Be wary of cookie cutter companies!
Updated: Mar 14, 2019
All ABA programs are individualized and specific to the child. Every program should be created from scratch and personalized. There are tons of different possible assessment tools we use to help guide our program selection and sometimes we simply work on a skill that is needed, regardless of whether or not it is listed in any assessment tool the analyst chose. While we tend to use some assessments or protocols, more than others because of their versatility, each child should have a variety of different skills targeted in their programs. It is also possible to use several assessment tools to truly identify and target several different areas that may need intervention. Initial assessment reports often look the same because they require that the same basic information and demographics be gathered at the beginning of services, but a behavior support plan should not look the same for two kids.
A behavior plan is a set of instructions to follow when a specific behavior occurs or in certain scenarios. Essentially it is a plan everyone follows to reduce a maladaptive behavior or to increase an appropriate behavior. Procedures are very similar most times but they should not be identical and should be customized to the child's particular environment. They should also be easy to read and free from jargon so that the parents and teachers can all read them with no confusion on how to implement the procedure. This helps ensure consistency across all settings and maximum benefit for the child.
Things to look for:
The child's behavior plan has another child's name or initials in it. (If the analyst forgot to erase the previous child's name, it is likely they did not write up a new BSP but instead used an old one.) This is also an ethical issue and it violates HIPAA.
It says "he/she" instead of selecting the appropriate pronoun. (forgetting to erase "he/she" and replacing it with the appropriate choice is common when BSPs are copy/ paste)
It was written in, or translated into, another language that you do not speak or did not request. (This is a more obvious sign of a behavior plan being copied from another client and simply forwarded to you that I have actually encountered)
The goals or programs selected, don't seem appropriate for your child. (Sometimes companies make analysts use specific assessment tools regardless of whether or not it is the appropriate one for the child)
How can you avoid these issues?
Ask what assessment they are using and why? They should be able to answer this question and support their reasons if they chose one according to the child's needs, not just because it is the only assessment tool the company lets them use.
Ask if the Analyst is familiar with other assessments or protocols? If they tell you that the one they are using is the only one they ever use, then maybe have a discussion about personalizing the program.
Ask what the overall goal of a specific program is. Every program should have a specific goal and should have been chosen to help improve the quality of life for the child, not simply because it was next in the list of the assessment.
Always be the advocate for your child! Be sure to ask questions and inquire about their programs. An analyst will be able to explain the reasoning behind each program but if you don't ask, you'll never know whether or not the analyst is the best fit for your child.
Parent training is also an important and essential aspect of ABA therapy. You should be getting a few hours a month of parent training to learn new skills and tactics to work with your child (at least here in Florida). Use this time to address your concerns and learn more about the procedures that have been created for your child. Ask for resources and empower yourselves with knowledge!