I am happy to welcome Rosemarie Griffin as a guest blogger. I feel it is important to have an understanding of the variety of treatments that are available to students with autism. Rosemarie Griffin is both a speech-language pathologist and a certified behavior analyst so she is able to give a unique perspective on how these two professionals can work together as a team.
It takes a team
With the incidence rate of autism being 1 in 68, many speech-language pathologists are serving students with autism. While this may at times seem like a daunting and overwhelming task, know that when we work together as a team, we can make great things happen!
A majority of students with autism have a team of professionals with whom they interact with on a regular basis. One of these professionals may be a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA). According to the BACB ( Behavior Analyst Certification Board), certified behavior analysts have an acceptable graduate degree, have completed graduate coursework in behavior analysis, have completed supervised practical experience in the field and have passed a national exam. Applied behavior analysis is a science dedicated to producing socially significant behavior changes that will improve the quality of life for individuals. To learn more about the field of applied behavior analysis, feel free to visit the BACB website at www.bacb.com.
I work in both a public school and a private school setting. While I primarily work as a speech-language pathologist, I also hold the BCBA certification. There are so many overlaps among both professions, that when we work together our students can really benefit from this collaboration! Below are some tips to follow to help initiate and maintain this collaborative process.
- Take time to introduce yourself and talk with the BCBA with whom you will be working alongside. Often times a BCBA may be contracted from an outside agency so this person may be a new member of the educational team. It is not always easy to take the time to say hi and introduce yourself to people who are new to the team. This small gesture will be the first step in developing a productive working relationship.
- Share with the BCBA current progress regarding communication goals. Taking daily data and being able to share this with the provider will be important for future programming decisions. If there are areas where the student has made a great deal of progress, share this. If there are areas where the student is having difficulty, share this too. Being able to take the time to discuss the student’s strengths and weaknesses is important. Advocating to your building principal or director that this time is needed may also need to take place so that you can work this into your already busy schedule.
- If the student is engaging in problem behavior that is a barrier to their learning discuss this with the BCBA. BCBAs are well versed in how to evaluate and set up systems to decrease problem behavior and increase student engagement levels. The BCBA may have you and other members of the team collect data regarding what happens before problem behavior, what the observable behavior looks like and what happens after the behavior. Analyzing this type of data, along with student observations and gathering additional information, will allow the BCBA to help determine the function of this problem behavior.
- If a plan is set in motion to help decrease problem behavior, make sure that you have read over the plan and feel comfortable implementing the strategies recommended. If you have questions ask, carrying out the plan as recommended is so very vital to the success and progress of our students.
- Give input. Speech Language Pathologists have a wealth of knowledge regarding speech and language. If the BCBA is putting together a plan to increase use of functional communication by the student, help develop phrases or words that the student could use to communicate how they are feeling. For example, if you have a student who tries to leave the room when asked to do a hard task, you may want to try and teach them to say, “ Can I take a break?” “ Can we work on something different?” This is so very individualized for each and every student.
- Work collaboratively and develop shared goals. Speech therapy does not happen in a bubble. This means that our goals are the team’s goals as well. We should work to set goals that can be addressed by all team members. If we are able to train all members on how to effectively work on communication based goals, they will have many opportunities to practice these skills throughout their day at school. These opportunities will allow our students to become more independent and effective communicators.
- As mentioned above, shared goals are so very important for students with autism and other more complex disorders. Working with the BCBA to create a daily data sheet that can be used during speech therapy sessions and by other members of the student’s educational team is vital to the student’s success. For example, if you have a student who is in the initial stages of developing a functional response form, they will most likely be working on manding or requesting specific and preferred items or actions (i.e. movie, walk, cookie). A shared data sheet could be created that would allow all team members to gather this data throughout the day. We could gather data on the use of unprompted and prompted mands throughout the day. This section of the data sheet would look like this:
Name: _____________ Date:___________________
|Student will use verbalizations or sign language to request wanted items or actions.||Independent requests:
- If time allows, watch the BCBA work with the student. Can you pick up any pointers from the session that you could incorporate into your time with the student? Have the BCBA watch you work with the student as well. Are you targeting something in a different way that they could use when working with the student? Learning from each other is a process but it can be so very rewarding for all involved!
I hope that you can use these guidelines to help your work with students with autism become more systematic and collaborative. Go team, go!
Rosemarie Griffin CCC/SLP BCBA
Speech Language Pathologist
Board Certified Behavior Analyst
Rosemarie Griffin is a speech language pathologist, board certified behavior analyst and product developer. She is the creator of the Action Builder Cards. To learn more about collaborative services or to gather information about using applied behavior analysis to help students increase their communication skills, check out her website www.abaspeech.org or like her facebook page here: ABA SPEECH ON FACEBOOK