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Are you looking for in-home ABA services? Keep reading.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
July 27th, 2022

Can Parents Do ABA Therapy At Home?

Provided that they come into it knowing what it entails and are prepared, most parents with an autistic child are more than capable of doing ABA therapy at home.

can parents do aba therapy at home

Looking at the price of the average ABA session can be off-putting for some, especially for parents expecting to pay out of pocket. There’s no mistake, ABA therapy is expensive. Still, there are plenty of options provided to parents that can greatly lower or eliminate the need for them to pay anything.

But in some cases, fees may arise that might leave some with no choice but to pay. This is why at-home therapy is attractive.

If possible, it’s recommended for parents considering ABA treatment to visit a facility to find out more about the kind of work that ABA therapists do.

Truthfully, most of it isn’t very labor-intensive. While it requires skills for anyone to watch a child, some of the techniques that therapists in this field use are adaptive to any environment where a small child would be.

This includes at school, a recreational facility, and in the comfort of their parent’s residence. Such an adaptive skill set is also attractive to parents wishing to carry out ABA therapy on their own, another way some attempt to save money.

Most ABA technicians at the lowest level aren’t required to do years of schooling to learn their craft. With knowledge of autism and how it’s treated in kids, anyone willing to put in the effort and time can become a therapist for their daughter or son.

The objective of ABA therapy is to reduce or get rid of behavior that prevents a child from developing their skills to communicate and socialize. It’s done by breaking down what’s unwanted and rebuilding or reinforcing expected behaviors. Patience is key, something that a parent would have no issues doing at home.

objective of in-home aba therapy

But in the case that parents cannot learn more about ABA therapy, some technicians would be happy to work with their kids in a home environment. Services at a center are sometimes carried out first with the insistence of the clinic’s staff, though not all therapists do this.

Read More: Autism Statistics & Facts & 7 Dimensions Of ABA Therapy

When Is At-Home ABA Recommended?

At-home ABA services are recommended when parents’ circumstances would benefit their child beginning ABA therapy at home more than at school or an ABA therapy center.

benefits of at home aba therapy

The reasons for having ABA therapy at home can be plenty. Here are some of them:

  • Cheaper – As stated previously, ABA therapy is rewarding but not cheap. For some families, there’s no other way to lessen the burden of the therapy for out-of-pocket pay than to either have a therapist come to the home, or learn how to apply it themselves. But in many cases, price isn’t a reason why most parents get ABA where they live. There are so many ways to help minimize the price of center-based therapy, even in states where health insurance companies aren’t mandated to cover it.
  • Less of a burden for travel – Many center-based clinics are willing to work with parents to get children the proper care that they need for their autism. So long as there’s a therapist on call that’s willing to come to the location of the parent, there are plenty of options for finding one that’ll travel away from where they work.
  • Familiar area for the child – The best place for ABA therapy to be conducted with a child isn’t always at an ABA center. Children are different, having varied attitudes and needs that change from child to child. Some children’s personalities may change as well, where sessions are better done at home on certain days of the week. Others may have attitude shifts that are addressed in a place that they know during certain spells.
  • Less demanding on the child – Even while ABA therapy is intended to make a child more gregarious and practical in their behavior, having a therapist come over to where they’re most comfortable can help ease some kids into the therapy better, at least during the beginning. For such a child, once they become adjusted to the therapist and know what to expect, they could transition to the ABA center at a later date.
  • Doesn’t conflict with the place of employment – This is a common reason for parents seeking out at-home ABA services. It’s sometimes the opposite, where dropping off a child at a clinic is in the best interest of everyone. But for parents that work or have at least one person that stays at home, making the sessions work out in a living room or bedroom is perfectly fine.

Where ABA therapy is conducted can be broken into three areas. Here’s are brief descriptions of each:

  • Home-based services – ABA therapy at home is the desired location but is sometimes difficult for parents to arrange. But when it is arranged, courses will be administered in a setting that they know and are most relaxed in. Due to this, some kids learn at a quicker pace in expressing behavior that is most desired. Home therapy can include workers at an ABA center, hospital, or school staff with the credentials to conduct the therapy, or even parents themselves.
  • School-based services – At school, ABA therapy is done by workers at the school that is certified, or by a third party from an ABA center that’s assigned by the school staff or school board. But for parents with children that are younger than pre-kindergarten, this isn’t an option.
  • Center-based services – An ABA center, alternatively called an ABA clinic, is the most common place where ABA therapy is done. Employees are specially trained to deal with autistic children and adolescents, teeming with the necessary resources and tools to help them reduce unwanted symptoms.

Pros & Cons of At-Home ABA

Below are the major advantages and disadvantages of home-based ABA.

