As a parent, we want what’s best for our children. We have hopes and dreams for them – we want our children to be successful. When your child receives an Autism diagnosis, it can leave you trying to figure out what that means, what your child and family life will be like, and may initially leave your hopes and dreams for your child shattered.
Sometimes all you can think about is how to avoid the next tantrum and keep them safe, leaving you little time to consider what life might look like when they are 10 years old, 20 years old. How do you move forward? What help is available?
Finding Success for Your Child
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the only evidence-based therapy proven to help children on the Autism Spectrum; but what does this mean? What does effective ABA look like? And how can it help my child?
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the scientific study of behavior. In ABA, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) looks at things in the day-to-day world of your child that lead to an understanding of the “function” or cause of their behavior. These things influence not only your child’s current behavior, but also their process of learning while interacting with the world around them.
ABA as a Service
Unlike getting the same cheeseburger at any McDonald’s location, not all ABA companies, practitioners, services, and results are the same. In every profession, there is a top tier of providers who are the best and their results are amazing. There are often many providers who are average and middle of the road, seeing some success, but results vary and are mostly average at best. Then there are those providers at the bottom who are, quite frankly, just awful, who provide customers or clients with a terrible experience and leave them thinking that the services were of no value or even harmful.
At Elevation Behavioral Science Services, we’ve seen just about everything. We understand the difficulty and struggle of those who have not experienced effective ABA services and the life-changing benefits it can bring.
So how do you know if ABA services will be effective?
Finding a Superior ABA Provider
First, what ABA should not be –
1. Harmful in any way
2. A babysitting service
3. Pure guesswork
4. A process of making your child say “yes, yes, yes” to adults all the time
5. Closed off and mostly excludes parents and caregivers from the therapy process
Knowing what you should completely avoid, let’s look at what good ABA should look like and how you know you’re getting the best possible care for your child.
ABA should be –
1. Focused on the needs of the child –“Child-Centered”
Your child’s needs come first, more than parents, teachers, or other individuals. ABA should be focused on improving the life of your child. The questions should always be – What does your child need to have a happy and productive life? What skills does your child need to learn? These should be the foundation of everything. Sometimes parents and/or teachers just want a certain behavior to stop (which is certainly understandable). But if the focus is only on stopping a behavior, then the function or cause of the behavior is never addressed. Reinforcement, punishment, or both can be used to get the behavior to stop for a time, but skills are never actually learned and the needs of the child (that are the cause of the behavior) are never addressed; often the behavior returns, sometimes stronger. Effective ABA should center on the needs of your child and building their life skills.
2. Value parent/caregiver/provider input
You are the expert on your child and have insights that your ABA team needs and should seek from you. While it is not a situation of the BCBA who works with your child saying to you “your wish is my command”, everything you as a parent can share about your child should be carefully and respectfully considered. Both parents and other credentialed professionals are immensely valuable in providing information and insight that then helps drive good ABA services.
3. A place of open communication
You should feel that you can talk openly about your concerns, thoughts, feelings, and impressions regarding the ABA Therapy your child receives. You should feel heard and respected. You should expect to have your child’s team talk to you honestly and often about how your child is doing in therapy and how you feel things are going.
Yes, happy. Your child should enjoy going to therapy and their ABA staff should be people that they want to see and spend time with. Staff should be reinforcing for your child. Your child should feel safe and taken care of when they are with their ABA team.
5. Frequent, but not too much
The amount of therapy a child needs should be directly related to their needs. Evaluations and assessments should always be done first to know how much therapy is needed. Children with significant deficits need more therapy time than children with fewer deficits. Whether it’s six hours or thirty hours of therapy a week, therapy should occur 3-5 times a week. The frequency of sessions is necessary for the therapy to be effective.
Your child should be making continuous and noticeable progress on their goals. You should also see positive changes in their behavior and/or interactions with others.
7. Open to see
Everything in ABA Therapy should be televisable for the world to see. As part of therapy, your child should never be knowingly provoked or intentionally made to become angry; your child should always be treated with respect and kindness.
8. Behavior staff who know and understand Autism
While ABA is the only evidence-based therapy proven to help individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, educational coursework to become a BCBA does not require a practitioner to learn about and understand Autism in-depth (though some programs provide optional learning about Autism). Understanding children on the Autism Spectrum and how to effectively help them has a steep learning curve; you want a BCBA who has extensive experience working with many children on the Autism Spectrum. Even better is finding a BCBA whose own children have Autism; this rare find gives you the benefit of someone who deeply understands and has lived with the challenges of Autism.
At Elevation Behavioral Science Services, we know and understand Autism. We have children of our own on the Autism Spectrum, and we have worked with many hundreds of children on the Autism Spectrum in a variety of settings and watched them thrive and engage in life with our Child-Centered ABA Therapy approach.
Whether you have a recently diagnosed child with Autism, you are now realizing the life-changing benefits of effective ABA for your child’s future, or if you simply feel your child needs more from the therapy they receive, CONNECT with us to learn how our Child-Centered ABA approach can help your child thrive, or APPLY HERE to request services for your child.