Barbara Kaminski, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA(VA)
ABA and Medications. Why We Need to Know.
If you are not feeling well and you visit your doctor, one of the things she will ask is what medications you are currently taking. Your doctor needs to eliminate the possibility that medication effects are contributing to your symptoms and, if she needs to prescribe medication, to prevent interactions with anything you are already taking. While ABA is not a medication, it is a treatment. And there can be interactions between medications and the prescribed ABA treatment. Like your doctor, in order to evaluate possible behavioral effects and interactions, your BCBA needs to know what medications your child is taking.
Let Us Help. The decision to begin a medication can be stressful. A medication may have possible side effects; will they outweigh any benefit? Will this medication actually “work?” The good news is that we can help gather objective information and data on the behavioral effects, and side effects, of a medication. When you share information about your child’s medications, we can work with you to develop behavior tracking systems to objectively measure possible effects, including ways that you can track changes at home. You can then share that information with your child’s pediatrician so that you can make informed decisions about whether your child is benefiting from the medication regimen.
The More We Know! Changes in medications can change the way your child responds to behavior treatment. For example, a new medication may make a child feel nauseous or cause headaches. If we are aware of those effects, we can make adjustments to the way we work. Medications prescribed specifically to change behavior, for example to improve focus for a child with ADHD, can have a substantial impact on how a child responds during ABA sessions. If we don’t know about medication change, whether that’s a new med or a change in dose, we won’t know whether a behavioral change – either an improvement or worsening of a problem – is a result of the medication, other changes in the environment, or the behavioral treatment. As a result, we could make the wrong choices about behavioral treatment, including spending time searching for answers as to why behavior changed, rather than appropriately adjusting our procedures.
Working Together is Better. When ABA and medications are both prescribed treatments, the best-case scenario is that they “work together.” By keeping us informed about new, or changes to, medications, you are helping accomplish that best-case scenario!