May / 20

Behavioral Changes and Signs to Look For in Your Child with Tanya Lopez and Caitlyn Marcus [IEP 029]

IEPcontent Podcast 0

Paying attention to changes in a child’s behavior is important and can mean the difference between providing that child with the help he/she needs and letting it go without a diagnosis. Knowing what to do once you recognize those behavioral changes is even more important.

We’re joined by Tanya Lopez and Caitlyn Marcus, two Board Certified Behavioral Analysts who have spent over 10 years perfecting their skills in working with families that have children with special needs, including autism. They help families and children overcome behavioral challenges inside and outside of the home. In this episode, they explain what they do and how they use their education and experiences to work with families.

Full show transcript at the bottom of the post.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode:

  • What can you do as a parent to help your child in/outside of the home when behavioral challenges arise?
  • How can you use rewarding behavior to promote positive outcomes and make learning fun for kids?
  • How kids learn to communicate and behave with different family members and friends. How ABA also works with the parents as well to aid in these changes.
  • The importance of lessons that are tailored to each individual child
  • How to address behaviors that may impede learning. Learning to recognize whether they are problematic or just quirks
  • Insurance companies now recognizing these ABA treatments as medically necessary
  • How ABA is not just for children with autism or special needs
  • What are the credentials or experience necessary to be considered a true ABA professional?
  • How ABA treatment goals should change as the child grows and progresses
  • How to use ABA treatment as preventative and instead of reactive
  • Recognizing the difference between a skill defect or a performance deficit. CAN the child do the task assigned to him/her or do they just not WANT to?
  • Tips to help guide parents in starting ABA treatments

Resources Mentioned:

Cathy Johnson’s episode – Speech and Language Pathologist


Autism Speaks how to contact Tanya and Caitlyn

Thank you for listening!

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This podcast is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not to be construed as legal advice specific to your circumstances. If you need help with any legal matters, be sure to consult with an attorney regarding your specific needs.

 Full Show Transcript

Vickie Brett:                      Welcome to the Inclusive Education Project. I’m Vickie Brett.

Amanda Selogie:              I’m Amanda Selogie.

Vickie Brett:                      We’re two civil rights lawyers on a mission to change the conversation about education, civil rights, and modern activism.

Amanda Selogie:              Each week, we’re gonna explore new topics, which are going to educate and empower others.

Vickie Brett:                      And give them a platform, connect change in education, and level the playing field.

Amanda Selogie:              Welcome back, everyone, and happy, almost, Mother’s Day, to all of the moms out there, which I’m guessing is 90% of our listeners. I hope your family is spoiling you this week, and I know it’s probably not going to happen, but hopefully you get some of a break.

Vickie Brett:                      Yeah. I would imagine that’s probably on a lot of moms’ wish lists, is just probably … I’m actually taking my mom and my mother-in-law to Vegas this weekend to see my aunt. Three women in my life; might as well just get them all together and just get a break from the family.

Amanda Selogie:              And go to Vegas.

Vickie Brett:                      Yeah, it’s going to be a different type of Vegas then I’ve gone in the past on my own, I’m sure. Not that I don’t enjoy our chit chat, but we have so much to that we’re going to get into today, I just kind of want to get right into it. You hear Amanda and I, we always talk about ABA, Applied Behavioral Analysis. You may kind of have a general idea of what that is or you know, behavioral social skills for my children. Do I have to get it if they have autism or they don’t have autism?

Vickie Brett:                      Because we got so much great feedback from having from Kathy Johnson, our Speech & Language Pathologist on, we invited two BCBAs, and they’ll tell you what the acronym is, but we wanted to able to kind of set out what it is that they do, and that practical aspect that you can take with you to the IEP meetings.

Amanda Selogie:              Yeah, and not just IEP, but when is it time to start looking at the behaviors that your child is having, and how can we address it? Whether you have a diagnosis of autism, or not, when is the time that we need to say okay, there is something that we can do to intervene, rather than letting it fester, and the next thing you know you’re ripping out your hair.

Vickie Brett:                      And with that, we’ll go straight to our more than qualified, BCBAs, Caitlyn  & Tanya . Thanks for coming on to the pod.

Caitlyn :                              Thanks for having us. All that time, I’ve been really just getting very sweaty.

Amanda Selogie:              Oh my gosh, we just had, what, a 30 minute conversation over lunch, where we were just all amped up, so you know, just bring that thing mentality.

Caitlyn :                              It’s all in there still, it’s all that anticipation. But yeah. Hi, we are Caitlyn  and Tanya . Both been in the field, let’s see, I entered the field in 2008 as a Behavior Interventionist, and I really discovered how fun it was to work with kids with special needs, work with kids with autism. It became my life’s mission to just keep doing it, so got my masters in ABA.

