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ABA Path: Welcome to The path to RBT📊 BCABA📉BCBA📈

With all the chaos that has been bestowed upon us at the very start of the 2021 New Year, I am thankful that 01-11-2021 launches the path to #rbt📊#bcaba📉#bcba📈

as I commence my graduate program in Applied Behavior Analysis at @floridatechonline

Lennon Grey 🐱 is happy about this too because she gets to cuddle alongside me as I complete my modules.

When I was checking out of a store the cashier gave me some kind yet starling words, “it’s crazy out there, be safe okay?”. Never in my life have I felt true uncertainty about my country’s future…

I had to asked myself, “would I move out of the U.S.A. if I see it taking a turn towards the worse? Then, I became even more thankful that the BACB is an international credentialing body.

During this pandemic we have also gotten to see the importance of quality online programs and just how efficiently necessary they have become to educate the next individuals who will utilize their higher learning skills to make an impact in their communities.

More than ever we need to give online programs the respect they deserve as they can oftentimes be even more rigorous as we witness the aptitude of self determination in the students that complete them. (But let’s leave this topic for another article, okay?)

Till then my friends, BE KIND! Coming together to shine our light bright enough to pathe a path of hope is our biggest strength.

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Dear Bilingual Therapist, even though you are not valued by the average Employer, I’m here to remind you how AWESOME you really are.

Attention job employers, if you are searching for a bilingual therapist or anyone to work for your company at that, then understand that you are asking for an additional skillset that not everyone has and merits additional compensation…and no, not just an additional dollar per hour.

Ask me to put a price on being able to target an entire new demographic for you to provide services to and profit off of by (my additional skillset) of being able to connect to an entirely new culture and build trust equals priceless…so it’s time to pay up and give the respect that bilingual therapists deserve. But oftentimes what really ends up happening is bilingual therapists are offered the same pay while providing more value to the company and working harder to provide more services to a larger pool of customers. How is it that we have allowed this to happen time and time again?

Is it our fault for not seeing our value and working for belittling companies or are we just trying to put food on the table? I believe it is about time to have a governing body that represents bilingual therapists and other employees being used instead of valued for their fluency to provide services in another language. As a matter of fact, people in the workforce have been known to be bullied or discriminated against just for even using their first or second language! From my own personal experience when I have asked for additional compensation for being bilingual most companies simply told me there isn’t none. Work for us or don’t. That seems to be the motto, when really what they’re saying is, “let exploit your additional skills and not pay you for that special service you bring to the playing field.”

Quite frankly, the only way this may change is if there is some kind of bilingual strike. But we all know that’s probably not going to happen, while very few bilingual therapists are going to deny a good job opportunity. There shouldn’t be an ultimatum to have to do so! Therefore, having a bilingual governing board may help in representing and even getting more bilingual therapists recognized so that we can begin to create a standard pay upgrade for bilingual therapists and employees as a whole.

Learning a new language doesn’t just entail proficiency to be able to reach more customers, it can quite literally make you a more diversified and better person because you are able to recognize and interact with people of different backgrounds. These are the type of leaders that we should strive to have in our companies.

So let’s start paying more attention to what we can offer our bilingual therapists, or us clever bilingual therapist may have to resort to creating a coalition of some sort to gain the respect that we earned and deserve.

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WHAT IS STRUCTURED PLAY

What is Structured Play
ABA and Voice (blog)

In therapy you may have come across your supervisor explaining that structured play is required in the plan of care for your patient or client. What this simply means is that the activity is driven by you, the therapist, in which it should lead to a specific learning outcome. Unstructured play means that the child can play as they please without any specific requirements involved in reaching any set goal, if no goal at all. Although all play promotes healthy brain functioning and activity, structured play produces intentional learning results.

