Challenges and Solutions for Parents Diagnosed with a Disability

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By: Emily Graham, Mighty Moms

Thirteen percent of Americans aged 35-64 live with a disability, along with six percent of Americans aged 18-34, according to the Pew Research Center. Many of those individuals will start families of their own. Parenting with a disability is a rewarding path for parents and children alike. These resources will help first-time parents prepare for the challenges and joys of disabled parenthood.

Preparing Financially for Parenthood

Every parent must revisit their household budget before having a child, but parents with disabilities have additional considerations to make.

Government Benefits

Several programs exist to support low-income pregnant women and their children. If you received benefits previously, having a child may increase your benefit amounts. If you haven’t previously received benefits, your pregnancy or larger household size may make you eligible.

 

●     Disability benefits: SSDI benefits may be extended to your child and a non-disabled spouse who serves as primary caregiver. SSI, however, does not extend benefits to dependents.

●     Food assistance: Low-income parents can receive SNAP benefits or increase their benefit amount after having a child. You may also receive WIC throughout pregnancy and early childhood.

●     Medicaid and CHIP: Medicaid offers health benefits to low-income adults and children. Even if your income is too high to qualify for Medicaid yourself, your child may be eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Life Insurance

People with disabilities are often charged higher premiums for life insurance, an issue that drives many parents with disabilities to question whether the financial product is worth the money. Life insurance isn’t strictly necessary if you have enough income and assets to provide for your family if one parent passes away, and most parents drop their policy once the kids are grown. However, the pros of life insurance outweigh the cons while children are young. If the primary earner passes away, life insurance lessens the blow to your family’s finances. If the primary caregiver dies, life insurance helps the surviving parent manage the high costs of childcare. U.S. News has advice regarding qualifying for life insurance with a disability and securing the lowest premiums possible.

Adapting Childcare Equipment

The market for adaptive parenting products is limited but growing. These are some of the best solutions other parents with disabilities have found for everyday childcare tasks.

●     Cribs: Side-opening cribs offer accessibility for wheelchair users. New Mobility mentions several off-the-shelf options for side-opening cribs, although many parents find that modifying a traditional crib to their specific needs offers the most accessibility. Bedside cots are an excellent nighttime solution for parents with limited mobility.

●     Strollers: Strollers that can be pushed with a single hand offer an adaptable solution for wheelchair-using parents and other parents limited to a single arm. Parents with limited bending ability prefer travel-system strollers over traditional strollers due to the higher mount. Promising new designs for wheelchair-attachable strollers have also emerged in recent years.

●     Car seats: Swivel-base car seats make transfers easier for parents with limited reach. However, latching mechanisms present challenges to parents with reduced finger movement and other upper-body limitations. Try out different car seats in store to find what works best for you.

●     Baby monitors: Parents who are deaf or hard of hearing can purchase flashing or vibrating baby monitors.

●     Baths: Rather than investing in expensive bathroom modifications, disabled parents opt to bathe infants in a wheelchair-accessible sink or a tabletop tub.

●     Baby carriers: Many parents find success with off-the-shelf wraps and baby carriers, which allow parents to carry their child while keeping hands free. Waist belts like the LapBaby are a popular option for wheelchair users. Wrapsody has some great babywearing tips for disabled parents.

●     Clothing, diapers, and bibs: Items that attach with Velcro, rather than snaps, are an easy choice for parents with limited finger movement. Diapers with resealable tabs are also a smart pick, as they allow parents to reposition diapers as needed.

●     Hands-free pumping bra: With this adaptive piece of equipment, a hands-free pumping bra enables a nursing mom to have her hands free for other tasks, or it can just make the act of pumping less tiring.

●     Changing pads: Wiggle-free changing pads include straps for a secure diaper-changing solution for parents with visual impairment or physical disabilities.

Prepare for Your Future

With all this baby prep, don’t forget to prepare for your future too. Think about the specific ways in which your life will change once the baby arrives. Will you get a job for the first time or plan to return to work?. Are you familiar with reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities? Specific to parenthood and your disability, how will you communicate with pediatricians, dentists, daycare workers, teachers, etc.? It is important that you are familiar with your rights as it pertains to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regarding employment, housing, auxiliary aids/services, and education to name a few. You’ll also want to think ahead about help you might need in the first few weeks and months after baby’s arrival. Even if family and friends are available, consider looking into sitter services - specifically sitters who are good with babies -- to enable you to find pockets of time to sleep, do laundry or get out of the house.

 Starting a family is a big step, and as a first-time parent, you can never be too prepared. In addition to the products and resources mentioned above, seek connection with other parents with disabilities. Through online and face-to-face networks, parents with disabilities can find advice for overcoming limitations and raising healthy and happy kids.

 

Image via Pexels

5 Tips for Supervision

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As a supervisor for trainees in supervision to get board certified, I often get asked for strategies on how to stay organized when completing supervision. These tips are specific to the field of behavior analysis, however; I think you can apply them to most coaching situations! Here are my recommendations:

1) Read the Guidelines

Read the experience documents on the BACB website. Make a list of specific questions from your supervisor about the rules of supervision.Watch the experience tracker youtube video from the BACB website to learn how to use the experience tracker.