Caitlyn :                              Yes, we do have a masters in ABA, there is so much more to it, in fact, that there are PHDs in ABA, and then the process of becoming a BCBA, which is a board certified Behavior Analyst, is additional coursework on top of that masters and then you do about 1500 supervised hours, working with other experienced established BCBAs, in order to know enough, to go out there and really do a good job.

Amanda Selogie:              So you know what you’re talking about.

Caitlyn :                              At this point, I hope so.

Vickie Brett:                      You guys work in school districts, you work outside of school districts. I think that is often times, especially when we had Kathy Johnson, on. Shout out to Kathy, ‘Hi”. One of the things we want to stress, we’re all talking about our own experiences. So, obviously when you reference a school district, it may not be the case in all school districts, but..

Caitlyn :                              True

Vickie Brett:                      But in particular, you know I’m sure you guys have seen the same type of child, being not serviced appropriately, and so that’s where you guys are kinda be talking from. Like your experiences, in your own private self, and then obviously in the public realm of like the jobs and the companies that have hired you.

Tanya :                                Hi guys, I’m Tanya  and the first moment I met Caitlyn , I knew we were just going to best friends, and we just keep working together, and we can’t get rid of each other.

Caitlyn :                              We’ve been with each other for about nine years now, doing stuff in the field, so it’s been fun.

Tanya :                                Yeah, so my biggest thing is that I want people to understand where we can support and how we support. I’ve been in all kinds of school districts, not only like Orange County, and L.A.,a huge one, and you know just making contacts with these school districts, so we can help more schools, to learn better techniques for these kids, and because the sport there is just not there. In the home, we’re really big advocates, and our biggest need is in the home. So we can teach the parents how to actually help their kids, not only in the home, but to help support them also when they have to go into the schools, and into the community.

Tanya :                                Helping them with all kinds of hair cuts, and issues where behaviors..

Caitlyn :                              Toileting, eating, we even teach that’s one of our big things, and one my big things, the thing that kinda breaks my heart, is like kids with autism, we know that don’t always respond like a typical kid would to their parent being playful with them, or hey we would really like to be able to go out to the movies together, as a family, or eat the same meal at the dinner table, or have my kids sit here while we eat at the dinner table. And really working with families to kind of use fun, use rewarding kind of activities and interactions and things like that, to get kids to learn how to do things that they wouldn’t normally do.

Caitlyn :                              And also, finally enjoy doing those things. Actually go from, okay I’m doing this because mom, it makes mom really happy, to now I’m doing it because I am proud of myself. I can brush my own teeth, or I can wipe my butt, or ..

Vickie Brett:                      It’s like that early intervention right? Because I’m sure at a certain point, I’ve had this with clients where their kiddos are older. So they’re junior or high school, and this is the first time they’re ever exposed to ABA, right. So, then I get parents that say, “well all they do is play”. Like he’s not learning anything, all he’s doing is playing”. There’s a buy-in there right, at a certain point, and I’m sure you guys run into that all the time.

Vickie Brett:                      So, what’s the age variation that you guys do

Caitlyn :                              Oh my gosh, my youngest was 18 months, my oldest so far as been 27 years.

Vickie Brett:                      Whoa!

Tanya :                                16 months old, I think, is our youngest youngest kid.

Amanda Selogie:              So even kids in the terrible twos may not be typical terrible twos?

Caitlyn :                              Yes absolutely. And there’s obviously lots of signs and things to look for, and it doesn’t even, I just wanna really make it clear too, that ABA has a bit of a checkered reputation. In the olden days of ABA it was really all about, hey let’s just change behavior because we want to. And ABA has really really really, especially with the introduction of our ethics board, who we’re certified by, and masters programs and doctorate programs that are out there now, we’re very much moving in the direction of, how can we really support this child, and make them get as much juice out of life as possible, where it’s not like ‘oh I just want my kid to sit and be quiet’. Well what’s in it for your kid to sit and be quiet? How can we make it fun for them, and what’s the purpose of sitting and being quiet?

Tanya :                                And I think people also think in their head when they see ABA, they think DTT which a very structured type of a strategy that we do use, but it’s not the only thing. And so what that looks like is a kid and a therapist at a table, you say match, do this, do that. But that’s not what we do, we do do it-

Caitlyn :                              It’s not all of it.

Tanya :                                But it’s not 100% of it, because we do what is called natural environment training too, because we can’t create these little robots. If you just do DTT, it actually does an injustice sometimes for these kids. And you have to make them flow, they have to know how to play with their siblings. You can’t do that at a table, you have to be on the floor, you have to go outside, you have to go at grandma’s house. And so trying to teach them in different environments with different people, that’s really what we do.

