The Beautiful Side of Behavior Analysis
Some of you may not know my background and how I ended up here today talking to you about behavior and kids! So, I am going to take a minute and tell you about the beautiful side of behavior analysis. I also felt it was fitting to share this TODAY considering that April 2nd is Autism Awareness day.
My start in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis
I received my Masters in Early Education. I thought I was going to be an elementary school teacher. It was towards the end of my Masters degree when I realized I did not want to be in a general education setting. I wanted to work with special needs. Umm, oops! I was absolutely concerned that I just wasted an entire masters degree.
It wasn't until my first job out of grad school where I found a position working as a developmental therapist for kiddos ages 0-3. Wow, what an amazing experience! It was here that I realized I wanted to narrow my scope and work more specifically with the autism population.
I looked at the job listings and found a new center opening up in my town. It was this thing called an 'ABA Therapist'. Yeah, I had no idea what that even stood for but it was an entire center for individuals with an autism diagnosis. Sign. Me. Up! I had the minimum job requirements (actually, I was over qualified) but I just knew I was made to work with children diagnosed with autism. I quickly googled that ABA stood for 'Applied Behavior Analysis' and I ran for the interview.
I fell in LOVE with the field of ABA
You guys... Applied Behavior Analysis CLICKED with me. I immediately fell in love with the fundamentals of the science. And then, I saw first hand how effective it was.
I saw kids coming in with absolutely no language and within a few months, I witnessed children saying their first words. Talk about a rewarding job!
I also saw parents coming into the center in fear that their child would have to be put into a residential facility because their behaviors were so severe. With the implementation of ABA interventions, these behaviors decreased and we were able to keep a family together.
What is even more cool, the majority of the procedures used were reinforcement based and using the child's motivation... AMAZING!
This is life changing! This job was so amazing.
Meet Maddie and her AMAZING journey with ABA
I came across this AMAZING story of Maddie. Maddie was diagnosed with moderate-severe autism when she was nearly 2 years old. Doctors also told her mama that she would NEVER TALK! Imagine hearing that as a mother.
With the implementation of ABA services, Maddie has overcome those odds and is now THRIVING! I also like what her mom said about "finding the missing piece". This is a common phrase in the autism community.
She thinks that it makes it sound like her daughter isn't whole or that something is missing. I agree with this.
Maddie's mom suggests that the phrase should be, "rearrange the puzzle". As this mother stated, "This little girl isn't just going to fit into "the box". We must rearrange the box. Because we strive to fit into her world to make it better."
Check out this video to learn more about Maddie's amazing journey.
My clients made me a better person
I know my clients have taught me SOOOO MUCH about acceptance. Shoot, they have taught me more than I EVER taught them. I have since moved on to the academia world but I will never forget my time spent in the clinical setting with my kiddos at the autism center. I loved that time!
So, if you get a chance today, talk to your kids about acceptance. Talk to your kids about how they can be kind, reach out to the kid sitting alone in the lunch room, or help the child that is struggling to understand a concept during math class. Sometimes, it just takes a different angle or a different approach! It doesn't mean they are any less!