ABA does not cure autism, but it can be an integral part of your child’s life (and your family’s life) by teaching them valuable life skills and reducing problematic behaviors. When your child is making progress in their ABA sessions, be sure to take advantage of the time spent with your child’s BCBA and other professionals involved in your child’s treatment plan (SLP, OT, school teachers). Services often change due to health insurance, company policies, government policies, changes to employment, changes to family dynamic, your child’s progress or lack of progress, and so on, so it’s not always a sure thing. Make the time to schedule parent sessions when you have the chance.
What do your parent sessions look like? Do you get a snapshot of your child’s progress? Progress is great and definitely something to be proud of, but what about long-term? Parents are able to learn ABA too. Your child’s programs are individualized, meaning they are designed based on the way your child learns and responds to instruction. Knowing how your child learns best will allow you to assist (when needed) outside of therapy and anytime in the future.
Generalization means that what you learned can be applied to different settings. For example, when your child learned to request using 3+ words (Can I have juice?) at school, they are also using 3+ words with you at home, and ideally, everywhere else. Generalization may come easily or may be challenging for a child. For example, the same child may refuse to speak at home. Parent training is a great opportunity to see and address these issues.
May be covered by your insurance.
Coverage for ABA has come a long way (and we’re still advocating for it). Your insurance may authorize a number of parent sessions per month, especially if requested by the BCBA in your child’s treatment plan. Make arrangements to have a set schedule like once a month or every other month. Coordinating schedules can be a nightmare, so be specific on days and times that work best, such as the second Tuesday of each month at 4pm.
Get insight from your BCBA as they become familiar with your child’s quirks, triggers, and learning style. These are opportunities to learn, observe, and implement with live feedback from people you trust. For example, I worked with a child who love, love, LOVED to doodle. It’s a great quality because we used it as reinforcement (first clean up your toys, then we can draw), but can also be a huge distractor when learning (corners of math homework, scrap paper). Drawing was also a behavior to escape (functions of behavior) homework. During my sessions, I used an activity schedule to wedge in opportunities to doodle between homework and used prompts to redirect to limit access to doodling. This was modeled to parents, and through our parent sessions, parent were able to pick up the same pace and keep the same routine after school.
Learn the tools.
I’ve mentioned that your child has a learning style. This could mean they respond well to first/then statements, or an activity schedule, or offering choices. If your child is a visual learner, you can help your child by learning to create visuals. In the previous example, I was able to hand-write a list of things we were going to tackle that afternoon and add in 5 minute breaks to doodle. For this parent, I taught the parent what a handwritten schedule looked like. With a different client, I may use picture icons from Boardmaker to teach a student how to wash their hands. In that situation, I taught the parent how to use Boardmaker or search for pre-made visuals. Other tools I haven’t mentioned could be a timer, learning to take your own pictures, video modeling, or using Microsoft Word to resize photos, create self-monitoring tables or graphs, and token boards. The list goes on, so definitely be in the loop when it comes to your child’s programs.
Early intervention is expensive, but, in my opinion, it’s worth it (especially when it is covered by insurance). Eventually, 1:1 services are faded, and your child will need you to maintain skills that have been taught and provide additional support when needed. For example, instead of teaching to wash their hands, you may need to teach how to shave or prepare a meal. Perhaps your child is struggling with their homework, and you offer assistance and timed breaks. Those simple ABA strategies you’ve learned in the past carry over to new situations. As I mentioned above, parents are able to learn ABA, too, so instead of enlisting help, you’ll know how your child learns best, which will allow you to apply the same concepts to different situations later on down the road.
They’ll prepare you for transitions. Through your child’s journey with private services, schools, and relationships (both adults and peers), you’ll know which environments your child will thrive in. When your child is old enough to hold a job or live on their own (it’s hard to think about, right?!), your child’s team will connect you with services (if needed) so your child can succeed.
Need suggestions for parent training? Download my ultimate checklist in the Library!