Now when I say “parent” I am including all caregivers…. aunts, uncles, grandparents, foster parents, etc. If you are the caregiver of an individual with Autism and you make treatment decisions regarding their ABA therapy, then keep reading because guess what??
We need you.
By “we”, I mean the ABA professionals you are working with.
You can probably easily name the reasons why you and your family need OUR help, but did you know we need your help too? See, this is a 2-way street!
The ABA team needs your:
- Honest Feedback
- Engagement & Support
Now before explaining each area of parent involvement in depth, I have to address issues with poor quality providers. Sometimes I have difficulties getting involvement from parents because they have had negative experiences with providers in the past. Maybe the BCBA made them feel stupid for giving suggestions, or shot down all of their ideas, or treated them like they should be spectators, instead of a teammate. If that happened to you, I apologize. Please know that those experiences do NOT speak for the field of ABA, and it is always your right as a consumer to submit a formal complaint about unethical professional behavior at www.bacb.com.
We BCBA’s can’t do our job with excellence without the involvement of the parents we serve.
- Honest Feedback: If you don’t want us parking in your driveway, tell us. If you think one of the direct therapists wears skirts that are too short, tell us. If you hate when we do finger-painting in your kitchen, tell us. Your feedback as a parent is essential, whether positive or negative. We cannot correct or resolve an issue that we do not know you have. Parents will often come to me with a concern, and the first thing they say is something like “Well, about 5 months ago this started bothering me….”, and my immediate response is to feel HORRIBLE that this parent has been dissatisfied for 5 months. Especially if therapy is provided in your home, we absolutely do not want to do anything to make you feel uncomfortable. Your honest feedback helps us professionals improve the quality of services we provide.
- Ideas/Contributions: From the intake process all the way to designing intervention, I stress to the families I serve repeatedly that I need to hear their ideas. I need to know what goals the parents have for their child, what skill deficits are the highest priority to them, which behavior strategies are they not on board with, etc. For me, selecting treatment goals is like an intricate dance where I give my clinical recommendations, the parents contribute their ideas and concerns, and then we meet in the middle. You should feel completely comfortable telling the BCBA you want to see more play skills being worked on, or asking that the token board be modified.
- Engagement & Support: I saved the most important point for last. When I tell new clients that I am big on “parent involvement”, they often ask what do I mean by that. Basically what I mean is that is I expect a teammate mindset. I am not THE EXPERT, coming into your life, taking the reins, and leaving you in my dust. That is not how this works. I need your feedback and input, and then I need you to stand beside me, roll up your sleeves, and together we will bring about powerful changes in your child’s life. I don’t create skill acquisition programs or behavior reduction plans for my benefit; I create them for the family. So that means I expect to see implementation and follow through from the family. There is an ABA term called Behavioral Contrast which basically means “I do the behavior over here, but not over here”. BCBA’s are very familiar with this term, because too often we see it happen. I have been in situations where my client talks during my session, but once I leave they pull people by the arm. Or my client uses the toilet during my session, but once I leave they urinate on the carpet. I don’t want things like that to happen to you. This is why the ABA team places such a high priority on parent engagement with the therapy process: observing sessions, collecting data, attending team meetings, etc.
To all the parents: you should feel totally at ease asking questions about your child’s ABA therapy program. The ABA professionals should never make you feel embarrassed or stupid for asking questions, and should explain things clearly and concisely to your satisfaction. I encourage you to view yourself as a valuable member of your child’s therapeutic team.
When parents are actively involved in the therapy process, amazing things can happen!
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the series,
Ms. Meadows is the owner of the blog & resource website www.Iloveaba.com, and the author of three introductory level ABA books: “101 Ways to do ABA”, “From A to Z: Teaching Skills to Children with Autism”, & “A Manual: Creating an Autism Intervention Program”.