Here are some tips as you venture into finding the right therapist for your child on the spectrum.
Finding the right autism spectrum disorder (ASD) therapist or psychologist can be a daunting task for families. There are many factors you should consider when choosing a behavioral health professional to work with. There will not be a perfect solution for every situation, but prioritizing realistic goals can help you stay focused on the bigger picture.
The following are questions and factors to think over when considering an ASD therapist/psychologist for your child:
- How many other clients does the therapist/psychologist have? If you’re looking at a facility that has many children and there is only one therapist on staff, chances are you won’t be receiving the best treatment or care. Maintaining a low ratio of therapists to clients helps to ensure your child gets quality time and attention. The therapist should have enough time to involve parents to ensure continuity of care at home
- Is your therapy one-on-one? If your child is receiving services such as speech therapy or ABA, make sure those sessions are always done one-on-one. If your child is part of a small group, chances are high that the therapist or counselor will be spending most of the time disciplining and redirecting the behaviors of the other children and your child will have to compete for attention
- Are the services flexible to meet the individual needs of each client? The therapist should be flexible about the location of sessions to best meet the needs of each family. For example, many families will use ABA therapy to help them learn better techniques for communication and functional behaviors. If you bring your child to the clinic each time, the environment is controlled and leaves little room for naturalistic learning opportunities. Some families will use ABA therapy to assist them in tasks they find truly challenging, such as grocery shopping and getting a haircut. These sorts of examples are why the therapist should be flexible in location. If problem behaviors occur at school and not at home, the therapist will need to be able to work with the school and teachers
Click here to find out more
- Make sure your child’s therapist takes time to talk to you and do parent-training. Your child could be receiving the best autism therapy services, but if you don’t know the techniques the therapist is using, it will be difficult to implement those same techniques at home, and there will not be a continuum of services between home and clinic. Being part of your child’s therapy creates consistency in routine to help achieve the results and anticipated goals
- Make sure data is being collected during each session. BCBA therapists will use the data to help show whether their programs are benefitting the child. Adjustments will be made (using the data collected) so that progress can be achieved. If no data is collected during sessions, I would question the effectiveness of the program
- Make sure your therapist is providing a personalized (individual) program goal for your child’s therapy. Some companies may use cookie cutter one-size-fits-all techniques, but those are not effective since each child with autism is so different and unique. The needs, goals, and problems are specific to each child, even when they have the same diagnosis
- Collaborate for success! Your child’s therapist should be willing to collaborate with other therapists your child is seeing so that everyone is working towards the same goals. This is also important to make sure one therapist is not hindering the effectiveness of another therapist.
For example, if your child is seeing a speech therapist and they are working on simple two-letter combination sounds, a BCBA therapist would be able to incorporate that into their expressive language program so that the child receives support and reinforcement from all of the health professionals he/she is working with. Working against each other could cause confusion, frustration, and possibly an increase in negative behaviors from the child if teams are unwilling to collaborate
- Your child’s therapist should give lots of praise and reinforcement. We want our children to feel proud of their accomplishments. There should never be any punishment or negative comments made by a therapist to the child. Working with a child with autism can be frustrating sometimes, especially if the child has aggressive behaviors. raise and reinforcement have been scientifically proven to be effective at changing maladaptive behaviors into positive and more functional behaviors
Finding the right therapist or psychologist for your child with autism is no easy task. Determine what short and long term goals you want to achieve.
A BCBA therapist or behavior psychologist can help you with goal-planning and treatment options as well as guiding you in the right direction for additional support and resources if needed.
The autism journey is different for every parent. It can feel scary or isolating at times. I know this because I am an autism parent, too. You will have milestones to celebrate and you will have setbacks. You will have tears of joy and tears of frustration like every parent does.
Take comfort in knowing you are never alone on this autism journey. Autism parents are the strongest and bravest warriors you’ll ever meet and I am proud to be one of them. Connecting with other autism parents can also help you find resources, supports, and therapists within your region.
This article was featured in Issue 124 – Autism Around the World