The journey from birth to diagnosis can be a long, drawn-out battle, but you’ve made it. Your child has an official diagnosis, and you can start working on getting them the services they need. One of the best tools for improvement is ABA therapy. You may have heard about it from your child’s school, a family doctor or even a trusted friend, but how do you get the process started?
Finding and affording quality ABA therapists can be almost as challenging as getting your child’s diagnosis. You need to know where to look and what questions to ask. These tips will help you prepare for the road ahead — selecting the right provider, starting services and working through the program.
1. Determine the Setting
You have three options when selecting the perfect setting for your kid’s ABA therapy — school, a dedicated facility and at-home visits. Consider which one of these options will work best for your child and lifestyle.
The school setting is funded entirely, so you wouldn’t have any out-of-pocket expenses. However, not all districts provide this service. Availability tends to be concentrated in urban and suburban areas. Also, professionals in the school setting aren’t always as qualified as therapists you may find elsewhere, although that’s not a blanket rule.
Center-Based and At-Home Therapy
Therapists at center-based locations and in-home providers run the gamut regarding credibility. However, you’ll find most are adequately equipped and licensed. They also have similar costs depending on your financing and insurance.
The real difference is in how each one would fit your lifestyle. If your child receives ABA therapy at a separate facility, you’ll drop them off and swing back to pick them up afterward. Working parents typically find this is the easiest to fit into their schedule. Stay-at-home parents also enjoy the alone time it offers.
However, some parents don’t want to leave the house and would prefer the therapist to come to them. With this option, you can also play a more significant role in your child’s sessions. You’ll be more intimately familiar with their plan and see how it looks in action before trying it yourself.
2. Find a Qualified Provider
As we’ve already mentioned, not all providers are created equal. Once you’ve narrowed down your preferred setting, it’s time to find a qualified therapist. In a school setting, you likely won’t have a choice — you’ll have to accept whoever the school works with. However, any other location allows you to be a bit pickier.
You should find someone with experience handling cases similar to your child’s. They should also be a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) with a BCBA supervisor.
The final piece of the puzzle is to find someone who meshes well with your child. Even the most qualified professional may fail to make that special connection. The bond between the therapist and your kid is essential to program success. Your child will respond better to someone they trust and like.
If possible, schedule an interview with the therapist to gauge their personality, interests and compatibility with your child before beginning services.
3. Ask About Expenses and Financing
ABA therapy can be expensive — costing an average of $1,200-$4,800 a week. Your costs will depend on the provider type and setting you choose for your child’s ABA therapy. However, most therapists or organizations will be willing to work with you and your budget to get your kid the services they need.
School districts must legally offer your child free services in line with their IEP, and in some cases, that may be ABA therapy. You have the least say in their program, but you also pay nothing.
For facility-based and at-home services, many providers are willing to charge on a sliding scale based on your financial circumstances. You could also set up a payment plan. Before finalizing your choice of provider, it may also be a good idea to check with your health insurance to see what they’ll cover. Another good option if you still need more financing is to look for scholarships for autism treatment or something more specific to your child’s diagnosis.
4. Schedule an Intake and Review the Plan
The next leg of the process is, thankfully, much more straightforward. You can finally schedule an intake appointment for your child with the provider of your choice. A BCBA will work with your child for an extended window to gauge their skills and developmental delays. Specifically, they’ll be looking for natural antecedents, behaviors and consequences (ABCs) that are tripping up their daily life.
The therapist will then create a plan to identify antecedents, which are triggers for behavior, and create a modified behavior that’s more acceptable, leading to a positive consequence. These identified triggers and behaviors will be at the core of your child’s new service plan.
5. Prepare to Lend Support
Parent and teacher buy-in is essential to successful ABA therapy. Professionals can’t possibly shadow your child all the time. Adults in the kid’s life need to be aware of the service plan and follow through with any prompts or natural consequences they’re supposed to assist with. Therapists are generally more than happy to work with you, teachers and other caregivers to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Arm Yourself With Facts
As a parent of a child with autism or other condition affecting development, every day tends to feel like an uphill battle. There’s nothing you wouldn’t do for your kid. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to arm yourself with knowledge. These tips will give you the information you need to know to secure the best services you can afford for your child and learn how to advocate for them during sessions.
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