I Love ABA!

Welcome to my blog all about Applied Behavior Analysis!

This blog is about my experiences, thoughts, and opinions on ABA. My career as an ABA provider is definitely a passion and a joy, and I love what I do.

This is a personal blog: The views and opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of the people, institutions, or organizations that I may be affiliated with.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Supervision Cheat Sheet

Photo source: www.corporatemoxie.com, www.ithinklots.com

*Recommended Posts: Are you a great supervisor?
*Recommended Resource: Trainer’s Handbook 

Being in a clinical supervisor role for an ABA program is one crazy job. 

There are so many things you must do on a regular basis that all have to occur near or at the same time. Multitasking and prioritizing must be as effortless for you as breathing, or you will definitely have some challenging days.

Supervisors have reports to write, parent meetings to schedule, data to analyze, treatment plans to create, direct staff to train and critique…. the list goes on and on. I often see staff obtain their certification and move into a supervisory role, and as much as I try to prepare them for what it’s like to oversee a program there's nothing quite like that 1st  jump into the deep end of the pool. It’s simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying, and most brand new clinical supervisors have that somewhat stunned, shellshocked look on their face until they adjust to the demands of the job.
I didn’t always have the best examples of supervisors back in my direct staff days, so in my mind being a clinical supervisor was going to be a cushy office job. Well, I was very, very wrong :-)

Moving from the role of primarily providing 1:1 instruction to being responsible for overseeing an entire ABA program is a huge transition, and if you aren’t being properly prepared for this transition by your current supervisor then please allow me to pull back the curtain and give you some insight into how this actually works. 
Consider these tips my super-duper informative “cheat sheet” to help anyone in their role as “The Supervisor” (this information will not be applicable to every position or every company).

1.      My biggest tip is: understand that the clinical supervisor role requires honesty, and critical eyes (notice I said critical and not judgmental). You can’t be afraid to say “That was good, but I know you can do better”. Your supervisees/clients are NOT your friends, and your clinical recommendations are not optional suggestions that they can choose to ignore. It is your job to give specific feedback so that parents can learn how to apply ABA and staff can improve their skillset. If your feedback is always vague platitudes (“You guys are great, keep it up”), how exactly do people grow from that?? When I am working, I am either giving corrective feedback on what isn't right, or I am collaborating on what can be better.
2.      Expect huge demands on your time, and let go of the concept of “working hours”. Staff and parents may need to contact you with questions, concerns, or “Uh oh, we have a problem” issues in the middle of the night, on holidays, or on the weekend. Am I saying you have to be on call 24-7? Absolutely not. But, the great BCBA’s that I know are always accessible, and will make the time to stop and answer a question no matter how busy they are.
3.      Your car is going to become an office on wheels, even if you have an actual, real office. For most of us, a typical work day involves driving from client to client or school to school. When I start a work day I have several bags/totes to carry, a clipboard, data sheets, my phone, my water bottle, and my snack or lunchbox (more on that in the next tip). When you arrive to a supervision session you never know what your staff may need, so keep extra data sheets, pens, binders, & toys/fidgets in your trunk so you can quickly grab them and give to your staff.
4.      Speaking of snack/lunch, let go of the idea of a typical 8 hour work day where you get two 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch. As a busy clinical supervisor, I suggest you carry a water bottle and pack snacks that can be eaten on the go. Otherwise, you may find yourself pulling up to drive thru windows pretty frequently. Particularly during the evening hours when you are in the clients’ home at 6, 7, or 8 at night, and you can smell steaks being cooked in the kitchen……those are the nights where the Burger King down the street starts looking better and better.
5.      I hope organization and time management are strengths for you, because you will need these skills. Most of the time, you make your own schedule. This means it is up to you to put together a schedule where you meet billable hour requirements, give your staff as much of you as they need (including late evening meetings you don’t get paid for), prepare for and write up lengthy reports, conceptualize treatment, and then somewhere in there actually have a life. If you are married, in school, or have kids, organization and managing your time become even more critical or you will quickly find yourself approaching burnout.
6.      Learn the art of assertive confrontation. I had to learn this skill over time, and it was difficult for me at first. When dealing with apathetic parents or disrespectful staff, it’s natural to get annoyed, irritated, or defensive. However none of that is professional. Think assertive not aggressive. What you can do is firmly state your side, explain what you will and won’t do, and attempt to work towards mutual agreement. If the other person insists on continuing to escalate, end the conversation until it can occur in a calm manner. Sometimes the issue is something that can be resolved, and sometimes it is not. You may need to ask to be removed from a case, you may need to fire the staff, or you may need to resign from the company if your employer consistently fails to back you up.
7.      Lastly, a really hard part of being a supervisor that you might not hear about is saying goodbye to some amazing clients. :-(  After you have worked and worked to teach the client important life skills, you suddenly find out the family is moving out of state, or switching to a different agency, or they lost their ABA funding. Change is just part of this job. Allow yourself to be sad, especially if you had a great working relationship with the family, but realize that throughout your career you will work with multiple clients and when you accept a case you never really know how long you will be helping that client.  

*Awesome Download: I recently made this simple handout for a consult client who needed help understanding the role of the clinical supervisor. I hope it’s helpful! Print it, laminate it, and keep it in your car.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ready for the Interview?

Photo source: www.burnsmcdmedia.com, www.abetterinterview.com

*Recommended Posts:

I often receive emails from people about to interview for their first ABA position and feeling simultaneously excited and terrified, wanting to know what should they expect from the process. Many of these people are new grads, fresh out of an ABA certification program or degree program and ready to dive into ABA as a career. Hopefully if you are in a similar position, this information is helpful to you. This post is all about preparing for your first ABA job interview.