2) The Experience Tracker

Fill it out starting from day one, and ask for feedback from your supervisor. At the end of each night, ask yourself "Did I do something behavior analytic today?" If yes, then before you go to bed, log your time in your tracker. (It may help to have it downloaded to your phone in the office excel app).

3) Create an Organization System

Keep a binder (or computer folder) with dividers for each assessment you learn to complete, relevant research you read, or sample data sheets/resources from your supervisor.

4) Help Yourself for Later

Something I have my supervisees do (because I wish I did this when I was in supervision), is from a sample assessment such as the VB-MAPP, PEAK, ABLLS-R, etc, create a generic "goal bank" from the assessment. Generate data sheets that would be tied to these goals. This should be done with feedback from your supervisor, and of course, individualized if you pull from it for future clients, but this is good practice in writing therapy/IEP/treatment goals, and will help you have something to reference when you pass the test and get out there into the field. This can also apply to other activities that you will do often after you become board certified…your supervisor can also give you some more ideas!

5) Practice, Practice, Practice

Ask your supervisor for "homework," if they aren't assigning you any, so that you can practice data analysis, graphing, assessment writing, and training others...because one day you will become the supervisor.

If you’d like to schedule a call to discuss remote supervision or your supervision questions, schedule here!

*PLEASE NOTE: THE BEHAVIOR ANALYST CERTIFICATION BOARD (“BACB”) DOES NOT SPONSOR, APPROVE OR ENDORSE SHAPING DEVELOPMENT, LLC, THE MATERIALS, INFORMATION OR SESSIONS IDENTIFIED HEREIN.

Five Ways of Being Prepared and Informed: The Challenges of Parenting a Child Diagnosed With a Disability

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

By: Emily Graham, Mighty Moms

As an expectant parent, you’re prepared to cope with the expense and physical demands of caring for a child. Planning for what you’ll need to do is part of being a mom or dad, and anticipating the ups and downs is, frankly, part of what makes the experience so memorable and exciting. However, it’s a somewhat different story for parents who find out their child will be born with a developmental or physical disability.

It’s frightening at first, and you may feel alone and isolated, not knowing where to turn for support. But you can rest assured that you are not alone — many people have gone through what you’re experiencing and have raised healthy, happy kids. There’s an abundance of resources, from support groups and individual counseling to detailed classes and instructional materials, to guide you through the early stages of parenting a child diagnosed with a disability.

1) Insurance

It’s important to know to what extent your healthcare insurance will cover the expenses involved in caring for a child diagnosed with a disability. This is especially true for families who need to make frequent use of pediatric care and physical therapy. Some policies will allow adult children to stay with their parents’ plan. So, meet with your provider and make sure you understand the details involved, what’s different about insuring a child diagnosed with a disability, and what benefits are available through the government (Medicare, Social Security, etc.), and what’s involved in continuing the coverage as your child grows older.

2) Preparing Your Home

It’s likely that your home may need some modifications. Some people seek out a house specially constructed for accessibility, while others make modifications themselves. For example, if your child requires a wheelchair, it means you’ll need ramp access if there are stairs leading to your home’s entryway. Smooth transitions from room to room will also be necessary, which can be achieved with small transition ramps. For wheelchair access, hallways should be at least 36 inches wide, and 32 inches for doorways. If you’re not in a position to pay a contractor to widen all the doorways in your home, consider installing expandable hinges or installing pocket doors.

3) A New Home

If you decide the right move is to look for a new home, one better suited to the proper care for your child, you’ll need to do plenty of research. Find out about local schools and whether there are any special education opportunities nearby and what those might be. Are there accessible recreational and educational facilities nearby? The more you can cater to your child’s needs, the easier it’ll be to provide responsive and sensitive care.

4) Bathroom Accessibility

Bathroom access is an important aspect of a properly modified home. A level, roll-in shower is a fairly simple modification, as is the installation of safety grab rails in the shower and alongside the toilet. Sliding cabinet and closet doors in bedrooms, bathrooms, and the kitchen will enhance accessibility considerably. Consider replacing plush carpeting with rubber, skid-resistant flooring. As your child gets older, it may become necessary to move his bedroom to the first floor so they do not have to navigate stairs and can be independent.

5) Other Expenses

Parenting a child diagnosed with a disability means you’ll be faced with expenses for ongoing care as well as day-to-day living. Additional costs may come from prescription medications, mobility-assistive devices (wheelchair, walker, cane, etc.), various therapies-physical, speech, occupational, and behavioral, caregivers, special education supports (see IDEA), and the possibility of medical needs. Have a solid understanding of what you can expect from health insurance and establish a special savings fund for ongoing care and medical expenses. Medicaid can make it easier to cover the cost of care, and SSI provides physical assistance under certain circumstances.

It’s essential to be prepared for the needs of a child diagnosed with a disability and to be armed with as much information as possible concerning care and how to cover expenses. Make sure you’re well-informed concerning health insurance benefits and government programs.

Why Teaching Others May Be Our Greatest Legacy

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By: Beth Garrison, Senior Consultant

I have been thinking a lot as I finish my first term as a PhD student about my own personal mission and vision for my future.  I want to make a difference in this world, to “save the world with behavior analysis,” as they say, but have no clue where to start.  Thinking back on our own beginnings in the field, which began with B.F. Skinner’s work, I realized, it starts with teaching.

