As a parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum, you have many roles to fill including the caretaker, the educator, the advocate, and more. While some days may feel overwhelming, your role in ABA Therapy is welcomed, supported, encouraged, and celebrated by your clinical team.
Why is your participation in your child’s ABA program essential? For your child to learn the most possible within their ABA Program, they need you to be by their side supporting their learning outside of therapy time. In addition, for therapists to be most successful in their role, they need you on their side to help them learn about your child and tailor the therapy program specifically to them. Parents and caregivers play a unique role in the ABA Therapy Program because you know your child the best.
By working with your child’s ABA therapists, you will learn from each other to co-create and fine-tune their individualized therapy plan. Your ABA therapists bring clinical knowledge and you bring the knowledge of your child. By working together, you and your ABA team provide your child with a supportive team who can share the same goal: The child’s success!
The first thing to mention is that the benefits of ABA therapy are substantial. Many experts regard ABA as the “gold standard” treatment for anyone with an ASD diagnosis. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy that can improve social, communication, and learning skills.
ABA is tailored to individual needs and designed for one-on-one sessions to assist learners in developing necessary skills.
With the benefits of ABA Therapy evident, many still wonder about its overall effectiveness as well as the end goal. These are valid questions worth of discussion. Our team at Empower Therapy is responsible for the child’s success as well as for clearing your doubts at this initial stage.
This article will provide an overview of the effectiveness of an ABA program including the success of caregivers through consistent parent training and how this recipe is imperative for the child’s success.
To properly understand the effectiveness of ABA Therapy, it’s essential to take a look at the success rate on a clinical level. According to the study of the Surgeon General’s Autism treatment report, ABA accounts for 45% of therapies that develop long-lasting and measurable results for individuals with ASD.
In fact, as per the 2022 report, ABA Therapy has a 90% success rate. As one might presume, the success rate and the observable results depend on the individual’s response to therapy as well as the participation of the learner’s caregivers and support team.
There are many ABA techniques that play a role in understanding and changing behaviors. The flexibility and personalization of these techniques allows for ABA to:
Positive Reinforcement: This is one of the main ABA techniques for increasing desired behaviors. When an action is followed by something valuable, like a reward or other positive outcome, a person is more likely to repeat that action. These incentives—such as compliments, a book or toy, watching a video, playing a favorite activity, and others—are significant and motivating to the recipient. The concept includes creating an environment where a learner’s actions are immediately followed by an outcome that is favorable to them. Typically these are programmed and structured reward systems at first, such as earning a candy when you finish a matching game. Then the favorable outcomes are transitioned to more naturally occurring positive outcomes such as being able to play with friends on the playground after your homework is finished. For all people, the more often a favorable outcome occurs after a specific action, the more likely you are to keep doing that action. As this continues, the result is typically a significant behavioral change for the learner.
Naturally & Planned Occurring Behaviors: Individuals have the opportunity to learn and practice a wide range of skills each day. Many of these are positioned in both structured and natural learning environments. For instance, someone learning how to greet others might do it in a scheduled classroom environment with a teacher and other kids or in a more casual setting on the playground at recess.
Discrete Trial Training: This technique utilizes the ABC method, which is a common theme throughout all of ABA: Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence. The therapist gives an instruction or asks a question, the learner has an opportunity to answer, and the therapist provides feedback of the answer being correct or incorrect. This practice continues with the therapist also using cues or hints to help the learner get the right answer and then receive the reward or favorable outcome (e.g. a sticker for identifying the blue truck as “blue”). This technique gives learners a chance to practice a skill in a structured and distraction-free environment. The skills are practiced with repetition and consistent feedback from the therapist. This strategy helps learners who need more practice on a specific skill thrive especially with complex skills like language concepts.
Let’s move on to how to be more involved in your child’s ABA therapy program and parent training as a component of the ABA therapy program.
While certified therapists are dedicated to your child’s program, why is parent involvement crucial? It is because you are your child’s best advocate, as no one knows your child the way you do. This is why you play a crucial role in your child’s ABA Therapy. As a parent, you know your child’s environment very well, and you can provide valuable insights into their environment, abilities, struggles, and daily routines.
