*Recommended Reading:

Ready for the Interview

The Other Side of the Interview






The interview process is a time where both the Interviewer and Interviewee assess each other to determine Goodness-of-Fit, and make a decision about partnership. Sound odd? It shouldn't. As an employee/contractor of a company, family, or organization, you are partnering up with the vision, goals, and plans of the organization when you agree to work there. Even if just for a brief contract where you offer your expertise, you are leaving a stamp on that company for years to come.


I've posted before about the interview process from the perspective of a parent hiring ABA professionals, or an ABA professional landing a great job. But what about the perspective of the interviewer? If you own an ABA company/employ direct staff, or hold a Director/Executive position, then you likely will have the responsibility to recruit, hire, and possibly train staff. Are you up to it? Based on my own experiences in this field....no. You're likely not :-).

I have had some just dreadful interviews for ABA positions. Totally terrible. Regardless of company size, if the company CEO was clinical or non-clinical, or whether I was interviewing as a contractor or an employee, I have observed that many people wearing the hat of "interviewer", should probably give that hat to someone else. A bad job interview is like a bad appetizer at a restaurant, in that it definitely doesn't leave you wanting more.
If you are finding that it's difficult to fill positions, or that applicants are turning down job offers from you regularly, there is definitely a reason for that. You may be thinking it's the pay rate, or the area, or just super hard to recruit in-demand ABA professionals, but might I suggest it's your interviewing skills?? If I am not impressed or intrigued during a 1st interview, I definitely won't return for a 2nd. Guaranteed.

So, let's look at what does work---->

When interviewers get it right (I mean, realllly right), they leave the interviewee excited about the opportunity to partner up with them. If either the interviewer or the interviewee feel resigned, so-so, or apathetic about the possibility of working together, that's a pretty good sign that something about the interview process was lacking.

To get the interview process right, and succeed at the goal of recruiting and hiring the BEST (which should always be your goal), I 've made a list of helpful tips for anyone in the position of interviewing professionals for ABA positions. 
Feel free to share this resource, and use it as a teaching tool to improve upon your interview process. 
Here's to attracting & hiring the BEST!






It's been way-y-y-y too long since my last audio post, so now seems like a good time for one focused on ABA Consultation, and being a Consultation C-H-A-M-P ;-)

ABA Consultation is an interesting animal that can be very different from the typical BCBA supervision or case management role, in terms of pay, workload, clients served, time demands/responsibilities, and on and on. I use the word "Consultant" specifically to mean an ABA professional who works independently (self-employed) to serve clients. 

There are many snares and barriers that can pop up and impede effective service delivery when consulting, and I am often contacted by ABA peeps confused if they are ready to wade into the consulting waters. There are many things to consider beyond the obvious question of possessing the clinical skillset to practice independently. To name a few: 

How to find clients, Where to advertise, How to bill for services, What materials to use, Ethical issues when joining multi-disciplinary teams, How to address contract violations, etc.


Two quick tips before you start listening to the audio post:

- Legally, a CPA and/or an attorney who knows the laws of your state would be the best person to answer specific tax, income/1099 filing, billing, etc. sort of questions when it comes to consultation.
- If you are located outside of the US, "consultation" may mean something completely different for you as an ABA professional. For my international readers, you may need to speak to professionals in your local area to determine how much of this information will be applicable for you. On that same topic, if you live in the US but consult with individuals outside of the US, you need to get familiar with differences in how ABA services can be provided in that location. 



You can download the presentation HERE, then just start the slideshow and the audio narration should run automatically.



* Resources for further learning:

"Soft Skills" related to successful ABA Consultation 

Consultation in Applied Behavior Analysis 

Functional Behavioral Assessments in Schools

School Consultation in Rural Areas


"Early intervention" usually brings up images of toddlers or pre-schoolers completing puzzles, learning to put on a jacket, or labeling photos. In its truest sense, early intervention is better described as "intervening early". When thought of that way, the concept (and corresponding strategies) can be applied at any age to intervene on challenges or issues that are preventing your child from being as successful as they could be.