In 1958, Skinner published "Teaching Machines,” in Science magazine after being inspired by observing his daughter’s math class in 1953, to where he did not observe individualized learning, nor immediate reinforcement for correct responding (Barrett, 2002).  It was here that one of his great, but not well-known work started  in The Technology of Teaching (Skinner, 1968).  Skinner envisioned a world where learners could learn at their own pace, and receive immediate feedback on work.  Unfortunately, he never saw this vision turn to reality, and in 1993, right before he died, he stated in personal correspondence, “I think education is the greatest disappointment of my life (Barrett, 2002, p. 42).”

Thinking on this today, I thought about my own personal mission and vision to “save the world with behavior analysis,” and realized that we may be able to do so by teaching others.  As teachers, supervisors, and mentors of aspiring behavior analysts, and also the people we support through our field, we are leaving a legacy….but “with that power comes great responsibility.”  Though we are the generation making contributions to the field of behavior analysis and beyond (social justice, business, education, psychology, social work, diversity, machine learning, and politics), we are also shaping the behavior of those who will come after us, who will continue our work when we are gone.

It is in teaching others that we may leave our greatest legacy, and in doing so, save the world with behavior analysis.

Schedule some time to talk to me about behavior analysis and mentorship! We also have coaching available for people who need support!

References:

Barret, B.H. (2002). The technology of teaching revisited: a reader’s companion to B.F. Skinner’s book. Concord, MA: Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies.

Skinner, B.F. (1958). Teaching machines. Science. 128, 969-977

Skinner, B.F. (1968). The technology of teaching. East Norwalk, CT, US: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

How Self Care May Increase Productivity (Though We Aren't Really Sure)

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In the media lately, self care has been a hot topic.  "Self Care Sunday" is a popular hashtag, with people posting pictures and ideas for how they spend their time in self care.  Mindfulness and meditation is often tied to this concept, as well as fitness and wellness exercise.  Sometimes self-care can also involve treating yourself to an ice cream sundae.  The most important piece of self care, is that it is self initiated.  It is yours.  It doesn't need to be shared with the world, since it involves just you in the process.

Ultimately, I have found that by creating space in my daily schedule for self care activities such as running or meditation, or reading my favorite trashy romance novels, have allowed for the other parts of my day that are scheduled for work and teaching to be more productive.  During productivity periods, I find I am more focused on the task at hand, and can complete tasks quickly.  

Interestingly enough, though there are ample self reports of self care being a way to increase productivity, there are very few studies documenting this.  The Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy published some articles documenting its benefits with specific populations in the late 1990s to 2009, but when searching for research for this blog, it was difficult to find empirical studies documenting its benefit.  

Clearly more empirical research needs to be done in this realm to test the thousands of self reports on social media about this topic.  

So what do you think?

Warm Weather Playtime for Kids

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Guest blog by: Danny Knight  

Danny is a dad living in Philadelphia. He enjoys DIY projects almost as much as raising his two children. He is the co-creator of FixItDads.com, which offers tips for home improvement projects.

 

When it is summer, it can be difficult to make sure your child stays safe in your backyard while still having fun, particularly in warm weather.  With a little extra care and attention, though, it is possible to create a safe, sunny backyard play space for your child.  Here are a few ways you can get started.

The importance of play

Play is critical for any child, helping to foster independence, sociability, and confidence.  Playtime can also help develop fine motor skills, balance, and, the ability to manage many different types of stimuli coming at once.  When building a backyard for your child, then, you should consider each of those needs.  An outdoor playspace allows your child to choose how to play.  For children, the power of choice, even on a small scale, is very important.  Because of this, you should try to include a variety of play opportunities in your backyard.

 

Prevent wandering with fencing

One of the most important things you can do for your child, is to prevent them from wandering around out of your backyard.  Children should always be supervised, but we know as parents, sometimes our attention can be pulled away.  Therefore, you should always fence in your backyard high enough that your child cannot reach over the top.  Make sure to move any boxes or ladders they could use to climb up over the fence.  You may want to plant some large bushes around the fence to prevent your child from getting too close.

 

Create new sensory experiences

Children often love experimenting with new textures in a controlled setting.  Try creating a sensory play area with a small sandbox, water table, or homemade slime.  It is important to let your child choose how he wants to play.  Instead, gently show him the different textures and behaviors of sand.  If your child enjoys getting his hands dirty, why not start a small herb garden together?  Gardens are relaxing and offer a great opportunity for you to bond with your child while teaching them about different plants.  Add to the sensory experience by choosing plants with interesting textures and shapes.  As you and your child become more involved with the garden, let your child pick out a pair of garden gloves to call his own and keep his hands safe. 

 

Childproof your pool

Pools are another great way to introduce your child to new experiences.  Start by gradually introducing your child to water, perhaps through a kiddie pool or a water table.  Once they are used to the sensation, you can start teaching them how to swim.  Start as early as possible to familiarize your child with the process.  You may want to consider enrolling your child in swim classes.  Even if your child swims well, you’ll still need to childproof your pool to ensure their safety.  First, never leave your child unattended in the pool.  Install an alarm in your pool that will alert you whenever someone jumps or falls in.  Prevent your child from wandering into the pool by installing a small, locked fence around the water and only opening it up at set times.  Children respond well to routines and rules if they are explained in a manner they understand.  Keep them safe in the water itself with kickboards, floatation devices, goggles, and ear protection.

