Productive Meetings in Home ABA Programs

Creating effective meetings with your child’s BCBA and other service providers can be difficult. In this month’s ASAT feature, Preeti Chojar, Board Member of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT), shares some valuable tips about how parents can make the most out of these meetings. To learn more about ASAT, please visit their website at www.asatonline.org. You can also sign up for ASAT’s free newsletter, Science in Autism Treatment, and like them on Facebook!


I am a parent who has a home-based ABA program.  We have monthly meetings with all of the providers that work with my child.  I am looking for some ideas on how to make the most of these meetings.  Any suggestions?

Answered by Preeti Chojar, Mother and ASAT Board Member

It is terrific that your team meets monthly! Collaboration and consistency amongst members of the professional team is the hallmark of a successful home program. I have found that a great way to build teamwork is to have regular meetings to keep the whole team on the same page. Here are some suggestions to help you use this time effectively and efficiently. In our particular case, we meet monthly, but keep in mind that some teams may need to meet more frequently (depending on the composition of the team, level of oversight required, and needs of the child).

Meeting composition
Ideally, a time should be scheduled when the entire team can be present. A supervisor like a behavior consultant (e.g., BCBA) or a family trainer should be present as well. It could also include any related service providers, such as the speech pathologist, occupational therapist, or physical therapist. Assembling the entire team can be difficult but try your best, as the benefits will make it worthwhile.

Productive Meetings in Home ABA ProgramsDevelop the agenda
Always create an agenda well before a team meeting. Please note that this agenda should not side-step any other communication that should be occurring (e.g., the consultant may want to know right away if a new skill-acquisition program is not going well).

  • Start by writing down any new behaviors, both positive and negative. Also note if there is evidence of lost skills or discrepancies in skill levels across settings, situations or people.
  • Any data taken by instructors should be summarized and analyzed before the meeting.
  • Add anything that the supervisor or the collective wisdom of the group could help resolve.
  • One of the agenda items should always be to review last month’s meeting notes paying close attention to any open or unfinished items.
  • If the child is also receiving services in a school or center-based environment, it is beneficial to seek input from those providers as well. Any observations made by people in the community that highlight some skill or skill deficit which had gone unnoticed can be brought to the table too.
  • Finally, make sure the agenda is well balanced and addresses everyone’s concerns. Prioritize agenda items and if necessary suggest some time limits.

Circulate the agenda

  • Make sure to circulate the agenda to everyone attending the meeting, ideally a few days before the meeting.
  • Ask all team members to notify you ahead of time of any other agenda items they might have that were not added yet.

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Tip of the Week: How to Avoid a Deficit-Based Education

One of the obstacles I face as a special education teacher is that so much of my work is focused on deficits. I am continually required to report on the milestones my students have not met. After assessing a student, I am required by law to report quarterly progress on IEP goals to help bring that student up to grade level.

Teacher and ToddlerAll of these mandates are essential to helping my students to progress, but they also serve to overlook my students’ strengths. There is little space on an IEP to focus on what my student is quite skilled at, or to detail a plan for encouraging those skills. The long-term implications of failing to nurture a student’s strengths range from increasing boredom and frustration in school to failing to prepare students for engaging careers.

Students in the general education population typically have many opportunities for nurturing strengths because they frequently have more free time since their days are not packed with various therapies, and they have access to extracurricular activities and courses that may not be available to students in special education. So how can we, as parents and teachers of students in special education, address this concern?

  • Set aside part of each team meeting to discuss developing student strengths. Your team should be asking questions such as: What activities does the student naturally gravitate towards? What can we do to expand and encourage these activities? What extracurricular groups and classes might be available that are related to this activity? What social skills or academic skills are essential to encouraging this strength?
  • Consider extracurricular activities. Is it viable for your family to add a music lesson to each week? Or to reduce therapy sessions by one hour each week to allow for practice with a track team? Can the school provide support for your learner to have access to the computer design class?
  • Push for access. Most IEPs have social skills goals listed. Consider the context needed for your learner, and push for that to be written into the IEP. For example, let’s say your learner is highly motivated by digital cameras. Request that he/she be placed in a photography class with associated social skills goals, such as “The student will be able to accept feedback about a photo and demonstrate use of feedback in 4 out of 5 trials,” or “The student will be able to work in a group of 3–4 students to take photos related to a theme.” When considering what is an appropriate education for your learner, it is definitely appropriate to outline social skills related to student interests and strengths, especially as these may lead to employment later down the line.
  • Find mentorship. Seek out high school or college students with common interests and strengths to offer tutoring/coaching in that area. Ask people you know if they have friends or family members working in the profession your learner is interested in, because they may be able to set up job-shadowing for you. Don’t rule out the potential of connecting with people via video chatting if you can’t find mentors in your area.

It is essential for the long-term interests of children in special education that we spend more time considering and encouraging their strengths.


WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-12 in NYC. Working in education for ten years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam has developed strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. Sam is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College.

Tip of the Week: Communicating with Paraprofessionals to Support Your Learner

Many students with autism and other developmental disabilities have an IEP that mandates a 1:1 paraprofessional (called an instructional assistant or teaching assistant in some states, but referred to as paraprofessional for the purposes of this article). Recently, I had the opportunity to provide a workshop to a large group of paraprofessionals in New York City. I was surprised to hear how some felt disconnected from the families of their students, especially considering how deep their relationships are with their students.

My conversations during that workshop caused me to reflect upon my own experience as a classroom teacher. Fortunately, I always had wonderful paraprofessionals who were essential to making the classroom run smoothly and helping our students achieve success, but I recognize now that they often were working with less information and less contact with the families than the teachers were. As a parent/guardian, you can help bridge that gap.

  • Communicate directly with the teacher and the paraprofessional. If you have critical information about your child, don’t assume that the teacher will share it with the paraprofessional. This can be important for big issues, such as allergies or new medicines, as well as smaller issues, such as an impending vacation or a sleepless night.
  • Share important goals with the paraprofessional. In many schools, the paraprofessional may never have seen your child’s IEP, though they frequently see your child for more time during each day. The paraprofessional also will usually see your child at times when the teacher will not, such as lunch and/or recess. If there are specific concerns about social skills, the paraprofessional likely has more opportunities for implementing social skills interventions than the teacher.
  • When you go to parent teacher conferences, ask both the teacher and the paraprofessional about your child’s performance in school. Because the paraprofessional sees the student in more environments, they may have more specific observations about transitions, special classes such as gym or art, and social interactions outside of the classroom.
  • Sometimes a student responds better to the paraprofessional than the teacher. If they do, find out why. The paraprofessional may be doing things that you and/or the teacher can replicate to help your child’s learning outcomes.
  • Show your appreciation for the paraprofessional. The job of a paraprofessional is very challenging: no preps, the need to adjust to each teacher’s style throughout the day, and the fact that they often end up managing any behavioral challenges during the day. A note of thanks can go a long way. And if you are the type of parent who gives small gifts or handmade items to teachers, don’t leave the paraprofessional out!

WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-12 in NYC. Working in education for ten years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam has developed strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. Sam is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College.