I often get questions from parents or caregivers about behavior issues, such as sleep routine ("How do I get him to sleep in his own bed?"), feeding challenges ("How do I get her to eat more than creamed corn?"), or issues with rigidity ("If he can't sit in the red chair, he screams"). The best response to these questions, is not to allow the problem behavior to get embedded in the first place. It's probably the least helpful response, but arguably the most accurate response :-). As soon as you see a problem behavior has been established, seek help or further education right then and there. ~Don't wait.~
 I repeat, don't wait and think the behavior will just go away magically on it's own. The same recommendation is true for skill deficits. If there is a particular skill your child is struggling with, seek help or further education to help them learn the skill. Don't wait and think the skill will magically appear in it's own time. 

Just ask any ABA professional and they will tell you that untangling a behavior knot that has been in place for weeks, months, or even years, is difficult. It may seem like problem behaviors pop up overnight, but they rarely leave overnight. Meaning that it typically takes hard work and effort to reduce or replace challenging behaviors.

The hard truth for many families is quality treatment just isn't accessible. It could be a funding issue, there could be a lack of local providers, or maybe other environmental barriers to accessing available treatment are in place. I meet families of older children all the time who haven't even heard of ABA treatment. You can't request a therapy you don't know exists.

Yes, accessing intensive and quality treatment is always going to be the ideal option. But for those who cannot, it's helpful to know that there are still options available to you and your child. What is most important is to have expectations for your child, set realistic goals (such as teaching your child to use a spoon), and then work diligently toward each goal. Don't overload both you and the child by tackling multiple things at once, as this is a marathon and not a sprint.


See below for other tips:


  1. Look into funding sources in your local area, and see what your insurance will cover. The local school system typically has resources available through special education that most families just don't know about. Ask if there is a parent advocate/liaison to help you navigate all the treatment options.
  2. Consider pursuing intensive treatment or consultation, and then following through on your own. Nowadays, many parents attend ABA conferences, enroll in behavior analytic coursework, or even pursue the RBT credential just to learn about the science. You can also pursue free training events that may be offered at local colleges, ABA clinics, or research institutions. The more you can learn about Autism, behavior, and ABA, the better equipped you will be to handle challenging behaviors. You can also work intensively (and briefly if needed) with a BCBA and then follow through with their recommendations on your own.
  3. Learn as much as you can from your child's teachers. Special education teachers have so much knowledge and experience creating accommodations and breaking down instructional material for children who learn in unique ways. I would suggest regularly reaching out to the teacher to ask questions about issues at home, to pick their brain for ideas, and actually observing in the classroom to get ideas about what can be replicated at home. For example: nearly all my clients follow a daily schedule in the school setting, but not at home. Why?? The same benefits that are achieved at school from having a consistent daily routine, can easily be achieved at home by using the same technique.
  4. Look for activities/groups/classes that welcome children with disabilities. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of peer models, and making sure your child spends time around typically developing peers. There are many fun kid activities like karate, gymnastics, or swim, that do offer accommodations so individuals with special needs can participate. Beyond the actual skill that is being taught, your child is learning to learn within a group, to follow an authority figure, to socialize/be appropriate around other kids, and most importantly they are integrating into their local community.
  5. Avoid the establishment of strict rituals or routines. Now this one is easier said than done, but it's super important. Most of the older clients I work with have particular challenging behaviors that have been allowed to persist for years and years. The longer a behavior is embedded, often the more difficult the intervention will be. So how do you know the difference between a simple preference ("I like to sit in the green chair at dinner") vs. a rigid ritual ("I MUST sit in the green chair at dinner")? Look at what happens when the ritual is interrupted, or cannot occur....does intense problem behavior follow? If so, then just close your eyes and imagine what the behavior will look like in 5 years, 10 years, and 15 years. If you're not okay with how the behavior will likely grow over time, then it's time to intervene.
  6. Intentionally set aside time for active engagement with your child. If you're wondering what in the world "active engagement" means, it basically means to focus on extending an interaction for as long as you can. Get down on the child's level, and read a book to your child, paint together, bounce them on a huge yoga ball, or line up cars together. The actual activity doesn't matter much, what is more important is that both you and the child are socializing, and not you socializing with the child and receiving no socialization in return. Talking is teaching! By talking to your child, engaging them in an activity, and socializing with them 1:1, you are teaching many skills at once. Point to objects together, play with a toy, sing songs and dance, laugh and make eye contact, tickle the child, model language use ("c-u-p"), etc.
  7. Have household rules. Schools have rules, right? So does any workplace, the library, the grocery store, even the slide at the playground has rules concerning how to use it. But does your child have rules at home? Are there certain things they cannot do? Do they know what the rules are? You will help your child grow into independence and maturity immensely, if you set expectations of their behavior and follow through with consequences when those expectations are not met.