Pros

1. The setting is familiar to the child

This is a very useful and key benefit of doing ABA in a home setting. Children and adults are relaxed at home, a place with fewer distractions and pressure to behave in a certain way.

For this reason, therapists can sometimes better pinpoint areas in a child’s inability to speak, understand, or behave in a non-harming manner.

A BCBA also has fewer children to deal with than at a busy and sometimes loud ABA center. A child will receive hands-on therapy that caters to them throughout the whole session.

The BCBA can study and see how a child’s day-to-day behavior is. Additionally, children may engage with their therapist better at home than they would at a center.

2. More convenient for parents

When the autistic child’s entire household is engaged with them while in session, ABA therapy is most fruitful. Qualified therapists will give great ABA for a child this way as well.

And since everyone would be involved, everyone related to the child can learn some of the fundamentals of ABA therapy. There could be more of a willingness for children to take part in what the therapist wants to work with them on.

Many children with autism will self-harm and have tantrums from the inability to articulate what they want to say to someone. Kids that have trouble speaking may show interest when they see the effort being made to get them to understand how to speak.

And when issues arise that the family should know about, the therapist doesn’t need to be called or messaged. They can provide on-the-spot suggestions and coach all that participate.

3. Good for handling location-based behaviors

Some autistic children may exhibit unwanted behavior where they and their parents live. It may grow in its frequency of occurrence from there, with tantrums and self-harming issues expanding to wherever they are outside. In some circumstances, problem behaviors can happen when a kid is at home, even more than when in public. When ABA therapy is given at home, a BCBA can address them in the environment where they first manifest.

The therapist will observe and take note of the following routines leading up to unwanted behaviors:

  • Going to the bathroom
  • Getting dressed for school or other activities
  • Behavior during meals whenever they occur
  • Brushing teeth in the morning and afternoon
  • How the child behaves during bedtime hours, or before bedtime
  • Behavior with siblings around

4. Potentially inexpensive

Some are turned off from ABA therapy by simply learning about how much it costs. Though there are many ways that parents can pay for the therapy, going to one at a center is usually the most expensive.

Having a therapist show up at home could be cheaper for insurers and the amount parents are charged for any deductibles. And if parents are willing to learn how to do ABA therapy on their own, the only costs associated are the supplies needed to conduct it.

Cons

1. Risk of inconsistency in what’s learned

This could be more of an issue for children that are seeing more than one BCBA in different settings. While one therapist may follow the same course as was while a child is at a center, how it’s applied could give completely different results.

If a child, for instance, were to start at a clinic practicing their speech, then have courses transferred to home learning the same thing, the home environment could be too much of a distraction for them to say anything.

There’s always the risk of inconsistency in behaviors when something similar happens. And for this reason, ABA therapy at home certainly isn’t for every child.

2. Difficult to find a therapist that’s willing to travel

ABA clinics are scattered about, sometimes within walking distance to parents leaving children there, and other times many miles away. Simply put, the long commute to and from an ABA center can be a real-time killer.

The inability to drive to a clinic is another reason why people may seek at-home services. But not every technician or BCBA has the time or capacity to travel to a home address. And when there is a therapist available that can come out, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be one that you want.

3. A potential hindrance to work activities

For many BCBAs operating at school or an ABA center, most of the parents they meet could have problems were they to attempt it at their home. Even while those employed can have night shifts, having a therapist show up while their child is at home could interfere with their sleeping pattern. Therefore, parents might not have a choice but to enroll their kids in an ABA center.

Having children at a trusted clinic will have less unwanted interference in their employment. Still, not every child will stay at a center for the entire time that parents are at work. Unless something can be worked out with employers or the child is old enough to have therapy at a school that offers it, going to a clinic might be the most practical option.

4. Too much pressure on therapists, unfamiliar work locations

Some therapists are trained specifically to work with children in a home environment. It’s sometimes done to minimize instances of putting BCBAs and related technicians in a position where they’re unaccustomed to working.

Therapists have lots of expertise in handling children with autism, but this can sometimes be difficult for them to do in a parent’s home. For starters, it might lead to them feeling pressured in part by meaningful but scrupulous parents.

While it’s always expected for parents to be mindful of who they let teach their children, an ABA therapist’s work may have them forbid a child from certain activities to encourage wanted behaviors.

That could lead to crying or tantrums at the onset of the therapy. It’s a parent’s instinct to stop their child from crying, though it could potentially hinder the work of a therapist. For these reasons, some therapists may not be as effective at an ABA center.

At-Home ABA Therapy Techniques

Here are some therapy techniques that parents can try out with their children at home.

1. Sit in the chair

Some kids with autism have issues standing still, especially those that are hpber or get easily sidetracked. A simple technique is to have the child sit still for a timed period could be rewarded.

