So, you’ve decided to enroll your kiddo in ABA therapy? Congratulations! We know that preparing for your child’s first ABA sessions can be a very exciting time for your family. We also know that understandably that excitement might be accompanied by one important question:
What exactly happens during a day of ABA?
At BCOTB each child’s day (and treatment program) is individualized to their own unique needs and goals. Activities are intentionally determined based on what is most important for them and them only. For that reason, each kiddo’s day is always going to look a little bit different, however, there are some common themes you will likely see across the board. Understanding those themes will help paint a clearer picture of what to expect on your child’s first day.
Let’s start at the beginning: Drop off
When you arrive at one of our facilities you will be greeted in the lobby by your child’s therapist. This is a great time to let your therapist know if there is anything special to keep in mind during the session (“Johnny didn’t sleep well last night”), and provide them with anything that you think they should have (“I’ve packed some Goldfish because Billy loves them”). Next the therapist will lead your child out of the lobby and into the playroom area. Some families might feel a bit nervous during the initial transition, especially if their kiddo has not spent very much time away from them before. Don’t worry! Your therapist will be dedicated to building that initial trusting relationship with your child, and most families are happily surprised by how quickly this can occur. Feel free to hang out and watch their relationship form from the one-way glass in our viewing area.
What happens next?
Every session our therapists will start by “pairing” with your child. “Pairing” simply means that they will intentionally participate in activities that are enjoyable to your child to set the stage for a fun and learning-rich session. We want all our learners to be happy to be with us, and by pairing with them early in our session we set the tone for a session they will be motivated to participate in.
After a few minutes, the therapist will slowly start to fade in some teaching instructions while intentionally keeping the fun activity center stage. Depending on the kiddo’s goals, these instructions might focus on skills such as modeling actions, vocalizations, answering questions, play skills and more. We call these activities “natural environment teaching”, and this type of instruction will be woven throughout your child’s session. Does it look like they are just playing? Good! That’s how we want your child to feel. The reality though is that natural environment teaching is an important part of their treatment program because it allows for teaching and reinforcement of new skills, while supporting skill maintenance and generalization. It’s not only important for your child to retain their new skills, but it’s also important that the skills are utilized in new activities, new places, and with new people.
Another area focused heavily on during natural environment teaching is communication in the form of requesting. One of the best things that we can do for our kiddos is to teach them how to request the things that they want and need. In ABA we call this “mand” training. Regardless of if your child is using vocal communication, a picture exchange system, sign language, gestures, or an electronic device, your child’s therapist will be working towards improving and expanding their communication repertoire throughout their entire session. All forms of communication are beautiful, and the therapy team is committed to helping kiddos reach their full potential in this essential area.
In addition to the activities already discussed, another activity often woven throughout an ABA session is table time. Your child’s case manager (their BCBA/ Board Certified Behavior Analyst) will have carefully selected skill acquisition programs for them based on their individualized goals. These programs are usually introduced as a table activity which will take place in one of our therapy rooms. During a table activity the therapist will sit facing your child and will present skill acquisition trials while delivering prompts (extra hints) and reinforcement (rewards). After a predetermined number of trials your child will be given a break before getting ready to start back up again. Each trial will be recorded and tracked for progress so you will always have a good idea of how they are doing with each goal. The time carved out for table activities is based on a number of factors and will vary with each child. Typically, our younger learners can expect to spend much less time at a table activity compared to our older learners.
But what about the behavior?
No worries! We’ve got you covered with behavior…. it’s what we do! Your child’s BCBA will have developed an individualized behavior plan focused on reducing all of the areas of concern. This behavior plan will pay special attention to what might be maintaining the challenging behavior so that we can identify and teach a replacement behavior instead. Throughout the session your child’s therapist will be prepared to respond to behaviors in very specific ways designed to help us move closer to your goals. The therapist will record data on each targeted behavior, and that data is turned in to graphs. Those graphs are used by your child’s BCBA to analyze the effects of the treatment plan and make timely changes when needed.
Is it time to go already?
At the end of your child’s appointment the therapist will lead your kiddo back to the lobby to greet you and go over the session’s activities and progress. They will also report on any observations that they made in regards to behavior. Once the therapist has answered all of your questions, they will say good-bye to your kiddo, and anxiously await the next time they will be together again.
So there you have it….We hope that this painted a picture for you of what to expect during your child’s ABA session. If you have any additional questions about what your child’s session might look like, please reach out to any of our four locations. We would be excited to have the opportunity to discuss YOUR child’s “Day of ABA”.