Those insights from you will help therapists to create more personalized sessions for your child. Moreover, studies show that parents’ active and supportive role in the therapy process helps achieve observable results. This is because when a parent is aware of what their child is learning during therapy, they can support their learning continuing outside of therapy time. This helps the child comprehend and apply the concepts they learn in therapy in their day-to-day life making the skills meaningful to that child or learner overall.
You, as their parent, can keep putting what you’ve learned in therapy to use in their everyday life. As you join or watch during sessions, you’ll learn strategies and techniques for teaching a variety of skills in the way your child best learns. Working with your child’s therapist to implement the plans and strategies is a worthwhile time commitment that gives you the skills you need to continue it throughout daily routines at home and in other settings.
Taking an active role in parent training will help you develop the knowledge, self-assurance, and abilities you’ll need to continue your child’s development at home. Your child will benefit greatly from your participation as you learn strategies for teaching language and other skills like using the restroom, brushing teeth, and other self-care responsibilities.
It is crucial to give your child’s therapist specific information about time spent outside of the ABA therapy sessions. As the parent you can observe and note accomplishments, difficulties, and necessary adjustments. By sharing your knowledge of what has worked well and what has been challenging for your child, you and your ABA team can work together to make necessary adjustments to the therapy plans.
Many parents ask whether they will join every hour of their child’s therapy sessions. Most likely you will only be expected to participate for part of the duration of each session or in specified sessions. You and your therapy team will determine the appropriate frequency to best support the therapy plan at that time. The level of participation, time, and goals you work on in parent training will change over the course of the therapy time.
Furthermore, you need not worry about being an expert in ABA to be able to help your child continue learning. Your personal knowledge, technique, and comfort level with ABA strategies will develop over time, just as these acquired skills and behaviors will. Work with the therapist who is working with your child and seek clarification as necessary. Since therapy is not meant to be on-going for several years, your involvement becomes crucial in helping your child achieve their goals quickly and efficiently.
Your role in your child’s progress is so important given how much time your child spends with you compared to the brief time in ABA therapy. Your capacity to help your child maintain the behaviors (i.e., new skills) they have acquired in sessions is essential to their success. You can encourage the fluency of your child’s newly-acquired skills by developing your knowledge with appropriate strategies. How you interact with your child outside of ABA therapy may determine whether a new skill becomes a regular habit for your child. For example, if your child is learning a new word, like naming colors or animals, the more they hear you say that animal name at home and the more they hear you cheer them on for using the right animal name when seeing that animal, the more likely they are to retain the understanding of that newly-learned word.
If their therapy sessions and regular routines across all environments coincide, your child is less likely to become confused. Your child’s established abilities and behaviors are reinforced when you follow through and put what you’ve learned into practice.
Being a parent entails being your child’s biggest supporter at all times. Since it has been shown to help a child succeed in accomplishing goals and developing new abilities and behaviors, ABA teams acknowledge and support this important role. There are also frequent occasions for parents to encourage the support of other significant caregivers and individuals in the child’s life. Family members – aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, teachers – should also be encouraged to participate. The learner‘s success is improved by assembling a team of supporters; everyone must sense one another’s support.
Whether you’ve been researching ABA Therapy and other services for a while or you are just getting started, you know that your research job never ends. You’ve probably already spent many sleepless nights learning as much as possible to support your child’s needs and progress. While certain subjects are simple to discuss, others could be more difficult, such as how to pay for expensive therapies and medical equipment.
Be tenacious. Help is available. In order to support the therapists, parents can also help collect data by making notes regarding schedule adjustments, behavior changes, new routines, and sleep habits. Ask questions, get suggestions, and visit centers until you find one that is a good fit for your family’s needs, when looking for the best ABA facility for you and your child.
You are not alone if raising a child with autism requires a little extra tolerance, compassion, and help. At Empower Therapy Center, we collaborate closely with you and your family to achieve shared objectives. We want you to feel at ease and connected to our team, so we can work together for the benefit of your child. Your child and our committed therapists value your contribution as a parent. We are prepared to share our knowledge with you and invite you to share your knowledge with our team so together we can help your child reach their greatest potential. Reach us by phone or email to arrange a visit.