 

Backyards can be great fun for your child, particularly in warmer seasons.  By following basic care procedures and making sure to always supervise your child, you can allow your child to have a spectacular playtime each day.

 

Photo Credit: pixabay.com

How a Convergence Cured "Writer's Block"

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I have not had the motivation nor the desire to write for the last month.  Nothing changed in my life to set up this change in behavior, but I guess I encountered that condition that many go through--"Writer's Block."  Ultimately, I replicated the results from Dennis Upper's groundbreaking 1974 study "The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Case of Writer's Block (Upper, 1974)."

With that said, during this month's time, I was able to experience "The Convergence of Human Training, Animal Training and Technology," in Seattle.  This conference gave me a lot to learn in the two days of inspiring and motivating speakers, and I have pages of notes, of which I'm sure will translate to multiple blog posts in the coming weeks.  I learned about  the accomplishments behavior analysis produces when applied to multiple populations, species, and industries through the use of clicker training, shaping, positive reinforcement, virtual reality, machine learning, and data analysis.  

In providing a space for all of these sectors to mix and discuss our science, for the first time we began to see that maybe we can indeed "Save the World with Behavior Analysis."

Click.

 

References

Upper, D. (1974). The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block.” Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis7(3), 497. http://doi.org/10.1901/jaba.1974.7-497a

How Can Behavior Analysis Assist in the Study of Machine Learning?

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Recently, we have been contemplating the relation between machine learning and behavior analysis.  Interestingly enough, this topic of the collaboration of machine learning and behavior analysis is not new.  William Huchison, in 1998, discussed "Computer Simulations of Verbal Behavior," and compared the learning of verbal behavior in computer simulations to that of a human learning verbal behavior, proving that "operant learning is sufficient to produce verbal behavior."  Fast forward to 2012, and in Huchison's work, "The Central Role for Behavior Analysis in Modern Robotics, and Vice Versa," it is observed that most computer "systems assume basic foundations of operant conditioning (Huchison, 2012)."

Howard Rachlin (2012) also discusses the similarities between the IBM computer, Watson, and a human being, in his work, "Making IBM's Computer, Watson, Human," outlining that the basic needs of humans and computers are the same:  we need an energy supply, protection from the elements, maintenance, and our bodies to be maintained at a reasonable temperature.  He theorizes that by creating a "Watson II" with more characteristics of human beings (i.e. being able to "override its own logical mechanism" after establishing "rules"), ultimately:

"those who would see Watson II as nonhuman because he was manufactured, not born, might go on to say that it would be worse for humanity were we all to be made as Watson II may be made. To me, this would be a step too far. We are all a conglomeration of built-in and environmentally modified mechanisms anyway. And no one can deny that there are flaws in our current construction." 

In both of these articles, Huchison and Rachlin, create a call to action, discussing the need for collaboration in computer science and behavior analysis, as computer science evolves to machine learning and artificial intelligence.

So how do we do this?  Ultimately, computer science majors interested in programming, should receive training in behavior analysis.  Currently, this is not happening, as most computer science programs have adopted more of a "pop psychology" background in their current research and practice (see Ink's article:  "MIT Researchers Use Reddit to Create World's First Psychopath AI).  What this further demonstrates, is not only a need for the dissemination and training of our science to the computer world, but also a need for a similar ethics code in the shaping of behavior when programming, as we do as behavior analysts working with human beings.

So what do you think? Comment below!

 

References:

Hutchison W.R. (1998). Computer simulations of verbal behavior for research and persuasion. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior. 15:117–120. 

Hutchison, W. R. (2012). The Central Role for Behavior Analysis in Modern Robotics, and Vice Versa. The Behavior Analyst35(1), 29–35.

Rachlin H (2012).  Making IBM's computer, Watson, human. The Behavior Analyst. 35:1–16

"Why Are We Not Acting to Save the World?" ACT and Mental Health

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The topic of mental health has been addressed through multiple outlets this week, especially with the recent deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.  This blog post will focus on this topic, looking through the lens of behavior analysis, to pose some questions on shaping and developing adaptive mental health practices.

In their book, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: The Process and Practice of Mindful Change, the authors Steven Hayes, Kurt Strosahl, and Kelly Wilson, have a chapter dedicated to the "Dilemma of Human Suffering."  In this chapter, they shed light on the decades of focus by psychology and modern psychiatry on diagnosing mental disorder and pathology through symptomatic processes.  With the rise in these disorders, the authors ask if the statistical prevalence of mental illness is due in part to the fact that human suffering is actually just a part of all human life.  Is it actually something that we need to address more through behavior change procedures and skill teaching, rather than focusing on its treatment through a traditional medical perspective of diagnose, treat with medication, and measure symptomatic change?  Admittedly, this is a controversial discussion and viewpoint.

Human suffering is indeed something that is always present.  It is a topic explored through many practices, including Buddhism (see our blog on how Buddhism and Behavior Analysis are related) throughout the history of human life.  Interestingly enough, Hayes, Strosahl, and Wilson also touch on suicide in their chapter with the fact that human beings are the only "animal" that engage in this behavior.  If this is the case, is developing strategies and behavior to respond to personal human suffering in adaptive rather than maladaptive ways, the answer?

