The ABA Experience–Then and Now
There have been a lot of changes to the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program in Richmond since I started (this month 2 years ago). In the past several months we had several opportunities to grow our program by diversifying the types of services we provide. In December 2015 we developed a vision for Richmond ABA and it was:
To be recognized as a respected clinical resource of Grafton and the community that maintains a collaborative solution-focused approach to outcomes.
Along with our vision we also developed several goals. One such goal was to have 75% of our out-patient clients to be ages 6 years and under. The reason for this is one of best practice: applied behavior analysis is most effective when it is delivered intensively and at an early age. Numerous studies have demonstrated that the earlier a child is able to be provided services they are more likely to show more improvement. (One such study can be found here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25241118). We haven’t yet made it to 75% of clients, but, since 2014 we have been able to decrease our average outpatient age by 37%.
Previously, our main, and often only, avenue of service in the Richmond ABA office was outpatient ABA therapy for children and some adolescents. But one of my favorite things about applied behavior analysis is that it is so versatile. ABA can be used to change behaviors of any person in any situation. (Of course, it works better in some situations than others.) However, in the fall, we really began to think about how we could bring more diversity to our program. Soon thereafter, we had the opportunity to begin a contract with the Chesterfield County Infant and Toddler Connection and now serve two families with children aged birth to three.
For an additional avenue of service, we shifted our focus upward [in age] and in January, we were able to hire an individual with a Positive Behavior Support Facilitator (PBSF) certification. He now provides therapeutic consultation to some of our adults receiving residential and day support through Grafton. Through this service has really just started, we’ve already received great feedback from staff. Some commented that it was nice to have some clinical support and even just a fresh perspective. Currently this service is providing behavioral consultation to these adults. They are observed in their homes as well as their day programs. Staff members are trained in how to record behaviors of concern so that the behavioral episodes can later be analyzed. One main area of analysis in ABA is determining the function of a behavior, or why a behavior is occurring. After we figure out why a behavior is occurring we can provide staff members with resources in how to teach replacement behaviors that serve the same function. For example, if we determine that a client is continually throwing and breaking items because it results in attention from staff members or peers, we then, as a team, can come up with ideas of how to teach the client to request attention from others in a more appropriate manner.
Soon, we will also be providing therapeutic consultation services for a child who receives educational and residential services. We are very excited to begin providing more and more services to adults and the eventual goal is to extend the Behavior Enrichment and Teaching program from Winchester to the Richmond region. For more information on the Behavior Enrichment and Teaching program see here: https://www.grafton.org/its-about-time/ .
Not only are our avenues of services extending and growing, but our individual staff members are developing as well. We currently have 5 individuals taking classes or completing experience hours to become BCaBA (board certified assistant behavior analyst) or BCBA (board certified behavior analyst) certified: 3 are behavior specialists, one is currently a BCaBA and one is currently a PBSF. (And we only have 8 employees altogether!) I love seeing employees get excited about ABA (like I do!) and so excited about it that they want to further their education in this field. I believe I work with some of the most motivated and dedicated employees! As those individual become board certified, we are hoping to extend our services even more into providing ABA therapy as a related service during school hours for some of the children and adolescents receiving educational services at the Richmond Campus. (ABA as a related service is similar to children receiving speech or occupational therapy at school.) This is another avenue of service that has been successful in the Winchester region that we are excited to extend to Richmond.
There have been a lot of changes in the ABA program in the few short years since it was established in 2013 and I can’t wait to see the future holds for even more expansion and growth!