ABA therapy can open the world to a child with autism by teaching effective communication, prosocial behavior, and lifelong functioning skills. ABA therapy is even more satisfying when kids translate skills learned in therapy to every aspect of their lives. The more parents contribute to their child’s success, the better the outcomes are for the whole family.
Parent training is an important component of ABA therapy, says Laura M. Price, M.Ed., BCBA, Assistant Clinical Director and Board Certified Behavior Analyst with Gateway Pediatric Therapy in Dearborn. Here — and at all 10 Gateway locations in Michigan — parents can participate in customized parent training.
“We see our clients for a number of hours each week, and they spend many additional hours at home participating in meals, bedtime routines and weekend activities, so we aim to generalize skills to their home environment. It’s very important for parents to be involved in that generalization piece,” Price says.
How does parent training work and what does it look like? Price shares more about how parent training can be customized, flexible and rewarding.
Just enough time each week or month
“Based on the family’s schedule, parent training can be offered multiple hours per week or a few hours per month. The goal is to incorporate the family in the therapy process which often results in positive outcomes,” Price says. “We understand how very busy parents are. We know they have a lot going on and aim to promote parent involvement and provide parent training in a way that benefits the whole family.” The clinicians and staff at Gateway Pediatric Therapy work to customize training to fit into parents’ busy lives.
“We are open-minded and work to create convenience for our families. Clinicians and staff members will create a routine or a set time to touch base with parents on a consistent basis,” Price says. “What’s so great about ABA is that sometimes, it’s just talking over the phone about how the day is going or problems at home or issues at school. We love talking with parents and problem-solving.”
Parent training can also be more hands-on. “Some clinicians might ask parents to come into their child’s therapy session, either at home or in the clinic,” Price says. By integrating parents in the therapy session, they’re able to learn ABA techniques specifically designed for their child that can be incorporated outside of therapy. Additional learning opportunities provided outside of therapy allow for quicker skill acquisition and give the family a more holistic understanding of ABA therapy.
If a parent is interested in gathering data outside of therapy to help with treatment outcomes, clinicians can develop a modified datasheet that can easily be used by the family. The BCBA can also help parents in the data collection process and teach how data provides insight to therapy.
“We can share with parents the basics about how to collect data in ways that are simple for them. It might be data on bathroom use or how often their child asks for a preferred item,” Price says. “Some parents like this opportunity to capture data at home.”
A closer look at how, when and why
When parents can get an inside look at the way ABA effectively addresses the functions of behavior, they can learn more about ABA therapy’s benefits — and more about their own child’s behavior as well.
“We can talk with parents about their child’s behavior and what happened before and after, which helps them understand why their child is expressing this behavior,” Price says. “We can talk through strategies for what might be most helpful for parents.”
Sometimes, parent training gives parents the time to talk with someone who understands, which can help parents cope with the often overwhelming task of redirecting difficult behaviors. “We can be a listening ear because it can be overwhelming,” Price says.
A silver lining of the pandemic is the wider variety of ways parents can engage in parent training, Price says. “It’s opened a lot of doors for us to provide training over the phone or over the computer with HIPAA-compliant software similar to telehealth,” she explains.
In whatever way it takes place, parent training provides for a collaborative ABA therapy experience that is customized to a family’s specific needs.
“I’m a proponent of meeting with parents every week or every other week,” Price says. “Parents know their kids best and we are happy to help provide techniques for them to get as involved as possible.”
Gateway Pediatric Therapy offers best-in-class ABA therapy services at 10 locations in Michigan. Visit gatewaypediatrictherapy.com.