One scorching Miami day I sat in an introductory ABA course. I chose this course because it was rumored to be easy and I was a senior in College looking to perfect my GPA for Grad school applications. All of a sudden, the professor described something called “Applied Behavior Analysis”. He referred to it as “the most effective evidence based treatment for autism”. He described the use of data and the fact that it was a science rather than a liberal art. He talked about how ABA did not waste time, the practitioners go in, use science to help people and then fade out as soon as they are no longer needed.
At that moment, the skies opened, a ray of sunshine came down in front of me and I know I had found my soul mate: ABA.
From that moment, I began my career giving therapy, then went on to become a BCaBA and later a BCBA. My educational career was full of excitement, data, graphs, countless clients of all ages, shapes and sizes and amazing supervisors and practitioners.
Applied behavior analysis is my passion and a huge part of my life. I genuinely believe in this science and really do think it applies to every facet of life. I have been practicing in the field for about 5 years now and I’d like to share with you all what I’ve learned so far.
- Parents of children with disabilities are warriors; they will do anything and everything to help their children succeed.
- If a teacher is uncooperative or a grandmother does not follow through with a program, it is not a time to role your eyes or criticize, but to show them the amazing tools we have to improve the quality of life of the child we all care about.
- No matter how hard you try to remain objective, you will love every single client and it will hurt when they can’t tell you what they want, but it will be the best day of your life when you shed tears of joy after hearing them say their first words.
- Every single child, no matter what label is placed on them, can and will learn if we work hard enough and use science and data.
- It’s ok to laugh when your 6 year old client makes fart noises, it’s not “inappropriate” it’s hilarious.
- We are scientists, first and foremost, we cannot forget that.
- If you have a client at 7pm, it’s not his problem you’ve had a long day and you are sweaty and tired, they deserve the same 100% you gave your first client of the day. That’s what Red Bull and Cuban coffee are for (just don’t combine them, it won’t turn out well).
- Data is the backbone of our field, it’s what enables us to produce lasting and effective behavior change. A decreasing trend on a problem behavior graph is more beautiful than a Miami sunset on the beach.
- It’s ok to say “I don’t know.” No one has all the answers.
- There are going to be nights you can’t sleep because you worry about a client who is struggling, I still haven’t learned how to reduce this (suggestions are welcome).
- Nothing sounds sweeter than pee hitting the water in the toilet after weeks of potty training.
- When we run into misconceptions, ignorance and misinformation, it is our responsibility to clarify exactly who we are and what we do.
- Cartoons are awesome and whoopee cushions are a blast.
- No matter how “low functioning” or “severe” a child is labeled, they can hear you, don’t patronize them and don’t talk about them as though they aren’t in the room.
- Have fun, laugh with your kids and enjoy yourself, otherwise what’s the point?
My career is young and this is a sample of what I’ve learned so far. This list grows every day and I hope it never stops expanding.
What have you learned as a practitioner/ parent/ teacher?