A Bit of Background on Parent Training
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Parenting a child with autism spectrum disorder has its challenges. For one thing, parenting a child with ASD often comes with more expenses than raising a typically developing child. This may be due to many factors but some of those relate to the various behavioral and physical health challenges that may arise for the child.
Generally speaking, although parents certainly love their children deeply, any parent may experience exhaustion from time to time. Parenting a child with ASD may increase feelings of exhaustion in parents as caring for the child with ASD requires ample emotional, physical, and mental resources from the parent (Hayes & Watson, 2013).
Behavioral parent training is an intervention that can be beneficial for parents of kids with ASD. Behavioral parent training has significant research support for its effectiveness. Parent training has been used in fields outside of applied behavior analysis for many years. Parent training was developed to help parents address noncompliant and disruptive behaviors in their children (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2007). Parent training could help parents address things like tantrums, aggression, safety issues, inappropriate verbal behavior, social skills, and much more.
Parent training doesn’t just have to focus on reducing the occurrence of the disruptive, or “maladaptive” behaviors. Instead, parent training can also emphasize increasing desired, or “adaptive” behaviors.
Most evidence-based practices for children with autism spectrum disorder, such as applied behavior analysis, are time intensive, labor intensive, and very costly. Parent training is an extremely useful practice that could be helpful in the absence of these more intensive and costly interventions. Although parent training can be provided in addition to typical ABA services, parent training may be provided without intensive ABA services, as well. This is especially beneficial for communities in which ABA services are scarce or difficult to obtain.
Parent training is traditionally seen as a time-limited intervention. Instead of some treatments which seem to approach services without necessarily considering the length of commitment that the treatment will require, in traditional applications of parent training, the practitioner often identifies a set number of sessions that would be completed.
In typical ABA sessions in which a behavior technician is working one on one with a child with autism, the behavior technician is seen as the agent of change. However, in parent training, the parent is viewed as the agent of change. The intent is for the parent to learn strategies that will help change their child’s behavior rather than having to rely on a professional to make the change.
In children’s mental health services, parent training has been researched for over 30 years and has been established as an evidence-based treatment. In this area, parent training has focused mostly on externalizing behaviors. Some examples of specific programs that have come out of the children’s mental health field that incorporate parent training include:
Parent training in the field of applied behavior analysis has been adapted from the traditional parent training of children’s mental health by utilizing behavioral principles in combination with parent training techniques. To further define parent training in the area of autism spectrum disorder, parent training focuses on helping parents learn ways to reduce the impact of the child’s symptoms of autism on that child’s daily life, to help the child reduce the occurrence of maladaptive behaviors, and also help improve the child’s functional living skills.
By using parent training, the child may be able to generalize his skills more than he could if he only had one on one treatment with a clinician. Parents are able to help their child practice and learn new skills in various settings, with various stimuli, and with various people. It’s important for kids to be able to show their skill development outside of the clinician’s office. Having parents involved in treatment and being trained on treatment strategies can help parents help their child to work on and maintain new skills in the home, at the store, at grandma’s house, and more.
When providing ABA parent training, consider the following steps:
Assess the function of the child’s behavior.
Develop realistic goals that are measurable.
Teach the parent various behavioral management strategies based upon the function of the behavior.
Follow up with the parents to evaluate progress and provide any recommendations for treatment modification if necessary.
In the steps of ABA parent training, be sure to include the parent in all steps. Having a collaborative conversation with the parents about each step of the process helps them to feel included in the strategies being developed and also helps to provide learning opportunities for the parents in that you, as the professional, can help the parent to learn more about how you are developing the behavior plan.
The following recommendations may help you as you continue to provide high quality ABA parent training:
You can learn more about ABA Parent Training with the book, Parent Training for Autism Spectrum Disorder. This book provides a thorough explanation and advanced information on the topic of ABA parent training. Check it out here.
If parents want to further their knowledge of ABA concepts, you may consider purchasing an online course about ABA and going through it with them. You could check out Online RBT Training.
Autism Parenting Magazine could be a resource that you could get which could offer you ideas about easy to read topics from the autism community. You can get a free issue from this link if you want to check it out.
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Bearss, K. ND. Parent Training for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Disruptive Behavior. Retrieved May 14, 2019. Marcus Autism Center. PowerPoint. Emory University.