For example, think of this…you are playing a video game that requires a controller, (think, super smash brothers). But you have absolutely no idea what any of the buttons do. Therefore, you continue playing by smashing into each and every one of those buttons as you get to see your favorite character swoop and fall, and kick, and fall down the playing scene to its impending death in which you see it hover backup and rejuvenate again leading to minimal consequences. Then, if you head over to Twitch (if you’re into that kind of stuff) and you turn on a super smash brothers tournament game, you can tell that the level of playing is strategic with every single movement of their fingers coding in a move on their controller in order to defeat their opponent.

Another example would be when we use the keyboard to type or text a message to our friends. A guilty pleasure that seems effortless, but requires quite a good amount of neural functioning and coordination. We have to encode a message that is intentional for the decoder to receive it’s intentional meaning. Even though we sometimes generate an unintentional secondary meaning taken out of context. That is why I’m giving you a friendly reminder to always read your messages twice before sending). CLICK (oh no!)…But, our brain isn’t just passing over each of these letters without having programmed ourselves to do this in such a way that it is now effortless to produce the results of a message waiting to be received.

Imagine if we could trick developing young brains to learn through play? Hence the term “structured play”. We do this through structured, fun tasks in which the goal of the therapist is for the learner to like the props or activity at hand enough in order to facilitate learning outcomes. Structured play allows us to teach skills that are crucial for cognitive functioning in which the learner practices mastery of them with the hopes of using essential cognitive processing skills to last a lifetime.

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SPEECH THERAPY IN AN ABA SETTING

The first time I’ve ever heard about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) was from an amazing Speech Language Pathologist I had to opportunity to shadow. She didn’t seem to have the greatest things to share about the profession due to a “feeling” of ABA overstepping scope of practice. Therefore I became incredibly curious what this profession that was “competing” in working with children who have autism on communication goals was all about. She had referred to it much to the likes of “dog training”. Need I say more…

As a prospective SLP grad student at the time, I too, was concerned that the ABA field could limit my ability to work with kids who have autism and even went as far as to share the petition going around not allowing the ABA profession to bar SLP’s from working with this demographic by needing more training to be qualified. An SLP’s academic life is already full of vigorous preparation in which ABA qualification may seem minuscule in regards to getting children to produce speech and language goals. HOWEVER…

“Cheryl, whose side are you on anyways…Isn’t this a blog about ABA?” Yes, but as a dual licensed Speech Language Pathology Assistant (SLPA) and aspiring ABA therapist I have to share some light of my experience working in an ABA setting as an SLPA first.

An ABA therapist spends about 20+ hours a week with their patient and should be preparing their behavior goals to prepare them for a speech therapy session to be as productive as possible for communication learning outcomes. Otherwise, that time will essentially go down the drain due to defiance or unresponsiveness to the task at hand.

Now, from my observation working in a behavioral setting as a speech therapist, no matter how skilled of a therapist we are, learning how to control a tantrum from an autism child exhibiting extreme defiance such as biting, kicking, screaming, and overall dangerous behavior is simply not a class taught in the average communication and sciences disorders curriculum. An SLP’s curriculum is heavily focused on the anatomy, physiology, and technique of producing speech and language outcomes through early intervention and pathologies, often life saving in regards to swallowing or receiving a tracheostomy procedure in a hospital setting whereas the behavioral side in typically left to be learned independently.

But who’s to judge at which profession needs additional training? Should an ABA therapist even be aloud to aim at communication goals when there is an entire profession ready to provide this or is it quite necessary given the minimal amount of time an autism or developmental disability patient may spend with an SLP on these goals? It appears that we will see these two professionals needing to become allies quite quickly and begin to see each other as a supporting part of each other’s plan of care (POC) team.

The best gift I was given at my first contracted speech therapy job was the ability to have a full ABA staff to observe & learn techniques from to stabilize behavior and increase communication learning outcomes. Now, I am able to stop a tantrum from getting out of control and optimize the therapy in my session to produce true results! That’s true collaboration and the journey has just begun.

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Thanks for reading!