ABA Therapy FAQs: Parents’ questions answered
Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are increasingly looking to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to help their child, and it’s completely natural for them to want to learn more. When seeking ABA therapy, parent questions may range from the length of treatment required to how data about their child’s progress will be communicated.
The effectiveness of ABA therapy has been championed by the Surgeon General of the United States and backed by the American Psychological Association. Here, the team at Illuminate ABA Therapy reveals the answers to the most frequently asked parent questions about ABA therapy.
Are Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) on the Illuminate staff?
Illuminate ABA Therapy has both Board Certified assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBA) and Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) on its highly trained team, so parents and clients are in expert hands. As a result of increasing client referrals, Illuminate is expanding its team of professionals by recruiting additional highly qualified BCBAs as well as Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT).
What’s the difference between a BCBA and a therapist?
This is one of the most common parent questions on ABA therapy. A BCBA acts in a supervisory role, overseeing the client’s case. The BCBA will assess the child, identify therapy goals, create a behavior or treatment plan and train and supervise behavior technicians. It’s the technicians who work one-on-one with clients to deliver therapy and run program goals under the observation and supervision of the BCBA.
Do staff attend ongoing training or continuing education workshops?
BCBAs and BCaBAs are required by the Board to do different levels of continuing education over a two-year period, so ongoing training is mandatory to renew certification and licenses. Training ensures that staff operate morally and ethically, while other units are specific to ABA therapy for autism or for treating clients with other developmental disabilities.
Do parents participate in their child’s ABA treatment sessions?
Every parent will question their own ABA therapy involvement, and a higher level of parent engagement is likely to take place where a client has therapy within their home. If a client is coming to a clinic, parents may be less involved in the session. Some parents may choose to observe through a window while others prefer to be present in the room.
Parents are not required to be involved, but ABA is very focused on parents being involved. For those parents who wish to be present during therapy, you can learn to help your child implement goals on their own and practice prompting your child to talk to you. Every case is different, of course, and the level of involvement is determined by parents. But on the whole parent involvement allows for better generalization skills and relationship-building with your child.
However, sometimes there are barriers to this. For example, some children can get distracted if their parents are present and may not interact with the therapist, so in these instances a decision might be mutually taken for parents to step back a little.
How much training is provided for parents?
Parent training sessions can entail hands-on coaching where the BCBA and technician work with parents and the child. This helps to support parents with learning to coach a child themselves. Parent meetings with a BCBA can be held at weekly, bi-weekly or monthly intervals (or as required). Illuminate professionals will explain elements of ABA therapy with parents throughout the process and cut through jargon, helping parents to understand their child’s behavior and provide insight into why certain behaviors occur.
What are parents expected to independently implement at home or in the community?
The Illuminate team recognizes that parents are busy and will only set realistic expectations that are practical to achieve. Staff will discuss a child’s behavior plan to help parents manage negative behaviors, and provide training on skill acquisition goals, such as prompting a child to improve communication by waiting or giving more vocal prompts. Day-to-day activity and play skills can be taught to parents, too.
What appropriate channels can parents use to address concerns about interventions observed during treatment?
Parents can reach out to their child’s BCBA at any time by phone or email. Issues can be discussed at regularly scheduled meetings between parents and the BCBA. Should a concern need to be escalated, parents are welcome to get in touch with Illuminate’s clinical director or operations manager.
Are staff background checks conducted?
All staff undergo criminal background checks to ensure they have not been subject to any charges. While staff complete background questionnaires upon application, information submitted is run through official systems for verification.
How is data collected and how often is this information shared with parents?
All technicians use the Central Reach smartphone app – an ABA and Behavioral Health Software program – to collect data. Each client has a profile, with their therapy goals and behaviors tracked on the app. Technicians input data on the frequency of client behaviors and achievement of goals throughout sessions, with the technology translating data into easy-to-understand graphs. This makes it simple to review progress with parents at meetings, whether weekly or monthly, depending on the client.
Are parents involved in developing the therapy plan?
Parents are involved at every step. While it’s critical that suitable goals are identified for the child, it’s important to define goals that are high on parents’ agendas. After assessment, the BCBA will make a preliminary treatment plan outlining goals that they believe are a priority. However, this program can be customized with goals added or removed following consultation with parents.
How often is a child’s program updated?
Programs are updated at least every six months. A BCBA must reassess clients at least twice a year for insurance purposes. If a client achieves all goals prior to a six month update, further goals can be added if necessary. However, some clients may work on the same treatment plan for a year if progress is slower.
How do ABA professionals decide which skills will be taught?
Skill requirements are determined at an initial client assessment. Some staff use the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP), a valuable curriculum assessment tool for children. Another assessment called AFLS (Assessment of Functional Living Skills) is effective across all ages. Such programs help the BCBA to measure what skills a client needs to master in order to achieve progress.
What happens if a child isn’t making progress?
The BCBA will observe therapy sessions to investigate the cause of any problem and determine if a goal is too ambitious. Goals may need to be reassessed and revised, allowing additional time to target client behavior before being taught new skills. On occasion, there may be a client’s medical need that must be resolved to make progress. Plans are flexible and can be revised and resubmitted with modified goals. For example, more time may be allocated to focus on decreasing undesirable behavior, while working to increase communication and enhance self-management skills.
How long can a parent expect a child to receive treatment?
Because autism is a spectrum, client treatment length can vary, depending on their needs. In certain cases, a six-month program of ABA therapy can be successful, while other clients may require therapy over many years.
How do you determine when treatment is complete?
The point at which all goals have been mastered can signal that further treatment is no longer necessary. Discussions may take place to see if social skills programs are needed to help the client in the wider community – but they won’t necessarily need further therapy.
Apart from Illuminate’s fees, are there any other purchase requirements to be aware of?
Parents can rest assured that there are no additional costs. They may need to send in snacks or lunch for their child – or supply items such as a toothbrush and toothpaste where therapy entails the development of life skills, for example.