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If your child has been recently diagnosed with autism, it is very likely that you are experiencing overwhelm and confusion about all of the “what next” items on your to-do list.
One of the first things that you should do as a parent or a caregiver of a toddler with autism is to take some time to process the news. Early intervention in toddlers is important, but there is nothing wrong with taking a couple of weeks to accept the news and allow time to feel all of the emotions that may accompany the news.
When you are ready, make an appointment with your pediatrician to discuss what options are available for your child, and what types of therapy services your child may need. Will your toddler need speech therapy? Physical therapy? Respite Care?
How Do I Know How to Choose the Right Provider?
It is important to identify which types of professionals you will need to line up for your child. The ideal situation is one in which all of these professionals work in collaboration with each other to benefit your child. Your speech therapist should be open to discussions with your ABA provider. Your ABA provider should be open to meetings and discussions with your child’s teachers, therapists, and medical staff if necessary.
ABA will most likely be the predominant form of therapy for your toddler with autism each week. Therefore, it is important to know what to look for so that you can be assured that you have a reputable agency working for the benefit of your child and your family.
Here are some questions and considerations to keep in mind when you are seeking ABA services:
Is your ABA agency multidisciplinary?
In other words, is your agency willing to work in collaboration with other professionals to monitor and adjust programming for your child? Finding an agency that is willing to work with other disciplines (speech, occupational, physical, academic, psychological) is important because it creates a strong network of professionals who will help your toddler to make progress at a higher and faster rate.
Is the staff certified, trained, and frequently monitored?
The ideal ABA agency has highly qualified staff that employs certified registered behavior techs (entry-level certification) and board-certified behavior analysts (master level education) to evaluate clients and supervise behavior techs who deliver treatment plans.
RBTs should be monitored by their supervising BCBAs at least 10% of the time that they are delivering services to your child. This means that every ten hours should have an hour of supervision by a BCBA.
Proper supervision ensures that your toddler’s treatment plan is being updated and adjusted as often as necessary when progress is made. It also assures that adjustments can be made if a specific treatment plan is not working.
Is parent Involvement allowed and encouraged?
When your child is evaluated with your supervising BCBA, your input is one of the most important elements of creating an effective treatment plan. After all, the skills that your child needs are the skills that help your toddler to function at home with family, in school with peers, and out in the community. A parent or caregiver will know best what skills their child is lacking and causing emotional, behavioral, and social stress. A reputable ABA agency will value parent and/or caregiver input. You should always be welcome during sessions whether at home or in a clinical setting.
Do they offer parent training?
A good ABA agency will require parent training. Parent training is required because the skills that are taught in therapy need to be carried out consistently at home outside therapy sessions as well. If a parent does not learn how to work with their toddler in the same way that the ABA therapist does, the parent or caregiver may find that the child behaves one way in therapy and in a completely opposite way when the therapist leaves. It is important that everyone that your child is in contact with is helping your child in a consistent way so that the child understands his/her expectations and learns appropriate skills and responses.
Which is better? Home-based therapy or center-based therapy?
Most ABA agencies offer both options. The decision to use home or clinical settings will depend on what fits your family’s needs better. Some things to consider:
Home is a natural environment for your toddler. The child can use his/her own toys, parents can observe the sessions and participate, and the therapist comes to you. This eliminates travel for you as the parent or caregiver which can be a blessing if you have younger children in the house.
Center-Based therapy mimics the school environment, allows for easier access to social skills training with other children, parents can drop their child off and run errands or complete tasks without the child (take a break), and toys and equipment at the center are new and exciting for your child.
Do they have good reviews and/or referrals?
The worldwide web is a wonderful place to find information within seconds. Just a few minutes of searching for information about an agency can easily yield enough information to give you confidence in the agency or put you back on the search for something better if you don’t like what you read.
Referrals from a trusted friend or a professional (your pediatrician or psychologist) are always best. However, if you can’t get a personal referral then your own research online is your next best bet.
If you live in the New Jersey area, Circle Care Services is a reputable ABA agency that serves many families. Circle Care offers home and center-based therapy. We are strong advocates for parent involvement and parent training and we can help you to find the resources to pay for all of the various services that you will need for your toddler.
The Therapy Place in New Jersey works in collaboration with Circle Care Services. With over 10 years of experience in speech and occupational therapy services, the Therapy Place works with children and families in a clinical setting, home setting, or in schools.
Give us a call today.