Parent Involvement in an ABA Program

Since I’ve moved abroad, I’ve experienced a huge interest from parents in being actively involved in their child’s ABA/VB program.  This has resulted in a the child having a high quality program running, with problems getting resolved quickly.

Often when I meet parents, they often say something along the lines of…I really want to be involved, but whenever I am around, my child is distracted, has more problem behavior etc.  They are often concerned that their presence will be an “interference.”  My answer to them is- well, lets work on that not avoid it.  A parents motivation to learn how to help their child is a wonderful thing and should be met with enthusiasm and encouragement from a BCBA, or any other professional for that matter.

In some families I work with, the parents work full time, but still want to maximize their involvement.  In other families, one of the parents may not work and therefore is able to be involved in the program daily.  Wherever you fall on that scale, here are some ideas of how to get involved.  Of note, some of these may be easier to implement in home programs vs. a clinic setting.

Know Exactly What Your Child Is Learning

Be well versed on what specific goals are being targeted in your child’s program.  If you do not know, ask the BCBA and don’t be afraid to ask for details.  Examples of questions to ask:

What is being targeted?

How is it being taught?

How is the progress being measured?

Can you show me data on my child’s progress so far?

ATtend Sessions as frequently as possible 

Observe sessions as frequently as is reasonably possible for you.  This may be 3 times a week or once a month.  Whatever is reasonable for you, make it happen!  This is the best way to truly understand what is happening.  Talking about teaching procedures/goals etc is one thing, but actually seeing the program being implemented may clarify questions or misunderstandings.

Focus on Natural Environment Teaching/Manding

Do not worry so much about replicating the exact program your instructor is doing in order to be involved.  Focus on targeting skills within your normal family routine.  Communicate with the BCBA supervising the program and instructor working with your child about what skills could benefit from more natural environment teaching/generalization. Examples may include targeting manding during normal routines (dinner time, bath time, bed time, etc).  Of note, make sure to ask HOW to target the skill not only WHAT to target.  If you are not clear on something, ask for specific examples.

Help plan NET/Manding Sessions

Nobody knows your child better than you do.  Your instructor may really appreciate any advice you have regarding how to contrive motivation for your child to mand.  Instructors are required to be very creative and often need assistance brainstorming new ideas to keep the child motivated.

Take data for your Instructor

On some of the teams I work with, the parents take the lead with data and graphing.  Learn how to take the data while your instructor works with your child.  Your instructor will love the break from this once in a while and this will allow you to more deeply understand where your child is with each specific goal that is being targeted.  This includes the areas where your child is doing well, but also areas where your child might be having difficulty.

Set Goals for Yourself

Set reasonable and measurable goals for yourself.  For example, I will attend my child’s 3-hour ABA session once a week for the month of August.  I will do a 15-minute manding session with my child Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the next two weeks.  Whatever it is, put it in writing and keep yourself accountable.