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Finding the right therapist for your family is one of the most important decisions you will make as a parent. You are trusting your child’s progress, education and future in the hands of the person that will be working for them. The good news is– there are a lot of really great providers out there.  There are a lot of resources with the obvious questions that you would ask a provider. This blog post will highlight three really honest questions you likely would have never thought of asking.

Question 1: How Do You Integrate Families Into the Program?

Research demonstrates that when parents are involved in an ABA program in a positive way, children make more progress. However, many ABA therapist do not include parents in the programs. Some even discourage parent participation.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when therapist tell parents that their children do better when they are not present because they are distracting and ask them to leave the room.  This is simply unacceptable. The only way that an ABA program can work is if all the people in the child’s life are carry out the intervention the same way. Parents are the most important person in any child’s life and a vital part of their educational success.

A good ABA therapist recognizes there are many ways to achieve the same goal. Just because a textbook says an approach will work does not mean that it will work for a family.  A good ABA therapist will ask parents what is most important to them when selecting program goals and will take into account family values and cultures when designing interventions.

For example, many times ABA therapists use food as a reward for good behavior. Some parents are totally okay with this.  Some families are not. The same holds true for the ipad. There is always merit to what approaches an ABA therapist recommends but arguing there is no other approach is a sign of an inexperienced therapist.  A good ABA therapist will accept a parents input and modify what they are doing. If a parent is not comfortable with an intervention, they will not carry it out when the therapists leaves.

An important question to ask a potential ABA therapist is whether or not they modify their methods based upon a family’s culture or preference or use a one size fits all cookie cutter approach.

It is not easy to modify what you are doing all day every day when working with different families. It took me years to master this skill. I used to argue with families all the time that my approach was correct and theirs was wrong because I read a study somewhere that my validated my technique.  Today, I recognize it’s not about whether a strategy could work in theory but whether or not it will work for my client.

Question 2: Are You Willing to Collaborate With Other Professionals?

I am just going to say it. ABA therapists are notoriously arrogant. Research demonstrates that ABA therapist can help up to forty percent of children recover from Autism. ABA is inarguably the most scientifically validated method of treating Autism.  This has lead many therapists to believe or at least act like they are better than all other Autism professionals. The bottom line. Children with Autism have lots of different needs and a good ABA therapist will recognize that other professionals have strengths they do not have and will collaborate with them, listen to them and even use some of their strategies to make sure your child is successful.

For example, many occupational therapists put children on sensory diets. Children with Autism all engage in some form of stereotypy. There is research that demonstrates that accessing some activities that provide a child with sensory input can help to reduce stereotypy. This is not a behavioral technique but I can tell you by first hand that from my observation from my eleven years in the field as well as from reading research, it works. Many ABA therapists will not implement a sensory diet because it is not a behavior technique. Others will argue that they can do it but they can’t “technically” call it a sensory diet and will call it a reinforcement break. A child is not a technicality. They are a person and they need our help. It doesn’t matter what you call a technique or who came up with the idea. If it works for a child- it works.  

This is just one example but things like this will come up over and over!  Make sure your ABA therapist is willing to work with your child’s teacher, their occupational therapist, speech therapist, physical therapist and any other provider your child sees.


Question 3: Do You Stay Up to Date With Research?

This is just one example but things like this will come up over and over!  Make sure your ABA therapist is willing to work with your child’s teacher, their occupational therapist, speech therapist, physical therapist and any other provider your child sees.

I hope these three questions help you find the therapist that is the right fit for your family. Your therapist will be an important part of your life. Healing your child of Autism is a difficult journey. Finding the right person to help your family will make it a little bit easier.

References

Benson, P., Karlof, K., & Siperstein, G. (2008). Maternal involvement in the education of young children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 12(47), 47-63, doi: 10.1177/1362361307085269

Case-Smith J, Bryan T. The effects of occupational therapy with sensory integration emphasis on preschool-age children with autism. American Journal of Occupational Therapy. 1999;53:89–497.[PubMed]

Cohen, H., Amerine-Dickens, M. and Smith, T. “Early Intensive Behavioral Treatment: Replication of the UCLA Model in a Community Setting.” Journal of Developmental Pediatrics, 2006; Vol. 27, No. 2: pp145-155

Dawson G., “Behavioral interventions in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder: a review of recent findings.” Current Opinion in Pediatrics, 2011; Vol 23: pp 616–620

Dawson, G. et al, “Randomized, Controlled Trial of an Intervention for Toddlers With Autism: The Early Start Denver Model.” Pediatrics, 2010; Vol. 125, No. 1: pp17-23

Fein, D., et al, “Optimal outcome in individuals with a history of autism,” Journal of Child Psychology and

Landa. R. J., and Kalb, L.G., “Long-term Outcomes of Toddlers With Autism Spectrum Disorder Exposes to Short-term Intervention,” Pediatrics 2012;Vol. 130;S186

Linderman TM, Stewart KB. Sensory integrative-based occupational therapy and functional outcomes in young children with pervasive developmental disorders: A single-subject study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy. 1999;53:207–213.

Lovaas O. “Behavioral Treatment and Normal Educational and Intellectual Functioning in Young Autistic Children.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1987; Vol. 55, No. 1: pp3-9

Maglione, M.A. et al, “Nonmedical Interventions for Children With ASD: Recommended Guidelines and Further Research Needs,” Pediatrics, 2012;Vol. 130;S169

McEachin J, et al. “Long-Term Outcome for Children With Autism Who Receive Early Intensive Behavioral Treatment.” American Journal on Mental Retardation, 1993; Vol. 97, No. 4: pp 359-372

Ozonoff, S., & Cathcart, K. (1998). Effectiveness of a home program Intervention for young children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, (1), 25-32. doi:10.1023/A:1026006818310

Pfeiffer, B. A., Koenig, K., Kinnealey, M., Sheppard, M., & Henderson, L. (2011). Effectiveness of sensory integration interventions in children with autism spectrum disorders: a pilot study. The American journal of occupational therapy : official publication of the American Occupational Therapy Association, 65(1), 76-85.

Roberts JE, King-Thomas L, Boccia ML. Behavioral indexes of the efficacy of sensory integration therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy. 2007;61:555–562.

Schaaf RC, Miller LJ. Occupational therapy using a sensory integrative approach for children with developmental disabilities. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews. 2005;11:143–148.

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We look forward to being on this crazy journey that is Autism with your family. Please never hesitate to reach out if I can assist you.

Comments

  • Daphne Gilpin
    Posted June 7, 2019 10:55 am 0Likes

    Thanks for pointing out that ABA therapy is actually the most scientifically proven method for treating autism. My husband and I just found out that our daughter is on the autism spectrum, so I’ve been doing some research on possible treatments that could help her. I’m glad I read your article because now I can see why ABA therapy would be a smart choice.

    • Jessica Leichtweisz
      Posted August 10, 2019 11:12 am 0Likes

      It’s my pleasure. Please feel free to comment on any of the posts with specific questions that you have and I will do my best to answer them to you.

  • Penelope Smith
    Posted August 27, 2019 9:22 pm 0Likes

    I liked that you pointed out that you need to integrate families into the treatment. That also seems like it would help the family members know how to help out as well. It might be smart to research what behavioral treatments in your area cater to families.

  • Jenna Hunter
    Posted October 29, 2019 6:02 pm 0Likes

    My uncle is thinking about having his kids go to pediatric therapy. It could be really nice if they were able to see a professional. It was interesting to learn about you can implement families into the program.

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