*More resources below for ways to intervene early, and help your child be as successful as they can as they age. Remember, just because a resource may state "ages 0-3" that does NOT mean you can't use the same general strategy with your older child. The point is to intervene early as much as you can, teaching important life skills and reducing problem behaviors as soon as they appear. 














*Recommended Reading:

Discrete Trial Teaching
Pre-Requisite Skills to Group Instruction
"Learning to Learn" skills 


One of the most important components of quality instruction, in addition to accurate assessment, ongoing data collection, and an individualized system of reinforcement, is the understanding of how Pre-Requisite Skills impact learning and progress.

Think of any skill you are trying to teach like a ladder. For some clients, moving from rung 2 straight to rung 5 is fairly simple, and for others that is nearly impossible. What is a logical mastery progression for one client, could cause another client to derail any progress gains. Skill acquisition is an art, and requires some serious fine-tuning at times in order to ensure the client continues to progress.

What cannot be left out of this conversation is the pre-requisite skills to what you are working hard to teach. Or, what is underneath what you are teaching. Have you broken the skill down as far as you can? Are you sure?

Some examples:

Teaching playing with toys according to function --> How many toys can the client interact with for more than a few seconds?

Teaching motor imitation --> Does the client attend? If not, how will they see the action to imitate?

Teaching a listener responder instruction ("sit down") --> How many adult demands does the client currently follow/Who else in the client's life is requiring sitting behavior?

Teaching play behavior through coloring/drawing --> Does the client interact with crayons/markers ever? Do they have any idea what to do with a crayon?

Teaching a vocal manding repertoire --> How many sounds does the client currently make per hour, if any? 



When designing intervention it can be quite overwhelming to decide where to start first, what skills should be prioritized, and which deficits are impacting the client the most on a day-to-day basis. BUT, once you start to examine the underlying skill deficits that are causing many responding errors, it gets much easier to streamline/maximize therapy sessions by focusing on those pivotal areas of learning that will positively impact other areas. 

When progress on a particular program or target stalls, regresses, or is inconsistent, beyond modifying prompt levels, reinforcement, or changing the stimuli, along with the suggestions below, it's a good idea to also focus on the skill(s) underneath the skill you are teaching:


  • Examine the data closely, what kind of progress has the client made on the specific program/target over time?
  • Are all the programs demonstrating need for troubleshooting, or just one particular program?
  • Is it necessary to return to some previously mastered concepts? 
  • Is therapy happening frequently enough/is the program being taught frequently enough?
  • Is the teaching method consistent across the team?
  • Watch the client carefully during teaching trials to learn about the types of errors that are occurring (or if non-responsiveness is occurring)
  • (Super helpful tip) Observe a typically developing peer perform the specific target or skill. Compare that to how the client performs the target or skill. What's different/missing? 



Reference: (2005). A Model for Problem Solving in Discrete Trial Training for Children with Autism


Value1) the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.; 2) a person's principles or standards of behavior; one's judgment of what is important in life.

"Value" is currently a hot buzzword with employers/recruiters looking to fill ABA positions, and if you haven't been on an interview yet and heard the "We value our team" speech.... you will.

Employers will tell you how much they VALUE their team, value their employees, "couldn't do what they do without them", and value the contributions of the clinicians, but without observable action steps does this word actually mean anything?


I can't count how many times I've heard employers go on and on about how much they value their team/staff, and see the importance of each team member. Yet when talking with the staff, they are often overworked, underpaid, and frustrated. So it would seem there is a disconnect somewhere, or ABA companies would not have such high turnover rates.


What's going on here?


