Become Your Child's Autism Therapist Through "Rethink First"

An online program teaches you to become your child's ABA (behavioral) therapist

Rethink First, formerly Rethink Autism, is an online resource center that provides training for school districts and individual parents interested in using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as a therapy for children with autism. The site is a cornucopia of ABA-related content for therapists and parents, including hundreds of videos, online consultation options, a "build your own curriculum" functionality, and more. Rethink First even offers "distance BCBA supervision to national and international candidates seeking certification in behavior analysis with the Board Analyst Certification Board (BACB)" through a combination of video conferencing, email, and video.

Young boy with autism therapist
AMELIE-BENOIST / BSIP/Corbis Documentary / Getty Images

Why Online ABA Therapy Matters

ABA is by far the most fully researched and most generally accepted form of autism therapy available. It's essentially a training process whereby children (and sometimes teens and adults) learn skills ranging from basic communication to advanced academics to complex life skills. While ABA was once a rather brutal reward and punishment training program, today's approaches are far more flexible. Many therapists have become quite creative and engaging, taking children out of the classroom or office into the wide world to work on applying new skills on the playground, the store, and other venues. When used correctly, then, ABA can be of enormous value to children with autism and their families.

There are, however, a few major hurdles in the way of providing ABA to children with autism.

Barriers to Providing ABA Therapy to Children With Autism

  • First, ABA is very, very expensive. The gold standard of therapy for severely or moderately autistic children is 40 hours a week of 1:1 therapy for several years. Given that a therapist can easily make $50 per hour, you can imagine the bills. In some cases, the costs are covered by insurance, schools or state/federal programs. In many cases — it isn't.
  • ABA may not be available locally. Yes, there are plenty of board certified ABA therapists in metropolitan areas, but get out into the countryside in the US, Canada, and other English speaking countries, and you'll find very few.
  • ABA therapists may be poorly trained or untrained. While top therapists have embraced naturalistic ABA therapy, flexible approaches to building emotional engagement, and other humane and child-appropriate techniques, many ABA therapists are trained ONLY in "discrete trials." Discrete trials, which involve repeated attempts to get a child to respond appropriately to a request such as "give me the spoon," are appropriate in limited circumstances - and certainly not for 40 hours a weeks.
  • The ABA "therapist" who works with your child may not be a therapist at all. Because ABA is popular, expensive, and can be very simplistic in its application, schools often turn to paraprofessionals with an 8-week certificate to not only implement but also to develop children's therapeutic programs. There are obviously some serious issues with such an approach.

How Rethink First Overcomes Barriers to Therapeutic Access

Rethink First puts power back into the hands of parents and individuals with an interest in getting ABA right.

I highly recommend the site for anyone interested in providing ABA for their child, or for anyone with a serious interest in a career in the field of autism therapy. Even if you're a dedicated RDI or Floortime person, or believe that biomedical interventions are an ideal approach, you can't go wrong in better understanding the granddaddy of all autism therapies.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles