As a parent, you know how important it is to meet your child right where they are. You don’t want to rush them into situations before they’re ready, or require that they participate in a program that doesn’t help them to grow and develop. So how do you determine whether or not your child needs ABA?
Our team would like to offer this list to help you decide if it’s time to get started.
1. Does your child have difficulty with communication and social interaction? Does he/she seem at a loss for how to respond to your questions?
If so, ABA is a great way to foster the development of social skills. For example, an ABA therapist can teach your child to their label emotions and engage in interactive play, both of which are vital to socialization.
As the Autism Speaks notes, “ABA principles and techniques can foster basic skills such as looking, listening and imitating, as well as complex skills such as reading, conversing and understanding another person’s perspective.”
An ABA specialist can design a program for your child based on specific social skill gaps. Such individually-tailored learning can make a big difference in a relatively small amount of time.
2. Does your child need to learn specific self-care tasks, such as how to get dressed?
A trained ABA clinician can break down age-appropriate daily life tasks into a series of teachable steps for your child.
Learning to put on shoes and socks and wash hands fosters a the sense of independence for your child … and it also frees up your time as a parent!
Watch our sample Dressing Skills video to see a session like this in action. You’ll notice hand-over-hand prompting, positive reinforcement, and therapy toys that feature zippers, buttons, and snaps.
3. Has your child experienced challenges in preschool or elementary school settings?
One sign that your child could benefit from ABA is a difficulty with a classroom setting. After all, each school day involves a series of complex decision-making and self-regulation scenarios.
If your child lacks a few essential skill sets, such as the ability to self-soothe when overwhelmed or a way to communicate emotions effectively, then he or she will have trouble moving through a school day.
4. Is your child age 5 or younger?
As the CDC’s Autism Spectrum Disorder page notes, early intervention is vital to the development of children with autism. When children are young, their brain plasticity is high and new learning is easier.
Of course, older children and adults with autism benefit from ABA therapy as well, but since autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, it’s important to seize the opportunity for early intervention whenever possible.
It’s also worth noting that ABA is the one autism treatment supported by a wide range of governmental organizations and professional agencies, from the Surgeon General to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
5. Does your child have a hard time with transitions and deviations from the usual routine?
Individuals with autism often resist transitions from one activity to the next, or changes to established routines. This results in conflict when delays or cancellations occur.
Fortunately, ABA therapy is a fantastic way to practice coping with uncertainty and change. Clinicians use visual schedules and auditory prompts to train children to anticipate transitions, and they teach practical strategies for how to navigate unexpected changes too.
6. Does your child have sensory processing disorder, or do you suspect sensory issues?
As we noted in our post, A Back to School Checklist for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder, “Step by gradual step, ABA therapy can help your child to decrease sensitivity and acclimate to ordinary noises. When you help your child to address sensory processing issues, challenging behaviors and meltdowns often decrease.”
7. Can your child identify and communicate their basic emotional states?
The four basic emotional states are mad, sad, glad, and scared, and many children on the autism spectrum have difficulty recognizing these emotions when they arise.
Thus, they may say, “I’m angry” when they really mean, “I’m scared.” Needless to say, this can lead to some significant misunderstandings!
ABA clinicians teach children how to read visual and auditory clues and detect emotional states in themselves and others. They also use visual supports such as picture cards to help children communicate emotions.
Check out our sample Emotions Labeling video to see this happen in real time.
8. Does your child exhibit challenging behaviors such as aggression or self-injury?
ABA teaches that all behavior is a form of communication. Many autism parents have trouble decoding the messages their children are sending via their behaviors.
For example, your child may exhibit tantrum behavior seemingly without reason or strike out at others without apparent provocation. That’s worth investigating!
In such cases, your child is using inappropriate behavior to send a message or express an unmet need. Until you understand the need that’s fueling the behavior, you’ll have a hard time decreasing it.
As Shirley Nutt aptly noted in her guest post on our blog, How ABA reinforcement at home helped one family, “ABA teaches you how to determine WHY the behavior is occurring and then how to teach a replacement behavior.”
9. Are you and your family prepared to learn and practice ABA techniques along with your child?
Consistent reinforcement is key to success in ABA. So, before your child begins seeing a clinician, it’s important to consider how you’ll support their lessons in-home.
For example, you might need to fill out behavioral data sheets, practice using social stories and visual schedules, or commit to responding to challenging behaviors in a specific, predetermined manner.
10. Are you willing to seek out a school with a strong ABA tie-in, or advocate for your child to receive in-school ABA supports?
In order for an ABA program to have the greatest impact in a child’s life, it should be integrated into every major setting. That means consistent reinforcement at home and at school.
As such, you’ll need to facilitate communication between teachers, in-school staff, your ABA clinician, and your family members to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to positive behavior support plans.
Check out our post, Working with your child’s school to get ABA therapy support for more information on the ins and outs of in-school programs.
If you’ve discerned a need for ABA therapy for your child, why not start with a free fourteen-day trial of FirstPath Autism?
When you do, you’ll get access to our entire video library, with real-world lessons on social skills, behavior management, and more.