Parents- you know your kids best and you can be their best teachers! When parents and ABA professionals work together, the results for the children can exceed expectations. With any behavioral intervention, consistency is crucial. If parents follow through even when the ABA therapist isn’t around, the child will learn new skills quickly and so much more can be achieved!
In teaching any new skill, we focus on consistent and immediate reinforcement. If the child only receives that reinforcement when the ABA therapist is present, what are they learning? To perform skills for the ABA professionals and then the wheels fall off at family time. When parents and professionals work together and families carry over ABA techniques, the child learns faster and problem behaviors can decrease across settings, people, and environments.
Parents’ Role To Facilitate ABA Therapy
Every quality ABA program should include parent training and specific goals for the parents. What do you see your ABA therapist doing with your child that you want to improve yourself? What areas/ times of day/ tasks are the most difficult for you right now? Talk to your BCBA and get some targeted intervention for YOU through structured and systematic parent training. Observe your child’s time with ABA providers and ask, “How do I do that? What more can I do?”
Consider parent training goals the same as goals for your child. We want to increase specific behaviors. For parents, this means learning how to teach and reinforce desired skills and how to follow an individualized behavior intervention plan when problem behavior does occur. There are specific behaviors/ tasks for parents to perform to maintain that consistency- so we teach them using the same evidence-based practices of behavior analysis we use to teach your children.
Understanding the Basic Tenents of ABA Therapy
Learning basic principles of ABA allows anyone to handle new situations as they arise. Parents are always busy- we understand. But when you are busy, tired and stressed, it’s much easier to rely on tried and true research-based practices to get problem behaviors under control and restore some peace to your home.
Even when the ABA therapist is not around, you can arrange the environment to increase communication from your child. For example, require your child to mand (request) for items they need. Give them a bowl of oatmeal (or whatever food they like), but no spoon. Prompt them to ask for the spoon. Celebrate the correct mand (request) with lots of praise.
By watching what types of responses are expected of your child during ABA sessions, you will know what to require all the time. If your child is manding for items with multiple word sentences for the therapist, but only using gestures and grunts for you- what can you do about it? Don’t give the desired item until your child mands (requests) appropriately. Model the correct response for them, prompt them, and be ready to lay that reinforcement on thick!
ABA Therapy at Verbal Beginnings
If you want your child to succeed with ABA therapy– and what parent doesn’t want this?!- focus on consistency. Watch what is going on in session, be a good learner for parent training, ask lots of questions and find ways to carry over the science of behavior. ABA therapy doesn’t end when the therapist walks out the door.
By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D & Leanne Page, M.Ed, BCBA of bSci21Media, LLC