Why ABA is not well received by all schools and nurseries even though it works?
Parents who have had success with ABA at home would like their child's school to be on board, to ensure consistency in their child's learning across different environments. However, not all schools and nurseries throw their arms open to welcome ABA professionals, even if the parents show them videos of the progress their child has made.
Why is that? In my experience, there are three main reasons:
1. ABA is not that well known in the education sector
I have heard teachers in both mainstream and specialist schools saying they have never heard of ABA. They have been working with children with ASD and other special needs for years and years without ABA, and they turned out fine under their care. They may not understand why does ABA make more of a difference in teaching, compared to other techniques.
2. Some educational professionals may have received inaccurate information about ABA in their training or practice
They may think that we are in schools to judge if they are being a good teacher or not, they may have heard other professionals discuss about ABA as the fancy name for animal training/ making a child like a robot, or they may have simply seen ABA being implemented poorly in the past.
3. ABA qualifications do not translate into equivalent qualifications in educational settings
Some ABA tutors or consultants may have a psychology degree and have years of practical experience working in the field, but that's about it. While a TA/ LSA/ nursery staff may have NQTs, training in ASD, safe guarding and so on, the years of experience an ABA professional has, is not standardised. In comparison, schools simply don't know what to expect from an ABA tutor who has 3 years of experience, but they do know what to expect from their TA/ LSA.
How can we crack that?
While getting ABA support on a child's Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) is definitely going to get us into schools and nurseries, it is often stressful, time consuming and incur a high cost to get legal personnel involved in the process. I believe there are three simple, cost effective steps we can do as ABA professional to promote our work:
1. Increase awareness of how ABA can help children with ASD and other SEND children
This can be done by writing articles, speaking to teachers or TAs in your social circles about ABA and hosting free training workshops for schools and nurseries (yes, FREE! Why would anyone pay for something when they don't know what it is?).
2. Effective communication with school staff
Before going into a school to work, or even observe a child, it is worth spending time meeting with the class teacher, SENCO or headteacher. We need to explain to them what we do, how we do it and most importantly, that we are there to compliment existing provisions a child has, instead of competing with other professionals! A clearly defined role for ABA practitioners in schools amongst a multi-disciplinary team will be most helpful. I usually describe the class teacher being the educational professional, the SaLT being the expert in language construction and we Behaviour Analysts are the behaviour experts, helping the child to perform the right skills, at the right time, in the right place, with the right people. When we all work together, a child can flourish in the school environment.
3. Get certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB)
The only standardised ABA qualification in this country is at masters level, and tutors may not want to commit to it. As an alternative, tutors can obtain the Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) certification from the BACB instead. It is a high school equivalent certification, composed of rigorous training both in ABA principles and in field work. After certification, RBTs will be supervised by BCBAs to ensure the work they deliver is up to standard. There is an increasing number of EHCPs stating an ABA tutor needs to have RBT certification, or in the process of obtaining one. Some local authorities such as Southwark, will not consider working with a consultant who is not a BCBA and tutors who are not RBTs.
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To find out more about the RBT certification, or the BACB, please follow this link:https://www.bacb.com
If you would like some free training on ABA for schools and nurseries in London and the midlands, please follow this link for more information and to sign up: https://www.headstartaba.org/training
Written by Danthy Lo Leça, a Behaviour Analyst who is passionate about training, working with schools and being creativity in her practice