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.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Getting Parent "Buy In"!

Photo source: www. fradley-croft-events.co.uk, blog.volunteerspot.com

No matter where you provide services as an ABA professional (in a school, in someone’s home, etc.), getting the cooperation, support, and active participation of key stakeholders is the most necessary part of your job. I like to call this obtaining the “Buy In”. Buy in is basically the process by which the consumer willingly becomes an active and vital part of the treatment team. An ABA therapy program is always a joint effort -- treatment plan goals may be implemented by staff and possibly parents, overseen by a BCBA, and generalized by a variety of other people.

The key stakeholders are typically whoever initiated your services/hired you, but can also include relevant caregivers or professionals who interact with your client on a regular basis….grandparents, daycare staff, teacher, Occupational Therapist, respite providers, nanny, etc. With proper buy in, these people can help to implement and generalize your treatment plan. Without proper buy in, these people can derail or detonate your treatment plan.
Keep in mind that as an ABA professional, much of what you come up with to address behaviors of concern may NOT be implemented by you.  Don’t you think it’s an important and necessary step to set those stakeholders up for success before you hand them the treatment plan you poured your blood, sweat, and tears into? …(well maybe not blood, but certainly a few tears)

So firstly, if you work for an agency/company/school district that has no policies or procedures (such as a Parent Involvement Policy) in place for dealing with persistently uninvolved and resistant stakeholders, then I’m sorry. You have an uphill battle ahead of you, and unfortunately the powers that be want you to think it’s due to your lack of effort if you can’t get a chronically uninvolved parent “on board”. Sometimes, despite your efforts, interventions, patience, and perseverance, ABA therapy just isn’t a good fit for that consumer. The way I like to look at this issue, and the way I have explained it to staff, is that there is just one of me and I get 24 hours in my day like everyone else. A client who is on my caseload, yet consistently firmly resists, attempts to change, or derails my treatment plan is taking up a space that I could give to another family.

If you do work for a company/employer with policies in place regarding the participation and involvement of stakeholders, then your best bet when you hit a snag with a client is to follow the written guidelines or protocols.  Know these procedures well, and what your role is as the direct staff or the supervisor. Sometimes a consumer will start off great and enthusiastic, and then over time their involvement fades. What I see more frequently, is right from the start there may be issues with consumer follow through, participation, or following outlined procedures. This is always an indication that more intentional efforts are necessary to get buy in from that consumer.
If you work independently, then you need to have your own policies and procedures in place requiring active consumer participation. It is then your responsibility to enforce your policies. You really can’t blame a client for consistently breaking a policy if you never deliver any consequences.

So what are some effective ways –right from the start—to get the buy in you need, so you don’t find yourself in an unpleasant or hostile confrontation with a consumer? Glad ya asked :-)  

Buy In tips!

  • Explain that you expect buy-in- So the first tip is pretty simple. Have you taken the time to explain to the consumers you serve that their active and ongoing support and involvement is necessary to the success of therapy? No? Then how do you expect them to know that? I often find that particularly for families brand new to ABA therapy, they have no idea what I will expect, what they should expect, should they watch the session, should they disappear upstairs.....they truly don't know. As the professional, the responsibility is on you to outline what participation will entail, and what the consequences are for a persistent lack of participation.
  • Connect goals to W.O.R.K. - I intentionally am using the word "work", and not a happy -face -feel- good word like "success", "positive outcomes", etc. Just ask any direct staff in this field if their job is work or not. I guarantee they will assure you no matter how fun their session may look, they are working! We want to make it clear to consumers that for each treatment plan goal, there is work involved to meet that goal. Lack of buy in can water down the effectiveness of a treatment plan, and at that point the likelihood of achieving goal mastery starts to decrease. For each goal of treatment the consumer states, help them to connect those goals to specific things you will need them to do.
  • Clearly outline the magnitude of the problem - It can be necessary at times to *tactfully* help a consumer understand the weightiness of treatment goals. If a consumer doesn't feel the need of the ABA team, and underestimates their importance, then why would they actually follow what the team says?
  • Transparency - You need to exhibit the behaviors you want the consumer to exhibit. Return their phone calls promptly, meet deadlines, if they give you a document to review then get it back to them quickly. I encourage my clients to give their input on everything from what materials we will use, to which direct staff work best with their child. Even clinically, you should be updating the consumer on what goals you have in mind, why you are selecting specific assessment tools, etc. Being transparent helps create an atmosphere of "Let's work on this together".
  • Bend, but don't break - A very important tip is to always try to meet your consumer where they are. I once worked with a single mother of 3 special needs children, all under the age of 5. While I could have given her data to collect, honestly I just did not think that would be realistic. So instead, we came up with a system where she would videorecord behavioral incidents and we would meet and discuss the incident together and view the tape. I had to bend my expectations slightly based on the needs of this family. As professionals, we all have certain expectations from the consumers we serve. You will save yourself lots of frustration and stress if you learn that sometimes rules need to bend. Notice I didn't say BREAK the rules......don't just shrug your shoulders with a difficult client and give up on expecting them to participate. Evaluate your expectations, and discuss with the consumer if there are alternative ways for them to participate.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Supervisor Tips: Ready, Set, Work!

Photo Source: utahvalley360.com, blog.janicehardy.com

Many of my blog posts come from questions people email to me, and this one was a question about what to do post-certification. Specifically, you have obtained your BCBA, but maybe aren't quite at the interview phase, and you aren't sure what to do next. 

This is a tricky question to answer because this info varies greatly depending on where you live, the opportunities in your area, if you are able to relocate, the population you wish to serve, your hands-on work experience, etc. Also, since I am not a career counselor please don't expect this information to apply 100% to your situation. So instead of a step by step guide (which I'm really not qualified to give) here are some suggestions based on my experiences post-certification. Hope this helps all you freshly certified ABA Superheroes out there!

