Can you believe that we will all say goodbye to 2022 in less than 30 days? This year has certainly flown past us in a blink of an eye. Before every year ends, I like to meet with parents to review and reflect on how ABA therapy has helped their child since starting services. This also sets up the stage for what we can plan to work on for next year.
This year, I have had the pleasure of working with families that are relatively new to ABA. I interviewed four different families who are new to ABA therapy. The purpose of this interview was to: (1) lend continued support for ABA therapy as an evidence based practice for helping families and children with ASD, and (2) lend continued support for parent counseling and training (PCAT) as an essential component of ABA therapy.
Q1: Has your perspective of ABA therapy changed at all since you first learned about it? How?
“Definitely has changed. Good change for the better. When I first learned about ABA, my first experience was hearing it from other people and parents who probably had a really bad prior experience with it. “ABA will make your child like a robot,” was one of the most shocking comments that I first heard about it. I disagree with those kinds of comments completely.
I feel that since my son has started receiving ABA therapy, it has been the most beneficial service out of everything else. Working with an experienced BCBA has helped me understand how basic behavior science can be applied to help me understand why my son is behaving or acting out a certain way. These experiences have also helped me become a better parent that now only wants to learn more.”
Q2: What do you hope to achieve with ABA therapy?
“I hope that ABA therapy can help my son become more independent and make his own decisions in life. Even though my son cannot talk with his own voice due to his disability, I hope that one day that ABA can help him communicate not just his needs and wants, but maybe one day his thoughts and feelings. As his mother, you can’t help but wonder, “What is my son thinking?” or “How is my son really feeling?” I am his one and only voice at the moment, and I hope that ABA can help him give him more of that ability to be autonomous.”
Q3: What kind of traits do you think make up a good ABA therapist?
“I think the traits that make up a good therapist are traits that my child and the therapist have in common. It is just basic human nature to be able to connect more with other people who you share common interests with. For example, my son loves video games, Pokemon, and Anime, which are all things that I have tried getting into, but I just do not know as much as his therapist does. Children love when adults like the same things that they do.
My son’s therapist acts almost like a “big brother” role model to him in this way. He is able to incorporate learning opportunities that occur naturally which is incredibly brilliant and a refreshing way to teach these important life skills to my son. For example, one day his therapist was able to teach my son an important lesson on self-regulation skills during a really big tantrum he was having. Within minutes, his therapist was able to help him self-regulate and take perspective of the situation by using a technique called Behavior Skills Training.
It really helps when the therapist is both experienced in working with children who are a lot like my son, and also just extremely patient, communicative, and friendly. There is a warm and comfortable feeling that develops over time, once you begin to realize how lucky you are to find a therapist that truly cares and understands him.”
Q4: How do you feel supported in therapy and any recommendations in ways that we can support better?
“I feel very supported in my son’s ABA therapy. I really like how his therapist always takes the time to speak with me to tell me what goals he is working on with him, what things he is doing well with, and what things he is having a hard time with. Communication is such an important thing here, especially when I can’t exactly sit down with my 8 year old with limited language skills and ask him, “So what did you learn today with your teacher (Andrew)?” It means a lot when they (the therapists) arrange the time to come visit our family at home.
Lately, there have been some moments when I do not know what is the right thing to do when my son is having a meltdown. It has been such a blessing to have a BCBA who can see his behaviors happen with his own eyes and immediately be there to provide feedback, recommendations, and support so that I can learn how to handle it on my own next time. I think that other BCBAs should do the same in which that they just spend a good amount of time seeing how the child’s family operates outside of the normal session hours to see if there can be any other behavior supports that can help not only me and my child, but provide support to my family members that share the same home and also take care of my son.”
We’re continuing to try to listen to the autistic community and their families, to ensure that we’re providing services that are leaving a positive impact. We encourage other BCBAs to take a moment to talk to their families at the year’s end on their thoughts, as well?
Written by Andrew Ng, BCBA, LBA