C is for Consistency

*Recommended Post: "HOW Much Therapy?/Intensity"

Consistency may be the #1 word I use most often when speaking with staff or with consumers/families. It would be quicker if I just made a sign that said "Be Consistent" and held it up in front of my face at work. Quicker, but also super odd.

Why is consistency so important when it comes to ABA?

Let's step away from Autism, therapy, and teaching for just a sec and talk about behavior change in general. If you've ever tried to change your own behavior, then you know that you get out what you put in. That New Years resolution you made back in January...how's that going? If it's not going so well, it may be because your initial commitment to changing your behavior has lessened or waned over the past few months.
For me personally, I am one of those weird people who actually enjoys exercise. Am I a gym rat? Good grief, no. I hate gyms. Do I run a mile every morning? Ummm, no. If you ever see me running, something is wrong and you should go get help. But I do have specific types of exercise that I enjoy, especially if its outdoors. I also regularly will neglect my exercise routine for various reasons. In other words, I am not consistent. Despite this, I get health benefits from my "sometimes" exercise. If I were more consistent, the results would be much more dramatic. However, I am pleased with exercising for enjoyment and for health, and not necessarily to be a size whatever.

And that in a nutshell is why your BCBA keeps blabbing on and on about Consistency: The behaviors in your child that you want to see dramatically change, will require dramatic consistency. 

I get it, I really do. You have other things going in your life besides implementing interventions. There's laundry to do, and jobs to maintain, and other children to raise. There's also just being tired. Being a parent is tiring.

But this is why a quality BCBA won't give you 50 hard things to do at once. This is why a quality BCBA will break down large behavior change processes into manageable chunks. This is why when parents say things to me like "I want him to be able to play independently", or "I want her to be able to tell me about her day at school", I explain how far away we are from that goal. I then explain the specific steps that lead up to that goal, and lastly what that would realistically look like:

-It looks like running a behavior protocol even when you have family staying over at your house.
-It looks like taking your child to a birthday party/family event only for as long as they can tolerate being there. 
-It looks like filling out data sheets as you simultaneously cook dinner and help your other children with their homework.
-It looks like embedding (translation: creating) opportunities in the day to play with your child, or to run language trials.
-It looks like following the behavior plan when you are tired, sick, or your spouse is out of town for 2 weeks and you have no help.

The beauty of consistency (and its saving grace) is that it will look different from one family to the next. I hope your BCBA told you that as well.
Consistency in my house means that we work hard all week to get a fun day Friday. Fridays are for relaxing, eating ice cream, and kickstarting the weekend.

In your house, consistency may mean hiring a part time nanny/asking your friend to come over every Tuesday because you need an extra pair of hands. Or it may mean only collecting data weekly because every day is impossible. Or it may mean you only observe 1 therapy session a week because you work from home and can't do more than that. Whatever sacrifices must be made in order for consistency to happen, it is SO important that this is communicated to the BCBA. We cannot help you overcome barriers that we do not know you have.

Anytime I go over a new behavior plan with a family or with the direct staff, there's always the part where I put the plan down and say "Okay, now is the time where you ask me all your REAL questions". See, there are the polite, typical, questions, and then there are the REAL questions that basically get at: "When I haven't slept/the child is sick/when this gets really hard/during the Extinction Burst/when we are in the community, how are we supposed to follow this??".

Consistency is very, very important. Especially if you are tackling significant areas of behavior change, such as teaching a child to communicate or extinguishing aggressive behavior. But consistency does not mean 100% perfect. No one is 100% perfect. It just means that as much as possible, even when it's hard to do so, you

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