5 Things to Know About Getting Started With ABA Therapy

What you need to know about applied behavior analysis therapy to support your child with autism, all in one helpful guide.

When your child receives an autism diagnosis, you may learn that they will need therapy sessions to learn skills and reduce problem behaviors. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is an evidence-based approach that many autism experts recommend.

“ABA has been studied for decades,” says Reena Naami-Dier, BCBA and owner of Spark Center for Autism, an early intervention ABA center in Farmington Hills. “It has the largest body of research supporting any treatment for individuals diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.”

ABA aims to increase a child’s ability to learn from their environment, establish and maintain relationships and increase independence — all with a focus on individualized care, she says.

Getting started with ABA therapy may not be easy or intuitive. There may be many therapy centers available to you, but how do you find the right fit for your child and your family?

What do you need to know to get started with ABA?

Here, we share five things to know about getting started. From choosing the right provider to understanding your child’s treatment plan, this guide will help in these early stages.

“As more and more therapy centers become available, it can make choosing the right one for you and your family a challenge,” says Naami-Dier. “Sometimes having too many choices can be more challenging than having fewer. By having a good understanding of what services can and should look like — and knowing what questions to ask — you may find that you have a much better feel for navigating through the process.”

You know your child best. But it also helps to have a solid foundation so you can find the best fit.

“At the end of the day, you will know what is best for your child, but having these tools in your back pocket can make the process just a little easier,” she says.

1. You should start early with ABA therapy for your child with autism

Early intervention is crucial, as younger children are more receptive to learning socially significant skills.

Naami-Dier offers these reasons why starting ABA therapy early is important:

  • It helps children make progress towards age appropriate milestones, with less opportunity for gaps to increase.
  • It can help prevent additional problems or delays
  • It helps develop positive social-emotional skills, which often occur in early childhood

2. Choosing the right provider is important

Finding the right ABA provider is important because it ensures your child with autism gets the care they need to thrive.

The right provider will work with you to meet your family’s goals, giving your child skills to overcome barriers and live as independently as possible. A good provider builds a supportive relationship and offers honest guidance to help your child reach realistic outcomes.

Be prepared to ask the right questions of each provider you contact, and take a tour so you can get a good feel for the therapy environment. Don’t be afraid to follow your instincts!

3. Expect a waiting list for ABA therapy, but don’t be discouraged by it

Long waitlists for ABA therapy are common due to high demand. Don’t be surprised if you learn your child will be put on a wait list. Know that you can still take action while you wait.

While waiting, start other recommended services like speech or occupational therapy, or look into social skills groups and parent training. Stay in contact with desired providers, check for consulting options and explore local resources like the Autism Alliance of Michigan. With persistence, you can find the right care for your child.

Here are some more ideas and resources to make that waiting time more productive. Most of all, don’t give up! The wait may be shorter than it first appears.

4. Learn some key phrases to better understand what ABA therapists are achieving

When your child starts ABA therapy, the specialized terminology can feel overwhelming. Understanding at least some of these terms is essential for your child’s success.

Familiarity with concepts like generalization and reinforcement will help you grasp therapy goals and advocate for your child effectively. The more you know, the more you’ll be able to help your child continue gaining skills at home. Keep a glossary handy and don’t hesitate to ask your provider for clarification.

5. Work with your therapy team to create goals that are important for your family

Setting goals in ABA therapy is important for tracking progress and making sure the treatment meets your child’s needs.

Goals can focus on communication skills like requesting items, labeling objects and improving social skills. They may also include learning daily living skills like brushing teeth and using the bathroom. Goals should be individualized for your child and consider their needs, strengths and areas of growth.

By setting achievable goals and tracking progress, therapy becomes more effective in helping your child eventually transition to less structured environments, promoting independence and skill generalization in different situations.

As you plan ABA therapy for your child with autism, refer to these five tips, and never be afraid to ask questions! By building a solid base of knowledge, you’re better prepared to set your child up for success.

Expertise brought to you by Spark Center for Autism. Learn more at sparkcenterforautism.com.

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Metro Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.


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