How to help your child get the most out of their ABA therapy
As a parent of a child with ASD, you know that ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy is one of the most effective ways you can help your child shift their thinking and behavior patterns. After they’re enrolled in therapy, you might think the hard part is done, or at least out of your hands.
The fact is that as the parents, you see your child for many more waking hours than the therapists, and therefore, are responsible for continuing the ABA principles. Children need to know that whatever behavior plan is set up with their therapist not only applies to the time during therapy sessions but when you’re at the park, out to dinner, or starting to get ready for bed at home. Consistency is critical for long-term behavior changes to take place.
What is ABA all about?
ABA therapy believes that: “Behavior is Lawful (Guided by principles), Observable (we can see it), and Measurable (we can count it).” (Source)
Your child behaves in specific ways for different reasons, and ABA works to shape those behaviors. By first studying how the child behaves and what happens before and after, ABA can help children shift their behaviors, giving them a different choice than the previous negative behavior.
A quick example:
We can observe that a child told that it’s time to leave the park does not want to go and instead lays on the ground and screams. This is obviously an undesirable behavior. We can try to shape this behavior by having the parent give some sort of verbal/visual cue a few minutes before it’s time to go, such as, “I’m setting our timer for 2 minutes. You see, the timer is set. When the timer goes off, it’s time for us to go in the car.” If the cue beforehand does not help eliminate the behavior, perhaps it’s time to offer an incentive after getting in the car as well, something the child would be motivated by.
ABA helps to empower children to see different choices they can make in the ways they behave. Behavior can be deeply rooted, like habits, so it’s best to give the new behaviors time and persistence to see long-term change.
3 ways you can help your child through ABA’s principles
1. Record data
In daily life, it’s easy to get caught up in just trying to make it through each day. Still, it’s crucial for your child’s progress to diligently record their behaviors, what happened directly before/after, and keep track of how they are progressing.
When you have notes that include frequency of the behavior, time/date, etc., you can bring that data to the ABA therapist and determine if there are patterns that can change.
Without those multiple data points of a child’s behavior throughout the day, it will be a slower road to seeing changes, as you are the one who sees your child the most and knows your child best.
2. Communicate effectively with your child’s team
There is most likely an entire team helping to support your child’s ASD, and one of your jobs as the parent is to make sure everyone is on the same page. Your child’s teachers need to be continually updated with new parts of their behavior plans, and hopefully, are helping you to keep track of your child’s behavior with their own set of data. Sometimes a behavior or trigger to a behavior is only happening at one location or is absent at a particular location. That information can be critical when trying to help empower your child to make better choices regarding their behavior.
Other caregivers such as your co-parent, grandparents, before/after school child care workers, etc., also need to be kept in the loop regarding your child’s behavior plan. When everyone is on the same page about behaviors to look for and keep track of, it’s much easier for your child to understand that no matter what environment they are in, the expectations and consequences for their behavior are the same.
3. Be consistent and patient
The best behavior plan is the one you can actually follow through on. If you and your ABA therapist set up an elaborate plan focusing on ten different behaviors you want to change, and then only remember to follow through on those ten behaviors half the time, your child is going to end up being (rightfully) confused. To see significant change, your child needs to see and understand that every time they display a behavior, there will be the same consequence 100% of the time. When you are consistent, your child knows exactly what to expect, either when displaying a positive behavior or a negative one. Our brains are designed to remember positive reinforcements much more than negative, hence why ABA therapy relies on positive reinforcements to truly drive behavioral changes.
Help your child become their best selves.
The road of ABA therapy is complex and sometimes arduous. Fortunately, it is also one of the successful interventions we can provide for our children to help them become the very best version of themselves.
Connect with us and find a highly-qualified ABA therapist today.