One of the most successful people I ever met said that life was a series of compromises. Few people know this better than parents of special needs children. There are stories about parents who choose to quit their jobs in order to be able to better care for their children. I do plan on writing about navigating the education system and IEP’s on a later date but today I am going to focus on a special group. Parents who choose to become ABA Therapists.
I have met more than one parent who decided to go to school for ABA Therapy when their child was diagnosed. When my own son was diagnosed I decided on that course. My thought was if my connection with my child was going to be hindered by autism then I wanted to learn the best ways possible to connect with him. Now I never planned on getting a job in the field, it was just nice to be qualified to work if I needed to support my family. Well, many years later the time came and then the reality of the situation hit me. Schedules for ABA Therapy are awful if you want to spend any time with your own child!
In an ideal world, you would work similar hours as your child so that you both spend the evening together. In ABA world, the majority of the jobs available are all after school hours. Think about it, most of the kids who get in-home services only need them when they are home (after school.) While some kids are homeschooled and have a greater availability companies are looking for those with an evening or open availability. The therapist has to work well with the client so it is preferable to hire someone with an open schedule. If they work well if the few “morning” clients they have then great but if they don’t they didn’t end up hiring someone they now can’t use.
Options do exist but you have to get more creative. Here is a list of a few things you can do to help.
#1 Look into ABA jobs within the school district. Remember these hours may not be the same as the actual school day. For example, in my school district, the ABA hours were 8 am to 5 pm even though the school day starts at 7:45 am and ends around 3 pm. Meaning you might still need a babysitter. If your child ends up in a non-public school summer breaks may have differences and spring breaks might not line up also so keep that in mind.
#2 Expand beyond children. Autism is a spectrum and not everyone on it will be able to live independent lives as adults. Looking for jobs in adult care centers can give a greater range of times.
#3 Expand beyond autism. My passion is autism so this is not an area I have researched extensively but ABA has a lot of uses. Exposure therapy is in the realm of ABA and it can be used to help those with major phobias. OCD can be helped with ABA also. Autism is the most common use for ABA at the moment but it is not the only use.
#4 Research your company. I plan on talking about this in more detail in a different post but there are a lot of people in the autism community who feel traumatized by ABA therapy. If the company uses punishments or unpleasant stimuli to gain the desired result you may want to look elsewhere. Some people who treat autism believe that it is okay to be autistic and they try to use therapy to help with improving standard of living. Others believe that autism is a neurological disorder that needs to be cured. What they treat and how they treat it might be similar but intent can make a huge difference in treatment.
#5 Look for “ABA” compatible jobs. Currently, I work as an independence facilitator in the special education department for my school district. These people work 1-on-1 with students in and out of the classroom to help them succeed. Some of these students often also have ABA therapists who work with them at different times. Communication between departments is often found wanting and having a degree in ABA means I can take quick directions from the ABA therpist and implement them appropriately. Also, since other IF’s do not always “get it” I can help them figure out ways to supplement the ABA therapy and explain what they need. In essence, you can act as a bridge between the two. No, you won’t get paid more for it but this can open the door to a lot more jobs. Working with a camp or daycare, basically, any location where autistic people might be participating. Reminder, if you are not a BCBA do not do it! However, you can use basic principles to help.
I have a few more posts in mind that I will try to get to in the next couple days including:
Getting into the right placement in the school system, ABA evil or helpful, and the “problem” vs. “neurodiversity” debate.
Now that I am finally committing time every day to this blog I would appreciate sharing (if you like it). Eventually, I plan on trying to getting a premium account and expanding this into a professional style blog.
On a personal note: My family has come upon hard times financially. I hate to share on a blog to help others and if I did not have my son I wouldn’t ask for help at all. However, as a mom I am going to swallow my pride and share my gofundme post here also.