Karoline Kenville, MA., BCBA., LBA, Early Autism Services
It’s interesting to me how we define “family.” We always look at it as people who we share kinship with. I think these hard times have reframed my definition of “family.” I’m sitting here thinking how we often joke about us being “like a 2nd family to you.” I don’t think of myself as a “2nd family” to you; I think of myself as your family. We know the names of all of your children, your routines, your struggles, your victories, and most of all, we know your child with Autism. We share many intimate moments with you: your child’s first words; the time they sat and played with you for the first time; and, sometimes, even the difficult experiences too.
We stand tall next to you through all of these moments. We’ve cried and laughed together. We sometimes share our weekends and holidays with you. We do family outings with you to support your family every way we can. We take you home with us too; constantly thinking about what we can do differently or ways that we can support you and your family more. We read the latest research to better understand interventions and techniques that might work best for your child. We analyze endless amounts of data to ensure we are making the best clinical judgements. This is your child’s life that we are helping make choices for – and it isn’t taken lightly. In fact, we hold the weight of that heavy on our hearts and understand the depth of how important every little choice can have an impact on their development. Even during these difficult times where I cannot see you daily in person, we have not stopped thinking about you or being there for you. We all are still here, just differently.
I believe I can speak for all BCBA’s and Techs when I say we are a dedicated group of people. We are passionate about the science behind what we do and watching the results of it being implemented is monumental in our ability to show up each day. It is our strongest reinforcer to see your child make progress. Even though progress might slow down a little bit during this time, I want you to know we are still here. Use us. Call us. Try telehealth to meet with us to talk about things you could be doing.
Remember the functions of your child’s behavior that have been discussed with you. Remember that sometimes it gets worse before it gets better; but do not give up! Consistency is key to this process. Remember that routines and structure will help your child who needs to know what to expect and sometimes breaking some tasks into smaller parts can reduce problematic behavior. Transition warnings and timers can be your best friend during this time – use them. Remember how powerful follow-through is…even if it’s difficult at first, don’t stop – stay consistent. Use visual supports to help communicate and give reminders – these are so powerful. Most of all, do not forget how powerful praise can be. Label the behaviors you want to see again and avoid labeling the ones you do not want to see. Reinforcement is a powerful tool for changing behaviors when used correctly.
Stay connected to your ABA team. Join a parent training session that your company is hosting or reach out to the Autism Alliance of Michigan to find one. Use social media for parent support groups, set up a 1-on-1 parent training with your BCBA at least once a week to discuss solutions and reminders of what has worked in the past. Vent to us about the challenges so we can help create solutions. Share with us your victories so we can celebrate with you. Use us to help navigate this difficult time. We have not gone anywhere.
We are family, in this together, and will prevail together.
Sincerely with love,
Karoline Kenville, MA., BCBA., LBA
Early Autism Services