Because ABA therapy is typically the gold standard in care for kids with autism, it can be expensive. Some insurance companies don’t cover it; some therapists won’t accept insurance for it.
That said, there’s a reason ABA therapy is so highly sought after; it’s a scientifically proven approach that’s designed to improve specific behaviors and skills in many areas of life for kids with autism. It’s led and delivered by a qualified expert called a BCBA, or a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.
Now, although ABA therapy is best delivered in a professional setting, some techniques exist that be practiced at home. If you’re already working with us or another ABA therapist, you’ve likely already discussed the possibility of performing some ABA-based therapies at home. (Note: not all parents are ready for home therapy, and not all parents want to try. If you’re a parent who feels unready or unwilling to give home therapy options a shot, don’t feel badly. You’re no less of a parent because you’d rather leave this to the professionals.)
But if you are a parent who wants to supplement professional care with techniques that can be performed at home, or if you’d simply like more opportunities to bond with your child while also helping them build important skills, there are some options for you. (Another note: remember to discuss changes or ideas with your therapist first if you’re already working with someone.)
As you already know, ABA therapy is intended to improve behavior and skills. So if you’re planning on ABA therapies at home, make sure you’re focusing on the needs of your child, on their individual circumstance and situation. All of these techniques we’ll be listing below are common and can be very effective.
Sort items from around the home. This is a fun activity which requires that you collect a few items first: poster board, illustrations of each room and the house, and cut outs of typical items that can be found in each room. Tape a picture of each room on the poster board, leaving room beneath where your child can tape the items they feel belong to each room (for example, ask where the TV might belong, or where the pots and pans go). Your child will be responsible for matching every item to a room.
Color match. This fun game requires that you and your child walk around the house and collect a lot of familiar objects and items, like books, remotes, trinkets, toys. Pick one item and ask your child to find similar items around the house that are the same color, even if they’re different shades.
Sit with me. If your child has a hard time with activities that requires they sit in a chair, make a game of it. Sit down first and ask your child to take a seat in front of you. That’s it – that’s all they need to do. When they follow your direction, be generous with your praise. Applaud them for this work. Make It fun!
Look at me. Eye contact can be very challenging for kids with autism, so incorporate something interesting into this exercise. Give them a reason to look at you by doing something totally unexpected, like putting a sock on their hand instead of on their foot, or by trying to put their little sock on your own foot! Also, ensure you’re face-to-face with your child – if they’re sitting on a chair, make sure you’re sitting down too at eye level. If they’re lying on the floor, lie down beside them and encourage eye contact that way.
What is this feeling? For kids with autism who also struggle with regulating their emotions, this can be tough, but so very helpful. On card stock, paste a range of emojis – have a happy face card, a sad face card, a worried face card, and so on. Turn them all upside down, and ask your child to choose a card. When they select one, ask them to tell you what emotion they think the emoji is expressing.
This is a great start at home, and it can also be a great supplementary collection of activities if you’re already fully engaged in ABA therapy. ABA techniques are designed to be fun and stimulating, so that your child has a great time utilizing their new acquired skills and behaviors. Still, you can continue to help your child improve their skills by using the above techniques at home as well as a lot of positive reinforcement and plenty of praise.
Try these out at different times of day, and even experiment with the activities as time goes on and as your child gets better at each skill. You might even want to invite other family members in on the fun. This way, you’ll find out which of the techniques are most effective, which need work, and at what times to do them. There’s no right and wrong when it comes to this – it’s all about your child, and giving them the chance to grow at their pace.