ABA therapy is widely considered the most effective treatment for children with autism. It is evidence-based, highly individualized, and uses each child’s unique strengths and interests as motivation to continue learning and growing.
The acronym ABA stands for applied behavior analysis.
When ABA is conducted in-home, it offers a particular level of individualization to ensure the skills being taught are occurring in the environment that matters most.
What are the benefits of In-Home ABA Therapy?
There are many settings that ABA services may occur in, however, one of the most common and beneficial settings is where a child naturally spends most of their time at home! This is their natural environment.
There are numerous benefits to conducting ABA in a child’s home.
ABA therapy is often provided at an intensive level, with children receiving 15-40 hours per week. Being able to receive this treatment in the comfort of their own home may be more favorable, especially for children who are new to therapy, have separation anxiety, and/or are simply not used to being in novel environments yet.
Skill generalization is the ability to use one set of skills with different people, different stimuli, and new settings. When a child can demonstrate the skills learned in therapy to the environments and with the people that it matters the most (at home, with family members), skill generalization is more likely to occur.
Generalization is vital in long-term meaningful skill improvement and behavior reduction.
Natural reinforcers & stimuli
Another benefit to in-home therapy is the availability of a child’s most preferred items. ABA is oftentimes conducted through play, using the child’s preferences as motivation. Conducting therapy at home allows access to all of their most preferred items and activities.
Additionally, conducting goals with the stimuli available in an individual’s home can be more meaningful than using contrived stimuli or stimuli that the child will not use in their own environment.
For example, if teaching a child to wash their hands, it can be more beneficial to use their own sink, to help familiarize them with the process of washing hands in their bathroom, then generalize that skill to other bathrooms after they have mastered it at home.
Caregivers’ ability to monitor sessions
For many parents and caregivers, having their child attend therapy in their home where they can monitor sessions, can be a source of comfort.
In addition to monitoring sessions, they are also able to observe and learn new ways of interacting with and teaching their child. Increased parent participation may lead to improved outcomes.
When is in-home ABA therapy recommended?
When a child is diagnosed with autism, many therapeutic options may be recommended. As ABA therapy has considerable backing from research demonstrating its effectiveness, it is often one of the top treatment options recommended.
Each child’s treatment team will provide individualized treatment recommendations, including the number of therapy hours and the setting of treatment. The setting of treatment should align with the child’s individual goals.
In-home services are often recommended for early learners who are just beginning therapy. As skills are learned within the home setting, additional settings may be recommended to generalize and expand on those skills.
What age is in-home therapy good for?
Due to the individualized nature of ABA, the principles of behavior can be applied to people of various ages throughout their lifespan. However, research does support early intervention for increased outcomes. The best time to get started is right after a diagnosis has been made.
However old, it is never too late to request an individualized assessment to determine if in-home ABA therapy is right for your child.
How can we prepare for in-home ABA therapy?
You can expect a treatment plan to be developed by a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBAs). This plan will be executed by a registered behavior technician (RBT).
- Provide a dedicated in-home therapy room. It’s helpful to have a room or area that can be designated as a therapy space. This can be the child’s bedroom, an area in the living room, basement rec room, etc. It is best to have a space where the child will be able to focus without major distractions.
- Establish House Rules. Identify and inform the team of any house rules you would like them to follow. Things such as areas in your home that are off-limits, shoes on or off, where staff can put their belongings, hand washing policies, etc. Setting clear expectations at the onset of services can help reduce any frustration later on.
- Ask Questions. If you are unclear on expectations or what therapy may look like for your child, don’t hesitate to ask.
- Collaborate With the Treatment Team. The wealth of knowledge you have about your own child is priceless. Providing your treatment team with relevant background information and informing them of your goals and expectations can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and all working toward the same goals.
- Confirm Schedule. Consistency is key to continued progress. Upon initiating therapy, a schedule of hours is agreed upon. Make sure this schedule will work for you and your family. If there are any foreseeable barriers, address them before getting started. Changes in the schedule may affect your child’s delivery of therapy.
- Make Yourself Available. A parent or adult caregiver must be present during in-home therapy sessions. The level of involvement may vary depending on your child’s individual goals, however, an adult needs to remain in the home at all times.
What do in-home ABA therapy sessions look like?
Each child’s sessions will look different, as activities and goals are individualized. As your child’s treatment team begins to get to know your child and their unique needs, a session procedure will be created which will more closely outline what your child’s sessions should look like.
A general session procedure may look like this:
- Your ABA therapist arrives, greets you and your child, then gets set up in the therapy space. Set up time may take 5-10 minutes to review previous session notes, review the current goals, and prepare stimuli and reinforcers.
- The therapist begins engaging with your child in their most preferred activities. This process is referred to as pairing or rapport building. When a child is first starting therapy, sessions may be heavily based on pairing, however, pairing should continue to occur at the start of each session, even for children who have been in therapy for some time.
- For the remainder of the session, the therapist and child will alternate between play activities and learning activities/treatment goals. Sometimes treatment goals will be built right into play. Other times there will be distinct opportunities for each such as completing 5 programs, then playing for 5 minutes. This is where the individualization comes in. Talk to your child’s treatment team about more specifics related to the format of your child’s sessions.
- The last 10-15 minutes will be dedicated to cleaning up and data collection. The therapist will inform you that the session has concluded and provide a brief overview of how the session went. They will then begin cleaning up the therapy space. Finally, they will double-check that all of their data has been entered and they will write a session note. Session notes will be written at the end of every session and are available for caregivers to review.
What’s expected of family members during in-home ABA sessions?
Family members are typically encouraged to go about their daily activities when the ABA therapists are in their home. Any activities you would otherwise do if the ABA therapists were not present can be done, so long as they are not distracting to your child or in any other way harmful to treatment efficacy.
Individual caregiver goals may be created by your treatment team which outline caregiver involvement. This may include directly teaching caregivers to implement ABA procedures and/or generalizing skills the child learned with you or other family members. It is important to have caregivers available for these learning opportunities to optimize generalization and increase overall progress.
ABA therapy provided in a child’s home offers countless benefits for improving child behaviors, communication, life skills, and social skills. The individualized nature of in-home ABA ensures that each child’s needs are met within the comfort of their own home.
If you think ABA therapy in your child’s home environment could be a good solution for your child, contact our team and inquire about our high-quality services.
Our board-certified behavior analysts and registered behavior technicians will be happy to work with you, and to implement ABA strategies and techniques for skill acquisition and problem behavior reduction.