Want to know what’s involved in an early intensive ABA program for autism? Perhaps you want to know what parents are expected to organise and do?
This post is for anyone wanting a peek inside what our dedicated families do every day. This post is also for families who are thinking of starting an ABA program, or are new to Beanstalk’s Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention (EIBI) service.
What is next, what does a therapy session look like, what do I need to do – these are some of the questions that I get asked often during initial assessments or initial clinics. Understandably, coping with changes can be stressful at first, let alone starting something new that is going to impact on your routine and life. Let’s start at the beginning.
Initial Assessment of Skills and Language
We conduct an initial assessment before starting therapy. Here we identify your child’s strengths, and what’s missing – their skill (and language) deficits. It is also time to discuss the goals you have for your child so we can make sure we’re including what’s really important to you to target first.
After the initial assessment we will set up a team of Registered Behaviour Technicians (RBT) to provide in-home therapy as well as a folder of programs that you will receive at your initial clinic which will look like this:
You will get to meet the all the fabulous RBTs in your team and your Program Supervisor will go through all the programs with you and the team on the initial clinic.
Pairing Ourselves with Reinforcement
Your child’s EIBI program will always start with pairing sessions, where it’s ALL about what your child loves and having fun with their new therapist! We give them their favourite toy, treat, spin etc. initially for FREE! We want to be thought of as the giver of good things! It is important to have therapists building rapport with your child and that your child sees them as fun and engaging and want to be with them.
Task demands are then gradually and slowly introduced in sessions and your child will receive lots of reinforcement during this rapid learning phase.
Beanstalk’s therapy sessions are play-based. Therapy sessions should be fun and engaging. We don’t teach skills only when your child is sitting at the table, they should be learning anywhere and everywhere. I still remember running almost the entire therapy session in the bathroom with my client when I worked as a therapist because my client decided she wanted to give her Barbie dolls a spa bath that day. So we practiced conversational skills, turn-taking and listening comprehension all in the bathroom.
Challenging Behaviour Can Get Worse Before it Gets Better
As fun and happy as we strive to make our sessions, I have always advised parents that they are likely to see an increase in challenging behaviour at the start of an ABA program – as we start placing demands on them. One of the very common goals that I get from parents is for their child to be able to follow instructions independently, without needing any prompts or without engaging in any challenging behaviour.
This typically happens because in the past the child might have had free access to the best things, and now we’re asking them to do or say something in order to now be able to have a turn with a new toy etc.
Earning instructional control or gaining compliance will then be the number one priority in sessions. Robert Schramm’s The Seven Steps to Earning Instructional Control with Your Child is one of my favourite reads and I would highly recommend this to parents. As we gradually start placing demands on your child, we are likely to get a spike in behaviour, which we call an extinction burst. Hang in there when that happens, parents, as behaviour like this gets worse before it gets better. Your Program Supervisor will have challenging behaviour during sessions tracked on our behaviour tracker and will monitor the data closely.
Parents are expected to be involved in sessions and clinics, and often deliver therapy hours themselves (especially when funding isn’t covering the full 20 hours each week). Parents are also asked to print out datasheets at home for therapists to track learning and behaviour, and to organise any materials that we might need (that are usually found around the house like a spoon, a cup, a ball etc.).
In order for everyone to know what to do when there is behaviour, we write up a cheat sheet of what to say or do when challenging behaviour strikes. It is important that parents implement these function-based behaviour protocols in everyday life outside of therapy sessions as consistency is the key to behaviour change. It is also essential that parents know which skills their child is learning or has mastered so they can expect them to be using those skills and language outside of therapy sessions. Moreover, research shows that parents involvement in programs contribute to greater gains in therapy.
I hope this post answers some of the questions you might have. Got more questions? Want to book a seat to our next parent info session? Head to https://beanstalkkids.com.au/parent-info-session/
or email us firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll have a chat about how we can help.
We hope to meet you soon and start the life changing journey for your child with autism.
Director of Early Intervention at Beanstalk