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Pairing, rapport, reinforcement, motivation, behavior, antecedent, consequence, frequency, duration, data collection, function, program...these words and concepts are thrown around like confetti on New Years Eve in the field of Applied Behavioral Analysis. Ask any therapist what their favorite question is, and they will undoubtedly answer: "What does that look like?" You see, we are concerned with the details, with the observable, with the clear and complete, and with the measurable. This is how we, the treatment staff, can show progress. Progress is important; progress shows that I am a effective therapist; progress shows that the intervention is practical. 

I have the privilege of working with children that have Autism Spectrum Disorder as a therapist providing Applied Behavioral Analysis. Often the response is, "Well, that takes a special person," "Wow, you must have a lot of patience" "What do you even do, play all day?" "Oh, I get it, you work at like a daycare!" Explaining my role and my job description is entirely different from the actual tasks that I complete on a daily basis. My role: implement the interventions and treatments created to promote progress with skill acquisition and behavior reduction; which I do, everyday. 

"What does that look like?"

I play: I play with your child, on their level. I make sure I am the most fun person they have ever met. I am the giver of all things: iPads, m&ms, bubbles, trains, tickles, hugs; you name it, I probably have it in my fanny pack. I play with your child to foster social interactions that can lead to communication, play, and imitative progress. I play with your child because they are amazing, fun and I want them to share their interests with me.

I push: I push your child. I do not let them give up. I may make your child angry, I may make them frustrated, I may make them hit me, or bite me, or scream at me. I encourage them and I support them. I continue to work on one skill until I am confident that it can be repeated with anyone, anywhere. I am aware of the limited time frame for language development and social skills acquisition. I acknowledge the incredibly valuable time and money that you spend for your child and do not allow it to go to waste. I push myself, to be a better therapist for your child, to always try something new in a session and to always be transparent with you.

I praise: I praise your child. I give parties like you haven't seen since 1999, and I can say that as I am one of the older therapists that was actually, cognitively aware during that time. I praise all things, big or small, I am indiscriminate. I give random dance parties because I have found that your child loves jazz music or Frozen, techno-remixes. I act ridiculous, I have come up with faces, silly noises, and words with no meaning; just because it motivates your child and I can make them smile.

I worry: I worry for your child. I worry for you. I worry that I will not be effective, that I will not teach your child a skill in such a way, that they can achieve their highest level of awesomeness. I worry that the behaviors they engage in will isolate them, or hurt them, or hurt you. I worry that my being honest about the difficulties we faced in our session today will come across as rude or insensitive; uncaring to you. When in actuality, it was a sharing of truth, and a respect for your position as a caregiver to continue to keep you updated on the reality of your child's progress.

I respect: I respect your child. I always treat them with the dignity they deserve and hold them in the highest regard. I respect you, you are so incredibly important. You are your child's protector, cheerleader, advocate, mother, father, grandparent, sibling, friend, and teacher. You are their safety net. I respect your right to say no. I respect your ability to be the best source of information in regards to your child. 

I love: I love your child. I love their hugs, their laughs, their smiles, their sounds, and their happiness. I love making them happy. I look forward to seeing them each morning or afternoon. I cannot wait to experience their next accomplishment in therapy and to share that progress with you. 

Applied Behavioral Analysis can often attract negative statements of: clinical, robotic, or cold. That is not the way I experience or implement ABA therapy. It is instead, liberally laced with joy, hope, and lots upon lots of coffee. 



Written by Kate Butler
Masters in Psychology; Emphasis in Autism Spectrum Disorders
 

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