1. What is the child's current level of functioning?
The right program and education milestones depend upon collecting the right information. Assessing someone’s current level of functioning is one of the first things caregivers should do. There are many different factors to assess before services are offered and customized plans are created.
Speaking with the family of the patient receiving care is often enlightening in this regard. People familiar with the patient are the most able to identify problem behaviors as well as to take steps to reinforce classroom learning at home. Communicating with teachers and outside of the center, if applicable, is another way to understand their level of functioning, including social skills and language ability.
2. What are the child's specific goals for therapy?
Clearly defining goals is important when beginning ABA therapy. Positive reinforcement is an important element of this kind of therapy, and patients with clear behaviors to model and milestones to meet can make the therapy process more effective.
A professional’s first step should be to identify goal behaviors. When the patient successfully uses the goal behavior, they receive a reward. This approach is effective for both adults and children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related issues.
Goals should be tailored to every patient in response to their individual needs. ABA programs can be used to acquire skills and learn communication techniques from trained therapists, for example, and there are many additional benefits.
3. How many hours per week will the child be in therapy?
The number of hours per week dedicated to therapy is highly dependent on the patients’ schedules as well as when their family members can take part. For optimal gains in areas of concern, weekly therapy sessions amounting to between 10 and 30 hours are possible. Multiple factors go into determining exactly how long your child will be in therapy, including their current level of functioning, their current communication skills, and the goals set forth by parents and the attending ABA therapist.
Remember that the number of hours per week your child spends in therapy is not set in stone. It might fluctuate as kids become accustomed to their training team and the support from professionals as well as families. Sometimes your child might spend more time in therapy, and sometimes less. A good ABA provider understands the importance of remaining flexible in order to best help the patient.
4. How long will therapy last?
The length of ABA sessions varies from child to child. Parents can expect their child to be in therapy every day for between two and five hours. However, this is just a generalization. It is possible for sessions to last longer depending upon the goal, progress, and teaching approach, and in some cases they might even be shorter.
5. What is the expected outcome of therapy?
The expected outcome of therapy depends upon the child and their personalized goals. Sometimes therapy will focus on a focused plan in order to reach a specific outcome. Other times, broader goals are in play. Ultimately, the expected outcome of therapy is to improve the quality of learners’ lives at all ages. Whether this means finding success in social communication or addressing other challenges in daily life, ABA therapy programs exist to make life easier for child and parent alike.
6. What are the risks and potential side effects of therapy?
While ABA treatments are accepted as some of the safest and most effective for people with ASD and related issues, nothing is without risk. ABA therapy can have negative consequences for some children. Much of these can be avoided by conducting proper assessments regularly along with behavior analysis, but sometimes a student is affected by the process differently than others.
Children in this situation might experience a few issues. The first is increased stress levels as they try, and fail, to adapt to sessions. Again, clinicians should conduct the proper assessment to determine the child’s psychology and decide if the treatment plan is working before potential side effects progress too much. Over time, the frustration some children experience in the treatment environment might lead to depression or anxiety.
It is important to note that while there are always risks associated with medical treatments, most students find success and behavioral improvements with ABA therapy.
7. What are the parents' or guardians' expectations for therapy?
Parents and guardians often have varying expectations for therapy depending upon the goals they have for their child. Some parents or guardians aim for almost Herculean development in many areas. This includes special education, speech therapy, and clear evidence of the effectiveness of the program. While some students do make astounding progress, it is important to remember that night-and-day changes are not completed over night. It takes time to reach these positive outcomes.
Other parents and guardians simply want to see their child speak a few words. Language development is a common element of ABA therapy, especially for children who are nonverbal or those who struggle with speaking.
Whatever the expectations might be, parents and guardians should be in touch with ABA therapists to ensure that their child is on track and no further intervention is needed.
8. What is the child's motivation for participating in therapy?
Motivation is absolutely critical to the success of your child’s therapies. From developmental disabilities to sensory disorders and everything in between, children must be taught from childhood to focus on their goals and maintain motivation, even if the process takes a while.
With that said, children’s motivation depends upon their level of function as well as the reason they are present in the first place. Some students want to improve their social skills, while others simply want to make their parents happy.
9. How will progress be monitored and evaluated?
Progress monitoring and evaluation is critical to determining the success of the therapy program. If progress isn’t apparent, it is better to know early on so that treatment plans can be adjusted. The difference in progress from the old plan to the new plan, if any, can be measured to help identify opportunities for improvement in other areas.
Progress is monitored by observation and data collection. Inappropriate behavior in school, for example, can help therapists gauge the progress children are making. Office referrals, class removals, suspensions, and even expulsions can help paint the “bigger picture” for clinicians.
Direct behavior scale rating can also help therapists, as can point sheets and brief behavior scale ratings. Once all of the relevant information has been collected, it can be interpreted and entered into a data management system to help therapists visualize the data and its insights. These insights are collected, recorded, and used to improve the service your child is receiving.
10. Are there any other treatment options available?
ABA therapy is one of the most effective therapies available for children with ASD. However, it is not the only option. Alternative therapies such as rational behavior therapy (RBT) can also be used to help children process their thoughts, emotions, and reactive behavior.