The period of waiting, from the time you initiate a request for ABA (applied behavior analyst) services until direct intervention is being provided for your child, can be a challenging one. Parents are vigilant about the passage of time and their child’s need for therapies. However, you can use this time to better prepare yourself and your family for the impending changes, and for the time when providers begin to take on an active role in your child’s daily life.
Familiarize Yourself with ABA
While there are strategies used by applied behavior analysts that will appear intuitive or familiar to you, the science of ABA is a complex one. The terminology used is often opaque and the techniques can appear to be paradoxical at times. Gaining your own understanding of this approach will enable you to become an active participant in your child’s therapy, which can have a significant positive impact on your child’s growth trajectory. The 100 Day Kit that is available through Autism Speaks website is a great starting place for families. It has been created specifically for newly diagnosed families in order to maximize the productivity of the first 100 days following their child’s diagnosis. You will find links to this and many other valuable resources in the Resources section of our website.
Strengthen Your Support System
Having a support system that you can count on can increase your own reservoir of resources and enable you to meet the challenges and demands that lie ahead. Connecting with other families who have traveled this road before you can be a great way to expand your knowledge base and to learn about services and the processes involved in securing support for your child. Local support groups can be a great place to meet other families, but there are also a variety of informational workshops offered throughout Los Angeles County on an ongoing basis that can allow you to connect with other families and professionals. Our Resources page and Calendar of Events are great places to obtain up to date information about ways of connecting with others in the community.
Assess your Child’s Current Skills
The best way to gauge the success of any approach or therapy is to begin with a clear picture of where your child is in their current developmental domains. You may have already had an evaluation completed by a professional (e.g. psychologist) that provides you with an in-depth analysis of your child’s cognitive, socio-emotional, language, play, and social skills. You can seek out such assessments either privately or through funding sources such as Insurance Companies and Regional Centers. You may also want to begin tracking what you see on a day to day basis, either through journals or videotaping. Important things to monitor are your child’s challenging behaviors, and when they are most and least likely to occur. It is also beneficial to note the ways in which your child learns best. Is he or she a visual learner? Does he or she respond best when the environment is quiet and free of distraction or is there a greater level of engagement when there are heightened levels of stimulation? While challenging, this baseline will be valuable information to refer back to after therapies have been in place for a few months.
Prepare the Environment
Designating a place in your home where therapy can take place, helps to promote an effective learning environment. It will be helpful to have this area be free of clutter and distractions, and to set up spaces for structured teaching (with a small table and two chairs) as well as play based learning. Providing a variety of developmentally appropriate toys that can be organized within bins and containers, as well as access to arts and crafts materials, fine motor and gross motor activities, will enable therapists to target a variety of skills. It is also very helpful to identify toys and materials that are highly preferred for your child. Therapists can take advantage of these materials as reinforcers and it can be very helpful if regular access to at least some of these is more restricted.
Prepare Your Child
A child who has a consistent routine, gets adequate sleep, and experiences predictable and consistent expectations will be more responsive to therapeutic interventions. Establishing a consistent routine for eating, sleeping, and play are an important first step to having a child be prepared for learning. It is also important for a child to recognize as early as possible that any form of communication, whether a sound, gesture, or word, is more effective at obtaining what they want or avoiding what they don’t want, rather than engaging in behaviors such as crying or screaming. Reinforce any attempts at communication. If your child does not attempt any form of communication, help to shape it through modeling and prompting. This will set a strong foundation for the interventions that your child will be involved in for some time to come.
Ask Our Team
If you want more suggestions or ideas for how to structure the environment for the start of services or engage with your child in a way that enhances learning, feel free to contact us. Someone from our team will provide you with recommendations that will be more individualized to the needs of your family. Click Here to Contact Us »