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How to Promote Parent Involvement in an ABA Program

parent involvement

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?

No Judgment

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.


5 thoughts on “How to Promote Parent Involvement in an ABA Program”

  1. This is such a great resource, thank you! I have worked in a few different clinics and am getting ready to open my own within the next few months. Communication with parents is sadly something I feel gets brushed under the rug. In my experience it has typically been a default “good, bad, good sandwich” conversation between them and the RBT. I love your advice on a non contingent attention approach with parents. As a BCBA I feel it’s my responsibility to stay in contact with the parents. Scheduling that into my time each week is a great way to hold myself accountable for that. And the communication log is such a great way to really approach collaboration between everyone involved. This is just one of many resources I have found through your website and Facebook page that have been so helpful in my journey as a new BCBA/owner. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Kelli! Good luck with your new clinic! Glad we can help you in the process : )
      Communication is so important. It can take so long for providers to earn trust but it can be lost in a split second. Thanks for the feedback!

    2. Elizabeth L. Mathis, MS, BCBA

      I concur wholeheartedly with your comments, Kelli! Great suggestions, especially for programming parent communication and involvement into the “routine” using NCR strategies…proactively scheduled availability and support – awesome (and also helps hold myself accountable as BCBA ; )

  2. I’ve been a visitor to your site for awhile now. I am glad that you talk about getting parents involved. It is so important! I thought I would share the sale we are having on our upcoming ‘One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum.’ GET 30% OFF with a PRE-ORDER now until it is released on 8/1/2019.

    Also, feel free to visit our site for more parent training inspiration at

    Hey, just a thought, maybe we can collaborate somehow!

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