We, as ABA professionals, need to remember that parents are human beings, too. We know that everyone is different. People have different perspectives, different values, different priorities, different stressors and barriers in life, different backgrounds, and different experiences. The ABA professional should be compassionate and considerate of things factors when working with parents of clients with autism spectrum disorder.
ABA parent training may be influenced by many factors. One of the many factors that can impact the sessions and the outcomes in ABA parent training services can be looked at as factors related to the parent as an individual or the personal factors of the parent.
Parents may have expectations of ABA and of ABA parent training that they have created based upon previous experiences, information given to them by others about ABA (whether this information is correct or not may or may not matter in a parents conceptualization of the service), or based upon information that you as the service provider have given them (or not given them). They may also have created perceptions and expectations of the service based upon things they have observed in their child’s ABA session with you, with the behavior technician, or with a previous service provider.
Parents may also relate ABA services with other services and may not be clear on the differences between the service that you are providing compared to other services, such as case management, mental/behavioral health therapy or counseling, speech therapy, psychological services, or social work. This can be a reason why it would be helpful to define what ABA means and what ABA parent training looks like with you. You can learn about defining ABA parent training here.
All clinical service providers have their own style but there should be an overarching description that you have for helping parents to understand the service. For instance, you can identify where thoughts and emotions play a role in your service and when it is appropriate to consider referral to another type of service for these things. In ABA, we can consider thoughts and emotions as they are private events and may be beneficial to look at particularly with verbal clients or those working on values-based work or things like perspective taking and theory of mind. However, as the service provider, you should have a clear understanding of when someone like a counselor or psychologist is recommended.
You may also encounter differences between you and the parents you work with regarding views on their child’s behavior. As an ABA professional, you may automatically consider behavior as being reinforced by one of the four functions of behavior. On the other hand, a parent may look at their child’s behavior in less objective ways. They may think the child had a “bad day” or they may think the child is trying to make them or a peer mad. There are many ways of viewing a child’s behavior that could arise. It is important to gently explain your perspective from an ABA point of view on the child’s behavior while also showing empathetic responding to the parent.
Parents may also have a view that the ABA services are meant to “fix” their child or at least help their child as a stand-alone treatment. However, it is recommended that the ABA professional explain the role of the parent, as well. It is known that if a parent actively participates in the child’s ABA services and if they help the child to generalize skills learned in their ABA sessions as well as to implement effective strategies in the context of the home and community settings, the child is more likely to have positive outcomes for skill acquisition and behavioral development. However, the involvement of the parent may vary in intensity based upon the service model of the ABA professional and the organization they work for.
Communication style and learning differences in parents may also impact ABA parent training. We must take into consideration the parents preferred communication methods and learning style as well as their skill set and ability to complete various assigned activities. For instance, if we offer reading material or recommend a book to a parent who has reading challenges or trouble with their vision, we are not being as helpful to the parent as we could be if we were to go over the material with them or recommend an audio version of the text. Additionally, some parents will be more apt than others to actively participate in the treatment session while others may feel uncomfortable trying things out in front of you. Finding an appropriate balance between your clinical recommendations and a parents skills and preferences is likely to lead to the most optimal outcome for the treatment.
Considering the personal factors of the parent in ABA parent training is important to providing quality ABA parent training. This article mentioned just some of the personal factors that may arise with the parents that you work with. There are many other factors to consider, as well. Being mindful of these things is an essential component of ABA parent training.