When you envision your child’s future, what do you think about? Maybe you look forward to them being old enough to play at the park with other children. Perhaps you’re excited about attending their soccer games in the spring. It could be that you’re savoring their last few months at home before they head off to college in the fall.
Thinking about your child’s future is like placing dreams of what could be on an open landscape of vibrant green grass and bright clear skies. Everything glistens, and the possibilities feel endless.
For families who have gone through the experience of having a child diagnosed with autism, eyes that look ahead are drawn to their immediate surroundings. The sky becomes filled with grey clouds of uncertainty, and shadows of sadness. Nothing feels finite or clear.
Perhaps even the hopes of what could be come to an end. No matter what the experience, when a parent learns their child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the news makes a significant impact.
The specific steps between the moment the news is received, and their child’s future can be filled with uncertainties. To help parents get started, health care providers will equip parents with information regarding treatment for their child.
There are several ways to treat the symptoms of autism, but few that are supported by evidence-based research. Confirmed as an effective treatment by the US Surgeon General in 1999, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is mandated for coverage in 48 of the 50 states in the Unites States of America.
What is ABA Therapy?
ABA therapy is the application of research-based principles of learning and motivation to modify behavior. Simply put, it’s a way of changing behavior in a meaningful way.
The process observes how people act, what their environment is like, and what the circumstances are around their behavior. This helps to build theories about why people do what they do that are used to create significant changes. From this, the practitioner is able to select individualized interventions to increase and/or decrease behavior.
ABA therapy may involve reducing problem behaviors, strengthening your child’s current abilities, or teaching them new skills. For example, a child with ASD may struggle to make friends or learn how to handle their frustrations.
ABA therapy can provide them with social skills to help build friendships or techniques for handling anger. They can increase their ability to do things on their own or learn how to interact with others in a group.
Who provides ABA therapy services?
ABA therapy is provided by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). A BCBA is a therapist who has a master’s degree in either education, psychology, or ABA. Prior to obtaining the certification, they must take extensive behavior analysis-based graduate coursework, complete 1,500 hours of supervised field work, and pass a comprehensive exam.
Depending on state laws, a license may also be required to practice ABA therapy. The field is growing. In fact, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) reports that as of January 2019, there are approximately 32,000 BCBAs in the world.
What does ABA therapy involve?
Treatment for ASD using ABA therapy begins with a detailed assessment of your child’s history, medical information, and educational background. During this time the BCBA will also evaluate your child’s skill level through observations, parent interviews, working one-on-one with the child, and using various tests.
All these elements work together to give a baseline to guide their plan for treatment. Finally, your BCBA will share their expectations for treatment outcomes with you to make sure they have the tools necessary to individualize your child’s treatment goals.
Where does ABA therapy take place?
ABA therapy may take place in a variety of settings. Treatment is especially helpful in the locations where problems most likely occur. For younger children, therapy services typically occur in the home or in a center setting. BCBAs may work with slightly older children in school or out in the community.
How often does ABA therapy take place?
It is very common for younger children to have daily ABA sessions. Research shows that younger children often benefit from at least 36 hours of ABA therapy per week (Eldevik, S., Hastings, J.C., Jahr, E., Eikeseth, S., & Cross, S. 2010). This initial amount of time may seem overwhelming; however, a goal of ABA therapy is to strengthen your child’s skills over time.
Initially, the BCBA will be working with your child in addressing a variety of skills and helping them to meet developmental milestones. As the child makes progress, weekly session hours are reduced to reflect their decreasing need of support. Ultimately your ABA therapy team will work with you on an individualized plan that will determine the frequency of your child’s therapy.
How long will my child need ABA therapy?
ABA therapy continues as long as there are treatment goals for your child to achieve. As a parent you should expect for the BCBA to closely oversee your child’s progress while maintaining consistent communication.
It’s important that your BCBA is open to working with any other professionals involved in your child’s care. A collaborative approach is necessary for supporting your child’s autism treatment and giving them the best treatment available.
ABA therapy and your child’s ASD diagnosis
Using an evidence-based approach, the BCBA can support your child’s individuality while strengthening their skills. The ability for a child to speak for themselves, to care for their own needs, or to make friends is like a new sprout in a field of dreams.
ABA therapy does not make it any easier to receive the news of an ASD diagnosis, but it does provide parents with treatment options. It allows a parent access to evidence-based and proven therapy that connects with their child and helps them to reach their full potential. In the midst of uncertainty, across the landscape of new beginnings, a blue sprig grows.
Has your child been diagnosed with ASD? BlueSprig can help.
We approach the treatment of autism with one thing in mind, your child receiving the best therapy services possible. If your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and you would like additional information on ABA therapy, feel free to send us a message.