First of all it’s important to understand that an interview is not just about selling yourself. It should be a mutually beneficial meeting. In other words, you should be interviewing them too! From the first point of contact with the agency/center/ company, to hearing those words “We’d like to offer you the position”, you should be watching, listening, and paying attention to see if this is a place you want to work for:

Do you really want to pour your talent, time, and energy into the company?? Is it a fit for your interests, personality, and values? How do staff interact with each other? With the boss? Do people seem friendly and down to earth, or super busy and stressed out? How formal do social interactions seem? Are things messy and chaotic at the office/center, or organized and neat? If clients are present, how does staff interact with them? Is the interview a back and forth conversation or does the interviewer just shoot rapid-fire questions at you? Are you kept waiting even though you arrived on time or early? Is the interview date and time changed multiple times, with no advance warning?

Nowadays thanks to technology and especially if you apply for positions outside of your state or country, the interview process may occur over the phone, via Skype, and/or in person. You may be involved in a group interview (now that’s a fun process……this is sarcasm), or the more traditional 1:1 interview. You may be interviewed in stages, starting with non -clinical staff and working up to the company owner. You may be interviewed by multiple people at once, who all have questions for you. The interview can be casual or very formal, and can occur at the office, or in a public setting (like at a restaurant). While the norm may be sitting and answering questions, some companies may want you to role play or demonstrate skills, get down on the floor and interact with some actual clients (in your lovely business suit…..that’s fun. Again: this is sarcasm), or even review sample data or documents and then discuss.

Many people ask me what they should take to an ABA interview, or how they should prepare. See below for how to prepare, but as far as what to take with you I suggest:
·         Resume, cover letter, and references (only list people who can provide a STRONG recommendation), and some companies will want to see a salary history
·         Work samples are always impressive (remove any identifying information). If you don’t have any, bring relevant school assignments or projects
·         Bring energy, personality, and lots of questions! Don’t be that person who comes across as introverted, shy, or boring. That won’t impress the interviewer.

So now that you know what to expect and what to bring, how can you prepare for the interview process? By having an idea of what questions will be asked of you, and preparing in advance your own questions to ask. As someone who has conducted interviews of direct staff, I can tell you it doesn’t look good if the person doesn’t have any questions for me. Or, if they can’t answer/get flustered by my questions of them.
Below is my own list of some standard questions to expect, and some great questions to ask. I hope these tips help land you your dream job!

*Questions to expect

What made you want to apply for this position/why do you want to work here?
So tell us about yourself.
What is your availability? Can you work weekends?

Are you currently in school? If so what is your school schedule?
How many years of ABA experience do you have?
General disclaimer statement, such as “In this job, you may work with aggressive or challenging clients who kick, hit, scratch, bite, etc. Are you comfortable with this?”
Have you worked with aggressive clients before?
Do you have an age preference (older clients? Younger clients?)
How do you handle working with resistant or uninvolved parents or teachers?
What was your most recent salary rate/What are your salary demands?
Are you more of a leader or a follower? Why?

What type of work setting/environment do you thrive in?
What do you enjoy most about working with (insert the type of client the company serves)?
Describe your expertise with skill acquisition/behavior reduction/parent training, etc.
What is your experience with data collection?
Specific behavioral questions/terms, such as “Can you explain the difference between positive and negative reinforcement?”
What are your best assets/strengths? Name your weaknesses.

What are your career goals in this field?
A “story telling” question, such as “Tell me about a time where you had difficulty helping a client? How did you overcome it?”
If not certified: “Do you plan to pursue certification? Why or why not?
If you are certified: “Why did you choose to pursue certification?”
What do you know about our company? Have you viewed our company website?
So what questions do you have for me?

*Questions to ask:

What critical character traits or values do you look for when hiring staff?
Can you tell me about the types of clients I will likely work with (ages, diagnoses, behaviors, etc.)? What is the minimum caseload? What is the maximum caseload?
Who is responsible for purchasing/providing the materials or reinforcers I will use with clients?
Does the company have an illness policy/ session cancellation policy/ parent involvement policy? If not, then how are these issues handled?

Is there an employee dress code?
How are issues of conflict between direct staff and supervisors handled?
Is physical management training provided, and how often is it re-given? Does it include de-escalation strategies? If it is not provided, can I be reimbursed for pursuing my own training?
What is the pay rate for this position? How do pay raises work/when would I become eligible for possible pay raises or incentives/bonuses?
What typical commute can I expect each day? (15 miles, 25 miles, etc.) Is mileage reimbursement offered? Can I expect to be matched with clients that are reasonably close to my home?
What is the full benefits package (insurance, supplies/materials, tuition assistance, opportunities to attend conferences, etc.)? Do I need to work a minimum amount of hours each week to maintain these benefits?

Is there a written job description  I can review? 
What is the data collection and storage method? Binders, electronic, etc.
How are new hires trained (length of training, who conducts the training, topics covered, etc.)? Please describe the initial training as well as ongoing training I can expect to receive. Will I be paid during initial training?
How many candidates are you considering for this position?

Are employees required to sign a no compete or a minimum length of employment contract?
How will my unique skills and interests be used to match me to ideal clients?
How are difficult or problem families handled? What is the process for requesting to come off a case?
Will my direct supervisor be a BCBA?
What paperwork/documentation is necessary for submitting timesheets/billing? Is this paperwork due weekly or bi-weekly?