By: Heyde A Ramirez, MA, BCBA, NYS LBA
Perhaps you had concerns for a while or maybe this is all brand new to you. Either way, here you are, now faced with the reality that your child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis. What happens now? What do you do?
For starters, take a moment. This can be a lot to digest. Breathe. Be kind to yourself. Remember, your job as a parent hasn’t changed. You are still going to be an advocate and do what whatever it takes to help your child have the best chance at the best life. Just remember you don’t have to do it alone. Your child has a team filled with doctors, teachers and therapy providers.
Has your doctor approached you about the possible treatment choices out there? Have you heard about applied behavior analysis (ABA)? I am here to tell you that ABA therapy is the right way to go! If your child can benefit from a therapy that can target the core deficits of ASD and increase his quality of life, then choose ABA. Ask for it, demand it, and make sure it’s provided by highly trained and qualified professionals.
What is ABA Therapy and How Will it Help Your Child?
ABA uses thoroughly researched strategies and procedures to change behaviors worth changing. Does your child demonstrate difficulties with communication? If your child cannot make requests for his wants and needs despite being vocal, we can use what we know about motivation and reinforcement among other behavioral principals to help your child communicate with you and the people in his environment.
Perhaps your child isn’t vocal at all and you are at a loss as to how to help your child even begin to communicate. We can use a behavioral approach to assess what, if any, alternative methods of communication may be appropriate. On the flip side, what if your child is most definitely vocal, and he engages in one-sided language or repeating words or phrases (i.e., echolalia)? We can create a treatment plan based on evidence based practices to help with these and other communication concerns.
ABA therapy also targets those social deficits that many individuals with ASD have. Whether it’s difficulties with eye contact, play skills, joint attention, understanding and using nonverbal cues, or any other social deficit, ABA can pinpoint the skills needed to alleviate these deficits. ABA employs a structured and systematic approach to targeting these skills.
ABA therapy can also be used to increase tolerance to changes, being told “No,” being asked to wait, among other important situations. ABA therapy can also be used as a way to increase the use of functional communication. After all, if your child is able to communicate with you and the others in his environment what he wants and needs in a safe appropriate manner, he will have less motivation to communicate with you by screaming, hitting, or otherwise engaging in behaviors that are unsafe, destructive and/or socially isolating.
What About Other Therapies?
As a parent, I am sure you want what’s best for your child. Perhaps you’ve searched Google or asked other parents what they have done. Maybe you’ve had a parent tell you that when they implemented a certain diet change or put their child on a certain vitamin regimen, they saw changes in their child’s behavior. Whether those changes really made a difference or were responsible for those changes cannot be determined without data and research.
The data and research supporting ABA therapy as a treatment for ASD is there, and it continues to build every day. I do caution you against treatments that have not been researched. These “fad” treatments have the potential of not only wasting valuable treatment time, but also can at times cause harm. The Bleach treatment for ASD definitely carried a risk for harm to the client, but when a treatment promises to be a cure-all, we can understand the allure. Equine therapy seems safer, and potentially even fun, but it is not a therapy that is able to target the core deficits of ASD and utilize evidence based practices in order to effect long lasting sustainable change that can be generalized across settings and people.
ABA therapy is a commitment, and hard work, for your child and the family and the team as a whole. The work put in has a great pay off; the benefits most definitely outweigh the costs. Choose ABA for your child when discussing the treatment that will be put in place. Ensure that the therapy is provided by trained professionals who have your child’s interests in mind and will provide treatment in an ethical evidence based manner.
For more information about Attentive Behavior Care and how we can help your child, please contact us today.