How to Involve Siblings in ABA

We had a request to write about how to involve siblings in ABA at home. We also went to a seminar on his exact topic when we were at the conference in Paris. So, firstly, let me say that when I looked for research in the area, there wasn’t much at all. The only journal that came up in the Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis was published in 1983, so, obviously, a little outdated. Unfortunately, the research presented in Paris.. well… it wasn’t exactly what we would view as functional. Bearing these views in mind, I have put some thoughts together on how best to support sibling involvement in ABA programmes:

The important areas for siblings to become involved with are communication and play (this view, was indeed supported by the research presented at the conference).


When it comes to communication, the most important thing will be for the sibling to initially do EVERYTHING they are asked to do! So if a request for a drink is made, the sibling whizzes off and gets a drink as fast as they can. Ideally, any request would be honoured by the sibling. This will build the relationship, and give the child as many communication partners as possible. If the child is using sign, it will be important for the sibling to know all of the relevant signs. If the child uses an alternative communication device (such as Proloquo2Go, it will be important that they know how to use it. If the child is using speech, just ensure the sibling is ready to listen, and act!

As for play, it’s great when siblings show children toys, how to play with them, different ways to make them fun. This could be a new marble run, or jumping on the trampoline together. This, again, builds the relationship between the two siblings. The more the sibling can follow the child’s lead, and play alongside them, the better. This way, they can show an interest in each other’s toys. This will build the foundations for more complex play skills later down the line.

Another area that is important, but harder, to get the whole family involved in is the behaviour support plan. Depending on the age of the siblings, this may, or may not be possible. It may be easier to start with involving siblings in the proactive strategies. Then, when they are more confident / older, they can start to follow some of the reactive strategies. If you need some help or guidance in this area, please do contact us, we can give more information, depending on the specific behaviour support plan.     

Perhaps after doing this for a while, the siblings deserve their own reinforcement!

I hope that answers some questions, if not, please do say, and I can give you some of my thoughts in different areas.