This is an exciting time for behavior analysts when considering the scope of digital platforms designed to support clinical work in the Autism and IDD service space. The options for practice and clinical management are impressive and benefit providers, patients, and their families. However, digital platforms designed to support parent and caregiver training have not been plentiful, nor has their content quality been as robust as many ABA professionals expect. Fortunately, the parent training space is likely to change with new offerings like CR Care Coordinator becoming available.
Research Support for Parent Training
When delivering ABA services within the context of families, so many of us intuitively know that integrating all members of the family results in better outcomes and better experiences. Research supports this intuition as well with Messe et al. (2016) seeing improvements in both child skill acquisition and parent-child interactions. Allen et al. (2023) conducted an impressive randomized controlled trial (RCT) with children with a range of diagnoses and what is generally considered disruptive behavior; they found that child and parent follow-through increased, parent stress decreased, and both the child and parent reported better interpersonal communication.
Barriers to Parent Training
With the extensive benefits of caregiver training, it is no wonder several larger insurers require there to be a parent training component to ABA therapy. However, parent training is a disproportionally underutilized service component when compared to direct service with children and the reasons for this vary.
Common barriers to parent training include
- Appointment cancelations on both the parent and provider side
- Lack of staff competency & support in providing parent training
- An absence of systematic and comprehensive rubrics for what should be covered in parent training
Despite the challenges of integrating a holistic best practices approach to parent training into service offerings of any size, the opportunity to do so may be more in reach now than at any other time.
Before going any further, let’s clarify several aspects of caregiver and parent training:
(1) Parents are parents, not therapists. Parents wear many hats and play the role of teacher, comforter, disciplinarian, advocate, and short order cook among all others. Efficacious parent training is designed around this understanding.
(2) Technology can enhance, supplement, and support – it cannot replace the work done by professionals. When considering how a digital platform can integrate into your service, offering one designed with this as a core principle is likely to be more seamlessly integrated.
(3) Parent training that fits into the already busy schedule of parents and providers is likely to increase the frequency with which this service offering can be fulfilled.
(4) When service offerings can combine synchronous and asynchronous components, scheduling and content interaction may be made easier and more convenient. The COVID pandemic taught us many things, among which is how integrating digital platforms into our service delivery can mean many families can maintain the critical and vital care their child and family needs (Yi & Dixon, 2020).
Leveraging Digital Platforms for Parent Training
To this, we turn to how a digital platform can supplement your ABA and multi-discipline service delivery. At the most basic level, digital ABA platforms can assist and enhance accessibility, convenience, and by extension the evidence-based resources that help parents support their children with behavioral challenges. With the help of digital ABA platforms, parents can gain access to professional training, personalized interventions, and data-driven feedback that can help them better understand their child's behavior and how to respond effectively. Further, it can help parents more fully understand the treatment their child is receiving.
Here are some ways in which digital ABA platforms can support parent training:
- Online training lessons: Digital ABA platforms can offer online training lessons that provide parents with knowledge and skills related to ABA and how that relates to their activities as parents. When these lessons are delivered in relatively short step-by-step modules with embedded practice opportunities and “homework”, more structure can be afforded to parent training sessions with a provider. Further, data can be collected by the provider to supplement reporting requirements.
- Customizable interventions: A prepopulated library with expertly developed content is a great starting place and for many, may be just the starting place to start delivering parent training an organization can be confident in. However, having the added benefit of individualizing this content to meet the demands of discerning parents and providers makes this offering even more amenable to the preferences of individual providers.
- Data-driven feedback: Beyond just parent training, digital ABA platforms can provide parents with data-driven feedback on their efforts across content areas. The feedback can be based on the data collected from the child's behavior, and it can be delivered in real-time. The feedback can help parents monitor their child's progress and adjust their interventions accordingly. The feedback can also be used to motivate parents and reinforce positive behaviors.
- Connected to support: Digital ABA platforms can offer a community of support for parents and providers. When a specific lesson or content area is not landing, the content can be adjusted with updates. Further, an opportunity for program evaluation is presented which can support further research efforts to ensure our best practices continue to refine. No longer do we need to wait for considerable amounts of time for updated editions from authors and publishers. Digital platforms can refine content quickly to meet the needs of parents & providers while also ensuring content evolves with up-to-date research and best practices.
- Remote consultation: Digital ABA platforms can provide remote consultation services to parents. The consultation can be provided by ABA professionals who can offer guidance and advice to parents on how to support their child's behavior. The consultation can be delivered through video conferencing or messaging platforms, making it convenient for parents to access.
These are only a handful of benefits that digital support platforms can offer to parents, providers and ultimately the children, adolescents, and adults we serve. The early adoption of these platforms can come with both challenges and opportunities. It is an exciting opportunity for us to leverage technology platforms to enhance our clinical activities in a way that can make meaningful differences to those we are in service to. No platform will do exactly what we want right now but with time and contributions from users we can refine and make what we have more inclusive, accessible, and ultimately do right by those we serve.
CR Care Coordinator offers ABA providers a digital platform to enhance their caregiver training service offerings. Accelerate learner progress and support the whole family with on-the-go, self-paced training individualized to each family’s needs.
Timothy Fuller, Ph.D., BCBA-D
CentralReach, Instructional Designer
Timothy Fuller, Ph.D., BCBA-D is an Instructional Designer at CentralReach. Dr. Fuller brings his balanced experience and expertise in the theoretical, experimental, and applied aspects of behavioral science to CentralReach. Dr. Fuller’s applied experience started with Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI), where he worked with children with autism in an in-home ABA program. He expanded his applied experience to include Precision Teaching and parent, teacher, and staff training. Dr. Fuller also brings his expertise in contextual behavior science to CentralReach in an effort to support fellow scientist-practitioners in providing the very best of behavior analysis to those they serve.
He earned his B.A., MA., and Ph.D., at the University of Nevada, Reno. Dr. Fuller’s experimental work has primarily focused on derived relational responding and the role that context plays in human behavior. His theoretical foundations are rooted in a naturalistic, interbehavioral account of behavior
Allen, K., Harrington, J., Quetsch, L., Masse, J., Cooke, C., & Paulson, J. (2023). Parent–Child Interaction Therapy for Children with Disruptive Behaviors and Autism: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 53(1), 390-404.
Yi, Z., & Dixon, M. (2020). Developing and Enhancing Adherence to a Telehealth ABA Parent Training Curriculum for Caregivers of Children with Autism. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 14(1), 58-74.
Masse, J. J., McNeil, C. B., Wagner, S. and Quetsch, L. B. (2016). Examining the efficacy of parent-child interaction therapy with children on the autism spectrum. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25, 2508-2525.