You did it! Take a moment to congratulate yourself on making it through all the questions, assessments, and observations – your child is now ready to start receiving direct intervention with applied behavior analysis programming and strategies. Now that you’re here, you might be asking yourself, ‘What next?’ Below is a quick rundown of what to expect in the first 30 days of ABA services.
The Clinical Team and What They Do
A Clinical Team will work together to provide services and implement goals recommended for your child during the assessment process. The Behavior Analyst is the supervisor of the program and your go-to person regarding all questions, rationale, ideas, and input that you might have. They will oversee the program, the implementation of the teaching of the goals, and regularly be assessing what is and isn’t working. You can expect to see them at least every other week depending on the total hours of your child’s program. The Behavior Technician is the staff that will come to your home for the previously arranged schedule and implement the goals and teaching strategies decided upon by the behavior analyst. They will provide the clinically recommended hours per week that were prescribed by the assessor in order for your child to make the most progress.
Preparing your home for sessions
Families are encouraged to make sure that there are areas to conduct sessions preferably with minimal distractions (i.e. TV playing during a teaching segment, loud music, excessive phone calls, etc.) and access to your child’s preferred toys and/or activities. The Clinical Team will let you know what areas/items are needed to conduct goals (i.e. the bathroom sink for washing hands, a table for sitting and attending, etc.) and will work with you to create a comfortable and positive learning environment. If there are any areas of the home that you are not comfortable with the team accessing, please be sure to let them know right away and they will be happy to accommodate those requests so long as it doesn’t interfere with any goals or safety concerns. If there are specific materials or reinforcers needed, your Clinical Team will make recommendations for what those are and the best way to obtain them.
Pairing and Building Rapport
In the first 30 days, the goal of the Clinical Team is to create a positive relationship with your child so that your child becomes excited about the arrival of the team. In order to avoid any negative associations early on, the Clinical Team will complete a pairing process by creating opportunities to pair themselves with toys and activities that your child enjoys so that your child starts to associate the staff with these items and not immediately with difficult programs or demands. Once this is established, your child is more likely to comply with more difficult programs because they know that the staff is also fun, engaging, and that reinforcements will be provided. It may initially seem like the team is only playing and not ‘working’ with your child, but this process is imperative to the success of the program and your child’s willingness to participate. Each time a new staff is introduced to your child in the future, this process will take place again, and the Clinical Team will continue to complete opportunities for pairing throughout your child’s ABA program in order to ensure they maintain your child’s motivation and willingness to engage with the team!
In the first 30 days of therapy, your Clinical Team will start by collecting what is called baseline data prior to targeting the goals that were outlined in your child’s assessment. Your Behavior Technician will collect data on their electronic devices (i.e., computers, tablets, cell phones, etc.) and the Behavior Analyst will assess the data frequently to ensure that the intervention strategies are effective and that your child is making progress. If you ever have questions about the data being collected or your child’s progress, feel free to let the Behavior Analyst know and they will be happy to review this with you!
After the pairing process is successful and goals begin to be introduced, there is a chance that the initial ‘honeymoon phase’ will end and your child will catch on that some of the things being worked on are challenging or not preferred. For many, this can result in challenging behaviors such as tantrums, elopement, aggression, etc. We understand that this can be a difficult experience and that ABA training takes time to get accustomed to. Because of this, The Clinical Team will always strive to openly communicate with you about the process, the Behavior Intervention Plan, and how challenging behaviors will be addressed. The Clinical Team’s goal is for your child to learn the skills and behaviors necessary to effectively participate in all aspects of their lives. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and get involved. The more consistent everyone is with strategies in your child’s immediate environment, the more likely they will make progress and be successful!
Expectations of Staff
As we enter a professional relationship with your child and your family, it is important to know what you can expect from your Clinical Team. First and foremost, your behavior technician should always arrive and leave on time according to the schedule set up with client services. Your staff will likely take the first 5-10 minutes of session to get their materials and data collection ready. Then, they will start with a preferred activity or pairing themselves with whatever activity your child is currently engaged in. Instruction and guided programs will continue throughout the entire session, with some scheduled breaks. In the last 15 minutes of session, your staff will let you know your child is done with session for the day. Lastly, the Behavior Technician will clean up and complete their data collection and session summaries. Your staff should not be seen using their phones for personal use (i.e., texting, social media, etc.) during session times – even on your child’s breaks. If you ever have any concerns with the behavior technician’s professionalism, please let your behavior analyst know so that it can be addressed right away. In addition, parent training should be incorporated into sessions on a regular basis to ensure you are actively involved and learning strategies to best support your child’s progress. Given that these programs can be tailored to your needs and priorities, please don’t hesitate to communicate with the behavior analyst to ensure the parent education program is best suited for you and your family.
As with anything new, an adjustment period is necessary. Beginning ABA services may feel overwhelming in the beginning, but the Clinical Team is there to support you while creating a program that works for you and your family! You are a crucial piece of your child’s success in any program. It’s important that you feel comfortable and take things as they come– be gracious with yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or communicate concerns to the team. We are here to support you and your child every step of the way!