First, take a deep breath. Everything is going to be fine. Better than fine, because with ABA therapy, you and your child are both getting the good help you need. Here’s what to expect, both from your child and as an ABA parent.
Who are the key players in the ABA therapy process?
Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)
Your Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is a certified, qualified healthcare professional with at least a master’s level of education who is trained to prescribe, provide, and supervise behavior analysis.
Your BCBA is responsible for assessing your child and developing treatment plans and protocols to be implemented as part of a treatment package. You will spend most of your time getting to know your BCBA in the beginning of treatment, but you will likely spend less time interacting with the BCBA than you will with your therapists.
Though you will not always have daily access to your BCBA, you should expect this individual to observe sessions periodically in your ABA program and to be present at quarterly meetings to update you on your child’s progress. The BCBA also works daily to oversee data, program notes, and graphs to make immediate changes to your child’s program, as needed.
The BCBA also works with insurance to ensure that the prescribed number of hours are approved by and that the treatment package meets the requirements set forth by insurance companies.
You will have one or more therapists assigned to your child’s case throughout the duration of treatment and these professionals may rotate or change periodically as needed by the programming needs of your child. These individuals will be responsible for delivering the programs and therapy designed by the BCBA.
These are the people you will see most often during your child’s treatment; they are the heart of treatment program. Therapists may have certifications, such RBT or BCaBA, but they are not qualified to make decisions about programming or to make changes to your child’s treatment. Direct therapists will be trained and overseen by the BCBA to ensure that programs are progressing as needed.
What are the components of effective ABA?
Trained delivery of programming: Any participant in your child’s care should be fully trained, both in the principles of ABA and in the specifics of the programs that will be delivered to your child.
Supervision of program progress: A qualified healthcare professional with the credential of BCBA should oversee and direct all programming related to your child’s ABA care. There is a minimum standard of oversight, which means face to face interaction with your child, that should be provided by this professional.
Predictable parent direction from professionals: A parent training component should be regularly and predictably present throughout your child’s ABA therapy. Parent training should be ongoing, should be more than just discussion of current progress, and should provide you with understanding about behavior generally and how to apply it to your child specifically.
What is the role of the parent in ABA therapy?
The more you participate in learning about ABA and the techniques that work best to help your child, the greater the gains. The parent has the benefit of being present most often with the child, so they can provide insightful knowledge that helps to guide the therapist.
Many of the same techniques that are effective for typically developing children will also work with individuals with autism and all children diagnosed with ASD. However, the parents/caregivers of children with ASD have a greater role and responsibility in crafting the best environment that meets the adaptive needs of their child. Learning ABA techniques along with the child allows the parent to easily apply effective techniques to a wide variety of interactions with their child and will lead to overall greater gains.
Just being present isn’t enough. Participation is active work that includes following protocols and putting plans in place when the therapists aren’t there. It’s like hiring a fitness trainer. The trainer can write an exercise plan and a food plan, but reading it and studying it or watching the trainer do it will not help you lose weight. You have to do the hard work yourself.