Let's look at both parts of the definition of Value, to shed some light on the problem:

1) The importance or usefulness of something: This is basically how the employer values YOU. Are you viewed as a unique individual, possessing specific talents and unique perspective, as someone who would benefit the company, and a much needed addition to the current team? No? Well then what kind of "value" is that? To quantify value, yes, we do need to touch on the financial aspect. As an ABA provider, are you being paid a reasonable wage based on average salaries in your area, your education, and your experience? Are you working somewhere where you can give feedback to management, have a say in how you perform your job, and receive the level of support you need to grow? If you are truly an important part of the team, what happens when you disagree with a decision from management? Is your viewpoint heard and respected, or dismissed? Worse yet, does management simply pacify you (pretend to hear your concerns), but no change actually happens?Employers far too often focus on their bottom line, without intentionally working to put together a team of highly-valued ABA clinicians who will approach their work with passion and excellence. I've been in this field for a long time, and trust me: passion will take a person much farther than just talent. 

2) A person's principles/standards of their own behavior: This is basically how YOU value you. Have you truly sat and considered all that you bring to the table as a RBT/BCaBA/BCBA? It's probably much more than you realize. No 2 clinicians are exactly the same, so even though you may have the same educational background and certification as every one else applying for the position, you possess a unique personality, perspective, and style, that would be hard to replicate. What is most important to you about a position? Do you value income the most? Or flexibility? Or not being micro-managed to death? Or working for ethical professionals? Or a family-like atmosphere? Or cool perks and paid vacations? What really matters to you? And here is the tough part---> Once you learn what your values are, don't toss them out the window just because an employer approaches you with a really good offer. You won't thrive in a position that cost you your values. To put this another way, if you apply for a company that seems FAR more interested in your certification than who you actually are as an individual: run. Do not walk, run from places like that.


*Resource:

Know what your core values are, and hold firm to them: Personal Values Assessment




*Recommended Posts:
ABA & Professionalism
ABA & Informed Consent


Dear Parents/Caregivers,

I'm talking to you, and only you, with this post.

There are specific expectations we have of the professionals we regularly interact with (doctors, teachers, attorneys) based on the professional and ethical standards of their field. Even if we don't know exactly what those standards are, most of us have a good idea of what SHOULD happen, and how we should be treated.

For example, most people expect their child's teacher to not belittle, or curse at their child.
Most people expect their doctor to protect their private medical information.
Most people expect a police officer to help you during an emergency.

If someone is presenting themselves as a professional, then they should act like a professional in their demeanor, words, and practice.

So let's talk about ABA providers specifically--

Did you know that the professional field of Behavior Analysis has specific ethical standards just like any other profession? If this is news to you, please peruse our ethical guidelines.

As a parent, you may be wondering how to evaluate the quality of the ABA provider you receive services from. I hear many, many variations of this question from parents all over the world: "How do I know if this company is any good or not??".

This handy resource may assist you with knowing what to look for.

But more important than a resource, is knowing for yourself what makes a quality Registered Behavior Technician, Board Certified-Assistant Behavior Analyst, or Board Certified-Behavior Analyst.
To help you with that, I've included a simple list below, and also a visual reminder. Print it. Tape it to your fridge. Share it with your friends. Call a meeting with your current ABA provider and review it together.


EZ ABA Ethical Guidelines:

Your ABA provider must work within the boundaries of their expertise. Unless they have access to resources/a supervisor who can train them on what they don't currently know, they should refer you to someone else if they don't know how to help you. Guidelines 1.02, 2.01

Your ABA provider should strive to be truthful and honest, and to avoid engaging in unethical or illegal actions. Guideline 1.04

Your ABA provider should communicate with you in an easy to understand manner, explaining any clinical terms simply, so that you fully understand what is happening in therapy. Guideline 1.05

Your ABA provider should not accept gifts from you, socialize with you outside of therapy sessions, babysit your children, attend your wedding anniversary party, or be considered a "friend". Guideline 1.06

Your ABA provider should explain your parent rights to you when services begin, and should also provide you with information about how to report them/file a complaint about them if you have any issue with the quality of their services. Guideline 2.05

