The Importance of Family/Caregiver in ABA Therapy
What Is ABA Therapy?
ABA therapy, or applied behavior analysis, is a therapy technique that focuses in on a person’s behavior. Before the actual therapy begins, an intake meeting is usually conducted. At the intake meeting, the parents and/or caregiver meet with an administrator to discuss why ABA therapy is being sought and if it is a valid treatment for the individual. During this period, insurance is usually discussed. Administrators will work with the insurance company to determine if ABA therapy is covered, and the family will be asked to provide a medical diagnosis of an Autism spectrum disorder. This process also includes showing proof of insurance and a prescription for ABA therapy.
Once intake and insurance situations are completed, the next step is the assessment session. During this time the individual receiving therapy will work closely with a certified behavior analyst. The behavior analyst will use a variety of tools and assessments to determine where the individual is currently at and what is still below average, and the behavior analyst will then craft an individualized treatment plan. Usually, the assessment will be completed at home, but arrangements can be made for what works best for the family. Assessments may also be conducted in a variety of other settings like school. Therapy then begins with a focus on what problem areas were identified by the behavior assessment. Throughout therapy, assessments are completed to ensure that progress is being made and to identify what changes in therapy need to be made.
The Therapeutic Relationship
Logically, therapy has the best outcome when the individual being treated has a strong relationship with the therapist, and this relationship is dubbed the therapeutic relationship. It is often considered as important as, if not more so, than the therapy itself. Without it, the therapeutic outcomes will not be as positive as one would wish. When a minor is receiving therapy, as is often the case with Autism spectrum disorders, the family and/or caregiver must also approve of the therapist. The therapist will provide these people with things they can do to help at home. If the family and caregiver disapprove of the therapist or treatment in any way, then they will not perform their vital role in the therapeutic process.
The Role of Family and/or the Caregiver
Families and caregivers are among the most important aspects of an individual’s treatment program. As with education, researchers have found that people in therapy who have active and involved families have much better outcomes when compared with those who are not involved. Due to this, it is important for therapists to encourage their client’s family and/or caregiver to become involved with the process as much as possible.
Families and caregivers know the client much better than the therapist ever will. These people can give the therapist insights into what sort of person a client is beyond their diagnosis. This can help the therapist know which techniques are likely to be effective and not worth employing. This is also important in helping the therapist establish the therapeutic relationship. By more intimately knowing the client, trust can be more readily established, and therapy can begin in earnest.
Families and caregivers spend the most time with the client. As such, it is vital that these people continue to employ techniques used in therapy throughout daily life outside of the therapist’s office. This will help the client generalize what is learned in therapy to all facets of life rather than just the clinic, which is important for good therapeutic outcomes. Of course, this also means that the families and caregivers must be aided, at least in part, with training from the treatment team to ensure that the techniques are being properly employed.
Finally, families and caregivers can further inform the direction of treatment. Because they spend so much time with the client, they can record data on the client’s behavior in daily life. This data can then be given to the treatment team to be analyzed. This data will be compiled with the data obtained during therapy sessions. The team will then utilize the data to inform therapy, allowing it to guide the next steps. Without this, or the other important aspects of involvement, ABA therapy is unlikely to work as successfully as one would hope.
Many researchers have wondered why families and caregivers seem to be withdrawn when it comes to therapy, and their studies have found that stress seems to be one of the most common reasons. This stress, especially in the case of parents, comes from families often having little training in how to understand and handle undesirable behaviors. Other factors are also involved with this, including age, socioeconomic status, and cultural differences. Despite these challenges, parental involvement is a key predictor in the success of ABA therapy.
There is no way to define an optimal level of parental involvement due to the diverse needs of each family, but it is vital that the therapist help find a balance between under-involvement and over-involvement. Typically, outcomes are best when the family believes that the person with an Autism spectrum disorder has something that needs to be fixed but also an equal feeling that this person is incredibly special. Therapists are trained to help families and caregivers reach this balance. Ultimately, families and caregivers should be able to understand what it means to have an Autism spectrum disorder and work with other community members to provide the best environment for their loved one.
ABA therapy is a strong therapy that aids in the treatment of Autism spectrum disorders that can quickly become meaningless without family and/or caregiver involvement. These people are important in a client’s treatment in that they can help therapists better know the client, aid in expanding techniques beyond the therapist’s office, and provide data to the therapist to help treatment move forward. Though there are many challenges to getting families and caregivers involved, therapists are trained to encourage this involvement and ensure that the client experiences good outcomes.