Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D
Learning that your child has been diagnosed with Autism can be an overwhelming experience. You may be provided with many treatment options and little guidance on how these interventions will fit into your life and your child’s progress over time.
Today, we will provide a bit more information about what you can expect from Early Intervention (EI) services that utilize Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).
EI services can offer a number of practical and treatment advantages to you and your child:
In-home services happen around your life.
In home ABA services are often easier to arrange along with your regular activities. Disruptions to your schedule don’t need to happen due to travel, because appointments occur in the convenience of your home. You can go about your regular activities in your home, rather than scheduling appointments and traveling to other locations. Therapists will come work with your child as you go about your normal activities at home.
You will see the progress you are working towards at home, because treatment happens where behaviors happen.
As your child is learning new behaviors, they will most easily transfer to settings in which he/she is most familiar. When your child receives in-home ABA services progress can be seen from treatment occurring in your home, not only in a treatment center or school. Behavior change occurs more easily where it matters most, in your home.
You will better understand your child’s needs and provide supports.
When your in-home ABA provider comes to work with your child you will see treatment happening in the moment. You may see your child working on highly structured “discrete training trials” to build foundational skills or “natural environment teaching” in which the therapist finds learning opportunities as they present themselves throughout the session. You will also see your therapist reinforcing adaptive behavior as a replacement to disruptive behavior (e.g., aggression, tantrums, or property destruction), while your child acquires increasingly more complex language and social skills. You will then be better equipped to follow through with some of the basic behavior management strategies used by your therapist in their absence.
If you are considering starting early intervention (EI) services you should expect an assessment and orientation process, that will often involve the following:
Receiving a diagnosis and seeking insurance coverage.
Though a diagnosis is not required to benefit from ABA services, you may need one for insurance coverage, whose requirements vary from state-to-state. If you are considering ABA services, contact your local provider who will be happy to walk you through the process.
You meet with a provider and your child’s behavior is assessed.
When you meet with an ABA provider you should anticipate that they will interview you and meet with your child to gain a better understanding of his/her current abilities and any behaviors that are problematic. Your provider will want to know how old your child was when they achieved a variety of developmental milestones. Your treatment provider will discuss your own goals for your child and begin a full behavioral assessment that will form a basis to measure your child’s progress over time.
Your provider should complete a full assessment of your child’s abilities.
A cornerstone of quality ABA services is ongoing and objective measurement of behavior. Your in-home ABA provider will likely complete a full assessment of your child’s abilities using a standardized assessment like the VB-MAPP. During the assessment, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) will walk through a variety of tasks with your child, and observe your child’s response (e.g., making eye contact when his/her name is called). The assessment will then guide the development of a treatment plan that will help your child reach developmental milestones and reduce disruptive behaviors.
The process of treatment and growth begins!
Once a plan is in place, a therapist will be introduced to your family to begin the process of rapport building, which sets a solid foundation for future treatment gains. The BCBA will also make regular visits to supervise the therapist, to talk with you about how things are progressing, and adjust the treatment plan as necessary to ensure continued progress.
If your child is diagnosed with autism and is not yet receiving services, it is strongly encouraged to look into ABA programs as soon as possible. The earlier services are received, the more likely your child is to make lasting progress. For more information regarding where you can receive EI services and what is included in an EI program, contact [email protected].
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, bSciStudios 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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What other ‘standardized’ assessments might you recommend? What about developmental assessments–BINS (Bayley Neurodevelopmental Inventory) or the like? Might these capture mulit-domain deficits or needs outside of verbal behavior? It is interesting to see how the field develops with regard to standardized assessment and our own use of functional (behavioral) analysis which may only serve us to discern disruptive behaviors as opposed to developmental assessments which elucidate more clearly program goals and activities. That said, perhaps a developmentally based schedule or inventory appears an integral part of assessment for services.