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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
 


Comments

Robyn Miller
07/20/2017 9:12pm

This was a beautifully written post. Thank you. I'm a BCBA who came through special ed, early intervention and Aba on my career and personal journey to where I am now. I'd love to share this with my colleagues and fellow therapists if I may

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Asucena
07/20/2017 9:37pm

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08/31/2017 5:50am

As a father, I think I just realize the importance for kids to have this kind of therapist. Kids will surely become educated and will learn more, if they go through this type of teaching. I will also do this for my children, so that they will become top of their class. I'm looking forward to your next post and I hope it will be an interesting topic too. Thanks for sharing this article to us, I hope many people will acknowledge this.

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Christine
07/20/2017 10:22pm

What a beautiful, well written post. Youve really captures what it is behavior therapists are lucky enough to do each day!

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Ricky
07/20/2017 10:41pm

This is beautifully written and well articulated!

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07/20/2017 10:46pm

Excellent job, Kate! Thanks for all your efforts and for taking the time to disseminate accurate information about ABA in such an accessible and easy to read way. Keep it up!

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Robin Gubler
07/21/2017 5:02am

I found your article very informative and I am proud to say that my daughter received her four-year degree and is accepted a position being an Aba and now I understand what she will be doing I really wasn't quite sure what that career was thank you for your information

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07/21/2017 9:15am

Beautifully said! I share the same experiences and wish that all children with autism and their families could experience having someone like you working with their child!

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07/21/2017 10:51am

Amazing post. Love it so much!

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Karen Minunno
07/21/2017 11:19am

I have often been asked if I play all day, NO!!!! This is what I try to explain to my friends, family and some of the parents that I work - you hit the nail on the head and I as a ABA thank you for it!! I love my job and would never change one thing about it!!

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LaFaye Dellinger
07/21/2017 2:32pm

What a job description!!! Indeed it does take a special person, one who is completely unselfish but is also blessed by their clients progress.
Kate, this is a beautifully written OSteen and it brought me pleasure just reading. Your students are blessed. Thank you!

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Angie Colquitt
07/24/2017 11:32pm

Beautiful words. I am thankful to you and all of your co- workers for all that you do.

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Laura
07/25/2017 7:57am

Exactly what every parent wants for their child! And I'm sure the experience every child would love to have!!

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Kellye
09/19/2017 6:40pm

I loved reading this. I am a BCBA and I feel that this is what I do everyday. I have read so many articles about cold/distant ABA that I was doubting myself. This has been uplifting to read as I practice in a very similar manner.

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I really love this!! You've captured all of our feelings as ABA therapists.

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