With most students that you encounter in ABA, you’re likely going to have to deal with parents. If you’re lucky, you’ll have rock-star parents who are on-board with everything you do and follow-through like champs. Other parents may seem less interested in the goings-on of the ABA sessions and use the time to get their own things done in or out of the house. Parent involvement is critical to the success of all ABA programs.
As professionals who are coming into families’ homes and dealing with often stressful and sensitive situations, it’s important for us to have an appropriate approach in communicating and managing expectations. What should our perspective be in dealing with parents? How can we optimize the follow-through that’s best for the clients?
When dealing with parents, it’s important to maintain a no-judgment zone. Parents are stressed, tired, and they are dealing with their kids 24/7. There may also be other factors going on in their lives that prevent them from being present or as available as they may like to be. Try to approach it from a positive place so that the family feels like you’re on their side and cheering their child on as much as they are.
Show Parents What the Child is Capable Of
Some of the hesitancy from parents in getting involved is that they may not believe that their child is actually capable of learning what you claim to be teaching. One way around this is to send parents short video clips of their child (with consent, of course!) during sessions doing the amazing things that you have taught him! There is no better reinforcement for a parent to get than a video clip of their child saying words that they may never hear at home! Remind your parents constantly of what their children CAN do! Parent involvement will come once they see what their children are capable of!
Communication is Key to Parent Involvement
Some of a parent’s anxiety could come from the fact that they don’t know what the child does all day at school or centre. This can be especially strong for the parent of a child who can’t communicate and reassurance is key. We use a communication book that goes back and forth between school/centre and home that outlines what the child did that day: What they did well with, what they struggled with, and what requests we worked on.
Provide Non-Contingent Attention
Communication is a form of attention and we try to give parents non-contingent attention (NCR) so that it doesn’t get to the point of a communication breakdown. We want to make parents feel that we’re available to them but sometimes parents choose to reach out at inconvenient times when we might not be able to answer the phone. We find it helpful to create a non-contingent schedule of reinforcement with phone calls or meetings scheduled regularly so that we can manage parents’ expectations and effectively communicate with parents on a regular basis.