Initial Assessment for ABA Services
As a parent, it can be overwhelming to hear the words “your child has autism”. Oftentimes, your mind begins to flood with thoughts and worries—“Will my child be able to one day live independently?” “Will she have friends?” “Will she be able to go to school?” “How do we pay for the help he needs?” “What is the most effective treatment for children on the spectrum?” It seems like you barely have time to process the news before you’re being sent down the pipeline of various services and interventions.
The chances are high that one of the first referrals made by your child’s diagnostic team is to an ABA therapy agency. Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, is one of the few treatment options available that is backed by years of research and is accepted by insurance agencies. However, for those new to the world of autism, the process can seem confusing and overwhelming. We hope that the following helps you understand the process of your child’s initial ABA assessment.
Step 1: Find a BCBA-Approved ABA Therapy Agency
The gold standard ABA program is one that is BCBA approved (welcome to the alphabet soup of the special needs world!). This means that the behavior specialists in the BCBA-approved program have been trained and supervised to provide appropriate and high-quality behavior analysis services.
With autism spectrum disorders, early intervention is important to ensure the best possible prognosis. Thus, it is important to choose a BCBA-approved program to ensure that your child is receiving the highest-quality services from a provider that understands the current research and best practices in the field.
Step 2: Intake Consultation
By the time your child receives the diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder, it is likely that you have already been through the gamut of assessments and interviews. We understand that the process can be tedious. However, it is important that the team that will be working with your child understands your child’s needs well. This often requires that the behavior intervention team meets with the family before starting the process of assessing your child.
Before the meeting, you might be required to provide documentation to the ABA therapy agency that provides proof of an autism diagnosis and a recommendation for ABA services from your child’s medical or diagnostic team. This is to verify that ABA services are necessary, and it is a step that most insurance companies will require before approving payment for ABA services. Once documentation is reviewed, an initial meeting can be set up.
During this initial meeting, the behavior intervention staff will discuss your child’s diagnostic results, in addition to any concerns you might have about your child’s diagnosis, behaviors, prognosis or therapy process. During this meeting, the behavior intervention team can describe available services and what the therapeutic process might entail. You might be given information on home exercises and other ways the entire family can be involved in helping your child grow and thrive.
Step 3: Assessment of the Child
Following the initial intake consultation, your child will likely then be assessed by the ABA team. This assessment might vary slightly from the one your child was given as part of his or her diagnosis. In a skills assessment, the ABA specialists use a variety of assessments in order to see what your child’s strengths are and where he or she could use some extra assistance.
A skills assessment is an essential part of creating your child’s behavior intervention plan. Because ABA therapy addresses skill deficits and helps your child to grow in his or her skills, it is important to have a baseline understanding of your child’s current skill level.
Typically, prior to starting ABA services, children with an ASD will require a full developmental assessment. This will help give a complete picture of your child’s current functioning level in the areas of self-help skills, life skills, executive functioning, communication, adaptive skills, fine and gross motor skills, cognition and social-emotional development. The assessments compare your child’s current skill level with that found in same-age neurotypically-developing peers. For example, if your child is seven years old, his skill level will be compared to what is typically found in non-autistic seven-year-olds. The difference between the skill level in a typically-developing child and in one with autism will provide the basis for ABA interventions.
Step 4: A Behavior Intervention Plan is Created
After your child’s developmental assessment is completed, the ABA team can begin to develop a behavior intervention plan. This plan, often referred to as a BIP, includes your child’s current skill level, the skill expected for his or her chronological age and the steps that will be taken to help your child learn that new skill.
This plan will also include ideas of things that your child finds reinforcing. In some cases, BIPs will also include a list of things your child finds aversive so those can be avoided during the reinforcement process. The ABA team can also determine if other assessments or referrals are necessary for your child.
Think of a BIP as a roadmap for you, your child and the behavior intervention team. The Behavior Intervention Plan establishes particular goals for your child as well as the steps that will be taken to help your child accomplish those goals. Throughout your child’s treatment process, the ABA team will conduct brief assessments to compare your child’s growth to his or her baseline level determined during the initial assessment for ABA services.
Parent Support and Training
Remember that you are an important part of your child’s treatment team. ABA services should always include the child’s parents and siblings in the treatment planning and services. If you ever have questions about your child’s assessments, behavior or treatment, it is important to let your child’s service team know.
During your child’s initial assessment for ABA services, the need for parent training, family training, and family support services can also be established. These services can help reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed and isolated, as well as increase your confidence as a parent of a child with an autism spectrum disorder. You can also be introduced to other parents who have children on the spectrum so that you can begin to form a network of like-minded parents who can act as a support system.
Getting Started with ABA Services
Once your child’s skills and developmental assessments are completed and the initial Behavior Intervention Plan is made, it will then be time for your child to begin ABA therapy services. At Achievement Behavior Services, we specialize in providing intensive and individualized one-on-one treatment for your child that is based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. We will work with your child to increase your child’s skill level and independence, while also working to decrease any problem behaviors and behaviors that are barriers to your child’s independence and learning. These services can be provided in your home so that your child feels comfortable and safe.
If you feel that your child could benefit from BCBA-approved ABA services, please contact Achievement Behavior Services to begin your child’s initial assessment for ABA services.