Getting them to sit down for an allotted period can aid in their concentration and overall discipline in areas where they’re expected to be stationary. A game couple is incorporated into the activity or it could take place at certain times of the day, such as during breakfast or dinner.

2. Look at me

One of the first steps to improving a child with autism’s social ability is by getting them to look people in the eyes. When they do this, a parent can blow bubbles for them to play with as a show of reward.

However, before blowing bubbles, the child should be praised for what they did. Once this becomes a routine activity, they’ll be more likely to give eye contact without thinking about the reward.

3. Match the colors

Many ABA centers partake in color matching. It’s an activity that can easily be done at home, one where almost anything can be incorporated into the activity. Parents can use different items around their home, including toys, markers, clothes, furniture, or even food.

The child is asked to find matching colors that are the same as the one specified by the parent or themselves. Reinforcement should be applied when they match it to the correct color.

4. Identify emotions

Autistic kids often have difficulty in expressing their emotions or understanding the emotions of others. With a smartphone, laptop, or PC, parents can display emojis on a screen showing different expressions.

They could also be used on cards or drawn. The child is asked to name the emotion that’s shown to them. When this is done correctly, they’re praised for putting in the effort in giving the right answer.

5. Identify the function

To do the next activity requires a printout or purchase of cards showing the activity that they must say or point to when it matches the function.

This activity is versatile, so parents can get creative in how it’s done. Cards or even a corresponding video that’s similar to the activity described are good alternatives.

6. Sort household items

For this activity, boards with pictures are used. The game works by having a child identify what room has the illustrated item that’s shown on the board.

Cards can be used if needed. There are many games sold in retail stores made specifically for the autistic that can help with this.

At-Home Autism Therapies Parents Can Provide

Here are spectrum-based therapies for parents to undertake for an autistic child at home.

best at home autism therapies

1. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

For therapies related to autism, ABA is considered of primary importance. Although ABA is best learned by studying it and practicing with a hands-on approach, Here are some relative activities found within ABA that parents can try out.

  • Breaking skills down into increments – It can be something as simple as brushing teeth.
  • Praise and rewards – Even when a child does something, even the simplest of activities they had trouble managing before, should be rewarded either through praise or with treats. When compliance doesn’t occur, the child should be asked to attempt it again. Repeating is fine and serves as a good way for getting them to understand the words being used to describe what’s wanted from them.
  • Being conspicuous – Children with autism work well when visual support gets them to understand a request. It helps with what therapists refer to as chaining or connecting what’s seen to steps or any related objects that are relevant to the activity.

2. Play Therapy

Autistic children need help with learning how to play in a way that’s safe and leads to better social interactions.

They can learn many things while playing, such as better ways to communicate and use their senses in the process. Playing can include tickling, sliding, swinging, or moving through tubes.

3. Speech Therapy

Although speech therapy can be complex, it can be learned by parents. Online programs related to speech therapy, downloadable applications, or even videos are good for this as well.

They’re usually called walkability apps that serve as a good way for children to better understand and empathize with their parents.

4. Floortime

Floortime involves interaction between parents and their autistic child. The interaction can be communicative or non-communicative.

Techniques range from looking at videos, reading, or having floor time with a therapist that’s more qualified to help them become more verbal.

5. Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)

Similar to floor time, RDI also benefits an autistic child’s ability to talk to people. It’s based on theories targeting their social development, especially regarding how to communicate in day-to-day life.

It used goals to reach wanted behavioral outcomes. Also, like floortime, it’s recommended to do with a trained therapist, if possible.

6. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

Many autistic children are prone to behavior that may interfere with the lives of their parents, forcing them to stay at home, cancel outdoor activities, or even keep them out of school to manage.

Interaction therapy aims to create limits and help the child understand the role of a parent as an authority figure for them. This therapy is useful for breaking the cycles that cause aggressive tantrums to arise. Letting the child see unwavering discipline from both parents or boundary-setting is part of PCIT.

References

  1. https://www.elemy.com/studio/autism-therapy/at-home/
  2. https://www.lumierechild.com/lumiere-childrens-therapy/at-home-aba-therapy
  3. https://www.goldencaretherapy.com/aba-therapy-techniques-you-can-use-at-home/
  4. https://www.verywellhealth.com/low-cost-autism-therapies-parents-can-provide-at-home-4172365
  5. https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/parents-aba-therapy-home/
  6. https://tbh.com/blog/aba-therapy/a-parents-guide-to-in-home-aba-therapy/
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/treatment.html
  8. https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/aba-therapy-for-autism/
  9. https://crossrivertherapy.com/aba-therapy-alternatives/
steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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