A Day in the Life of BELLS

By: Dr. Danyel Hen, Ed.D., BCBA-D

Step into the lively world of the “Building Early Learner Life Skills” (BELLS) program! Designed for children aged 2-4 with autism, this early multi-disciplinary intervention program integrates the best principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), child development, music therapy, and art therapy to create a structured yet dynamic environment.

Join us as we delve into a typical day in the BELLS program, uncovering the clinical strategies and enriching experiences tailored to nurture and empower these young learners.


Picture this: a typical morning in our BELLS program, where your little one arrives at the center with their backpack and lunchbox. As you enter the center, your child is welcomed with a big smile and open arms into a structured yet nurturing environment filled with learning and friends. As they unpack their things, they’re paired with their own Registered Behavior Technician (RBT), ready to guide them through the day ahead. Your child reviews their own customized picture schedule with the RBT, setting the expectations for the day ahead. Then, they join the other children in the program and get ready for “circle time” – a morning group filled with songs and activities that set the pace for a day packed with engaging learning activities. This time isn’t just about following directions; it’s about building social skills like turn-taking and being part of a group. It’s a warm and inviting start to the day, setting the stage for a wonderful learning experience for your child.

Center Rotations:

Next, children transition to center rotations, where each day of the week brings a new adventure! In these groups, your child experiences activities that make learning feel like play. There’s story time, where their imagination takes flight with colorful tales. They’ll scribble and giggle as they explore pre-writing skills, and dive into sensory bins filled with textures and treasures. Language skills grow with every word shared in interactive chats and storytelling sessions. Movement activities keep them active and happy, while simple science experiments ignite their curiosity. And don’t forget the fun of early math concepts, introduced through games and hands-on play. Each center is carefully crafted to fit their little hands and hearts, making every moment a joyous step forward in their journey of discovery and growth.

Naturalistic Teaching and Discrete Trial Opportunities:

Naturalistic teaching opportunities play a crucial role in a child’s learning and development. Throughout the day, naturalistic teaching opportunities are embedded into play and table time activities. Unlike traditional teaching methods that may feel rigid or forced, naturalistic teaching creates a nurturing environment where learning happens organically through everyday activities and interactions.

The key to capturing the child’s attention and fostering imaginative play is to use preferred items and toys of interest. These beloved toys are more than just playthings; they’re powerful tools that hold the child’s interest and motivate them to engage. By incorporating their favorite items into learning activities, educators and parents can create meaningful connections between play and learning.

For example, if a child loves toy cars, a naturalistic teaching opportunity could involve counting the cars as they race around a track or sorting them by color or size. Through these playful activities, the child not only learns fundamental concepts like counting and sorting, but also develops important social skills such as turn-taking and sharing. Moreover, preferred items and toys of interest provide a gateway to imaginative play, allowing children to explore their creativity and express themselves in a safe and supportive environment. Whether they’re pretending to be a superhero “saving the day” or hosting a tea party for their stuffed animals, imaginative play nurtures cognitive skills, emotional development, and social interactions.

In essence, naturalistic teaching opportunities paired with preferred items and toys of interest create a rich learning environment where children with developmental delays can thrive. By harnessing their natural curiosity and passions, educators and parents can unlock their full potential and pave the way for meaningful progress and growth. RBTs use these moments to encourage communication, social skills, self-regulation, and problem-solving in natural contexts. For example, during playtime, children may practice sharing toys or requesting items, while table time activities may involve structured tasks using discrete trials to reinforce learning objectives. Behavior Analysts continuously create, monitor, and modify individualized goals to target for each client in the program.

Playground and Outdoor Exploration:

Outdoor playtime is an essential part of the program, providing children with sensory experiences, gross motor skill development, and socialization opportunities. The playground is a place for children to explore, interact with peers, and practice skills learned in structured settings in a more relaxed environment.

Mealtime and Social Skills:

Mealtimes are not just about nutrition but also serve as valuable opportunities to work on social skills such as sitting appropriately, using utensils, and engaging in mealtime conversations. Therapists use these moments to reinforce positive behaviors and teach new skills in a natural context.

Art and Music Therapy:

A unique opportunity at Cadenza Center is the integration of art and music therapy for the clients in the BELLS program. Clients are offered both individual and group sessions daily. The programs are generalized using different modalities and strategies with the help of the Art and Music therapists.

Individualized Support:

Every child in the program receives individualized support based on their unique needs and goals. Behavior Analysts, RBTs, and Art and Music therapists collaborate closely to create personalized learning plans and track progress over time. Data is collected during each activity of the day and on an on-going basis to ensure progress. Behavior Analysts are on-site every day to provide supervision and guidance, as well as introduction of new skills and techniques. Each child’s behavior data is reviewed at least weekly to monitor each child’s development, and interventions are adjusted as needed to ensure maximum progress.

Parent Involvement:

Parents are integral partners in the early intervention journey and the BELLS program encourages it! We celebrate your child’s accomplishments with you on a regular basis. In addition to weekly parent training sessions with the analysts and home-based activities to reinforce skills learned in the program, each child’s clinical team communicates using a WhatsApp chat. Throughout the week, parents frequently get photos and short videos of their child engaged in activities or smiling with others. We share upcoming events and reminders of things needed for the next day (e.g., extra change of clothing). It is also the place for parents to update staff on challenges or changes that occurred overnight, such as difficulty sleeping or not eating breakfast before arrival.


At the end of the day, your child runs to greet you in the lobby, often holding the day’s latest artistic “creation.” Staff update you on highlights and accomplishments from the day. Any challenging moments and how they were successfully addressed are briefly described, so that you can use the same strategies at home. After a few hugs and a goodbye, you are on your way home.

Ultimately, this program offers a structured yet flexible environment where learning is embedded in everyday activities. Through a combination of ABA techniques, small and group activities, discrete trial teaching, naturalistic teaching, outdoor exploration, and individualized support, children in the BELLS programs receive comprehensive support to reach their full potential, thrive in their developmental journey, and develop their school readiness skills!

Participation in the BELLS program is currently limited to 12 children. Potential enrollment in the BELLS program requires an intake appointment with a psychologist and behavior analyst to discuss your child’s needs. Enrollment requires an evaluation by one of our psychologists and the development of an initial ABA treatment plan with an approved authorization from your health insurance company. Our helpful staff are available to assist you every step of the way. We are here to help!


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