Through Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a therapy with principles rooted in contextual behavior science, psychological flexibility is a skill that is taught through established and empirically validated behavior change procedures.  If we know these strategies work, and they teach adaptive responding to stimuli that set the occasion for suffering, why is it that so many people don't know and have never learned about these skills?  The answer lies in dissemination.  

In the words of B.F. Skinner (1982), "Why are we not acting to save the world?" and in this case, provide support for and skills to respond during events that set the occasion for human suffering.

Why You Should Not Eat Alone

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In 2016, I read Keith Ferrazzi's book Never Eat Alone, and it changed my perspective on networking and creating professional connections.  I read it right before going to our field's annual conference that year, and it was probably one of the best books I had and have ever read in networking.  Before heading to the conference, I made the commitment that I would "Never Eat Alone," and I would find new people to network with.  Fast forward two years later, and I am still using the strategies in this book to connect with more people in our field.

Three of the takeaways from this book are the following:

1) Never Eat Alone

Find someone to eat breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner with when you are at conferences, even if you just met them.  This is a great way to connect, and if there is awkwardness, eating can take away some of those pauses!  Ferrazzi also recommends this for the typical work day.  Instead of eating lunch at your desk, grab a bite with a colleague or coworker to continue the connection.

2) Follow Up is Important

At a lot of conferences or work events, people often hand out business cards and promptly lose them, or put them somewhere, and never reconnect with those people.  Set up a system where you can input contact information electronically, and every few months "ping" them to reconnect and find out where they are and what they are doing.  It is important to reconnect as well right after the conference, to keep the conversation going!

3) Don't Be Afraid

Be brave!  Connect with someone that you admire but have never met before.  At conferences, we can do this in person (most of the time the person is not going to ignore you, but probably shake your hand and say hello), or on social media.  The worst thing that can happen on social media or through email is they never respond, and then you are just where you started anyway!  Sometimes being brave and reaching out can lead to a great collaboration, project, or learning.  

What are strategies you use to network?  Comment below!

 

What Is The Value Of Our Behavior?

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I had a great conversation yesterday with a respected individual in our field discussing values and their role in behavior changes (not sure if the person wants to be named so I will protect their privacy, but know that it inspired this blog post!).  As we continue to think about cultural change as it relates to behavior analysis, I started thinking about how community values direct community or cultural behaviors.  Ultimately, it comes down to reinforcement principles (which I will not go in to here, but will direct the reader to the BF Skinner Foundation, where you can access resources describing positive and negative reinforcement).

When we speak of cultural change, the discussion of value can be broken into several sectors.  The first is individual values.  What value does our current behavior serve us?  For behavior analysts we look at this as a functional assessment or analysis, but for people who aren't behavior analysts we can ask ourselves the question of Why?  Why do I keep performing this behavior?  or Why am I not engaging in behavior I want to perform?  When we analyze that, we can then create action steps, defining the behaviors we need to develop and a plan to shape that learning process.

We can also do this from a larger perspective from that of the community.  This can be a neighborhood community, city, state, country, or even global community.  We ultimately need to "Start with Why," as Simon Sinek says, and ask ourselves, what are our values as a broad community.  If we put aside our differences and beliefs, we may find we actually all have one common value from which we can build upon--the value of survival, and the continuation of our species on this planet.  Maybe, we can at least start there.

Want to weigh in?  Leave a comment below!

Shaping the Use of Renewable Energy Resources through Applied Behavior Analysis

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As promised in the previous blog post, we will be exploring cultural change as it relates to behavior analysis in the next few weeks.  With this week's celebration of Earth Day, we are exploring ways to increase the use of sustainable resources.

Ultimately, as behavior analysts, we are tasked with the job of using our science to shape socially significant behavior (Baer, Wolf & Risley, 1968).  So what is the definition of socially significant behavior?  Cooper, Heron, and Heward (2007) define this as "Behaviors identified for change must be socially significant to the persons and contribute to the quality of their daily life."  In essence, the definition of social significance lies with the person.

This definition is a bit tricky when we talk about "saving the world" with behavior analysis as Skinner talked about in his works.  For most Americans (and I say most...not all, and I am fully admitting to myself being part of the "most"), socially significant behavior which contributes to the quality of daily life, involves the consumption of goods, most of which are consumed or are produced through non-sustainable energy resources such as oil or natural gas.

So how do we fix this?  As with most behavioral change we should start with small changes.  The biggest change we can make in our lives is to start reducing our use of the nonrenewable energy resources we currently are using.  Some simple ideas to start would be: turn off the lights when the sun comes up, unplug the electronic devices when you leave the house, and spend a few more days with your windows open instead of using air conditioning in the summer.  

As a whole, we should also look to investing and exploring affordable sustainable energy resources such as use of wind and  solar options for energy.  Though for many this can be cost prohibitive, companies should start to explore the current barriers cited for use of this and turn it in to new business ventures.  