Your ABA provider should strive to protect your confidentiality. Legally, there are specific circumstances under which we have to break confidentiality, and ethically, your ABA provider should tell you what those circumstances are. Guideline 2.06


Your ABA provider should keep accurate records about treatment, and use them to evaluate if treatment is effective, if the pros outweigh the cons, and if treatment should continue. As the parent, you also have the right to speak up if YOU think treatment is not effective/beneficial. Guidelines 2.09, 2.11

What you will pay for services, and when you will pay it, should be upfront and transparent when services begin. When you open the first invoice, there should not be an ugly shock. Guideline 2.12

ABA providers do not just abandon clients. If services need to discontinue, you should know why, be given a timeline of transition, and the provider should help connect you to another provider (as possible). Guideline 2.15

You should know your child's ABA goals. You should know the behavior strategies being used. You should know how your child is progressing. ALL of this should be simply explained to you, and you must agree with how treatment occurs. If you do not give consent, then it should not happen. Guidelines 3.01, 3.03, 3.04, 4.02, 4.04, 4.08

Your ABA program supervisor only takes on as much work as they can handle, and is responsible for training the direct care staff. The supervisor is also responsible for training you, and if needed, collaborating with your child's teacher, Speech Therapist, etc. Guidelines 5.01, 5.02, 5.06

ABA providers do not solicit clients through manipulative advertising, or glowing testimonials on their website. We also should not walk up to you in public and thrust a business card at you. All of that is unethical. Guidelines 8.05


I hope it helps you!

The I Love ABA Blog




It's just about that time again, for Hallmark Christmas movies, baking, and wrapping presents. 

Be safe and I'll see you in 2019!



*Recommended Reading: Selecting an ABA Employer




For individuals seeking to work as a RBT, BCaBA, or BCBA, part of the journey is to receive direct supervision, oversight, and/or training from a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst.

This supervision relationship can (at times) be challenging to find, and it can be even more challenging to find a good fit. Like anything else related to working in this field, Goodness-of-Fit should be prioritized over just meeting minimum requirements.

A low-quality supervision experience will not yield a clinician who is ready for the rigorous demands of succeeding in this field.
The decision to initiate a supervisee-supervisor relationship should be carefully evaluated, and must be approached similar to a job interview.
On a job interview, the applicant is not just looking to impress an employer. There is also a need to gather information about company culture, pay, benefits, evaluation of performance, company vision, etc.

Okay....so then why do so many of us treat the supervisee-supervisor relationship more casually than we would starting a new job??? The selection of an ABA Supervisor can have far-reaching implications on your effectiveness as a clinician one day, which if you ask me, is FAR more important than a simple job interview.

See below for some general guidelines to help you select a Mentor for the supervisee-supervisor experience. I hope they're helpful!

YES, this person should be a Mentor: I use the word Mentor intentionally, because the supervisee-supervisor relationship (ideally) should continue far after certification. Your first big interview post-BCBA certification, your 1st conference attendance or presentation, your 1st promotion or exciting leadership opportunity…all of these events should be discussed and shared with the ABA Supervisor. After all, this person has invested heavily in your future success, shouldn’t they care about how you do once you pass the exam?? It would be odd if they didn’t care.
Similar Career Aspirations & Goals: I get contacted on a regular basis by people seeking BCBA supervision, and I always ask about their future career aspirations. I primarily work in-homes, with children under the age of 5. If my supervisee wants to eventually work as an animal trainer, that is something I need to know about. Obviously, the science is the science. But beyond the science, it is important as a supervisor that I have the experience and expertise to be a valuable resource for my supervisee. Otherwise, a more well-matched supervisor would be a better choice.
Availability to Supervise: This point is critical for anyone receiving BCBA supervision through their current job. Just because you were matched with a supervisor does not mean that person actually has the availability to properly train and mentor you. If the only time you see or speak to your BCBA supervisor is during a therapy session twice a month àYikes. I am not saying to quit your job, but just know that you will very likely need to supplement the supervision you are receiving through work (hire an additional external supervisor), and probably at your own expense.
Suitable Experience Supervising: Yes, the BACB has added more guidelines to ensure that BCBA's who supervise others have the proper qualifications to do so. Which is great. However, it is still important as the supervisee to do your diligence and ask questions about your supervisor’s background and experience supervising. Again, this person will have a far-reaching impact on your career in this field. Wouldn’t you want to know how experienced they are as a supervisor in advance? Or what their supervision style is? Or what their expectations of you are? These are all critical questions to ask, right up front.
Approachable: Lastly, in my experiences even available, highly qualified, and similarly matched BCBA's, can have a cold, overly formal, or condescending demeanor that makes them seem highly unapproachable to supervisees. It’s sad, but it does happen. Just because someone has 30 years’ experience in the field, and has published tons of research, that does not automatically mean you will enjoy being a supervisee to that person. As a supervisee, you should feel comfortable asking your supervisor questions (which many of the RBT’s I talk to are terrified to ask their supervisor questions), stating your opinion, or asking for more help.  If you can’t depend on the supervisor to respond respectfully to your questions, suggestions, or complaints, then you may be working with the wrong supervisor.



