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Parent Training is the “Secret Sauce”

There is usually no one magical thing that can make something successful. However, in the case of ABA therapy, Parent Training comes pretty close. It is the "Secret Sauce" that can ensure consistency in our learners' programming and lead to the best possible outcomes. 

However, I should probably avoid getting ahead of myself. Let's begin by exploring Parent Training and how it can help your family get the most out of ABA.

Parent Training is Caregiver Training

Parent Training is the support provided by the BCBA to the parent or caregiver based on the child's current goals or current needs of the family. 

Notice the word "caregiver" was also used. Despite what the name may imply, Parent Training is not only for parents. It's for any caregiver providing daily support to our learners. 

While each insurance may define a caregiver in several ways, we have supported parents, grandparents, and even nannies. This is not an exhaustive list either, we can work with you on any family or caregiver dynamic necessary to support your child. That's what Parent Training is all about: providing a collaborative and open environment to our learners' caregivers.

You are the star of caregiver training, you can lead the discussion or choose to have your BCBA lead if you wish. While there will always be a discussion of goals and some typical housekeeping questions, the caregiver controls the meeting and what they want to discuss.

It is also important to outline what Parent Training is not. First and foremost, we are not "training" you on how to be a parent. It is all about supporting you where we can and providing a soundboard for advice whenever needed. Think of the clinicians on your team as another set of people in your community ready to listen. We provide you with strategies and supports you can add to your daily toolbox to use at home.

While we engage with our learners' parents in Parent Training, we are also not here to criticize how you parent. We know you may not always be able to apply everything perfectly, and that's okay. Our goal will always be to aid you in actively participating in your child's ABA journey. 

What Makes Parent Training So Important

As a caregiver, you naturally spend the most time with your child, making you their greatest advocate. We need you, their greatest advocate, on their care team. 

While it is terrific for a learner to begin developing new skills with the clinicians in a more structured setting, we ultimately want them to utilize those skills at home and in other settings as well. When a child cannot generalize their skills in different environments, it can hinder their overall progress. 

Parent Training bridges clinic goals with what goes on at home. Involving caregivers in these goals ensures continuity of care across all environments. 

This type of involvement also keeps caregivers informed about what their child is doing and how therapy is going. It gives you a voice in their care and ensures you agree with the goals and daily plan created for your child. Your feedback lets us know what is feasible and what is not, what we got right and what we may need to tweak, allowing us to make the needed adjustments. 

When a child's care team is on the same page, we experience greater consistency in implementation. Consistency in behavior plans and goals is vital because it aids in promoting the generalization of skills in various environments. 

For this reason, I dare say that Parent Training is just as critical to a child's progress as the direct therapy they receive. The clinical team will always be there to provide the best therapy we can, but it's the caregiver who will be there beyond the learner's time at the clinic. 

What to Expect from a Session

Just as every child's care plan will be unique to that individual, so will the Parent Training meetings. 

For example, one family may be experiencing some maladaptive behaviors they want to overcome, while another needs strategies to support social skills. The clinical team will create appropriate, meaningful goals for each need. Social support could utilize sibling involvement, while a family needing language support might include implementing steps to promote language development at home. 

The start of a typical caregiver training session may begin by reviewing what is going on at home or in the target setting where the caregiver interacts with the learner. What's going well? What isn't going well? Then, the caregiver and BCBA can establish a few goals to work on together.  Your BCBA will also take some time to review how the learner is doing in the clinic and talk through progress and barriers observed. 

There are a few different modalities in which caregiver training may be conducted. At BPI, this includes telehealth sessions and in-person sessions.

If the session is in person or the learner is present during the meeting, the BCBA may support engaging in hands-on activities in the clinic or at home with the caregivers. Clinicians can model a behavior or action and then have the caregivers step in and give it a try.

For telehealth sessions where the child isn’t present, your BCBA might pull up a video clip of the child in the clinic setting and then model for parents what they can do at home to promote confidence in trying the same skills in the other setting. The session's location does not limit the support we can provide you.

Of course, every session will not be the same but may have a general agenda or flow that is established over time as the BCBA gets to know you and your family. There can be sessions where you and the BCBA focus solely on troubleshooting one specific thing. Other sessions may require no learner involvement, instead being one-on-one with the BCBA and caregiver. The agenda is flexible and, more often than not, driven by you, the caregiver. Allowing you to lead (if you wish) ensures we support the wants and needs of the entire family unit. 

Tips for a Successful Parent Training Session

  1. Write Down Your Questions

Whether it's on your phone or a piece of paper, write down all the questions you think of between your sessions. Remember, no question is a bad question. We genuinely mean it, too. 

If you have questions throughout the week, you might forget them once we sit face-to-face. Writing your questions helps ensure you cover everything you want to discuss with us during the session.

  1. Have an Open Mind

As we discuss your questions or new goals, being open-minded and willing to participate is important. 

Sometimes, a session might require you to work with your child through something entirely new for you, and you may not have the confidence just yet. We are here to give you that confidence. Just be willing to give it a try. More often than not, trying your best is more than enough!

  1. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

This one might be easier said than done, but I promise we do not care what your background looks like in a call or if you have your makeup done. Our goal is to create a judgment-free environment that extends to what is happening in the background. 

We are only here to support your family's needs. If you are going into a session worried about the small stuff, you might be distracted without even realizing it. 

  1. Pick a Consistent Meeting Time

Work with your BCBA to find a consistent time that works best with your schedule. By setting a recurring appointment with your BCBA, Parent Training becomes a regular part of your weekly routine.

We are always willing to be flexible because we understand that life can get pretty busy. Whether during your lunch break, a free moment you get at home, or accommodating a working caregiver's schedule, BPI works to meet you where you are so you can be part of your child's progress.  

  1. Provide Feedback

More than anything, we want to know how things are going once your child leaves the clinic and whether the suggestions (behavior plan or other new strategies) have been feasible for you to implement in the setting you see the learner. There is no need to sugarcoat. If something is not working, we can problem-solve together. If you have not been able to get much done since we last met, we will just keep moving forward. 

We want to hear if you are overwhelmed, too. If there is too much on your plate, you can tell us. Sometimes, collecting data for us while you are at home seems impossible for some days, which is also okay. Communicating these things with us allows us to support your family better. 

By now, you might have realized that the magical ingredient in our "Secret Sauce" is you. Your involvement in Parent Training and your child's care plan creates consistency of care. There is plenty of good that direct services do for our learners, but when the caregivers get involved, we see that progress being generalized sooner into various settings.

When we partner together, we can see our learners go to greater heights and ensure the best environment for them to grow in!

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Meet the Author

Allie Sheehan, BCBA
Director of Telehealth

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