In this Q&A with The Autism Therapy Group Clinical Director Brooke Belling, we explore questions people ask about ABA Therapy.
How Does a Parent Go About Getting a Diagnosis for Their Child Being on the Autism Spectrum?
There are times when pediatric doctors will refer out neurologists but generally, a formal assessment tool is used to diagnose autism. The CARS or GARS assessment are the most commonly used tools to diagnose autism and help indicate the severity of that autism diagnosis. With that information in hand, a parent (or parents) will need to discuss with each other what they may or may not want to do and steps going forward in treating their child and one area can be ABA Therapy.
This can often be a challenging decision. Most of ATG’s clients have been eligible for early childhood intervention through the state, so sometimes it makes sense that that’d be the next step once those services are no longer applicable. However, the testing can be grueling, and some families may elect not even to run through the formal diagnostic process because it is extensive and can take many hours. It is truly dependent on the family’s preference.
By the time a parent reaches out, and by the time ATG is engaged with families, most of the time they have either received ABA services elsewhere, or they already have a diagnosis, which means they have already gone through standardized diagnostic testing. There are some families who do reach out to see if we do the diagnosing ourselves, in which case, we will refer out to get that evaluation completed since we do not.
What is the Optimal Age of a Child Who Would Benefit from ABA Therapy?
As early as two or three years old would be preferred, especially advanced school-aged children with full days of school it is often difficult to meet the clinically recommended number of hours for those that would require a fully comprehensive treatment plan, which is usually upward to 30 – 40 hours per week.
With early intervention ABA Therapy, the learned history of a candidate plays into unwinding some of those challenging behaviors and bridging skill acquisition gaps. Behaviors that have been reinforced by the family for years and years, withholding reinforcement with a child with autism can be devastating to their daily schedule and potential rigidity that they may have unwinding from those processes that may be negatively affecting behavior or for lack of skill acquisition.
Who can Best Benefit from ABA?
At ATG, we believe all children of all types and across all stimuli can benefit from ABA Therapy. However, insurance requires the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder to be eligible for reimbursement for services in-home and center-based for ABA.
This is very important because no patient can go forward until that initial diagnosis is given, and some insurance companies, for example, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, require an updated diagnostic report every three months. If we have any clients who are outside that 36-month window, they need to be re-evaluated to continue to be eligible for ongoing services.
How Do You Explain What ABA Therapy is to a Parent?
ABA Therapy is a type of therapy that tackles socially significant disorders. At ATG, we highlight and prioritize the improvement of social communication, and establishing positive schedules of reinforcement to maintain those acquired skills within therapy. First and foremost, we prioritize positive reinforcement but there are consequence-based interventions as well.
It is truly creating environments across educators, family members, and caregivers to best modify the schedule of reinforcement and potential schedule of consequence-based intervention to either maintain behaviors they’ve acquired or to increase and decrease both desired and undesired behaviors.
What is the Level of the Parent or Caregiver’s Involvement as Their Child Progresses Through ABA Therapy?
To have a successful treatment plan, we need to make sure that when the ABA team is walking out the door, that the family is engaged and maintain whatever interventions we’ve initiated. All treatment approval plans incorporate parent training hours or family treatment guidance where we are maintaining skills we are teaching within therapy.
We come in as ABA providers and understand and establish schedules of reinforcement and punishment and once we have successful interventions, we call it the generalization of those skills to caregivers. It is essential there is a consistency of care outside of therapy hours.
When a Parent Initially Seeks ABA Therapy, What Information can They Provide to ATG to Get the Most out of Their First Contact?
Since the diagnostic report goes into great detail about what the assessment results are for the autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, this is always very helpful to have. If you have any educational documents to see if the child is eligible for an individualized education plan with such a diagnosis is helpful.
Essentially documents and reports help understand the background and potential interventions that have already been implemented with the family and child, and then just what the family is looking for to improve the overall quality of life for their child and their family.
A child with any type of diagnosis weighs heavily on parents and the family needs to be focused on what goes towards those interventions and services. At ATG, we really look to improve the overall quality of life across all settings such as at school or at home.
Support from siblings can also make sure the family unit has the appropriate supports in place so they can have meaningful engagement with their brothers or sisters, grandparents, and other family members. It’s really just understanding the specifics of the diagnosis and how we can best improve their day-to-day life as a family.
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