Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a popular therapy model used for changing disruptive behaviors. However, it’s been shown to be particularly effective in the treatment and care of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
ABA therapy is, at its core, a method of helping children with autism learn rudimentary skills so that they can lead more successful lives in the future.
This is done primarily by encouraging desired behaviors and deterring negative ones over a long period of time, carefully monitoring their progress along the way.
While the treatments are typically facilitated by therapists as part of a program, parents often play an active role in the strategies presented, aiding in reinforcing what their child has learned while at home.
This can be done more effectively, and ensure more positive developmental outcomes, if the parent is also versed in Applied Behavior Analysis principles. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of programs and online courses that provide ABA training for parents. Certification allows parents to better support their child’s learning process while away from their therapist. Additionally, understanding these principles allows them to better mitigate their child’s challenging behavior in the home.
This article takes an in-depth looks at the many opportunities available for parents to become ABA certified. The advice below will guide you through the process of locating a course that’s right for you, inform you of practical therapies that can be done at home, and offer guidance to help you and your child acclimate to the ABA therapy process.
Where and How to Learn ABA Therapy
Several opportunities exist for parents who wish to become certified in ABA procedures. This training is most often provided online. The length of time needed to complete the curriculum can vary depending on the course you take, ranging from a few days to a year.
The cost can also differ between training methods. Some lessons are provided for free, but you’ll generally have to spend a bit more for a comprehensive education. The following selected list of ABA educational opportunities offers a more detailed glimpse into what you can expect:
The Applied Behavioral Counseling Center offers its Online Autism Parent Center. A collection of video workshops offer instruction in the basics of ABA therapy, as well as some that focus on specific aspects and methodologies. These would serve as good beginning instructions for parents who want to supplement the learning plan created by their child’s ABA provider. However, their database is by no means exhaustive.
ABA Parent Training provides a One-Year Parent Training Curriculum that walks parents through the various tasks they can perform to help with their child’s autism. This facilitates more effective collaboration between parent and therapist while making use of various handouts to discuss topics related to Applied Behavior Analysis.
The parent is guided through a structured schedule of reading material that coincides with the behavioral strategies developed for their child. This way they have a better understanding of certain ABA topics and can more fully participate in developing their child’s rudimentary skills.
ABA Parent Training also offers courses that help parents and therapists better respond to specific maladaptive behaviors. These courses are focused solely on one topic and go into greater depth on why your child might be displaying these behaviors, how to rule out other likely causes, and ultimately intervene with a detailed plan to stop the behavior from happening altogether. There aren’t enough of these courses to respond to every individual issue that may arise, but more are added often and they remain a valuable tool in helping children develop into successful adults.
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Practical ABA Therapies for Parent and Child
Before becoming certified, there are several ABA-based therapies available that a parent can still do at home to support their child’s learning. The effectiveness of using these activities is backed by extensive research in behavioral science and they can be used to teach several necessary functional skills. They include:
- Sit In Chair: In which the parent sits opposite their child and asks them to sit facing toward them. This is to help them learn to sit calmly without fidgeting, at first in short bursts, then for longer periods.
- Look At Me: In which the parent attempts to hold their child’s gaze for several seconds. This teaches their child the value of eye contact—an important social skill to master.
- Identify the Emotion: In which the parent prints out several sheets of emojis or similar images that display a range of emotions. They are then placed face down and their child has to guess what emotion each face represents. This helps children recognize emotions in others as they learn to better regulate their own.
While these activities can be utilized to help children develop their social aptitude, it’s important to remember that a cornerstone of Applied Behavior Analysis is positive reinforcement. These exercises should be fun and stimulating for the child to perform because it’s that much harder for a skill to stick if he/she dislikes the activity with which it’s associated. In addition, whenever he/she successfully performs the desired behavior, it should be reinforced with praise or treats.
ABA Tips from the Experts
Implementing ABA at home can be difficult for parents at first. Neither they nor their child are used to the process yet. But there are several expert-backed tips that can get you started on the right foot.
- Practice: Continually familiarizing and reinforcing positive behaviors is key to children with autism learning valuable life skills. Don’t be frustrated if they don’t get it right away.
- Cooperate: The parent knows their child best, but that closeness may make it difficult to recognize problematic behaviors. Collaborating with an ABA provider on their child’s care is the best way to ensure they grow up happy and well-adjusted.
- Play: ABA is all about interacting with a child on their level to produce desired behaviors. The more fun they are having during activities meant to teach them, the more receptive they are to the lesson.
- Adapt: If one method doesn’t work in teaching a child new skills, don’t throw in the towel. Tweak the learning program and adjust until something clicks.
It is vital for parents to take an active and well-informed role in their child’s autism therapy to produce positive outcomes. A unified approach between the therapist and family helps the child learn and retain the valuable skills taught through ABA so they can lead fulfilling, healthy lives.