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What Role Does the Parent Play in Applied Behavior Analysis?

Those who engage in applied behavior analysis principles take part in things like positive reinforcement, which helps those being taught learn new behaviors. Although applied behavior analysis is regularly applied to everybody, the term is usually used when referring to helping children with autism. What role does the parent play in applied behavior analysis? This is an important question as much of what autistic children learn is from behavior analysts specifically trained for this type of work, and parents are oftentimes unsure what their role is.

Parents Play a Pivotal Role

Parents play an essential role in the applied behavior analysis process. This is because children only visit with their therapist for a small portion of time when compared to how much time they spend with their parents. For that reason, how their parents interact with them and incorporate or not incorporate applied behavior analysis methods plays a pivotal role in how quickly the child learns what is being taught as well as whether or not it is learned at all.

The Importance of Complementing the Applied Behavior Analysis Being Taught

Parents who do not do their best to engage in the applied behavior analysis techniques being taught in their children’s sessions will cause the child to become quite confused and unsure how to best communicate with parental figures as well as with others they interact with in their day-to-day lives. Conversely, parents who make an effort to complement what is being taught when they interact with their children will enjoy seeing them more fully incorporate what they have learned.

What Should Parents Do?

Engaging in positive reinforcement tends to help quite a bit. For example, parents only providing their children with what they ask for once eye contact has been made will help the child associate eye contact with positive emotions. Keeping favorite toys just out their children’s reach, ensuring that they will need to ask for them, also helps associate the act of speaking up and asking for something with a positive emotion, receiving that coveted toy.

How Can Parents Help their Children’s Sessions be as Productive as Possible?

If the child’s applied behavior analysis sessions will take place at home, it is important to ensure that the location and timing coincides with the fewest distractions possible to allow the child to much more easily focus on what is being taught, something that is often a challenge for autistic children. Possible places that would be good for this include a quiet corner of the house or a peaceful guest room while sitting at a table in the kitchen with people coming in and out to get something to eat or drink would likely not be a good option.


It is important for parents to remain patient as several ups and downs will occur while their autistic child makes long-term improvements. Keeping the big picture in mind during any stumbles in the process is essential to keep the child as calm as possible and ensure that long-term growth occurs. This is especially important to keep in mind when the initial excitement of the honeymoon period of the learning process fades and more of a grind evolves as a result.

Related Resource: Top 10 Best Applied Behavior Analysis Online Programs 2015

The role of the parents is pivotal as far as how much their children learn and how fully they learn it. This is the case with autistic children benefiting from parents being involved in applied behavior analysis as well as with every child as they learn about a variety of things in scholastic and other settings as well as at home.