- Posted by Caravel Autism Health
- On September 28, 2018
- 0 Comments
Decades of research have shown that there’s nothing more effective when it comes to helping young children with autism than Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. But what exactly is ABA therapy? And how will it help my child? Those are familiar questions for parents who have recently received an autism diagnosis for their young child.
Autism health specialists like Caravel Autism Health’s Christine Wilkins, a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst and Advanced Practice Social Worker, treat families every day, providing screening, diagnosis, and therapy to help children with autism develop skills, create connections and gain confidence. A board-certified behavior analyst, Wilkins has worked with children on the autism spectrum for 20 years. She is the clinic director at Caravel Autism Health in West Madison, Wisconsin. Wilkins has fielded hundreds of questions from parents who are looking to understand ABA therapy, how it will help their child, and what the family can expect from an ABA therapy team. She offers the following advice to parents who are evaluating potential providers:
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Most parents have never heard of ABA therapy before. Not surprisingly, they have many questions when they first start educating themselves about this kind of treatment. Like who provides the therapy? Where will it take place? What does it look like? How long does it take? What changes in my child’s behavior can I expect? Wilkins encourages parents to prepare a list of questions prior to discussions with potential providers.
Familiarize yourself with the time commitment – and the rationale behind that commitment
Effective ABA therapy is, by definition, intensive therapy. This is especially true for young children between the ages of two and six. Early treatment dramatically improves outcomes for children with autism. Clinical research shows that 49 percent of children with autism can be brought up to the same levels as typically developing peers by first grade if they receive intensive ABA therapy.
Most of this therapy is done one-on-one by a team of providers. It takes place in the child’s own home environment and averages 20 to 40 hours weekly for a period of at least two to three years and sometimes longer. In-home ABA therapy helps the child develop a variety of skills. Most children with autism need help building oral and verbal skills, gross and fine motor skills, and sensory processing skills. Ultimately, the goal of ABA therapy is to help a child shift from being motivated primarily by sensory and motor stimuli to being motivated by verbal and social interaction with other people. The time commitment is significant, but ABA therapy offers children with autism their best chance to build a sense of connection with others.
Understand the roles of the therapy team members
A child’s therapy team is usually comprised of different specialists with specific roles. These include behavior technicians, a senior therapist, and a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA). All should be spending time in your home, working directly with your child (and you) on skill building and refinement of your child’s treatment plan. Ask the provider to explain the role of each team member so that you have a clear understanding of what to expect. Learn what a therapy team at Caravel looks like.
One common question that Wilkins gets from parents is, “Why do we need so many different people?” The short answer is that most children with autism have difficulty with what’s called generalization. Generalization is the transfer of learning from one scenario to another. A child may learn a behavior as it’s taught in the presence of a particular person or stimulus, but that learning does not necessarily transfer without that person or stimulus present. A therapy team with multiple specialists helps children transfer their learnings in the presence of different people.
Look for a provider that will customize your child’s treatment plan
Just as every child is unique, every treatment plan for every child with autism should be unique. Caravel Autism Health’s therapy teams are, by design, customized to the child. On a regular basis, the most senior members of the child’s therapy team are on-site, working directly with the child, the parent, and other members of the therapy team. This gives us the opportunity to observe, refine and reshape that child’s treatment plan to maximize its effectiveness.
Seek out a provider that encourages parental involvement and education
The best providers offer parent training as part of their in-home ABA therapy program. At Caravel Autism Health, we work with families on a variety of skills, including things like potty training and tying shoes. There are different ways of doing things, so we want to ensure that we understand the parent’s approach and that they have insight into how we are teaching the same types of skills to their child.
We also encourage parents to observe the in-home therapy as it unfolds, both from within the room where it’s taking place and from outside of that setting via video monitoring. The more parents understand about how skills are built during ABA therapy, the better equipped they are to help their child build on those learnings.