1. Hire a Consultant to Create and Supervise the Program
A consultant can be an individual who works either independently or for an agency. The consultant you choose should be a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or have similar training and experience. For a list of BCBAs and a list of the training and experience requirements, visit www.bacb.com.
A good consultant should also have experience with both general and special education, so that he or she knows how to teach academics and what your child will be expected to do in school. This will allow the program to prepare your child for this environment. Consultants should also have training in child development, so that they know what skills are appropriate for your child to work on at different ages. A consultant will create (with your input) your child's program and goals, as well as monitor the effectiveness of the program on an ongoing basis. Other individuals, ABA therapists, often conduct the actual teaching sessions. The consultant should also conduct meetings with the child's parents and ABA therapists on a regular basis, often weekly or monthly (depending on your family's needs), to see how the program is going, fix any problems, create new goals, etc.
Other than www.bacb.com, other places to locate a consultant are local parent support groups, www.abadirectory.com, and www.abaconnections.com, www.autismsource.org, and www.autismlink.com.
2. With Your Consultant, Set Up the Program
To assist with choosing goals and monitoring progress, your consultant will most likely conduct some initial assessments to get a baseline of your child's current skills. You, as the child's family, should also have input on your goals for your child and the goals that the consultant would like included in the program. Other things that will need to be set up include number of hours you would like your child to receive direct ABA services and number of hours the consultant will be working analyzing your program and conducting meetings.
3. Hire ABA Therapists to Work Directly with Your Child
If the consultant or agency you've hired does not provide therapists to work directly with your child, you will need to hire your own. A great way to save money on the cost of your ABA program is to hire college students as ABA therapists. College students in fields such as special education, child development, psychology, and behavior analysis can make great ABA therapists because they have experience in fields related to children with special needs, and they often have a great enthusiasm and love for children. Having therapists from a variety of backgrounds also brings lots of fresh ideas to an ABA team. It also helps to have therapists with experience with schools and special education, if you are unable to find a consultant with this type of training. To find ABA therapists, contact local parent support groups, college professors in the fields mentioned above to see if they have students who might be interested, and look at www.abaconnections.com.
4. What If There Are No Consultants in Your Area?
If there are no consultants in your area, look into training yourself. Many colleges and universities have ABA programs that you can take online. Check to see if the college you are interested in has a Department of Behavior Analysis; it may be under the Psychology Department.
Another option is to use a home-training course, such as Maximum Potential. To learn more about Maximum Potential, a DVD training course, please visit section two of this issue of Positively Autism.
In addition to one of the methods suggested above, you can supplement your training with books. There are three books that I believe are essential reading for any parent setting up a home-based ABA program. You can read my reviews of the books here: http://www.positivelyautism.com/volume3_issue02/section2.html
5. Train Yourself
Ask that your consultant train you in ABA principles and your child's specific program. This will allow you to incorporate ABA throughout your day to promote language, social skills, positive behavior, or any skills your child is working on. In addition to training from your consultant, see point four above for more training sources. Getting training yourself will also allow you to conduct some of your child's ABA teaching sessions yourself, saving your family money.
6. Another Money-Saving Tip
Paperwork and data collection are an important part of an ABA program. However, it can be expensive for all of the paper and printing supplies that are needed. Here are some ways that you can save paper and save money on your child's program: (1) Print all data sheets, meeting notes, and other data on both sides of the paper, (2) Adjust the page margins (under "Page Setup" in Microsoft Word) to allow you to print more on a page, (3) Use a smaller font (as long as everyone can still read it) to allow you to print more on a page, and (4) Adjust your print settings to "Draft" or "Quick Print" to save on ink. The ink will print a little bit lighter, but it has been my experience that it's not that much of a difference.
7. Give Your Child Time to Be a Child
Events like going to the park, going to a birthday party, and playing in the backyard are all learning experiences. Being trained in ABA principles can help you facilitate your child's success with these experiences, but it is also okay to just have fun. An ABA program, especially if the child also attends school, can be intense for all of the family. It's perfectly okay to have some free time for everyone.
8. Other Resources
For more information about starting an ABA program, please read "How to Start A Home Based ABA/VB program? A Parents Manual". This guide (free to read online) includes an overview of what a home-based ABA program is, interview questions for ABA providers, tips for monitoring your program, and more. Additional resources can be found in this issue's section of links.