Updated: Feb 5
The information below is not meant to diagnose or treat. It should not take the place of consultation with a relevant qualified healthcare professional
Ok, Mom and Dad, take a breath and relax! We are going to have a relaxed chat and answer all your questions.
“What is this ABA thing, can it help my kid?”
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a behavioral intervention that applies empirically supported strategies, and concepts of how we all learn. ABA is not new and has a broad scope. If the issue of concern is a behavior (anything that is observable/measurable/emitted), then the answer is “Yes!” we can help increase or decrease that behavior. We don’t just reduce problem behaviors; we also teach skills. Lots of skills! The ABA team will go wherever services are needed (community, home, school).
“What does ABA cover?”
The principles of ABA can be used to teach a wide variety of skills. Interventions are created based on individual needs customized based on strengths, deficits, needs, and family goals. The type of goals addressed can include:
Self-help skills (e.g., toileting, dressing, and completing chores)
Language and communication
Social skills (e.g., turn taking, eye contact, and maintaining conversations)
Play and leisure skills
Social cognition (e.g., identifying the feelings and preferences of others)
Executive Functioning (i.e., goal-oriented behaviors)
Decreasing maladaptive behaviors (e.g., tantrums)
“Does my child need this?”
Ethically, this is a question for the provider/company; I can’t answer for you. What we can do is help you connect needs to services. If your child is developmentally behind where they should be, if they have no consistent communication system, if they have serious and/or regularly occurring problem behavior, etc., then there are some interventions that can address those needs. Whether or not you decide to pursue those interventions is ultimately up to you as a parent.
“How long does it take?”
After a thorough assessment (services should always begin with a proper assessment), a detailed picture of your child’s developmental functioning, strengths, and areas of deficit will emerge. At that time, the BCBA will be able to answer this question regarding hours of services recommended based on the severity of needs, clinical recommendations, and intensity of therapy.
“How does it work? how do we start?”
This is a great question to ask, because companies will differ in how they “start-up” a case, so you always want to ask about the timeline. In general (this information will vary), after the initial phone call to a provider or company here is what happens next: A BCBA is assigned to the case, the BCBA conducts the initial assessment, the BCBA writes an initial report for the funding source/caregivers, pending authorization of funding the direct staff start seeing the client/child, the BCBA creates the individualized treatment plan, therapy materials are prepared, a schedule confirmed, and therapy actually begins. I just described the entire process that may take two (2) weeks or a month, as all kinds of unforeseen snags can pop up and slow things down. In general, a few weeks is typical, longer than that means we’re on hold for some reason.
“When should I start ABA?”
The earlier, the better. Plenty of clinical research has demonstrated that children who start ABA therapy as early as possible (2 years old) make the most significant improvements in their areas of deficit. In fact, some children who received early intensive ABA therapy progressed to the point of being virtually indistinguishable from their neurotypical peers.
“What is a BCBA?”
BCBA= Board Certified Behavior Analyst. ABA therapy typically utilizes a tiered service delivery model. This means that the individual who oversees treatment, conducts the assessment, analyzes the data, and trains parents and staff is the Behavior Analyst on the case. The direct staff who work 1:1 with the client/child are often called ABA therapists, Behavior Techs, or if they are credentialed staff, they will be called Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT). The BCBA is the one who determines what treatment is needed and individualizes that treatment to the client. The direct staff fills the role of working directly with the client and family to implement the treatment plan and collect ongoing data (which the BCBA analyzes to evaluate treatment effectiveness).
Contributed by: Natasha Heaselgrave, MSc BCBA