Caitlyn :                              Definitely. And then going back just really quick to what you were saying, about all they do is play, we’re really sneaky about embedding a lot of new targets and skills into a fun activity. So to an untrained eye it may look like, oh they’re just hanging out. But during a board game, for example, I might be working on my kid’s ability to match, their ability to take turns, their ability to wait for their turn, their ability to be able to draw the card, to follow the whole routine of playing a board game, to understand what it means to win and to care about winning. All of those things look like, oh god, what are they doing? But to us, we’re like bam-bam-bam-bam-bam, I’m getting all this data, we’re having fun.

Amanda Selogie:              ‘Cause it’s not just about getting rid of the mal-adapted behaviors and the negative behaviors, but it’s about encouraging appropriate positive behavior. I shouldn’t say appropriate, because that’s always where I think it’s hard, because behavior in one setting may be appropriate for one setting, but doesn’t mean it’s gonna be appropriate in another setting. I think I had a behaviorist say in AP meeting the other day, and I was like “oh, I’m gonna steal that!” And they said something like, “wearing a bathing suit at the beach is appropriate”-

Caitlyn :                              It’s expected.

Amanda Selogie:              It’s expected. Wearing a bathing suit at school, if it’s not wear-a-bathing-suit-to-school-day, is not appropriate. But if you teach a kid that wearing a bathing suit is not appropriate, they’re never gonna wanna wear a bathing suit, but it’s in that setting. So it’s not always about appropriate but rather, like what you just said, expected.

Caitlyn :                              Expected for that setting, yeah definitely. And that’s one of the things that we work on too. You get kids who maybe they stem a lot, they engage in a lot of repetitive behaviors. Well maybe we don’t want to take that away from them, but we do wanna reduce that behavior, for example, during instructional time. But on your break, you go ahead and you flap for a little bit, that’s cool. But then we’re still gonna go and we’re gonna work on playing with friends too. So it’s really just making sure that we only work on reducing behaviors that are actually a problem and that are impeding learning for this kid. ‘Cause if your kid is rocking back and forth for two seconds before they start a task and then they can complete the task all the way through without getting distracted and rocking, then is it really a huge problem? Maybe if the kid possibly expresses later on in life-

Vickie Brett:                      It’s learning age expectations, right, or age appropriate behavior.

Caitlyn :                              And knowing too that we all do weird things all the time. We’re tapping feet, I’m biting my nails right now.

Amanda Selogie:              Clicking a pen, shaking your foot, I mean everyone does.

Caitlyn :                              And everyone’s quirky, says weird things, has jokes that fall flat. You know it’s like we’re all imperfect.

Vickie Brett:                      I think sometimes parents hyper focus, right, and then so what your job is and why we wanted you guys, we know a lot of BCBAs, we’ve come across a lot of them, and what really stood out about you two was your passion, right? So really focus on the family. Because a lot of times it’s easy to just get a paycheck, right? It’s like you see all these different kids and it wears on you. But we saw a little bit of the passion that we have in ourselves in you. Not a little bit, a whole lot. And I think that’s why it was important to have you on, especially like, how do parents access you guys, if they need you? Is it through insurance? It sounds like you work  in school districts. I wanna kind of set out for parents that are now thinking about, wait a second, yeah I think I may need your help.

Caitlyn :                              Yeah. So one of the primary means now of obtaining ABA services, it used be a little more challenging, we used to have mostly just state funding-

Tanya :                                Regional centers.

Caitlyn :                              Yeah regional centers, you’d get maybe 10 hours a week for your kid, getting anything over that would just not the recommended frequency, or intensity of treatment, was real difficult. But since things have changed over state bill 946, I always know it, that was the insurance mandate that made it so that insurance companies have to cover this medically necessary treatment for autism. Unfortunately we have not branched out yet into-

Vickie Brett:                      It’s getting there. I know that people are-

Caitlyn :                              We’re getting close. We’re getting close, ’cause I know too, even in schools, like I used to work towards Unified, and we had kids who were accessing behavioral services through us, that had Down Syndrome and ADHD. Basically any kid can have behavior symptoms, it doesn’t even matter. And that’s an important distinction about ABA too, is that we’re not as concerned with your child’s diagnosis as maybe other people. We know there’s a lot stigmas a lot of time, a lot of communities really struggle with admitting or accepting a child’s diagnosis. And we don’t need a family to accept their child’s diagnosis. We’re looking at your individual kid, going ‘okay, your child has these difficulties, these strengths, cool we can build on those. This is what you guys need, right, so let’s kind of work from there’. We’re not looking at like, he’s autistic so we’re just gonna work on eye contact and we’re just gonna work on blah-blah-blah. There’s so many things that families literally don’t care about, or maybe we don’t need a kid to stare at you for five minutes.

