How Can I Impact My Child's ABA Therapy? Learn from a Hopebridge BCBA Series
August 21, 2018
August 21, 2018
No one knows your child better than you do. At Hopebridge, our team combines experts in behavior, speech and language, motor skills and more, but YOU are the expert on your child. That is why a parent’s role in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA therapy) and complementary therapies within Hopebridge360 is crucial to success.
What should that role look like and how involved should you be? The answer varies among families, as each child is different, whether he or she has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or another developmental delay. What remains true for most children, however, is the more involvement from the caregivers, the better the outcomes.
To help you understand how you can directly affect your kiddo’s therapy and progress, Hopebridge Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BcaBA) Clarissa Merchant, out of our Indianapolis East center, gives us the scoop.
BCaBA CLARISSA MERCHANT ANSWERS: ‘WHAT ROLE DOES A PARENT OR CAREGIVER PLAY IN ABA THERAPY?’
Caregivers are key to a child’s well-being and progress, so as part of our goal to lead kiddos to more fulfilled lives, we must also engage their families. We recognize parents lead busy lives and it can be a lot to manage, especially for those touched by autism and other delays or disabilities. While we don’t want to overwhelm anyone, the reality is we can work on something in our centers, but it needs to be practiced in the child’s home and community in order to see the results you desire.
There are two key reasons why parent involvement is significant:
The main purpose of parent involvement is to eventually help children experience their learned behaviors and skills outside of the center and within the home and community. As much as we love our kiddos here at Hopebridge, we want them to become more independent and ultimately go through life without as much therapy as they currently receive.
Another great benefit of parents’ participation in therapy is the ability to enact change on their own. We want you to be as involved as you can be so you are equipped with the tools to make changes in behavior after therapy sessions and when we’re not around to assist.
HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE IN MY CHILD’S THERAPY?
As part of our Hopebridge360 services, we offer family education, also known to many as parent training. It’s important to note that this is not ‘training on parenting,’ but rather, ‘behavior training for parents.’ We want to make it clear that we are here to support you, not tell you how to parent. Caregivers are the experts on the kiddos’ personalities and what they like; we are simply professionals on behavior change.
Parent training is new territory. There is a wide range of tasks we ask parents to participate, depending on the child’s age and behaviors, as well as the amount of available time. We approach this part of the education by working with parents on how to handle behaviors that we want to see more or less of, such as more pottying independently, and less of that dreaded tantrum in the store.
It can start as simply as touchpoints once a week or month, where we provide updates on how they’re doing in therapy and whether they mastered any goals or if something is no longer going well. During this time, parents can also relay changes they’ve seen in the home or discuss their own questions. The process is very fluid and varies by child.
With some of our littles, this could consist of asking parents to observe a certain behavior in the home and jot down what they see so we can understand why it’s happening. It could also be something a little more involved, like having their child practice asking for things they want at dinnertime so he or she has more opportunities practice gaining language skills outside of therapy.
With parents of older learners, parent involvement might look completely different. It could be taking a teenage son to his favorite comic store once a week so he can practice saying hello to the cashier to help him build his social skills. Just about anything practiced in therapy can also be targeted at home.
No matter what, we try to tailor the training to what parents need or request. This can include in-depth curriculum training and even books or printouts. We often utilize Autism Speaks’ Challenging Behaviors Tool Kit as a take-home resource for caregivers, or teaching protocols from Essential For Living. Another common practice is working through a feeding curriculum together in order to help kids eat a wider range of foods in the home.
All in all, we ask that parents communicate with us. If something comes up, keep us in the loop and we’ll do the same. We’re here to provide support according to the family’s needs.
PARENT PARTICIPATION SUCCESSES
As therapists, we are lucky enough to witness and hear reports about many of our kiddos’ successes coming to fruition. One specific moment comes to mind in which the parents’ and kid’s hard work paid off.
While working in another center, I came across one little guy who was petrified by hair clippers. This is something we experience often with some of our patients, especially those with ASD or some kind of sensory defensiveness. If they were in view, he would be in tears, turn bright red and pull at his hair. His hair was growing to the point where it was in his eyes, so his parents wanted to work on it with him. To get started, we exposed him to clippers little by little as part of his therapy.
During training sessions, his parents and I discussed exposing him outside of the center as well, from laying clippers around to letting him feel them while they were buzzing but not on his head. These parents actually made time in their schedule to take him to a hair salon once a week. Even the sight of a salon was enough to trigger a pretty strong reaction, so following our team’s advice, the first time they went, they just sat in the parking lot before heading home. Eventually, he was sitting in the barber chair and able to play around in it. Soon enough, he was able to get a haircut in the salon!
It’s clear the parents’ role was critical for this boy. Unfortunately, it took a lot of time from their evenings, but it paid off in huge dividends.
Behaviors can change significantly because of parent participation. The training might seem unexpected and maybe a bit unusual at the start, but give it all you’ve got and over time, it should feel more natural and helpful.
Above all, we want to thank parents for allowing us to enter their lives, learn every nitty-gritty detail, and ride those celebrations and lows with them. It’s a privilege for us to serve them in that way.
Wondering how you can get more involved in your kiddo’s program or learn more about the general therapy options at Hopebridge? Visit us online to set up a time to speak to someone about the services available to you.