ABA is dedicated to understanding and enhancing the behaviour of human beings and is strongly governed by ethics. The skill and behaviours targeted by practitioners of the science have a socially significant impact for the individual and at times, their families. In fact, children who are enrolled in an ABA school setting should also be provided with supports in the home setting in order to maximise their progress.
Parents and caregivers of children benefiting from ABA should be given the opportunity and encouraged to learn the skills to aid their children in their day to day life. One of the reasons for this is that many children with autism have a problem with generalisation i.e. skills acquired in one situation may not appear elsewhere. Parent education is an important part of any individual with a diagnosis of autism’s development. It builds on the strengths of parents and does not focus on previous failures. It can often be the case that some of the skills which are learned in an educational setting do not generalise to the home setting, or that a child will complete a task for one person, but not another. These skills can be of huge importance to the children involved such as eating skills, using a communication system or playing with friends and siblings. If a child learns to label items in their environment in school to access reinforcement it does not necessarily follow that they will automatically start to spontaneously label items in the home setting.
In order for some children to learn, they need more exposure to items and contingencies than typically developing children. In the case of the child who does not automatically start labelling items in the home after learning to do so in school, more teaching needs to take place in the home. The child may not have come into to contact with same contingencies that were applied in school. That is, they label an item in school and then receive reinforcement. The same contingencies can then be set up in the home and faded out over time.
Many popular parent-education books devote considerable space to telling parents about how children learn to cope with their environments through experiencing the consequences of their various actions and words. However, children with autism often do not learn in the same way as typically developing children. Therefore techniques used by parents in an attempt to encourage their child with autism or developmental delay to engage in a skill may not be as successful as it might be with a typically developing child. Research has found that when parents learn principles of simple behavioural teaching techniques, they are often able to respond effectively to most dilemmas generated by their children’s behaviour. All children are capable of learning. For some children more tailored opportunities to learn are necessary in order for them to succeed.
In order to maximise the development of children with autism, school – home communication is vitally important. The parent needs to know what their child is capable of and how to get the best out of their child. Every parent – child interactions can be used as a learning opportunity. This is the key to faster, more effective results. Similarly, home – school communication is of great importance. The child is not at fault for not generalising behaviours. The behaviour analyst is responsible for aiding learners and their parents to succeed in all settings.
In September, 2010, ABA Ireland and An Síol Community Development Group hosted a series of workshops for parents of children with special needs.