COMPONENT OF A QUALITY ABA PROGRAM
Not all ABA program providers are created equal. Like many things in life, some providers are great while others are lacking, and there are those who are downright awful and should be avoided at all cost. Pick wisely as your child’s treatment outcome will depend on them. A great starting point is your local parent support group like LAFEAT. The following are common traits found in quality ABA program providers:
Analysis of recent studies shows that there is a correlation between the number of hours of intervention and the outcome of the therapy. Programs that are more intensive in hours produce better and longer lasting results. Research indicates that 40 hours per week is appropriate for the majority of young autistic children. An ABA provider should make recommendations for hours based on research and the child’s needs, not what the school district or Regional Center is willing to fund.
Learning in a 1:1 environment
Because many young autistic children lack the social and communication skills necessary to be successful in a group environment, the ABA provider often will begin teaching skills in a one-on-one setting, typically in the home. After the skills are learned in that setting, they are generalized to other settings, such as school and the community.
Program addresses all developmental domains
An effective program will address all aspects of the child’s disability. Deficits in communication, attention, social play, gross motor, fine motor, self-help, cognitive and academic skills, and behavioral challenges are targeted in the child’s individualized curriculum. Targets for each area should be developed based on the child’s individual strengths and deficits in each area.
Emphasis on generalized skills
Generalization means that the child can perform a particular skill in any environment, with any person, objects or instructions. A quality ABA program has a systematic, continuous plan for generalizing skills learned in the therapy room.
Supervisions should meet regularly with the parents and aides regularly to discuss the child’s progress, identify new areas of strength and weakness, and adjust the program curriculum. Supervisors should have experience and education in ABA and should work with either a PhD level psychologist or Board Certified ABA therapist in developing the child’s program (For example, you don’t want a marriage and family therapist who went to a 3-day ABA training, and now says they “do ABA”. An MFT might be okay if they have the right education and experience, such as working for reputable ABA agencies.)
ABA is a data-driven treatment. The program should regularly record, review, and analyze data related to the child’s progress in the program. The results of this analysis should be used to develop an individualized curriculum and behavioral strategies for the child.
Goal is independence in a typical setting
In a quality program, the goal is to increase the skill levels of the child to the extent that program is no longer required in order to maintain success in a typical setting. While this is not a goal that can be realized by all autistic children, the ABA provider should be building skills to achieve independence to the maximum extent possible.
Parent Participation and Training
Effective ABA programs rely on the support, dedication, and commitment of families. All of the effective, comprehensive ABA programs that have been presented in the research encourage, support, and even require parent participation to obtain the magnitude of developmental gains. A quality ABA program will be able to work with you in the development of your skill as your child’s most important teacher.
Questions to ask ABA agency
- How many hours of ABA therapy do you typically recommend for young children with autism? If typical hours are under 25 hours per week, be concerned.
- What teaching methods do you use in your program? (You’re looking for DTT, VB and other behavioral-based teaching. If they say they do ABA mixed with floor time, Sun Rise or other non-behavioral based teaching methods, then you are not getting a research-based ABA program.)
- How is data recorded? (Should be recorded at every therapy session) Does the parent have access to the raw data? (You should) How often is data analyzed? How often are clinic meetings? (It should be at least once a month.) Who attends clinic meetings? (The entire treatment team should attend the meeting.)
- Can I see the resume of the person who will be supervising my child’s case? (Look for experience, certificate of BCBA)
- How do you develop my child’s program? How do you decide which skills will be targeted? How are they modified? What are your criteria for determining that my child has mastered a skill?
- How long have you been in business? Can I get references from other families you have worked within my area?