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Caring for Caregivers: Applied Behavior Analysis and Its Application to Parents of Kids with Autism


    Caring for Caregivers: Applied Behavior Analysis and Its Application to Parents of Kids with Autism

    -by Sawyer Harmon


    In the first semester of my undergraduate studies, I began work as a behavior technician implementing in-home applied behavior analysis interventions with children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). My work became animated by the principles of learning taught in my behavior analytic courses. I directly observed the promise of a science of behavior: the alleviation of human suffering. Through coursework in behavior analysis and ongoing “ghost supervision”, I was able to expand my repertoire and provide higher level services to my clients. I taught community living skills and promoted generalization through parent training. With consultation, I was able to implement self-management interventions and teach Behavioral Relaxation Training targeting emotional dysregulation and disruptive behavior. The lives of my clients and their families shifted from fearful to engaging, establishing behavior change as a potent reinforcer. Although my clients’ behavior changed, their parents’ behavior, often did not. Combating psychological problems and chronic/terminal illnesses left parents unable to enjoy their children and live a values guided life. My view of applied behavior analysis evolved into more than discrete trial training. I sought a more holistic approach, equipped to address the needs of children and their parents. Behavior analysis offers modalities and conceptualizations such as acceptance and commitment therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and behavioral activation to treat complex behavior problems. However, behavior analysts seldom employ treatment plans targeting parent ailments. As a discipline, until we change parent behavior, child outcomes will slump and never maintain.




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