Amanda Selogie:              Well if it’s not impacting them, and we know that when we go out into the community, when these kids go out into the community, they can have jobs where maybe they’re not making eye contact, and at the end of the day, there’s only so many hours in the day, we want to focus on the things that are gonna move them forward, not things that are typically inappropriate.

Caitlyn :                              Definitely. So your private insurance will cover basically whatever ABA is recommended for your child. We go out, we do the behavior assessment, and now we can actually get the funding to say okay, we think your kid would benefit from 20 hours a week of ABA services. And we can work with you on the weekend, and we can go to Costco with you.

Vickie Brett:                      And it depends right-

Caitlyn :                              Definitely.

Vickie Brett:                      Like how much, one kid might need a heck of a lot more, ’cause I see that all the time with parents, like well so and so’s best friend’s baby mama’s got 30 hours and I only got 10. And it’s just like, well maybe your child isn’t as severe. I mean we see that a lot just in general with special education.

Caitlyn :                              Yeah of course, yeah. And there’s definitely, we have to look at diminishing returns, too. ‘Cause especially even for a three year old, the standard accepted dosage of ABA is like 30 to 40 hours a week for early intervention, but that might actually not work out for your family.

Vickie Brett:                      Like a full time job!

Caitlyn :                              That is a full time job! But yeah, so private insurance, so Anthem, Blue Cross, Signa, pretty much everybody will almost always cover unless the plan is self-funded I believe, in which case you may have to-

Tanya :                                No, they actually changed it too. Now you can actually get coverage through Medi-Cal, because at first Medi-Cal did not cut, that insurance law did not mean that so like a lot of, it was a loophole unfortunately and so they denied a lot of families coverage. But now it’s enacted, they have to. So almost every single insurance, Medi-Cal, there’s not too many loopholes. There’s no more federal or state mandated-

Vickie Brett:                      I was just gonna say, California right? We do have listeners that are outside of California. Do you guys know if other states have kind of followed our suit or?

Tanya :                                They’re coming along.

Caitlyn :                              We’re getting there. And actually autism aches, as controversial as they are, has actually had the biggest hand in single-handedly getting legislation out and passed in order to cover ABA in other states. And so it is actually, other states are catching up. We know for sure that there is definitely coverage in other states, but not necessarily all, I don’t think they’re not in all 50 at this point.

Tanya :                                No definitely not.

Caitlyn :                              And there’s limits in other states, where in California we have relatively few caps and things like that.

Tanya :                                Some insurances put a little bit more restrictions so it’s a little bit harder. So different credentials that the therapists have to have, so it’s a lot of blockades sometimes that the states actually have to overcome. So if you are in California, you’re pretty lucky because I feel like we’ve come such a long way from like 10 years ago even, and that’s why we want to spread that knowledge and help anyone who wants help for their kids that they have that access to get it.

Tanya :                                And if you even go to any of your insurance, you just have to call your case manager on any insurance, and they will help you. Even if you don’t know what you’re saying, you just say my kid has something wrong, and they will direct you. And the insurance’s typically will reach out to agencies, and the agencies then, like our agency will definitely, like we have an insurance department that holds everyone’s hand, because it’s complicated, it’s a lot of codes. If you have military insurance that’s a pain.

Caitlyn :                              Oh yeah and Tri-Care covers too.

Tanya :                                Yeah, Tri-Care. I love all the military but that insurance is one of the most difficult ones to unfortunately. But that’s why we have an insurance department to decipher all those codes, those weird things that no one knows what they’re saying, like what do you mean it’s an H2 31 4 8?

Amanda Selogie:              Well that’s awesome. So before we get into practical tips, you did mention ABA is not just for kids with autism, which that’s a typical myth that is spread sometimes by the school district, sometimes by parents. There’s a few things that we often hear and we wanna get your guys’ take on it.

Amanda Selogie:              So one of the things we often hear, or we often see, in behavior intervention plans in the IEP or the BIPs is a lot of reactive strategies. And we’re only reacting, right? And so the schools says, and parents say, well we want ABA, and they go we’re using ABA, but when we look at ABA, we’re not looking at just reacting, we’re looking at more of the preventative, right?

Caitlyn :                              Eliminating the need for the child to engage in that behavior I think is the specific point.

Vickie Brett:                      I was literally at an IP meeting where they said that to me today, where they’re like oh no it’s reactive, the IPs are reactive. And I was like “what?” Have you guys heard that too.

