PUBLISHED: July 20, 2016
LAST UPDATED: July 23, 2021 at 10:00 AM

It’s no secret that parental involvement plays a pivotal role in a child’s success in ABA therapy and other intervention programs. However, while working with other BCBAs, I hear a common complaint about how challenging it can be to involve parents in programming.

We know that parental involvement helps children with autism generalize skills across different environments, augments the support and resources available to children with ASD, and increases developmental skills and progress. (If you want to learn more about the parent’s role in ABA therapy and why it’s so important, be sure to click here and read our recent blog post for more detailed research.)

But the question is: How can you as an ABA organization instill a deep desire within parents to stay involved when they are faced with so many stresses and challenges that often get in the way? And how can you empower parents to be active participants in their child’s therapy so that everyone sees more progress?

In this article, you’ll discover how to turn stressed-out parents into change agents who recognize their powerful role in making a positive difference in the life of their child. In turn, you’ll see more success and overall satisfaction with your ABA program.

The KEY to More Parental Involvement and More Changed Lives

The key to getting more parents actively involved in your ABA program is a quality training program.

Parental training programs teach parents the practical strategies they need to handle problem behaviors, “lead[ing] to an increased understanding of the child, which often leads to improved parent/child relations.” On a deeper level, training actually empowers parents by increasing their confidence in following through with ABA techniques (Hailstone, 2014).

In addition, Osborne, et al. describes how parents who are trained on ABA techniques have reported lower levels of stress and higher satisfaction levels when compared to other early intervention programs (Osborne, McHugh, Saunders & Reed, 2008).

In a study of 22 parents of children with autism, researchers used questionnaires to understand parents’ satisfaction with home-based ABA programs in Northern Ireland (Dillenburger, Keenan, Gallagher, McElhinney, 2002). Researchers discovered that parents were satisfied with the training they received and felt they played an important part in the creation and implementation of the program.

As a result of the training they received, parents felt empowered and more in control of their family and home environment, which only strengthened their overall satisfaction with ABA therapy and its success (Dillenburger, et al., 2002).

As multiple studies have shown, there is a correlation between parents’ confidence in themselves to be effective agents and the level of involvement in their child’s program and at home.

Creating “Change Agents” via Parental Training

Since parental involvement is so important in the developmental progress and overall well-being of a child with autism, it’s important that dedicated ABA providers, like you, positively impact parents through proper training and education.

Parents not only need to recognize and understand their role in ABA therapy, but they need the tools, techniques, and support to help them step into this role to the best of their abilities.

That’s why we’ve put together 6 tips you can use to equip parents and promote their ongoing involvement in the life and success of their child.

6 Tips for Parental Training and Empowerment

1. Outline Expectations Early On

Discuss what will be expected of parents during the intake process. This can often be included in a formal Client Services Agreement that you will review with the parent during the assessment procedure. Let the parent know the time commitment, effort commitment, and the results that you anticipate because of their involvement.

2. Establish Yourself As A Reinforcer

Create a warm and welcoming environment so parents feel comfortable working with you. Just as reinforcement can be an effective tool for our clients, it can also produce change with the parents with whom we work.

3. Take Data

Collect data on parent involvement and participation so you can show them how they’re doing and how they’re improving. Goal-setting is a powerful method of holding you and parents accountable. Set goals based on their levels of understanding and participation.

4. Celebrate Milestones

By celebrating little victories, you are demonstrating to parents how their involvement is truly making a difference and keeping everyone more engaged in the process. Nothing is too small to praise. A child who makes it five feet before falling off their bike, as opposed to three feet the day before, should be praised. Remember: “Small is where big comes from.”

5. Set Clear Expectations For What’s Required Weekly

Aside from global expectations set during the intake process, outline weekly expectations. This will help prevent any confusion with what you expect of the parent. In addition, letting the parent know what to expect the following week can reduce their stress. This increased level of communication ensures you receive the information you need to maximize therapy inside the treatment room and at home each and every week.

6. Engage Families in Goal-Setting And Curriculum Planning

It’s crucial for providers and parents to work as a team for the success of the child and the overall well-being of families with children with autism. Planning together and setting realistic goals can make the process more manageable and reduce stress so that parents feel even more satisfied with the program and remain engaged long-term.

Start Promoting Parental Involvement Today!

The growing number of children being diagnosed with autism only reinforces the importance for all providers to foster healthy parental involvement within their programs. Give parents the confidence to leverage this power by delivering the quality training and education they need to make your ABA therapy program as successful as possible.

Interested in Learning More about What You Can Do to Promote Parental Involvement in ABA Therapy?

References For This Blog Post

Bennett, Alexis, “Parental Involvement in Early Intervention Programs for Children with Autism” (2012). Master of Social Work Clinical Research Papers. Paper 113.

Dillenburger, K., Keenan, M., Gallagher, S., & McElhinney, M. (2002). Autism: Intervention and parental empowerment. Child Care in Practice, 8(3), 216-219. doi:10.1080/1357527022000040426

Hailstone, Peggy. “Parent Involvement in ABA/IBI: How, Why, & What For?” (2014).

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