Outpatient Behavior Services Supervisors Shonnet Brand and Tonya Lambert sit around a conference table with a group of four parents of young clients. In front of the them is a chart—big and detailed and awash with color. The chart lays out the ways that a curriculum based on Applied Behavior Analysis moves learners through a series of incremental steps toward greater and greater skills—in communication, problem-solving, listening, observing, and more.
Shonnet and Tonya point out details and answer questions. The parents lean in, talk about their experiences, and share a funny story or two about their child’s progress and their home lives together. This is what a parent training at Outpatient Behavior Services looks like.
Just this month, the latest group of parents completed 8 sessions of training—providing them with a deep dive into the ways that intensive work on small skill advances can add up to big results for their children. This was the second cohort of parents to complete the training in the past year.
Jessica Cohen was a member of the training session that just concluded, and she reports that the course was good for “learning more about the theory behind the curriculum. It helps me implement things more effectively at home.” Part of the benefit of the training, according to Jessica, is that it helps parents see when to say when. “There’s a schedule of reinforcement,” she says. “It helps you know if you’re pushing too hard.”
The course came about very naturally out of parents’ desire to be as informed as possible about their child’s progress and how they can support it. “Parents need to know why,” Shonnet explains. “We had parents coming to us and saying ‘I don’t just want the home sessions. I want to learn about what you guys are doing.’”
The parent training produces benefits that extend beyond VIA and home. “It’s helped me be a better advocate for him with other therapists and at school,” says Jessica.
Jessica also reports that the small-group sessions spent working intensively with VIA staff have another benefit as well: “I’ve learned more about the therapists, and see how invested they are in VIA and in our kids. It’s a very special calling. It’s so great to see other people caring as much about your kid as you do.”