Caitlyn :                              Oh yeah, absolutely.

Tanya :                                Unfortunately. We’ve read one thing, oh we’re doing ABA. Okay well you’re not doing very good ABA.

Amanda Selogie:              Which comes to the idea of, we often ask, how qualified are your, ’cause it’s usually a pair of professionals or the aids that are providing this “ABA” or the behavior intervention plan, and so they all say “oh they went through a training”. And let me tell you, when I was an aid, I got training. I was not certified. And I know that there’s a difference.

Caitlyn :                              I would ask how long was that training?

Amanda Selogie:              Typically they say six to eight hours, which I’m pretty sure is not enough to say you’re doing true ABA.

Caitlyn :                              It’s taken me about 10 years to get to like absolutely ninja master level, so, and I’m pretty much for staff, like when we get new staff in, it takes them about a year to even stop being shell-shocked every day. It’s a lot of work. And it’s a lot of planning. And it’s a lot of meticulous kind of preparation and thinking, and okay yeah, if I wanna prevent this kid from running out the door, which I remember I had one time a family who this kid has a one on one, and he kept eloping, out way out to the playground. I was like how is that happening?

Vickie Brett:                      How did he get that far?

Caitlyn :                              How is he getting that far? How is he getting all the way across the yard? What is the para doing? And it turned out the para wasn’t sitting somewhere that was kind of in the kid’s path to the door, which if that was happening, it’s not like we even necessarily need to be very physical, but if you just are in somebody’s path and you stand up, and you say where are you going? You can probably prevent that behavior from happening in the first place. It’s real simple.

Amanda Selogie:              So by the time parents get to us, and we review the records, and maybe we’re reviewing eight years of records, I’m gonna talk about hopefully being rich one day, but if I had a dollar for every time I looked through records and I saw the same BIP for eight years, I’d be so frickin’ rich. So when we’re looking at a lot of time this, we should not be seeing the same BIP. We should not be seeing the same goal areas for eight years, and probably even for-

Vickie Brett:                      What’s a BIP?

Amanda Selogie:              I think I said it earlier. Behavior intervention plan. Right, so we should be seeing real progress, we shouldn’t see… If a kid comes in and is having hitting, non-compliance, elopement behavior, we shouldn’t see still seeing those same behaviors eight years later, or even two years later, right, if we’re doing the appropriate strategies?

Caitlyn :                              If you’re actually doing ABA, and you’re actually doing both sides of the equation, which is that prevention and accedence side, and the consequence side of reacting, you should see… Behaviors are supposed to decrease. And this is so heavily researched supported, and so supported by our own clinical practice that if you’re doing it right, the behaviors will go away. So if you’re seeing the same behavior brought up in time and time and time again, something’s not going right. They’re not doing something.

Tanya :                                Well and if you keep seeing the BIP that clearly is a statement of they’re not doing anything, because if you start with the kid at like five and you’re still doing it when they’re 12, you do something way different with the five year old than what you would do with the 12.

Amanda Selogie:              Right, but see that’s what they say. They say stuff like well now, every year that they get older, the behaviors are coming in a different way because they’re older. But it’s really the same behavior, from five to six to seven.

Caitlyn :                              Yeah, and well when that happens too, if behaviors are resurging, different times, then we need to start at looking at what are the goals that are supporting the skill acquisition for this child, because clearly they’re missing a skill. If they, every year that school starts, they’re flipping out and having a really hard time, that is probably indicative of they’re having a hard time transitioning and we need to work directly on transitioning without challenging behaviors, which you can’t just react to, you have to reinforce it too. You have to make it worth this kid’s while to transition. And that’s a really difficult to get into the school system, especially without a one on one that is trained.

Caitlyn :                              And I would say if you’re para, or your one on one, does not have a supervisor, that is, you’re probably not getting very good quality service from that person.

Vickie Brett:                      And that’s what we try to explain to parents a lot of time, ’cause oftentimes they’re like “they just need someone to redirect them”, and it’s like well if they needed someone to just redirect them, the teacher can do that. The teacher should be able to do that. But obviously that’s not always happening. And I can’t tell you how many times, and these are the problems that I’ve run into at least school-based, these CPAs, is we’re seeing behaviors and the school wants to address the behaviors. And we’ll come in, they’ll do the functional behavior assessment, or the functional analysis assessment, in taking data. And they’re like yeah they’re definitely having behaviors. And they miss the point of what you were just saying. What is the skill that’s missing? Because the root cause is the kid can’t frickin” read. She’s in the fifth grade at a second grade reading level, and so you’re seeing these behaviors or defiance or elopement or, I always get this, “oh it’s all about attention”. And it’s like no, I don’t think she can read. Are those some of the things you were talking about with the skills?