Motivation and the availability of reinforcement for engaging in these behaviors, also plays a role, in implementation of behavior change.  Like with any behavior support plan, we should create a larger cultural behavioral support plan to change our behavior of consumption of non-sustainable energy.  We need to essentially make it harder to access non-sustainable energy, and easier to access renewable energy resources, provide realistic incentives for use of these energy resources (that tax credit isn't cutting it), and also look to making it more socially reinforcing to use these resources, instead of gas and oil.

Have an idea on how to do this?  Leave a comment below!

 

References:

Baer, D. M., Wolf, M. M., & Risley, T. R. (1968). Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1(1), 91-97

 Cooper, John O., Heron, Timothy E., Heward, William L.. (2007) Applied behavior analysis,  Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Pearson/Merrill-Prentice Hall

How I Found Behavior Analysis

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I'll never forget the moment when my undergraduate work study supervisor handed me a book and said, "Here, read this. You will enjoy it after growing up in Philadelphia."

The book was Third and Indiana by Steve Lopez, and it came at an interesting time in my life.  I was going to school at a large Philadelphia university and had just been denied admission to the Music School for the second time, so I was feeling pretty lost considering I trained as a classical flutist for most of my life.  I had just enrolled in "An Intro to Psych" class.  It was an honors class, which meant a small intimate class where we would discuss psychology greats and argue about perspectives on the mind.   It was here I was also introduced to BF Skinner's books: Beyond Freedom and Dignity and Walden Two.

After reading Third and Indiana, which introduced me to a side of Philadelphia I knew existed but had not been exposed to (a side that has interestingly been shifted to other sections of the city as sections are gentrified and re-developed--ultimately just shifting the problem instead of addressing it), I wondered how we could help the larger problems of the city such as violence, drug addiction, and the struggle for 14 year olds who should be setting post high school goals versus learning business and social skills on the streets.  

Enter BF Skinner.  After reading Beyond Freedom and Dignity and Walden Two, and debating the possibility of a technology of behavior that could "save the world," and shape cultural development, I drank the Kool Aid.  I was introduced to a professor at Temple who studied with a student of Skinner, and the rest is history.  

Now, I focus on the mission of helping other organizations and people shape development through the principles outlined by BF Skinner.  Though my work has taken me to shape development of ABA therapy programs and businesses, I recently began thinking on how we can go back to the idea of using the technology of behavior to "save the world."  I am interested in cultural change as a whole, starting with my own city and the behaviors that occur on a daily basis.

The biggest question now remains is How?  How do we do this?  I'll explore this in the next few weeks so stay tuned! 

 

References: 

Lopez, S. (1995). Third and Indiana.  Penguin Books

Skinner, B. F. (1971). Beyond freedom and dignity. New York, NY, US: Knopf/Random House.

Skinner, B. F. (1948). Walden Two. Oxford, England: Macmillan

 

 

 

How Do We Continue To Do What We Do?

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 "By the time I was fourteen (and shaving twice a week whether I needed to or not) the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing." Stephen King, On Writing

 This week, as I read Stephen King's memoir, On Writing, I am amazed that at 14, when he was already starting a prolific writing career, he received rejection after rejection...but he still continued writing.  He continued writing even through high school, college, and young adulthood when he made very little from his manuscripts and worked hard jobs to support his family.

So as a behavior analyst, and one who is motivated to shape development of others, I ask, why is it that he persisted even after years of long hard work, where writing did not "pay off" or provide him with enough income to support his family, and why is it that even as a child, he continued to write, after multiple rejection letters?

BF Skinner wrote in his book, About Behaviorism, "The theater and the novel would probably not survive if the dramatist and novelist stayed out of the depths."

So what does this mean?  Ultimately, we need to experience conflict in our lives...to motivate us to keep performing to avoid that conflict (referred to as "negative reinforcement" for my behavior analytic friends).   For some, it means to improve our craft to the point where rejection letters no longer occur (potentially, like in the case of King), and for others this may be just to avoid the task altogether when that first "rejection" occurs.  

It is all dependent on our own history of reinforcement.  

In the words of Aubrey Daniels, "People do what they do because of what happens to them when they do it."

 And that, my friends, is why we continue to do what we do.

 

References: 

King, S. (2000). On writing: A memoir of the craft. New York: Scribner. Chicago

Skinner, B. F. (1974). About behaviorism. New York: Knopf

Daniels, Aubrey C. (2000). Bringing Out the Best in People: How to Apply the Astonishing Power of Positive Reinforcement, Third Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Education

 

 

How to Shape Development: Changing Our Own Behavior

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"'There is really nothing you must be and there is nothing you must do. There is really nothing you must have and there is nothing you must know. There is really nothing you must become. However, it helps to understand that fire burns, and when it rains, the earth gets wet.'  Whatever you do,  he smiled, there are consequences, nobody is exempt. Then he winked, and bowed and walked away." -Jack Kornfield, Buddhism for Beginners

I have been contemplating these quotes for the last week.  Kornfield in this quote, makes the observation that "whatever you do, there are consequences," which is interesting.  As behavior analysts we examine the behavior of those around us, and analyze both antecedents and consequences--the environmental variables part of the behavioral contingency.  We do this in schools, homes, businesses, sports and fitness, and animal training.  Kornfield, though not a behavior analyst, a Buddhist Monk, links the above discussion with his teacher, who shared the zen saying above.  The zen saying appears to be saying there is "nothing" we MUST do, but we need to be cognizant of the fact that when we do something, there are consequences, just as "fire burns and rain makes the earth wet."

