So, your child has been prescribed ABA therapy. What next?
ABA therapy is a commitment. ABA can also be a sacrifice of your time and resources and your ideas about your parental interactions with your child. To make that commitment and sacrifice, you need to understand your role as an ABA parent and what you should expect from the process and yourself.
Rights of the ABA parent
You have the right to have your program designed and overseen by a qualified professional.
Typically, the professional overseeing the behavior change program will have earned a certificate that identifies them as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). You will not see your BCBA as much as you see your direct therapists, but the BCBA should be accessible and actively involved in the care of your child.
You have the right to an individually designed program with meaningful and precise goals.
One of the hallmarks of ABA therapy that sets it apart from other treatments is that each client is treated for their specific needs based on an extensive assessment to identify the behavior changes that need to be made. The individualized program created for your child will contain goals that will make a positive impact on your child and your family and they should be goals that you agree are meaningful.
You have the right to have programming that includes consistent measurement to track progress and you will have regular access to understanding that progress.
Data should be collected each and every time your child is in a session. That data will be used by the behavior analyst to track progress and make changes to the program, if needed. This data will be available for review by the parents at regular intervals, so that you can be aware of progress and make requests for program changes.
You have the right to be presented with extensive parent training.
You should expect to be highly involved in the therapy programming of your child. Through observation, one-on-one practice, and other guidance, your care professionals will help you learn the techniques and tools you need to maximize the learning opportunities for your child.
You have the right to ask questions and clearly understand the goals, process, and progress of your child’s program.
ABA is a practice that is full of jargon and terms that don’t necessarily make sense at first glance. Your care professionals should be able to explain the choices they have made and the way they plan to go about those choices in a way that makes sense to you.
Responsibilities of the ABA parent
You are responsible to ensure that your child receives the recommended dose of ABA.
ABA professionals will make a recommendation based on your child’s needs and goals as to what level of ABA treatment will most effectively meet these goals. It is your responsibility to ensure that your child receives all of the treatment hours prescribed, just as you would ensure that your child receives all of a medicine that is prescribed.
You are responsible to participate in parent training and implement the things you learn at home with consistency.
Consistency is key in effective ABA therapy. Your role in the therapy process is to learn as much as you can about what makes the optimum learning environment for your child and continuing that at home.
You are responsible to collect data and implement protocols at home.
Helping your care professionals to make qualified and informed decisions is a team effort. You are responsible to collect data for your team when asked and implement protocols at home that are effective.
You are responsible to work collaboratively with your ABA team members.
Trusting others to direct the care of your child can be very vulnerable. There may be times when you feel like things are not going the way you wanted or expected. This is the best time to talk to your care provider and allow their expertise to help guide you. Sometimes their professional guidance may not be what you expected, but it is best if you can listen with an open mind to their suggestions and work together to find a solution that meets your goals.
You have a responsibility to be proactive and patient.
It is important to be open with your therapy team when you feel that something isn’t working or needs to change, but it is just as important to be patient. Your child is an individual with thoughts, feelings, strengths, weaknesses, and wants that cannot be overlooked or underestimated. ABA is a science with methods to follow, but therapy should not be applied without individual consideration.
Getting to know your child, understanding their needs, and analyzing those needs to implement behavior change takes time and requires patience.