Caitlyn :                              Oh my gosh. It’s my least favorite profile in the whole world. These kids who, they’ve gone through school, they’ve always been one or two grade levels below but their behavior kind of allows them, and I have that in quotes because we know, right? [inaudible 00:23:31] but these kids who are, they’re academically, they’ve been struggling for a long time and they need a ton of remediation in order to actually move past that.

Caitlyn :                              But yeah, I’ve seen kids who, yeah they are very defiant. They’re very aggressive. They elope out the room. But like you said, it’s because they’re being asked to do double digit multiplication but they don’t even know single digit multiplication. I can’t even work with that as a behavior analyst, that’s not my job.

Vickie Brett:                      So I’m glad that you said that because oftentimes we’ll get BCBAs that go “oh no, this behavior will go away”. And I’m like how does this behavior go away? Because like you just said, if we’re not remediating and it’s one of those instances like what you guys were saying, like yes, there are some kids that at 18 months you’re seeing behaviors. And there’s not really anything in the realm of academics that’s having that, maybe communications issues, but for the most part, you’re like okay, this is what’s happening, this is how we can address it. But like, oftentimes you have to to say that in your professional opinion, like, hey we see the root cause being this, I’m sure that comes up.

Caitlyn :                              Yes. And it really super depends on the special-eder, the resource teacher, because sometimes they’ll work with us if we say I want you to please save any work samples that demonstrate that this is just above his level. He can’t do it. I want everything saved. We’ll save everything that we’ve got that shows and we’re gonna write on it, you know, he needed this level of prompting, we used these visuals, he’s got a reinforcement system in place, he’s working for a cool new hat for his favorite sports team, or whatever. We’ve got mom and dad onboard, we’ve got a reinforcing system. And it’s still breaking down every day when we go into resource room because it’s too hard. And it’s embarrassing for him.

Amanda Selogie:              And it always comes down to why is the behavior occurring and not looking at why. I’m sure you’ve seen this, I see this a lot. There is a BIP that’s developed. There’s never been an FBA. [crosstalk 00:25:33] right, and it’s something, I’ve had parents that’ll be like oh the BIP just came from the [inaudible 00:25:39]. I’ll be like how did the BIP get created? How? You’re supposed to do an FBA but we get districts all the time say we don’t need to do an FBA, because we already knew what the behaviors were.

Vickie Brett:                      We had a goal, we had a behavior goal.

Amanda Selogie:              But I go, but you didn’t know why the behavior was occurring, and more often than not, we get three years down the road, the same bullshit BIP and nothing’s happening and we go, “well maybe it’s not that it’s for attention. It became because of attention because they got the attention maybe, but it started because they’re not”.. and we see that a lot with kids that are behind, then they get put in the special day class ’cause they have behaviors that are stemming from being academically behind, but then they’re in a class with other kids with behaviors that they mimic, and then they say well oh they can’t be in gen-ed because they have these behaviors. But they’re only having these behaviors ’cause they’re in this class with other kids with behaviors.

Caitlyn :                              Vicious cycle, yeah. And I’ve had school districts try to dissuade parents from requesting an FBA, because, oh well we can just write a BIP. Okay well you weren’t actually gonna write a BIP before but now you’re gonna do it just to scare these parents off?

Vickie Brett:                      You just like wing it?

Caitlyn :                              And I will say too, and I think Tanya  you’ll probably agree with this that most school personnel, probably 95% of school personnel, are not qualified to write an accurate BIP. They don’t know. Like I said, we have masters degrees in this, we have supervised hours. We have specific course work. We do continuing education.

Tanya :                                And a lot of times when I’ve been in IPS, when we ask what the qualifications of whoever’s running it, they will not disclose it, and tell you how-

Vickie Brett:                      They get super offended.

Tanya :                                Yeah, ’cause they’re like what do you mean? I am qualified. And I said, “then show me, or tell me”. Or I’ll ask this very simple question, “so you’re saying that, in your BIP here, that you’re using a token economy. Can you show it to me?” And they can’t produce anything. I said “bing! You don’t know what you’re doing. Alright”. It’s one of the most simple things in ABA… little simple things that I can pinpoint immediately if I know that you’re qualified.

Caitlyn :                              Yeah. What kind of reinforcers does he like? Oh he doesn’t work for reinforcement. That’s not true. Everybody has things they’ll work for. Your school just doesn’t know how to make it happen for that kid. Oh we can’t motivate him. Bull.

Amanda Selogie:              Or you can’t motivate him because he can’t actually do what you’re asking him to do. So no matter if you tell him you’re gonna get him a season pass to Disneyland and a Porsche, he’s still not gonna be able to do algebra because he doesn’t know simple addition.

