Here at NETwork we have a pretty even split between solely parent-led programmes and those where parents run their child's programme as a way of life, but have therapists as an added layer of intensive intervention. We do not recommend therapists to all of our families. Some really don't need that added layer due to the family support network, time availability, consultant availability, school vs home ratio and, of course, the reason you are putting a programme in to place: the strengths and struggles of the child, teen or adult with whol we are working.
The research does clearly show that the more intensive the intervention, the greater and more sustained the results.
The best results, according to research and statistics, are those where a child has 30-40 hours of therapy per week over a period of one-two years. Initial research carried out on interventions which were 30-40 hours a week of intensive one to one ABA intervention showed that 47% of children became indistinguishable from their peers. Of course, there were lots of remits for this research and we would be more than happy to lead you to the research (I don't yet know how to link websites or pages through this blog!!). One of the criteria of the research was that the children were very young. One of the other criteria was that the children all had a diagnosis of autism.
Whether you use therapists or not will depend on a lot of factors, a few of which I will outline below:
- time - do you as a parent have time to implement intervention as a way of life, plus do a few hours of intensive one to one each day?
- finance - whatever you start, ensure that you can finish. It is better to have no therapists and get yourself fully trained than it is to have lots of therapists and need to finish after a month or two. If you can afford, for example, two sessions a week over twelve months or four sessions of therapy a month over six, I would certainly go for the two a week over a longer period (depending on your child's abilities, of course)
- your child's skill-deficits. If you have a large gap you are trying to close or your child is a little older, it is more likely that you will require more intensive intervention
- energy - implementing a programme is TOUGH. It is hard work and requires motivation, energy and willpower. It is so important to be consistent - that means that wherever you are, you are following through with recommendations! Having a therapist may help you to be consistent and give you a break
- the rest of your family - it is unlikely that you and your child live as an island, with no other committments whatsoever. Your child may have siblings and you a partner or family who also require your time, attention and love.
Here at NETwork, we don't work with families who have purely therapist-run programmes. We know from experience that you are your child's best teacher. You may need supports in place to run sessions when you are not there, but research and experience clearly show that therapist run programmes are not as effective in the immediate or long-term as parent run programmes or parent run programmes with therapists.
We recommend that you have family training (even siblings can be wonderful therapists!) and consultation as your base, and that you layer in therapists as support. We realise that running a programme is tough. With most of our children, we do recommend the support of at least one therapist.
Another thing to consider is the organisation of your therapists. Implementing a programme is one thing. Hiring, firing, training, scheduling and maintaining a team is a whole other ball-game. It is tough, even for the most experienced and 'manager-like' of us. Here at NETwork, we now offer a whole package to suit your needs. This includes recruitment, training, maintaining, scheduling and letting-go of therapists, as this is what our families have told us they need over the last twelve years of us being in the field.