Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D
As a parent, when you start an Early Intervention (EI) program using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to develop your child’s skills, you may have many questions about what your child’s treatment will involve. The short answer is “it depends” – simply due to the fact that ABA recognizes the uniqueness of each individual, and caters treatment according to each learner’s specific repertoire. With that said, treatment does have some general commonalities across the board, which we will focus on below. Today, we will walk you through a ‘behind the scenes’ look at what goes into creating an EI treatment plan and what your child’s treatment may look like.
EI is about building critical skills related to language, social interaction, appropriate behavior, and daily living skills as early as possible. Critical language skills such as labeling, making requests, and listening provide a foundation for more complex learning. Basic social skills such as making eye contact, sharing, and waiting can lead to more rewarding relationships. And basic living skills such as toileting, eating with utensils, and drinking with a cup enable greater independence. Regardless of your child’s developmental level, EI can help him/her continue to advance. As you begin therapy, your treatment provider will assess where your child is developmentally and build a plan that shapes his/her behavior towards meeting developmental milestones.
If your child is an Early Learner (EL) who is not yet able to communicate his/her needs, your provider will focus on helping your child communicate more effectively. Sometimes this means that your therapist may work to increase your child’s babbling or eye-contact with others. These foundational behaviors form the basis for children to learn to produce speech and mimic the behavior of others. For other children, establishing communication may mean that your therapist works to increase the complexity or fluency of speech which sets the stage for the development of conversational skills.
Establishing communication that helps your child get their needs met sets the foundation for future growth. When children are able to ask for what they need effectively, and receive the natural reward of getting what they need, positive changes in behavior and in their social and communicative interactions are seen. The latter may include: increasing your child’s ability to follow basic directions, requesting objects and activities, or responding appropriately in previously difficult situations. Additionally, treatment should progress in complexity to build functional life skills, such as putting on a coat or a backpack, tying shoes, and using the bathroom appropriately.
Many of these goals may seem similar to traditional educational goals for young children; however, with EI, the focus is on your child’s constant progress using praise, preferred activities, and other rewards that increase the motivation and desire to interact with others in the natural environment. And a critical component to your child’s success is you, the parent. Thus, you can expect your therapist to discuss teaching strategies that are working for your child and to help you provide those same strategies to support your child’s development when the therapist is not present. Regardless of your child’s current skill level, EI aims to teach your child the skills he/she needs to lead a rich and fulfilling life, at home, in school, and beyond.
If you have questions regarding your child’s programming and what goes on ‘behind the scenes’, your BCBA will be your best resource. If you are looking to receive Early Intervention services contact [email protected] to see if there is a provider in your area.
Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world, bSci21.org. bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog and its subsidiaries, bSciEntrepreneurial, bSciWebDesign, bSciWriting, and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series. Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar. He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues. Dr. Ward has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas. Dr. Ward is passionate about disseminating behavior analysis to the world and growing the field through entrepreneurship. Todd can be reached at [email protected]
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