Caitlyn :                              And that is such a great point, like is it a performance deficit or a skill deficit? And you can tell whether a kid can’t do something or they won’t do something by, like you said, do you dangle the most coolest things in the whole world in front of this kid and they still can’t do it? Guess what? They can’t do it.

Amanda Selogie:              And then we get well they’re just being lazy, or not taking initiative. So then we get the older kids that are higher functioning having these behaviors, but then we get into well we’re gonna put in a behavior contract, or even worse, we’re using discipline. Suspensions. Expulsions. And there’s no BIP. No IEPs sometimes.

Tanya :                                My favorite is timeouts. Like what? I’ve actually seen it written-

Amanda Selogie:              Go to the principal’s office and hangout![crosstalk 00:28:54]

Tanya :                                So the kid hits the other kid to get sent to the principal office and I said, well okay what’s he doing in the principal’s office? Oh he’s playing on iPad. Oh I’m gonna go around and hit other kids too, because I get to go then have fun and I get out of my work. Cool. I’m gonna totally do that.

Caitlyn :                              Of course. What kid wouldn’t do that?[crosstalk 00:29:12]

Vickie Brett:                      Kids learn manipulation, whether they have a disability or not.

Amanda Selogie:              Absolutely. We all do.

Caitlyn :                              And that’s like one of the basic tenants of behavior analysis is that the organism is always right. We always are behaving, doing exactly what we can get away with, the maximum reinforcement, the minimum punishment. Like what can you get away with? It’s me, it’s you, it’s all of us around this table. It’s kids with disabilities. It’s kids without disabilities. It’s literally every organism that is alive out there.

Caitlyn :                              And so, if your kid is having a hard time in school, it’s their environment. That’s what we look at. We don’t care if your kid is autistic. Your kids autism, it doesn’t explain your child’s behavior. Their laziness, I have that in quotes, does not explain their behavior.

Amanda Selogie:              Oh I get that all the time. Well that’s just a function of their disability. So it’s always gonna be there. I get that so often, and not just with the behavior but with other things, and it’s like the minute you say something like that, you are setting the expectation so frickin” low that it’s like, why are we even trying if that’s gonna be your expectation?

Caitlyn :                              Yeah it’s like oh well he’s just this, oh well he’s just lazy, oh well. What are you doing about it? How are you changing the way the people respond? How are you changing the environment? Are you eliminating unnecessary triggers? Are you, but without actually avoiding triggers that need to be worked out. It all comes down to what’s around us at any given time. We behave very differently in front of mom versus dad. We behave very differently at church versus a concert. That’s not unique to kids with disabilities, that’s all of us. And so I think it really helps to have that mindset too of, we’re all really the same, it’s just these kids have no, they need people who can speak up for them and they need people who can call bull when things aren’t working right, and teachers are blaming the kid for it when it’s really like no, this is your responsibility. You guys need to figure this out.

Vickie Brett:                      And I’m sure you have a go-to story that you can think of, a kid that you’ve worked with. Even if it was a short amount of time or a long amount of time, it’s kind of like how we like to end our podcast, just ’cause we get so fired up. But remembering why we’re doing what we’re doing. Can you guys think of a story… Tanya ‘s ready.

Tanya :                                When Caitlyn  was talking, I’m like I just wanna say this. I worked with this family for three years. And they have three boys on the spectrum. And so the school district ’cause they were deleting ed file, it was atrocious. In an IP they actually told, I’m like oh my gosh, told us to our face, you’d cannot learn because he’s autistic. And we all grabbed each other, and you know what? We took it. And we’re like okay. We’re gonna show, right? We slaughtered them.

Tanya :                                I did an independent functional assessment because they thought he didn’t also need one. I said well if you’re just allowing him stem all day? We change placements. For three years he was at that school, we made no improvement with reading levels, no nothing [inaudible 00:32:18]. Changed environment. Oh my god, he jumped up to age appropriate levels. If you met this kid now, he’s just an amazing kid. The family’s amazing as well. But it just goes to show, don’t let a school district ever tell you that your child can never learn. It’s not the child. It’s the people around them that are just unwilling, or just not taught appropriately, and not wanting to, maybe? I don’t understand that part.

Tanya :                                But we changed the environment. People who actually supported what we had asked them to do in the first place. It’s unfortunate that it could have been avoided, and if they had done it three years ago, where would he be now? But he’s doing phenomenal so we don’t look in the past, we just move forward. And they can do it. You just have to have people around you that are willing to actually support your strategies.

