Home Programming on a Budget by Liz

After learning of our sonís diagnosis of autism and developmental delay, we were anxious to help him in any way possible. We read about Applied Behavioral Analysis and attended courses; we were anxious to begin but werein no way able to dowhat Dr. Maurice suggested in terms of the 40/hr/wk and the $80,000/yr. So we set about setting up a home program on a budget.Our son has still made remarkable progress.We started our home program when he was 2 yrs 3months old.

Here is what I did to cut costs:

Most importantly, hire ONE person (or agency) with a background in ABA.  This person is someone you will use to train your staff, mediate staff meetings and to help get your home program off the ground. Check out our Questions to ask ABA/IBI Service Providers.

A terrific resource is now available in Kathy Lear's Help Us Learn program.  It is a complete self-paced training program for preparing parents, educators, students, teachers, therapists, service providers, friends and family to use ABA programs.  The package comes complete with an administrator's manual, teacher/therapist manual (s) and a floppy disk, which contains customizable forms, applications, data sheets, graphing and more!  Reasonably priced, this is the book to help set up and maintain your program professionally.

You may have to pay a high hourly rate for thisperson, but it is important to have someone who can give direction to the program. Knowing WHAT to teach and HOW to teach it are key to success. Also, make sure this person has a good rapport with your child. They should do a little of Dr. Greenspan's 'Floortime' with him/her, to help build trust and friendship first. Keep in mind that for the first couple of months, your ABA therapist will put in extra hours getting you set up. Eventually, they can provide help once per week, or even on a monthly, supervisory capacity.

This therapist can either give suggestions for hiring or actually sit in on interviews with you. Ask them to help put together an application for you. You can find sample ads, questionnaires and more for the hiring process in the Help Us Learn Manual.

Now you are ready to hire your staff. Start with the ABA therapist and perhaps 2 students. You can hire these students from colleges, universities, camps or even high school. They don't have to have experience, they just have to be able to relate to your son or daughter in some way. A pre-existing rapport would be most helpful. You should pay anywhere between $5 to $10/hr to start (depending on age and experience of student).

When hiring, look for things like an animated personality, pleasant voice, lots of energy, commitment and responsibility.Arrange to have the main therapist train them both (and you, plus important family members) all at the same time. This may take a couple of sessions.

When hiring, make it a condition of employment that prospective staff have a police check done.  Also very important is a vulnerable sector check.  These have to be asked for by them.  It is up to you whether you want to pay for these searches; if the staff member is a volunteer, I'd suggest you pay; otherwise have them pay for it.  Ask for a photocopy of all paperwork.

(An even cheaper way to do it is this. Forgo the ABA therapist and hire two students. Arrange for yourself and these two employees to take an ABA/IBI course together. As you need to hire more people, you can train them yourself. Update the skills of yourself and any 'key' members of your team regularly by attending workshops and conferences. The problem with this is, the direction of teaching.  You need to find a curriculum, there are several good ones for sale.  Warning: do not {unless you have no other choice} undertake the whole program yourself.  People and services exist with background and education that will provide your child with appropriate ABA therapy.)

So now you have one ABA Therapist and two (or more) students. Arrange the schedule around nursery school and naps, etc. If necessary, they can work during a meal so that they can help teach table manners and other life skills. Start slow, and build up over a few weeks.

You can find therapists, behaviorists, psychologists and more at Leaps and Bounds. They provide specialized programming throughout Ontario. You can find a listing of more private service providers for York Region and GTA here.

 Have monthly staff meetings (we have them every two weeks). This is very important, because once a skill is learned, you have to move on to prevent frustration and boredom of all. The learned skill is placed into review for a couple of weeks (only done say twice per week), and graduallygeneralized into every day life.

Understand what your TARGETS are for each skill.  Keep data sheets of progress. Here is a site with samples of data sheets

Although it is preferable to utilize the talents of a Cadillac agency, reality is that many of us cannot afford the approximately $70,000 per year (Canadian) a full-time program costs.  You can run your own program, just be sure you get plenty of education and have a back up person you can turn to for the challenges.

Good luck to all of us!


Behavioral Intervention for Young Children with Autism by Catherine Maurice et. al. ISBN: 0890796831, Pro Ed

Making a Difference : Behavioral Intervention for Autism by Catherine Maurice, et al, Pro Ed; ISBN: 0890798710

A Work In Progress by Ron Leaf ISBN: 0966526600, DRL BOOKS (ABA/IBI)

Eden Curriculum


10: August 12, 2002