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ABA Therapy for Autism, Your Questions Answered

Jan
04

ABA Therapy for Autism, Your Questions Answered

Recently we shared a guest post from Malorie Cardamone who is studying to become a BCBA therapist. Personally I knew very little about what ABA therapy is, so here are some questions that came up for me after reading the post. Maybe they will be helpful to you too. If you have any questions for Malorie, leave them in the comments below or contact me and I’ll be sure to pass them on for you.

What are some reputable and trustworthy websites parents can reference if they’re looking for more information on ABA therapy?

This is a GREAT question, because HOW are parents to know what is really evidence-based information vs. a pretty website. These are a few of my go to’s for myself or for parents:

Behavior Babe

I Love ABA

ASAT Online

National Autism Centre at May Institute

Alta ABA

ABA in Alberta

What is the expectation of parents when their child is involved in ABA therapy?

This is dependent on a few things. If a family is funded through FSCD the requirement is parent training. However, I work with families who are not as involved. The model is funded to train families, which is great, but we are also very aware that families are so busy and so what I expect of them is dependent on their ability and the needs of the child.

Each case or client is different, as it really should be. I have some parents who watch sessions and I coach them. I will create plans for them to implement when I am not there. Then I have another family who doesn’t observe sessions and is not very hands on. It really depends, however, your BCBA should be able to alter programming to best accommodate the family. 

How likely is it that a child will see growth from ABA therapy?

This is my favourite question! The reason why I love this topic so much is because this is exactly why I fell in love with ABA. The growth. The measurable, observable growth in children. How quickly a child moves along in programming is completely case specific and dependent on a few factors: age, severity of diagnosis, parental involvement, school involvement, frequency of sessions, duration of sessions, challenging behaviours, skill deficits etc.

Typically a severe child who is in their teen years will learn slower due to lack of effective programming for so long prior to ABA. As well as working on behaviours (ie: toileting, aggression etc) with an older child, it often takes more time as the previous behaviour has been in their repertoire for so long.  Learning an alternative behaviour can take more time and resources. This is typical of any child when it comes to learning, early intervention is key.

That being said we work with all age groups and levels, it is NEVER too late, though progress might be a bit slower. 

How do you measure or track their progress?

The progress when working with a BCBA or with ABA services is also a beautiful thing. This is what really sets ABA apart from other disciplines. There is no guessing, no randomized procedures or reports. Data is collected on all behaviours being worked on.

This data collection is critical in that it allows the analyst a clear idea of the behaviour and how it is changing. It is not subjective to things we typically see in education settings, such as: “oh, he has been really disruptive this week in class”, “He is talking so much more now! He’s learned so many new words”. These are common statements heard in the educational field, however, are incredibly subjective. My definition of disruptive behaviour compared to yours could be, and is, likely different. So is a general statement about talking more.

In ABA we take data so we can show you exactly how many more words a child is saying, what kind of phrases they have learned, and what exactly defines the disruptive behaviour etc. Because these things are so clearly defined there should never be an issue of not understanding the behavior in question or the specific skills learned.

BCBA’s also take data to determine when an intervention is or is not working. There is no guesswork or time being wasted on interventions that are not effective. This is likely the biggest concern I have with the school system, the interventions are too general. They worked for one child with ASD one time, and then applied to everyone. ABA is individualized and should never be a copy of another child’s programming.

All ABA interventions are based on research and evidence, so there is no guessing. The clientele we work with are the most vulnerable population and they deserve the utmost respect and evidence (proof) when implementing a strategy. Their often lack of voice in our system that can easily take advantage of them is the reason why ABA is able to provide such incredibly life changing services for people with developmental delays.

Malorie is a certified teacher in Edmonton, Alberta. She has been teaching for 12 years and is currently studying to complete her master’s to continue her work with children with an ASD diagnosis. Her passion is working with children with developmental delays and advocating for their right to an evidence-based education within our province. 

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