Tabitha Kirby, MA, BCBA
Expert Name: Tabitha Kirby, MA, BCBA
Expert Title: MA, BCBA
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Short Bio: Tabitha Kirby received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in special education with specialization in Applied Behavior Analysis from The Ohio State University. As an expert in the field of behavior analysis, Tabitha has worked in various clinical, school, and community settings. As a consultant for families of individuals with Autism, Tabitha led and implemented a variety of home-based programs. She has extensive knowledge and experience in creating special education curriculum and training programs to provide superior educational outcomes for children with special needs around the globe.

Ten Dos and Don'ts When Running an In-Home Autism Therapy Program

 

Running a home-based autism therapy program can be challenging, but if you remember these tips, you can implement effective ABA programming for your child with autism in the home!

DO:

1. Be involved. Attend team meetings and applied behavior analysis trainings. Take data as requested. Work with your child both on your own and in front of other team members for feedback. Research shows that best outcome children have high parental involvement.

2. Be friendly and thankful. Your autism direct care staff that work in your home are there to help your child and are CHOOSING to have a role in your child’s life. No matter how rough of a day you are having, try to be friendly to these staff, even on a short-fused day, just mention that and apologize ahead of time. Your staff will be understanding of the struggles you go through while parenting a child with Autism. Make sure to let them know you appreciate what they do and they will work hard to continue to help make life better for you.

3. Set a reasonable dress code. If someone is coming in your home, feel free to choose how they dress in front of your spouse and your children. Your comfort matters most.

4. Let your cultural and religious preferences be known. If you are doing a full-time program, you will have people in and out of your home up to 40 hours or more a week. This can feel like a disruption to your peace of mind if your cultural or religious preferences are put on a back burner. It is your home and you should feel in control of what is and is not ok.

5. Ask for privacy if needed. Anyone who has been married knows that there are days when there is tension in the air. If you need to have a discussion with your spouse, feel free to ask the caregiver to take your child for a walk or outside to play.

DON’T:

1. Talk about staff negatively to other staff. If you have concerns about a certain team member, it is appropriate to talk to their supervisor, or the home program consultant. However, it is inappropriate to voice those concerns to other staff. This just adds dissension to the team. You want each team member to feel confident that you won’t talk about them to other staff.

2. Attempt to make program changes through direct staff. If you have an in-home program, you also have a team of direct care staff, a consultant, and probably a psychologist. To keep the team working well, let the consultant or psychologist know what changes you would like to see. Direct care staff are trained to not implement changes without the direction of supervisors.

3. Pull team members into dual relationships. You have these people in your home for many hours each week. It’s easy to start friendships with them. However, to keep team members focused on what is best for your child, you want them to make decisions based purely on your child and their knowledge. If they are your friend as well, they cannot make decisions based on what is best for your child without taking your feelings into consideration.

4. Take things personally. Your child is most likely going to have worse behaviors with you. You may have hurt feelings due to your child’s seemingly parental attachment to a caregiver. Remember that the people coming in your home are well trained to create a positive and rewarding environment for your child. Watch the interactions between your child and these staff members and work on creating the same type of relationship. Additionally, when a direct care staff member is in your home, their only priority is your child. You are the parent. It is rare for a parent to truly have time to only focus on their child. You almost always have several things you need to do at the same time.

5. Ignore your needs. Make sure to take time for yourself when you are able. It is hard enough to be a parent, but much harder to be a parent for a child on the spectrum. Let go of the reins. Trust the staff. Treat yourself. If you don’t take time for what you need, you won’t be able to be the best parent you can be.

No matter how effective your autism team is, as parent with a child with autism, even with limited applied behavior analysis training, you can become a catalyst for your child's success.