelle Turkoglu, Speech Therapist at ABS

A colleague of mine mentioned that when he meets his friends’ children or sees children out and about, their speech and language skills seem to differ greatly. The children are all around the same age and don’t appear to have any developmental delays such as Autism, syndromes or other disorders, so why is their language so different?

The easy answer is that there is a wide range of what is considered “normal” for speech, language, and communication development. And while that’s true, it doesn’t help parents, caregivers, teachers or anyone who works with children a good idea if the child needs therapy support or not.

Pediatricians, teachers, speech-therapists and the internet can all provide you with charts, graphs and lists of what is considered typical. While some of this information is accurate, you’ll find that the information can vary from one source to another. It also seems like people are hearing blanketed or general statements that don’t really give enough information. For example, some lists would state that the following milestones should occur between 1-2 years of age:

Understands “no” Uses 10 to 20 words, including names Combines two words Waves good-bye Makes the “sounds” of familiar animals Gives a toy when asked Brings object from another room when asked Uses words to make wants known Points to body parts such as eyes, nose, mouth

There is nothing wrong with this information. All these milestones should in fact occur around age 1 and before or right around 2 years. But if an 11-month-old child can do all these things proficiently and a 23-month-old child is just learning these skills, should both be considered “typical”? If we simply based our evaluation off of the “list” we could come to a few conclusions:


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.


Medication for Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (by Dr. Natalie Roth)

Possibly one of the more challenging decisions for parents with children that have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder is whether or not medication is an appropriate addition to a treatment plan.  In my experience, most parents feel a profound sense of responsibility in making this choice for their child.  They often express concern about their child’s comfort and safety, and I regularly hear parents talk protectively about wanting to maintain their child’s unique personality, even if his/her behaviors can sometimes be problematic.  At the same time, parents want to maximize their child’s ability to make use of and develop the skills they have so that they are able to function as independently as possible at school, at home, and in their community.  Navigating this decision often requires parents to carefully balance the potential benefits of medication use against the potential drawbacks.  This weighing of options is not always easy as neither the benefits nor the drawbacks are always immediately apparent.  As I’ve talked with parents who have been through this process these are a few points that I’ve found to be helpful:


Alternative Behavior Strategies is glad to announce that Dr Natalie Roth has joined our team here at ABS.

Dr. Natalie Roth is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist specializing in developmental issues, and particularly in children with neurodevelopment delays. Dr. Roth grew up in Utah and attended the University of Utah before moving to Los Angeles for graduate school. She graduated from the APA approved psychology program at Fuller Theological Seminary following practicum experience at the University of Southern California and an internship at St. John’s Child Development Center in Santa Monica, California. She and her husband returned to the gorgeous mountains and wonderful lifestyle of Salt Lake City in 2002.


Alternative Behavior Strategies‘ (ABS) mission is to provide the most effective treatment possible for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. To achieve this, we respond to the goals set forth by the parents, as well as the treatment team, and then tailor a program to help the child attain these goals. We strive to provide the most effective treatment by using a variety of methods empirically proven to be effective through clinical research, offering Behavior Alternatives to Open New Opportunities.


Alternative Behavior Strategies, Inc. has been in operation for several years with great success and is expanding services into the state of California.  ABS has created features that have set standards above and beyond traditional requirements. Such features have opened access to clients in other regions, reaching beyond urban areas in Salt Lake and Utah Counties, and into rural areas of Utah and California:


Our spring retreat, at the picturesque Diamond Ridge Retreat Center, was great in spite of wintery weather. Breakfast there, at 7600 ft, was delicious!

20 Mile March

Joe used illustrations regarding dealing with ‘bad weather’ from Jim Collins’ discussion, in his book Great by Choice, of the 20 Mile March (summary at link by Jon Karpman) to encourage us to pace ourselves as we push on in spite of difficulties.

“Throughout the journey, Amundsen adhered to a regimen of consistent progress, never going too far in good weather, careful to stay away from the red line of exhaustion that could leave his team exposed, yet pressing ahead in nasty weather to stay on pace.  Amundsen throttled back his well-tuned team to travel between 15 and 20 miles per day, in a relentless march to 90 degrees south.  When a member of Amundsen’s team suggested they could go faster, up to 25 miles a day, Amundsen said no.  They needed to rest and sleep so as to continually replenish their energy.  In contrast, Scott would sometimes drive his team to exhaustion on good days and then sit in his tent and complain about the weather on bad days.  At one point Scott faced 6 days of gale force winds and traveled on none, whereas Amundsen faced 15 and traveled on 8.  Amundsen clocked in at the South Pole right on his pre-decided pace, having averaged 15.5 miles per day.  Scott in contrast fell behind early, with no plan of a daily pace, and as the conditions worsened, enhanced by his lack of preparation for unforeseen events, he and his team never recovered.”