Elm Street Project–Moving Towards an ABA driven treatment practice

October 27, 2015

In July the Winchester Elm Street group homes embarked on a new mission to utilize enhanced evidenced based practices to support clients living in community based group homes.  The intent of this new pilot program was to ensure that our clients received a continuum of therapeutic care guided by the expertise of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.  A new staffing model within the group homes challenged direct support professionals to serve as true champions in delivering treatment that works.  One of the staffing changes included identifying lead Residential Instructors who are able to work autonomously to nurture their own programs.

Recently, I met with the Lead Residential Instructors at the Elm Street campus to gain their perspectives and insights into the Elm Street Pilot Project.  Employees Annah Kanotunga, Dominick Halse and Julie Clayman provided the information below.


For those unfamiliar with the Elm Street Project, tell me a little about what we are trying to accomplish.

We are focused on clients engaging in positive behaviors and reinforcing them when they are displaying desired behaviors.  The Elm street group homes are using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) techniques for our clients.  There is a lot of research that tells us that ABA principles are evidence based best practices that work with individuals with autism.  Our roles as Lead Residential Instructors are to help staff see that these techniques really do work.

What drew you to the Lead Residential Instructor positions?

Honestly, we were drawn initially to the flexibility in the schedules.  Besides that, we were looking for an opportunity to move up within Grafton and the Lead Residential Instructor provides a great opportunity to learn new skills and manage a number of different things to support the clients.  In additional to managerial tasks, we are also in the staffing ratios where we can coach and model for staff.

What’s different about what we are trying to accomplish with the Elm Street Pilot Project?

There is a huge focus on consistency and modeling.  We are really trying to teach others the value of positive reinforcement and the importance of coming in with a positive mind and a positive spirit.  The clients we work with want to do well and they want to be recognized and acknowledged for a job well done, much like all of us!  They are trying hard to demonstrate their skills and what they are capable of.

What impact are you having on the clients we serve?

Oh, there are so many!  Improved communication, smoother transitions when going from one activity to another, increased skills acquisition, improvements in hygiene and the list goes on.  Again, we see our roles as teaching clients skills that they don’t have.  We are not just extinguishing negative behaviors, but really focusing on teaching replacement behaviors.  When there is a focus on long terms goals, it truly shifts the mindset of what we are trying to accomplish with our clients.

What would you like other employees to know about the project?

The project is a great opportunity for us to learn, model and sometimes learn from mistakes. It is all about trial and error.  We have to work as a team to ensure that we are focused on the same goals.  The concept of automatic and frequent positive reinforcement is not readily accepted by all staff.  Our job is to help them buy in and boost their morale.  One of the ways that we boost staff morale is to take parts of jobs that people don’t necessarily like and focus on these aspects so that they have the opportunity to engage in tasks that are more appealing.  We have appreciated the opportunities that we have had to attend training and learn about practices that really work.  We look forward to these training opportunities being offered company- wide that will help others see the benefits of this new treatment model.