The Importance of Parent Training in Applied Behavior Analysis Treatment

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ABA therapist works with a child diagnosed with autism

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy can be a vital component of treating individuals diagnosed with autism. It’s also a strategy that’s not merely confined to an ABA therapist’s clinic. It’s important for parents to get involved in the ABA therapy process so the lessons learned from a therapeutic setting stay in place in other environments. For this to happen, ABA therapists should incorporate ABA parent training into their treatment strategies.

What Is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a form of therapy that focuses on the basic principles of behavior. This includes an examination of how behavior works and how it’s impacted by certain environments. ABA therapy also explores the concept of learning and learning strategies and how they may apply to individuals diagnosed with autism. Utilizing a combination of behavioral knowledge and observation can help an ABA therapist gain a thorough understanding of an individual’s behavioral patterns. In turn, the therapist will be better equipped to develop therapeutic strategies tailored to the needs of the individual.

The goal behind ABA therapy and its therapeutic strategies is to help individuals diagnosed with autism engage in positive behaviors while simultaneously minimizing the presence of negative ones. Ultimately, this could help individuals improve their independence, which could yield positive long-term benefits.

Why Parent Training Matters

While the work of an ABA therapist can help improve the life of an individual diagnosed with autism, it’s imperative that this progress continue beyond the clinical setting. Not doing so could potentially compromise or delay the therapeutic process and make it harder to reach behavioral goals. In support of this claim, studies indicate that having parent training as part of an overall ABA therapy strategy makes it easier for positive behaviors to be retained.

In ABA parent training, the therapist teaches the parents of the individual diagnosed with autism how to implement  the tactics utilized in a clinical setting in other environments, such as the home or the community. These tactics maintain the same strategic structure, allowing the individual to retain a sense of familiarity with the process. This familiarity, in turn, facilitates the individual’s engagement in the same positive behaviors in a nonclinical environment — behaviors that would conceivably recur naturally over time.

This process of incorporating and adhering to positive behaviors primarily benefits the individual diagnosed with autism. It can also improve parents’ communication with their children, which could help them build a closer bond and cultivate a better sense of well-being and mental health, lessening the worry or concern they may have about their children engaging in negative behaviors in various environments. The independence that a child may develop can also help lower the parents’ concerns of providing an intensified amount of care.

While ABA parent training applies to parents of individuals diagnosed with autism, this form of training isn’t exclusive to parents. The principles apply to all caregivers, such as grandparents, siblings, or teachers.

What Are the Techniques Used?

Providing ABA therapy to individuals diagnosed with autism is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. The strategy and corresponding tactics are designed to fit the specific needs of the individual being treated. As such, there are numerous techniques that ABA therapists can utilize to achieve the goals of encouraging positive behaviors and minimizing negative ones.

In the A-B-C strategy, the A stands for antecedent: the actions and environment in place before the behavior-causing incident takes place. The B represents the behavior. The C stands for the consequence of the behavior; in an ABA therapy or parent training scenario, this consequential outcome is positive when it corresponds to a positive behavior.

Some of the techniques utilized in ABA therapy include the following:

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement rewards individuals when they exhibit an appropriate behavior. Reinforcement can be in the form of praise, a toy, or a treat, for example. This technique is tied closely to the A-B-C strategy and can be part of other ABA techniques.

Discrete Trial Training

Discrete trial training (DTT) uses brief, clear instructions to prompt a behavioral response. There are numerous tasks that can be utilized to create this prompt, such as physically guiding the individual to perform the desired behavioral response. Over time, the instructions will disappear, and the individual will be able to engage in the desired behavior without prompting.

Picture Exchange Communication System

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is utilized to develop communication strategies for individuals diagnosed with autism with limited or no verbal ability. The technique teaches individuals to use pictures to express themselves. The early stages of this technique can revolve around pictures of objects and gradually incorporate an expanded, more abstract vocabulary, such as emotions or full comments.

Be Prepared for an ABA Therapy Role

Administering ABA therapy can be a delicate process, as can providing parents and caregivers with the tools they need to continue ABA therapy strategies outside of a clinical setting. The curriculum covered in masters in Applied Behavior online (ABA) program can help students gain the confidence to successfully utilize the correct ABA techniques to bring about positive behaviors. Courses help students hone and refine the skills needed to be successful in an ABA therapy career, such as strong observational, analytical, communication, and interpersonal competencies. Learn more about the program today.


Recommended Readings

Defining Verbal Behavior: A Key Concept in Applied Behavior Analysis

4 Methods for Increasing Communication Within Applied Behavior Analysis

What Is the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)? A Look at a Key ABA Technique


Association for Science in Autism Treatment, “A Randomised Group Comparison of Parent Education and Skills Training Intervention”

Association for Science in Autism Treatment, Science in Autism Treatment

Association for Science in Autism Treatment, “Teaching Procedures Using Principles of Applied Behavior Analysis”

Autism Speaks, “Applied Behavior Analysis, A Parent’s Guide”

Autism Speaks, “What Is Applied Behavior Analysis?”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Parent Behavior Therapy

Regis College, Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis