Laina Culley is a licensed teacher who is simultaneously working on her Master's Degree in Special Education, Moderate - Intensive and her coursework for BCBA certification. She is a Registered Behavior Technician at Reaching New Heights and is passionate about her work with children.
ABA is sort of the new kid on the block when it comes to services for children with autism, and the other kids on the block sometimes aren’t welcoming us with open arms. Personally, I find that very confusing.
When ABA began, things weren’t perfect. The focus was on Discrete Trial Training (DTT), and therapy sessions were far more rigid. DTT sort of goes like this… Therapist: “What’s this?” Child: “Dog” Therapist: *gives child an M&M* Therapist: “What’s this?” Child: “Bear” Therapist: *gives child an M&M*
Hm… yeah. I would be skeptical if someone spent 2 hours doing this, too. This was the focus in the 1970’s. Just like every field, we have evolved and improved. Quite frankly, if a child will sit at a table nonstop for 2 hours doing discrete trials, they probably don’t need ABA… Good ABA therapy is more play-based, and the focus is teaching socially significant behaviors that will improve the child’s quality of life over time.
Everything that a living organism does, is behavior. From blinking to communicating to running, it is all behavior. An occupational therapist may feel we are stepping on her toes when we practice cutting, and a speech pathologist might feel the same way when we work on requesting. But, here’s the thing. The child will be better off if we ALL support each other. By carrying those skills over from therapist to therapist, the child is going to learn to generalize what they are working on. Isn’t that our goal? A child doesn’t only speak with the speech therapist or use their fine motor skills with their OT. It would be unethical not to program for generalization! As the Behavior Department, we will never claim to be experts in the physiological side of speaking or to understand the intricacies of the sensory system (unless we have the credentials to back it up), but we CAN help the child grow in the behavior side of these skills (because remember, it’s all behavior!).
Our ABA department was created because there was a need for parents and children to have a team of therapists all working together. It takes a village. Speech, OT, and ABA all together under one roof is an incredible thing, and our clients are better off because of it. Our OTs help us with their specialty, and the SLPs help us with theirs. We even have RNH staff meetings so we can teach each other! We celebrate each other’s victories and offer/receive advice when asked for it. We are better therapists because we work together instead of against each other. Parents of children who are receiving services at Reaching New Heights reap the benefits of our collaborative culture. How can that be beat?