For most ABA programmes, the ABA team will be working with other professionals (speech and language, occupational therapists, educational psychologists, schools, nurseries etc) and it’s important to have good relationships with these different fields. These professionals already have an established say in programmes around a child with special educational needs.
In the UK, my experience is that ABA seems to be the least heard voice. In multi disciplinary meetings (EHCP meetings, TAC meetings, IEP meetings etc), the opinion of ABA professionals seems to be the least recognised. I must say, this isn’t always the case, some schools/professionals are more than welcoming. The point is, I believe there are things we can do to help our cause, and make our voice heard more, and our input valued a little more.
Here are 5 things that I have found to be really helpful since going out in to the world as an independent consultant:
This is literally my favourite thing to do. I love pairing with learners, and finding out exactly what they like; I love the analysis involved. When we train, we learn to pair with our learners, as part of the effective teaching procedures, so we should use this when working with other professionals. What’s the first thing we do? Pair! Get to know other professionals, talk about how you got in to the field, how they got in to the field. Build rapport, and find common ground (even if you’re from different schools of thought). People are much more open to your input if they like you.
We must make time to network. I have found that taking time to talk to anyone who will listen about ABA is a seriously valuable tool. Be likeable, pair, and share contact details. Professionals are expected to work together, especially regarding children with additional needs, so why not be the person that other professionals want to work with? Go to different networking occasions, visit different services/provisions, and take a business card. Never underestimate how much of a valuable tool this can be; it’s not what you know….
3.Fade in demands
We are keen to get results quickly. However, when we work with learners, and we have paired effectively, we don’t go straight in to teaching new skills, we fade in demands with easy, already mastered skills to build momentum. Then we get on to the hard stuff. Again, why should this be any different with professionals? If the first time you’ve met someone they ask you to do a bunch of things, and change everything you’re doing, you’re not going to be a massive fan. I have seen this happen before, and it’s one way to get people to dread you coming in. It can be frustrating, but as someone once said to me, ‘we can forget what it was like not to know’. Take things slow, fade in your demands, and build on a solid foundation.
If you’ve studied ABA, the terminology would have been drilled in to you, and it is useful to know. However, other people don’t talk as we do. We need to master the terminology, and only then can we use everyday language and examples to plainly explain what we mean. Words such as ‘pairing, mand, tact etc’ mean nothing to people outside of the field, or they are known under different terms. I even find terms such as ‘reinforcer’ are used by others, but not in the same way as we know it. We need to translate to others, and market our field in a way that is seductive to others (as Dr Pat Friman explains it).
As I mentioned earlier, professionals are often expected to work together. Different professions often have different schools of thought. This doesn’t always have to be a problem. I have found that often speech and language therapists and ABA programmes will share many common goals, we’ll just call them different things. What can happen is that professionals get caught up in which fields’ explanation is right, but is that more about pride than the learner? As long as teaching is good, and the goal is appropriate, then all is well (you can explain an ABA viewpoint the more you get to know the other professionals). If you have input from others, try and think of an ABA perspective of things, for example, if occupational therapists recommend exercises for sensory regulating, and this isn’t something you subscribe to, why not see if you can use these exercises as reinforcers for the learner? Try and work together, expanding each others knowledge, you’ll have to work with each other either way, you may as well get on.
Get used to working with others, and if you’ve followed the above steps, you’ll find yourself in a position to have challenging, but respectful conversations with other professionals, and ask each tough questions, to challenge or understand each others schools of thought. That’ll either expand your knowledge, or make yourself more confident in what you know; win win! Let’s remember the whole reason for this, the benefit of the learner. This is by no means a complete guide to getting ABA on the map more, I’m always finding better ways to achieve this. We should start with the the stuff we already know, use the principles of behaviour that we use with learners everyday, but with adults as well! Getting on with other professionals can open many doors, and you never know how important those doors may be!