  1. My first suggestion is that you do some Q & A with yourself, to answer the following questions: What is my dream position in the field of ABA? On a day to day basis, what do I want my role to look like? Where do I want to work (location)? Do I want to work independently or as an employee for a company? Is licensure required in my state for me to practice as a Behavior Analyst? What is my area of expertise/what are my clinical strengths? What kind of work/life balance do I want? What are my salary expectations? Do I want to work for a large, established company with a reputation in this field? Or would I prefer a small start -up where I get to help create the vision and company mission? I don't recommend applying for any positions until you can answer these questions.
  2. Next, its a simple matter of matching your needs as a professional to the right employer or opportunity. "Employer" would refer to if you want to work for someone else, either as an employee or independent contractor (IC). "Opportunity" would refer to if you plan to strike out on your own and serve clients directly. Begin searching for opportunities in your local area, or widen your search if you are fine with relocation. Fire up your resume, cover letter, and some quality work samples, and begin sending them out. There is no specific place I can recommend to look for ABA work, you will likely have to look in multiple places........I suggest word of mouth, credentialing with local insurance providers, contacting local school systems, joining AIBA (they have a job portal), attending conferences, etc. As I have said on my blog before, if you are finding it highly difficult to locate opportunities in your area then that can indicate a lack of funding, or a lack of quality providers.
  3. My next tip is about preparing yourself, both mentally and physically, for your new role. Whether you plan to consult privately or to join "XYZ" agency, you want to be ready for the demands of the job. Your supervision experience or practicum should have given you the opportunity to learn the hands-on skills, and I suggest continuing to lean on your supervisor as a mentor, even after you pass the exam. This is someone who is already in the field and working, and can be a source of information and even client referrals. So for the mental preparation: don't be panicked if you get that lovely BCBA certificate in the mail and are suddenly terrified to do anything with it. Thats a normal reaction. I actually would be a bit concerned if you were newly certified and felt NO anxiety at all about serving clients. Your confidence will grow from seeing how much you help your clients, and getting great feedback from the consumers of your services. Give it time, this awesome confidence will not just pop up overnight. So for physical preparation: I don't mean go do 50 push ups and drink a glass of egg yolks. I mean are you set up with what you need to get to work? Looking around my office, let me give you a few examples of what I mean: business cards, printer/scanner, laminator, flashcards, ABLLS & VB-MAPP protocols, 3 hole punch, random assortment of toys, huge carryall/tote bag, laptop case, etc. For more help with getting ready to step into the role of a supervisor, I suggest my Trainers Handbook resource.
  4. My last tip is to remember to take your Personality and Passion (P & P) with you as you enter the field. Your passion is what will get you through the tough moments when you have a ridiculously short deadline to complete a 15 page report, the IEP meeting you changed your whole schedule for gets moved at the last minute, or your direct staff/supervisees leave much to be desired. Your personality is what will set you apart. Lots of BCBA's are professional, punctual, polite, and have great experience and references. So why should a company hire YOU? Well, show them what sets you apart by letting who you are shine through. If you're goofy, be goofy. If you're super type- A and rigid, don't try to hide it. There is room in this field for a wide variety of personalities, and often as a hiring supervisor I need to see the real you to get an idea of what clients to match you with. Every supervisor isn't a good match for every client or family, so its actually a good thing to be upfront and honest about your strengths, as well as your shortcomings. Its impressive when a professional can evaluate their own performance and objectively assess their own skillset.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

It's Official!

 Photo Source: www.kingarthurflour.com, blog.palmnet.me.uk

So, this is weird. 
My blog just officially reached its 1,000,000th view.

Photo source: www.u.osu.edu


I think it’s pretty darn cool that a blog I started a few years back, just as a fun little hobby (mainly for my own geeky ABA interest), is now becoming a woman. Or something like that.

Whether you are a new reader or have been hanging around here since the beginning, thank you. Thank you for reading, thank you for sharing the posts, thank you for commenting, thank you for suggesting posts, thank you for supporting my books, thank you for giving honest feedback (it would be great if the feedback was always KIND, but moving on…..), & thank you for contributing to the magic “1,000,000” number. Did I already say wowzers??

When I first started this blog it was only read by people I knew. Mainly clients, some family members, and a few friends. I had no idea what to talk about on my blog, so I just started putting up posts about things I cared about. To my surprise, other people liked it...not just people who know me, and are therefore obligated to tell me nice things :-) 
The very 1st post that got a huge surge in readers and a flurry of emails to my inbox, was my Clint Eastwood themed Punishment post. In that post, I pretty much did what I do everyday in my career: I combined clinical knowledge with my personality, and presented technical information in a very simple, basic way.  I like to say, "I'm not formal, but I'm professional". Uptight and stuffy just isn't what I do. But if you want to hear about how my mind connects Giada De Laurentiis to an FBA process, then by all means stick around.

It took me a while to find my writing voice, so thanks for hanging in during that process. Some of my very first posts are a bit cringe - worthy for me to read now, kind of like looking back at old pictures of yourself in middle school.

Through my blog I get to connect and chat with some amazing people: parents, grandparents, individuals with Autism, teachers, counselors, therapists, & other ABA professionals.
 I get to share ideas and discuss behavior with people in Australia, Italy, Canada, India, Russia, and the UK, just to name a few places. Why in the world someone halfway across the globe would check out my little blog, I have no idea…..but it’s pretty awesome!

The best part of having a blog is getting to blab on and on about my passion, and giving other people information I wish I had when I was a newbie in this field. If I can help someone else avoid the missteps I made, I think that’s great. So I hope something you have read, or downloaded, or viewed on this blog has helped you with your child/client/student in some small way.

Thanks for reading!