As parents, teachers, and leaders, we are often tasked with changing the behavior of those around us.  It is important to note, however; as Kornfield says "no one is exempt."  As we shape the behavior of those around us, it is important to keep in mind that our behavior is also being shaped by the environmental variables (such as consequences) that occur during the shaping process of those we support.  Oftentimes, we spend time focusing on changing the behavior of others, when sometimes, it is our own behavior that needs to change.  As we create our behavior plans and development plans, we should also be thinking about how we can change our own behavior in the process.

What are some ways we can do this?  Leave a comment below with your thoughts!

 

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How Does Buddhism Relate to Behavior Analysis?

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Recently, I started reading Jack Kornfield's Buddhism for Beginners.  As I listened to the tenets of Buddhism, I began to realize that there were many similarities between the science of behavior analysis and Buddhism, and after doing some research, I found I was not the only one who also held this opinion.

Hayes (2002) and Diller & Lattal (2008) also wrote articles outlining the similarities between the science of behavior analysis and Buddhism.  

So what are they?  Diller & Lattal (2008), wrote in their article, "Behaviorism and Buddhism: Complimentarities and Conflicts," that there appear to be many "complimentarities" between the two.  They argue that with Buddhism, there is the idea that the individual is connected with their environment just as in behavior analysis we look at the learner also being interactive with their environment.  Buddhism emphasizes the goal of gaining knowledge then applying that knowledge to generalize societal improvement.  As B.F. Skinner wrote in his book Beyond Freedom and Dignity, as he discusses the need to make socially significant behavioral change through our science, "What we need is a technology of behavior to prevent the catastrophe which the world seems to be inexorably moving,"

Steven Hayes (2002), also discusses in his article "Buddhisn and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy," that the empirically validated "third wave" behavior therapy Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (Hayes, 2004) and Buddhism have many parallels, the main being looking at the behavioral characteristics of the human attachment to suffering.  In Buddhism, Kornfield argues that it is a part of life, but it is through the awareness of it and the compassion towards others we can free ourselves from the attachment of suffering.  In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, this comes in the form of cognitive defusion  or becoming unentangled from our thoughts and feelings (Hayes, 2004), yet still acknowledging that they are present.  This, Hayes argues, provides a scientific grounding for the practices of Buddhism.

 

References:

Diller, J.W., Lattal, K. (2008). Radical behaviorism and Buddhism: complementarities and conflicts.  The Behavior Analyst, 31(2), 163-177

Hayes, S. C. (2004). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Relational Frame Theory, and the third wave of behavior therapy. Behavior Therapy, 35, 639-665.

Hayes, S.C (2002). Buddhism and acceptance and commitment therapy. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 9(1) 58-66

Kornfield, Jack (2001). Buddhism for Beginners

Skinner, B. F. (1971). Beyond freedom and dignity.

 

Have thoughts on this topic?  Leave a comment below! 

 

Five Fabulous Quotes from Women Who Shaped Development

In honor of International Women's Day on March 8th, we want to share five of our favorite quotes from women who shape development or shaped the development of others in their lifetime.  We hope you enjoy!

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Have a favorite quote?  Comment below!

 

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How to Learn to Pivot through Failure

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I am reading Kristen Hadeed's book, Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing Everything Wrong.  This book has really helped me reflect the last week on how I've developed my own leadership skills through various failures.

As a child growing up, I have always been a perfectionist.  I had to get perfect grades, and excel in everything I set up for myself as a task.  My first failure hit me hard senior year of high school when I was denied admission to the music school I wanted to attend, to become a concert flutist.  I was devastated.

I entered college my freshman year undecided with the hopes that I could re-audition in the spring for fall entry into the music program.  I studied flute with a doctoral student in the hopes to get better.  In the spring, I auditioned again, and again, another denial.

This was also the time I met my mentor, who brought me in to the field of behavior analysis.  Once I experienced the second failure, I pivoted and focused my attention on becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst after support and discussion with my mentor (who was also a classically trained musician, and worked on that skill on the side).  Looking back at this time, I felt like it was the biggest failure, and I would never succeed in life.  What it really taught me was when we come up against challenges, we need to learn to pivot our direction (much like hiking when you come to a block in the path, or a cliff, you must pivot your direction around or away from it), so that we do not drown in our failures.  This lesson has come up for me time and time again throughout my practice and development as a leader in the field.

Pivoting is important because it helps us to re-focus our energy on a new project, or new skill to develop.  At this stage in my development, I don't look at failures as failures, but rather as "triggers" to pivot to a new idea or project.  

Want to hear more about my story?  Here’s a podcast I did with Coaching for Leaders host, Dave Stachowiak!

Have your own "failure" experience to share?  Leave a comment below!

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Questions Every Parent Needs to Ask During Transition

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Please Note: the resources listed here are based in United States regulations.  The questions themselves are universal.

For any parent, transitioning their son or daughter to adulthood can be a daunting task.  For parents of individuals diagnosed with developmental disabilities, this can seem like a mountain to climb.  For many children diagnosed with developmental disabilities, when they turn 21, it can be seen as the "cliff," as school services end, so supports drop off.

