We read this blog post on Hannah Robicheau’s ABA Blog and loved it so much we asked her if we could use it here…. Add her blog to your favorites; we love her ideas! Hannah (M. Ed., BCBA, LBA-108) is a behavior analyst transplanted from Massachusetts to Arizona working at a private practice. Her current interests and projects include behavior analytic legislation, special education law and practices, traumatic brain injury, ADHD, and Autism…..here’s what she wrote:
I thought I’d post a fun one today. I once worked at a school where they would train staff off-site. More than once, someone who started his/her first day at my site either left midday, or just didn’t come back the next, and send his/her regulation polo shirt back in the mail. School is letting out in Arizona in the next few weeks (which still seems way too early for this east coast transplant), and I thought that I would share with you all some of the not-as-scientific aspects of working in behavior analysis, or at least those folks who stick around when everyone else has run away.
Folks who want to work in this field absolutely have to love the work that they do. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be here. It doesn’t pay well, you don’t get hazard pay when someone bites you or gives you a concussion, and often days you go home wondering if you actually made as much of a difference in someone else’s life as you thought you did when you were under-caffeinated at around 2pm. That said, you show up to work day after day, and probably have the most well-developed sense of humor of any of your friends. Why? Because you have to find the humor in someone smearing poop on you, throwing up on you, or punching you because you asked them to hand their friend a Kleenex.
Many days you get the option of laughing or crying, and you choose laughing. Sometimes that means that you laugh at inappropriate times, but honestly-what are you supposed to do when you have a kid flopping face-down on the floor and threatening to have your “Nazi a** fired”? Or when you are told to “get in your Rav4 and go home to your sons,” when you have no children? Or when you are prompting someone through cleaning up his/her room, and he/she starts angrily belting out Bon Jovi’s Lost Highway at the top of his/her lungs in response? You laugh…mostly because no one you know can relate, and also because it’s actually really funny.
You have lots of coping mechanisms. I had a colleague that would get herself a large Dairy Queen Blizzard on the way home for dinner. I’d ask how her day went, and she would say, “It’s a Blizzard day.” I also had colleagues that would put themselves on a positive reinforcement system, or take a “mental health day” which is like a sick day, only you aren’t sick, and just need a break. Bear in mind, often times along with all of the risk, in a teaching position, you often get lot’s of pressure from administrators for performance, and modify every lesson plan for each child while at the same time trying to keep all of your kids happy and healthy, and deal with behaviors. This might be why the average special needs teacher’s career is now only 2 years…
If you haven’t had children yet, or have young children, be prepared to be terrified about anything and everything that can go wrong developmentally or traumatically. It’s pretty simple: when you spend all of your time around the small percentage of the population that is special needs, you over-analyze every little thing in your own children. I was talking to my mom last night, and she mentioned that when my sister was a baby, she used to open and close cabinet doors to look at the hinges. Of course my first thought was, “If that were my kid, I’d think that might be an autistic trait.” My mother, middle school science teacher and unofficial wise woman that she is, said, “kids just spend time looking at the things they like.” Hazard of the job, I suppose. Finally,
Be prepared to officially or unofficially use behavior analysis in your everyday life. A good friend of mine put her daughter on a potty training plan with data collection to track progress. I have another friend who potty trained her daughter using non-verbal functional communication to 90% at 3 months. How do we know that she is 90% potty trained? Data, of course! I myself have used behavior analysis with my resident 5 year old, significant others and dog. There’s no getting around it- if you eat, sleep, and breathe what you love for a living, it’s going to spill over into your personal life, much to your significant other’s chagrin.
I hope you enjoyed the lighter side of working in behavior analysis. I’m sure that there are more things that I could add, however this is the gist. I would highly encourage as many folks as possible to explore such a rewarding and amazing career. I can guarantee that no two work days are the same!