Amanda Selogie:              On figuring out what needs to be next. So I’m sure parents listening, trying to figure out, okay. We talked about a lot of items in this process, right? From we’re having some behaviors, we need to do an assessment, an appropriate assessment, so usually a functional behavior assessment, leads us to a behavior intervention plan, and hopefully that’s working. If it’s not, then we need to look back and reassess, because it might be a different situation. So it sounds like even if they’re using your services or services like yours at home, you are able to provide that support in collaboration with the school district. So if a parents listening and they’re like wow, this all rings true to me, what would be the first practical step or the best practical step for them to do, if they don’t have ABA at this point?

Caitlyn :                              Oh, well the very first thing to do would be to make sure your kid has a current autism diagnosis, like within the last year. And you can speak with your pediatrician, you can ask for them to refer you. You can also, I think, self-refer through your insurance.

Tanya :                                The pediatrician has to write a prescription saying that they recommend ABA services. That’s all we need to get that ball rolling, to get an assessment done. So BCBA typically will go, evaluate, see the kid’s behaviors, skill deficits, all of this fun stuff, and then that’s when we recommend what we think is clinically appropriate for the kids. We also can recommend what environments we feel like would be appropriate for the kids too. So if it’s a clinic based service, if it’s only socialization programs. If it’s in-school, we do have some that we can do, most of it, in day-care center, and things of that nature.

Caitlyn :                              We also will do just strictly parent consultation and training, which is a really fantastic route that I think a lot of people are afraid of, ’cause they like “I want this person to be working with my kid”. But we can actually just go in and straight up teach you how to work with your kid, how to manage the home environment and do that stuff yourself and consult with you on Ips. Because not everybody-

Amanda Selogie:              Because the parent is gonna be with the child the most-

Caitlyn :                              Yes!

Tanya :                                Yes!

Amanda Selogie:              And so if we have a specialist come in and work a couple hours, that’s great for those hours, but if we’re not generalizing it to the rest of their day, that’s important too.

Caitlyn :                              Right. And with that I guess I’ll just make sure to state too that we do parent training as part of the general package anyway, like if we’re doing one on one services. We know ABA doesn’t really work that well if, like you said, this person’s with your kid two hours a day and then they leave, and they might be able to get your kid to do all this cool stuff but then they leave and they’re a mess with you, then that’s not okay with us. We’ve just wasted literally everyone’s time. And especially your kid’s time, and they’re running out of time to learn this stuff. We have to have that sense of urgency and in order to get the most juice out of these services, it takes parents’ commitment and ability and desire to really learn how to, like we were talking about, learn how to change the environment with you being a big part of the environment as the adults in the situation.

Amanda Selogie:              Absolutely.

Vickie Brett:                      I just am so excited. We’ll have to have a part two because-

Amanda Selogie:              And maybe a part three or part four.

Caitlyn :                              And we didn’t even get to the goals. [crosstalk 00:36:24]

Vickie Brett:                      I know, but it’s one of those things where I think it was a lot of information, you were able to give parents a lot to think about. And I think just in those small chunks, it’s how we always, you just work with our minds sometimes.

Amanda Selogie:              Well and I think we’ll have to have one pod just on goals. One pod just on maybe what a BIP looks like. We could probably have like 100 of these with you guys and really breaking it down more.

Caitlyn :                              We might have to Skype the next one in order to get us all in the same place at the same time. But yeah, no that would be amazing, we have so much to say about it.

Vickie Brett:                      And I’m sure, some parents would be anxious to figure out how they can contact you. Do you guys know how we can do that?

Caitlyn :                              Can we take referrals through them? Like can they contact you guys?

Vickie Brett:                      Yeah contact us. [crosstalk 00:37:05]

Caitlyn :                              If you’re interested in us, we are serving the, I mean us personally, we’re serving the LA area at this time. We are pretty much LA, Torrance, Downey, basically you think of the whole basin, we’re there. But the company we work for is also all over the place. It’s everywhere in the country.

Vickie Brett:                      So contact us at admin, A as in apple, D as in dog, M as in Mary, I as in igloo, N as in Nancy, at I-E-P California dot org, and we can put you into contact with Caitlyn  or Tanya . If you have any other questions that we may not be able to answer or if you wanna just specifically get in contact with them, that’s a great idea, just so we can kind of filter that on through to you.

Caitlyn :                              Absolutely.

Amanda Selogie:              And if you have specific behavioral subjects or topics that you want us to talk about the next we have these lovely ladies on the pod, send us an email. Send us a Facebook message, Instagram message, whatever. We’re around. You see us.

Vickie Brett:                      And that’s how we’re gonna end it. Bye!

Amanda Selogie:              Bye!

Caitlyn :                              Bye!

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