* Resources:

'Recommended Practices for Individual Supervision of Aspiring Behavior Analysts'

This blog post gives great information about how Distance Supervision works

For more information about obtaining the RBT credential, or  BCaBA/BCBA certification, see www.Bacb.com




Some of my BEST decisions were born in failure.
Let it motivate you, not devastate you.

*Recommended Post: Preventing Burnout (practitioner tips)


If you're an ABA peep working in this field and you haven't experienced burnout yet, it's likely that you will at some point in your career.


The way I see it, there are 2 main prevention strategies when it comes to professional burnout:

  1. Proactively prevent it at the employee/practitioner level
  2. Proactively prevent it at the business owner/employer level
Let's talk about option #2.


People who work in human service fields such as counseling/mental health, psychology, social work, in general often report high levels of stress, mental strain, and burnout, but there are also multiple factors outside of the direct control of the practitioner that can worsen this issue.

In my position, I regularly recruit, hire, and onboard new staff. I regularly observe that many of the new hires are seeking a position with quality supervisor/management support, clear channels of communication, and a liveable wage, which were all lacking in their previous positions.

I also regularly observe that multiple applicants come to me from a handful of agencies in my local area. I refer to this as places that are "bleeding staff". Meaning, their employees are quitting in droves
Ever wonder why some companies/agencies seem to have a revolving door when it comes to ABA staff? Glad you asked.


There could be pervasive, unresolved issues with:

  • Inconsistent hours which = inconsistent pay
  • Hard to reach or chronically unavailable supervisors
  • Lack of goodness-of-fit (company culture is lacking)
  • Insufficient program eligibility requirements (clients being accepted are not on board with treatment/abrasive to staff/highly resistant to change, etc.)
  • Lack of variety in your role/position or Lack of advancement opportunities beyond your position
  • Lack of proper training and/or low-quality training

For employers or agency owners, what can we do to ensure that we put systems in place to help prevent burnout from occurring, and also to quickly identify and address burnout that is already occurring?
PLENTY.

Focus on quality right from the start - Quality recruiting practices, quality training, quality onboarding. Ensure that people are properly prepared for their role, understand the demands of their position, and have been trained to competency to perform their role with excellence.

Leadership training yields professionals, not workers - When leadership training (accountability, initiative, critical thinking skills) is built in to the staff training process, what this produces is future leaders who will produce high-quality work. Leaders add value to organizations, versus just holding a position.

Create company policies and procedures of operation ... and actually enforce them - Speaking from experience, the only thing worse than working for an employer that lacks appropriate policies, is working for an employer that has policies but never enforces them. This may sound odd, but a lack of appropriate operating systems can hinder effective employee performance. For example, when the illness policy is not enforced, clients get sick. When clients get sick, employees get sick. When employees get sick, they cannot work. When employees cannot depend on reliable, consistent income, here comes job dissatisfaction and stress. 



To put it simply, the work that we do is far too important to approach it from a space of frustration or mental fatigue. We have to guard our own emotional well-being, as well as hold low-quality employers accountable for consistent business practices that contribute to lowered levels of job satisfaction. It's NOT okay.



* Professional Burnout Resources:





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