Applied behavior analysis therapy (ABA) is a well-known, scientifically proven intervention for increasing functional skills in children with autism or developmental delays. While children can make great gains with ABA therapy, the children who make the most gains are the ones who have parents who are actively involved in their child’s therapy. Being actively involved doesn’t mean you need to observe every session and/or attempt to run your own sessions at home. However, what you can do is to carry over the skills your child is learning in therapy and then practice them during your child’s everyday routine. For example, if the therapist tells you they are working on increasing your child’s receptive identification skills, at home you can look through picture books with your child and have them point to various pictures in the book.
The Importance of Parental Involvement in ABA Therapy:
Children are with their therapist for only a small portion of each day, so the more they can practice the skills they are learning, the sooner you will begin to see progress. Conversely, if you do not carry over what your child is doing in therapy, it will most likely take them longer to meet their goals. It can also be counter-productive if you are doing something completely different than what is happening in therapy. For example, if a child is working on a certain method of communication in therapy, but the parents/caregivers do not make the child communicate this way at home, the child is going to get very confused and consequently will not learn to effectively communicate in a functional manner.
For suggestions on what type of activities you can be working on at home with your child, ask the behavior analyst on your child’s team. They can give you suggestions based on your child’s specific needs and goals.
Below is a list of some general activities that you can do with your child at home:
- Have your child request preferred items and activities using their current mode of communication (vocal, signs, PECS, etc.). Keep their favorite items in sight but out of reach so they need to ask someone to get it for them. Or have preferred items in clear plastic bins that are not easy to open. So in addition to requesting the item, they can request “help” or “open.”
- When your child requests something, have them make eye contact with you before you give them the item.
- Look through picture books and ask your child to point to various pictures.
- Ask your child to follow simple commands (e.g., clap, jump, find your nose, touch your toes).
- Sing songs that have motions with them (i.e., Wheels on the Bus song). While singing do the different motions and prompt your child to imitate your motions.
- Play a variety of developmentally appropriate games with your child to expand the variety of toys they find reinforcing.
Make the activities fun for your child. They are already probably receiving therapy multiple days a week, so you don’t want this to seem like work. If it seems like work, they will be more resistant to engage with you. Also follow your child’s lead and try to create “teachable moments” based off what they are currently interested in.
NSPT offers ABA Therapy services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!