If you have a child with autism, you may be offered parent training at some point. Parent training can vital to a successful therapy program. Parent training may also be offered as part of educational services if your child is between 0 and 3 years old.
What is Parent Training?
Parent training is normally informal. However, it is still important to follow the expectations set by your provider. This usually includes attending sessions on time, participating actively, and doing your homework. Parent training might include a curriculum, but the curriculum is flexible depending on your specific needs.
Parent training for families of children with autism often happens individually. However, sometimes your provider may offer group sessions as well.
Individual parent training sessions will often take place in your home. They can also take place in your provider’s clinic or center. You might be able to request a parent training session in a community setting, like a coffee shop. Parent training sessions can also happen via Telehealth. Telehealth is when you and the provider use a video conferencing system to meet, that still protects your privacy according to HIPAA laws.
If your child is receiving ABA therapy, they have a treatment plan. The treatment plan contains all of the goals that are individualized to your child’s needs. The treatment plan will also include a section for parent training goals.
How Do I Participate?
If you participate in parent training it is important that you take the time to meet with your provider and develop parent training goals that will be meaningful for you.
Once the goals are in the plan, you and your provider will meet to address the goals. For example, you might have a goal for your child to increase independence with their morning routine. The provider will work with you to identify a first step during parent training. They will show or explain how to do the first step. For example, they might ask you to try a star chart with your child for brushing their teeth with less help.
You will be responsible to try the steps explained by your provider between sessions.
At the next session, you and your provider will review how things are going together.
Your provider will give you additional strategies to try out. They will help you troubleshoot if something went wrong. They will make notes and record data about what you report. This will help them track progress.
The process will then repeat at each session. You might have parent training once a week, or once every two weeks, or once a month. It is important that you figure out a schedule that allows you enough time to try strategies in between the sessions. That’s how you will give feedback to your provider at each session. That’s how they will know what adjustments to make, to help you.
Once you are receiving coaching from the provider consistently, you’re likely to start meeting some goals. That’s great! Give your provider feedback on what you need help with next. Soon, you might update the goals together or set new goals.
Sometimes, you may need to take a break from coaching, like if you are going on vacation and won’t have time to work on your goals for awhile. Or, you might need increased sessions for awhile to deal with a big challenge, like moving. Be sure to communicate these needs with your provider so they have time to make adjustments.
Parent training is a valuable part of a holistic ABA therapy program. Now you know how to participate so that you and your child can maximize your benefit!
Courtney Gutierrez, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA Courtney is a behavior analyst, educator, and writer in the Pacific Northwest. She has over fifteen years of experience in the field of autism services, and over ten years of master’s level experience in classroom teaching and ABA therapy. Her areas of expertise include infant and toddler development, parent coaching, ABA clinical leadership and training, P-12 special education, and case consultation for children and young adults with autism and other special needs. Courtney lives in Seattle with her husband and two children.