What are the four transition ages that ALL parents should be aware of?  What are the questions to ask as you guide your child through transition?  This blog will outline these ages and questions to ask.

1) 14-16 YearS

At this stage, graduation or exit from school may seem like a long way away, but it will come faster than you think.  Here are some things to consider as you navigate these years:

Discuss post 21 plans with their school team, and think of realistic transition goals focused on the following areas:

  1. Self-help/Daily Living Skills

  2. Independent Living Skills

  3. Employment

  4. Self-Advocacy/Communication

Will they be graduating at 18?  At 21?  Will they be going to college, or will they need vocational training? If your child has an IEP, what should the IEP be focused on to meet those goals during the next two years?

2) 16-18 Years

For most parents, this is the timeframe when, if your child is planning on going to college, you will start exploring schools, SATs, and admissions processes.  For these children, parents should be focused on teaching them the skills they need to have when they are on their own, especially if they are planning on leaving the nest.  Skills to focus on would be employment, budgeting, problem solving, household repair, and any daily living skills they currently are not performing on their own.

For parents of children with developmental disabilities, these are also important years, because it is the time to decide if your child will exit at 18 or 21.  College, vocational, and post-18 services should also be considered. 

Here are the questions you can ask at this stage:

Continue discussion of post-21 plans. 

Explore job opportunities/skill instruction that will help them gain employment experience

Continue to assess realistic transition goals focused on the following areas:

  1. Self-help/Daily Living Skills

  2. Independent Living Skills

  3. Employment

  4. Self-Advocacy/Communication

Finalize exit year (18 or 21):

  1. If exiting at 18, contact office of vocational rehabilitation to start intake process if looking for employment

  2. If exiting at 21, contact local developmental disability office to start intake process, and learn about requirements for waivers (if not already enrolled)

  3. If attending local university or community college, contact the college’s disability office to discuss potential accommodation needs of the student.

3) 18-21 Years

For many parents, this is the time when their son or daughter attends college or a university.  This is the time, where you've taught them all you can, and now it is their turn to shine, problem solve, and learn to make their way in the world.  This can be challenging as a parent, because you want to continue to support them when they need you, but at the same time, they need to be able to have the freedom to make mistakes to learn from them.

For parents with children with developmental disabilities, this is the time to really be dedicating focus and attention to post-21 goals.  These are the things to consider:

Assess realistic transition goals focused on the following areas:

  1. Self-help/Daily Living Skills

  2. Independent Living Skills

  3. Employment

  4. Self-Advocacy/Communication

Explore workplace opportunities (either through school district or office of vocational rehabilitation) to gain employment skills.

What are the current barriers that may prevent your child to gain employment?  How can the team work to eliminate those barriers?

If exiting at 21, make sure at age 19-20 the office of vocational rehabilitation has application on file, and you have contacted the state or county developmental disability office to check on eligibility for waiver support.

4) Post-21

You have made it!  For many parents this is the time to watch your son or daughter collect that diploma, and find their place in the world of careers and employment, or maybe they will continue their education in graduate school.

For parents with children with developmental disabilities, this can be extremely frightening as school supports are no longer available.  As scary as it can be, however; this can also be a time to celebrate, to look back on how far your child has come, overcoming many challenges.  Your child WILL continue to learn and develop even after 21.

Here are the things to consider at this timeframe:

Exit school, complete person centered planning process to develop individual support plan.

If eligible for services, choose service provider.

Continue to assess and build on transition goals focused on the following areas with supports from service providers.

Hopefully this blog will help parents to plan for transition!  Leave a comment below to let us know what you found useful!

Resources

Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services http://www.medicaid.gov/HCBS

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services:  https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/rsa/index.html

Why Coaching is Important

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In the world of Behavior Analysis, we follow a professional code which guides our performance while working in the field.  Part of this performance describes working within the realm of our competency and training, maintaining our competence through professional development, and supervising others in the field as they gain their credential.

While obtaining my BCBA credential, I had to gain 1500 hours of supervision while working in the field, with 75 of those hours being directly supervised by a supervisory BCBA (this description is not approved or endorsed by the BACB.  Go to www.bacb.com for more information on the BCBA credential).  During this time, I was directly coached by my BCBA mentor as I learned new skills to gain competence in the field.  Post-BCBA certification, this coaching is no longer required, except in instances where there is a behavior change procedure needed where a BCBA is not trained in the protocol.  This training can be acquired through professional development and consultation.

During the course of my certification, I have looked to models outside of our field to gain coaching experience rather than traditional lecture based models of professional development, and have become involved in a few behavior analytic coaching groups that foster training and professional development within our field.  I have found that personally, the models that foster peer interaction, and direct feedback and mentorship from a coach, have developed my skills better than the traditional professional development model of "training."  I think that more research needs to be done to evaluate the effectiveness of these models of professional development overall, but as a personal anecdote, this has been very helpful in developing my skills as a leader and behavior analyst.  As another benefit, these coaching groups have also provided me with peer support.  Sometimes in the field we operate alone, or as executives we find it difficult to connect with individuals that are our direct reports, so these groups have provided social reinforcement as well!

Interested in learning more about Coaching?  Shaping Development developed these groups in the form of our BCBA Supervision and Behavioral Leadership Coaching Groups.

Feel free to check it out!  We hope we can help you shape your development!

 

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