Over the course of my career as an ABA therapist, I have worked for several agencies. Each agency has it’s own set of paperwork, procedures, and rules. One rule some agencies have is that as a provider working in the home, you are not able to bring in materials. The reasoning is that it’s not fair to the child or the family to bring in materials that are only available when you are there. Without the materials you’re using, the parents can’t replicate what you’re doing unless you’re present.
As a provider, I have made the decision not to work for agencies that have this rule. While I understand the intent behind it, I feel that in practice such rules can be unethical. They may:
- perpetuate disparities related to parent/guardian income. I’ve worked in homes where the parents were able to purchase any necessary supplies, and I’ve worked in other homes in which the parents were unable to purchase the basic necessities. Telling providers they can’t bring in their own materials allows for disparities based on income to effect the quality of education provided for the learner.
- reduce the opportunity for introducing novel materials. This is important for addressing generalization, teaching learners to be flexible, and ensuring variety of instruction. Variety is essential when working with learners with autism who may become rigid in their play. It also helps maintain interest across sessions, as many students become bored when presented with the same materials over and over, which may lead to maladaptive behaviors that function as escape.
- maintain stereotypic behaviors. Access to a stimulating environment has been shown to decrease the occurrence of stereotypic behaviors. Take a look at Assessing and Treating Vocal Stereotypy in children with Autism (William H. Ahearn, Kathy M. Clark, and Rebecca P.F. MacDonald, J Appl Behav Anal. 2007 Summer; 40(2): 263–275.)
- reduce the opportunity for finding new areas of interest. Increasing play skills and age-appropriate interests is a major goal for many of our learners. Providing opportunities to try out new materials and toys helps to support the discovery and growth of interests. It also allows providers to make the best possible recommendations for parent purchases of materials and toys.
What are your thoughts on ABA providers bringing materials into the home environment?