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It can seem very lonely for parents when they are faced with an autism diagnosis. They can become overwhelmed with new information and all the options and advice they receive about supporting their child. Fortunately, a range of professionals is on hand to walk the journey with you and help you along the way.
The Collaborative Approach in ABA
ABA stands for Applied Behavior Analysis. ABA is an evidence-based behavioral therapy used to enhance social abilities, reading, academics, and communication, as well as learned skills like grooming, hygiene, fine motor dexterity, and even simple things like tidying up.
This is done by reducing socially undesirable or inappropriate behaviors and increasing desirable and appropriate behaviors using positive reinforcement. ABA has been the most common and effective autism therapy for the last fifty years.
ABA focuses on a collaborative or team-based approach, to ensure that your child gets the best support available. This means that the Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), ABA therapists, and other stakeholders work together to provide the most effective treatment for their clients. Each team member brings their unique skills and talents to the table to create a comprehensive treatment plan for their client.
No magic button can be pressed to make someone’s developmental delays disappear. This would be oversimplifying what ABA therapy teams do daily. While some children may see significant changes in their behavior and abilities within the first year of therapy, others take several years, and some even longer. While ABA therapy is usually associated with effective results, seeing those results is not always easy. It takes a great deal of patience and persistence, as well as consistency and dedication from the team.
ABA Therapy Collaboration: The Care Team
With team-based care, each specialist has specific expertise that will benefit the child in a certain area. Because of this, team members have more time and energy to dedicate to their client’s needs. In addition, working collaboratively with other providers allows BCBAs, ABA therapists, and other professionals to address concerns that may not have been discovered during initial evaluations or assessments. To understand what makes collaboration effective in these situations, let’s look at some benefits of collaborative ABA therapy services.
ABA Therapists & BCBAs
A BCBA has completed a doctoral-level program in applied behavior analysis, had supervised field experience, and passed the certification exam. BCBAs meet with children and families diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) to observe and assess the child’s behavior. They then develop a specialized treatment plan to improve or change inappropriate or problematic behaviors.
ABA therapists are trained in all aspects of ABA therapy and use their expertise to deliver the program to their clients. ABA therapists work under the supervision of a BCBA.
The Parent’s Role in ABA
Parents are integral to ABA therapy, and most therapists encourage parents to participate actively in the child’s programs. BCBAs provide parents with training individually, and with the parent and child together. This can help parents understand their parenting style and discover strategies to ensure the best possible family dynamic.
As a part of the training, the parent participates in a portion of the therapy sessions and is responsible for modeling and reinforcing the positive behaviors taught in the session. For example, suppose the child was taught to use a communication board. Parents will be expected to use that same strategy with their children at home.
It can’t be emphasized enough: your work with your child outside school and therapy sessions is critical. Throughout the training, you have the opportunity to build a relationship of trust with your child’s ABA therapist which is also essential. You know your child better than anyone, but that closeness may make it challenging to remain objective. Having a more objective person to guide and support you when dealing with problematic behaviors from your child with autism is so important.
ABA therapy can change how everyone in the family interacts – in a good way. Therefore, it is vitally important for parents and caregivers to receive ABA parent training. Without it, a child may advance one step and then regress two steps. However, understanding the principles of ABA and applying them consistently will ensure a much greater chance of success in all areas, including academics, work, community life, and peer relationships.
Another thing to be mindful of is modeling appropriate emotional regulation skills. It is easy for parents to get caught up in their emotions and react in a way that isn’t ideal. Respond in a way your child is taught to respond in ABA. Verbalize why you are upset and model the correct response.
The Teacher’s Role in ABA
ABA is frequently used to treat children with autism spectrum disorder at home or in therapy centers. But ABA strategies for the classroom can also benefit both students and teachers.
While most teachers are not ABA therapists, they are a crucial part of the process. Studying behavior analysis techniques and theories is highly beneficial in any classroom setting. Because ABA is a procedure for promoting positive behavior, ABA classrooms, are less stressful, more controlled, and more conducive to bonding. Many discipline strategies share the ABA approach of using positive reinforcement. A token economy approach uses symbols or tokens that can be exchanged for other reinforcers. They include stickers, points, or small prizes like erasers. Students know that positive behaviors will earn them tokens, so they’re motivated to perform positive behaviors and discouraged from negative ones.
All ABA therapists, in essence, are teachers, and all teachers may use ABA approaches in their lessons. Of course, not every behavior requires intervention, and teachers should have realistic expectations about the outcome of these methods. However, using ABA strategies in the classroom is well worth a try. Those who are persistent and consistent with behavior plans often see amazing results.
The Pediatrician’s Role in ABA
Developmental Pediatricians are trained to work with the entire family to evaluate and provide counseling and treatment. In addition to working with families, developmental pediatricians work closely with school personnel and other organizations involved in the child’s care and education.
The pediatrician’s role in ABA is an advisory one. They are not expected to participate in the therapy sessions with the child. Instead, they are responsible for providing clinical advice to the team. Some of the pediatrician’s responsibilities may include providing information about the child’s developmental progress, providing feedback regarding medication use, and giving the team information about the child’s health.
Other Therapists Involved With ABA
There are many other therapists involved with ABA therapy. These include speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and psychologists.
These therapists may provide direct services to the child and can serve as consultants to the team. Their focus is on developmental approaches, which look at improving specific developmental skills, e.g., language, motor, and social skills. In addition, psychological approaches can treat secondary issues such as depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues parallel to autism. For example, Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT) focuses on learning the connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Why is Collaboration in ABA Therapy So Important?
As we’ve seen, many different people are involved in the ABA therapy process. While it’s crucial for each team member to know their role and excel at it, it’s just as important for all team members to communicate with one another. What if the therapist discovers that the parent is experiencing significant difficulties at home related to the child’s progress? What if the teacher notices that the child is having trouble falling asleep because they’re experiencing nightmares? What if the pediatrician notices that the child’s medication dosage is too high? These are examples of issues that should be brought to the team’s attention so that all members can be aware and capable of taking action. Collaboration is the best way to ensure that all team members understand each child’s challenges and that the team is working together to resolve them.
You are in good hands!
You can rest assured that whoever is assigned to work with your child is invested in the growth of your child’s development and enjoys what they do for a living. So work with them, communicate with them, and encourage them.
At Circle Care Services, parents, caregivers, BCBAs, RBTs, and the child with autism are part of a unified team! Sign up for our newsletter to find out more or receive more tips!