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Empowering ABA Education for Parents & Caregivers: Using Behavioral Skills Training as a Tool for Effective Learning

behavioral skills training

Embracing new experiences is a challenge. As ABA educators, we’re deeply aware of the effort it takes to master new skills.  We revel in the determination our learners show each day. Regardless of our expertise or the breadth of our knowledge, we must always remain students at heart, continually refining our behaviors to reach our utmost potential.

We’re masters in teaching new skills to learners, but what about when it comes to instructing other professionals and caregivers? Does the approach change?

In ABA education and professional development, the effectiveness of traditional training methods is being challenged by innovative approaches. One such approach gaining prominence is Behavioral Skills Training (BST).

Unlike conventional lecture-based training, BST is an evidence-based approach that combines performance and competency.  BST offers a dynamic and engaging method to impart essential ABA skills to staff, parents, and caregivers. This dynamic method leverages the power of instruction, modeling, rehearsal, and feedback to foster skill acquisition and refinement.

What is Behavioral Skills Training?

Behavioral Skills Training is a multifaceted instructional method designed to educate various stakeholders.  This includes teachers, staff, parents, caregivers, and anyone involved in the learning process.

The primary goal of BST is to enhance proficiency in specific skills or a set of skills through a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical application. This transformative approach to learning has made significant strides in both professional development and caregiver training.

How BST Breaks Away from Traditional Methods

The conventional training model often involves passive learning, where participants sit through lectures and absorb information from presentation slides. While this approach provides theoretical knowledge, it may fail to ensure that learners can effectively apply newly acquired skills in real-world scenarios.

Behavioral Skills Training, on the other hand, shifts the paradigm by incorporating active learning strategies. The method is rooted in the principles of behavior analysis, emphasizing observable and measurable behavioral changes. This departure from the traditional lecture format allows participants to engage more deeply with the material, increasing the likelihood of skill retention and application.

The Benefits of Using BST to Instruct Staff, Parents & Caregivers

Implementing Behavioral Skills Training (BST) to instruct staff, parents, and caregivers yields benefits that extend beyond traditional training methods.

  • One of the key advantages is the increased likelihood of skill retention and application. By incorporating active learning components such as modelling and rehearsal, BST engages participants in a dynamic and hands-on manner, allowing them not only understand the theoretical aspects of a skill, but also to practice and refine it in a controlled environment.
  • The personalized feedback loop in BST ensures that participants receive constructive guidance.  This can accelerate the learning process and address individual learning needs.
  • The application of behavior analysis principles in BST fosters observable and measurable changes in behavior, providing a clear and objective assessment of skill proficiency.

This approach not only enhances participants’ confidence in their abilities but also translates into tangible benefits in professional and caregiving settings — ultimately contributing to a more competent and adaptable workforce and fostering positive outcomes in parenting and caregiving roles.

The 4 Components of Behavioral Skills Training


The journey towards skill mastery begins with clear, concise instructions. Effective instruction lays the groundwork for understanding and provides a roadmap for learners.

Coupled with visual aids, clear and concise instructions can become a powerful tool that enhances comprehension and primes individuals for the next step in BST. This phase provides participants with the foundational knowledge necessary for skill acquisition.


Take the concept of teaching “patience” as an example. It’s not merely about asking a learner to sit idle without reason; it’s about equipping them with a skill that will prove invaluable in numerous real-life scenarios.

Imagine a parent busy with household chores — like doing laundry, cooking dinner, or attending to a sibling. The ability of a learner to patiently wait until their caregiver can safely attend to their needs is crucial.

Patience doesn’t necessarily mean standing still; it could be engaging in another safe activity until the caregiver is available. By keeping this goal at the forefront, you can help the caregiver by crafting realistic scenarios in the teaching environment to effectively build the learner’s patience repertoire.


Once the foundation is laid with instructions, it’s time to bring those words to life through modeling. Modeling serves as a visual guide, offering learners a tangible example to emulate.

