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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

ABA Parent Training – Research Review and Tips

Let’s review some of the research that has been published on the topic of applied behavior analysis parent training.

Pyramidal Training Model of ABA Parent Training

One study, by Conklin and Wallace (2019) used behavioral skills training in the format of a pyramidal model to train parents on how to use differential reinforcement of alternative behaviors (DRA).

The behavior analysts taught half the parents to use the DRA procedure. This was completed in a group setting. Then these parents trained the other half of the parents in the study how to use the DRA procedure.

This training format was referred to as a pyramidal training model.

This model has many benefits. It not only could help save a company time and money, but it could benefit the parents, as well.

The behavior analyst could offer a group parent training session. Then, another staff (possibly a student or an intern) could supervise a meeting in which parents got together to allow the parents who were already trained to train other parents. In this scenario, the credentialed behavior analyst wouldn’t necessarily have to be present for the additional training sessions.

This could also provide a sense of empowerment and support to the parents as they bond and learn together.

It is important to always consider the population and families you are working with to individualize your services to their needs and preferences.

Parent Training or Parent Education?

A study by Bearss, Johnson, and Smith (2015) found that parent training is more effective than parent education.

In this study, parent training was the activity of providing parents with training on behavioral strategies to reduce maladaptive behaviors displayed by their children. Parent education was perceived as providing parents with information about autism spectrum disorder without specific behavior management strategies that directly focus on changing the behavior of individual children.

Based on these findings, behavior analysts should reflect on the importance of individualizing services. Although having a structured model to follow can be helpful, be sure to help the parent apply the behavioral principles learned to their child.


Bearss K, Johnson C, Smith T, et al. Effect of Parent Training vs Parent Education on Behavioral Problems in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2015;313(15):1524–1533. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.3150

Conklin, SM, Wallace, MD. Pyramidal parent training using behavioral skills training: Training caregivers in the use of a differential reinforcement procedure. Behavioral Interventions. 2019; 34: 377– 387.

ABA Parent Training – Research Review and Tips

Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA

Heather is a freelance writer, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and social worker. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, applied behavior analysis, as well as Autism, ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. Contact Heather if you would like to inquire about obtaining her freelance writing services. You can view more articles and resources from Heather at and email her at [email protected] You can also advertise your autism services at one of Heather's websites: Heather is the developer of the "One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum."


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APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2019). ABA Parent Training – Research Review and Tips. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2020, from