Real-time demonstrations offer a practical perspective on how skills should be executed. Whether through video modeling or live demonstrations, this step transforms instructions from abstract concepts to tangible actions.


Consider the process of teaching caregivers how to implement a “patience” program. As an ABA educator, you would model the teaching steps and instructions, demonstrating precisely how they should look and sound.

You might use another individual to act as the student or, if possible, involve the actual student. This hands-on demonstration provides a clear, tangible example of the desired behavior.


Practice makes perfect — and that’s where rehearsal comes in. After observing the correct execution of the skill, participants are provided with opportunities for hands-on practice.

Role-playing and practicing new skills in controlled environments allow learners to apply their newfound knowledge. Furthermore, implementing the program with the learner in real-life scenarios offers an invaluable opportunity to test and refine these skills, preparing them for real-world application.


When it comes to our “patience” program, rehearsal may involve role-play scenarios where the caregiver is busy and the learner is required to wait. This could be simulated in a controlled environment, with the instructor providing different situations that require patience.

The learner then gets the chance to practice engaging in another safe activity until the caregiver is available, thereby enhancing their ability to wait patiently.


Constructive feedback is the final critical element of Behavior Skills Training. Participants receive specific and timely information about their performance, highlighting areas of strength and areas requiring improvement. This iterative feedback loop contributes to skill refinement and mastery.

When delivering feedback, focus on initially highlighting one or two areas for improvement. Emphasize the importance of ample rehearsal to fortify the proficiency of the skill within their skill set before introducing additional feedback.

This sequential approach ensures a thorough reinforcement of the targeted skills, allowing individuals to solidify their capabilities before progressing to the next set of constructive insights.


After the rehearsal stage, constructive feedback is given. For instance, in the “patience” program, the ABA instructor might commend the learner for successfully engaging in another activity while waiting.

However, they might also provide suggestions for improvement, such as recommending the learner choose quieter activities if the initial choice was too disruptive. This feedback not only recognizes the learner’s successes but also provides actionable steps for continuous growth and improvement.

Ensuring BST Proficiency

The ultimate measure of the effectiveness of any training method lies in the proficiency of the participants. Unlike traditional training, where assessing skill acquisition may be challenging, BST incorporates ongoing evaluation.

Through continuous feedback and assessment, trainers can gauge the progress of participants, identify areas for improvement, and tailor the training to meet individual needs.

Behavioral Skills Training represents a departure from the one-size-fits-all model of traditional training. By integrating instruction, modeling, rehearsal, and feedback, BST offers a comprehensive and effective approach to skill development.

In a world where adaptability and practical competence are paramount, embracing dynamic methods like BST are essential for fostering skilled and proficient teamwork. As we navigate the evolving landscape of education and professional development, the principles of Behavioral Skills Training stand as a beacon, guiding learners toward mastery and success.

3 thoughts on “Empowering ABA Education for Parents & Caregivers: Using Behavioral Skills Training as a Tool for Effective Learning”

  1. Pingback: Parent Coaching - How to ABA

  2. Hello, my name is Shawna Springer and I work for a non-profit organization that works with children & adults with various developmental disabilities. The program I oversee is our children’s program which we serve from 3yrs to 21 yrs old. My program covers 5 counties between 3 sites, and we have around 40 staff in all who work with children, both degreed and non-degreed. Because we live in Idaho, it is not mandatory for us to be BCBA certified at this time. (we do currently have two people who are working to complete this process, but it takes a long time and nowhere near ready). I am looking for quality training that increases our workers’ professional knowledge, competency, and would like for them to access e-learning where they can refer to educational videos, etc. It is difficult to find quality training that fits our unique company. I see that your various training packages cost a monthly fee (there are multiple packages where the topics apply to what we do). I am not sure if there is a way, we could possibly pay one annual fee for a ‘training umbrella’ for all staff?

    Shawna Springer

    1. Hi Shawna! We’re actually in the process of putting together a training package with videos for this purpose and we hope that it’s ready soon! Otherwise, the yearly subscription is meant for each BCBA to have one

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