One way that Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) can be helpful to children is to collaborate with the child’s school, specifically with the child’s teachers.
Supporting a Child’s Education with BCBA-Teacher Collaboration
Ideally, BCBAs will collaborate with the teachers of the children they work with before the child starts school, at the beginning of the school year, and throughout the school year to support the child’s success in their educational activities.
Another benefit of collaborating with teachers is to help coordinate behavior intervention plans and skill acquisition programs. BCBAs and teachers can work together to help make sure the child is experiencing similar reinforcement, antecedent strategies, prompting, and other behavioral interventions which ultimately helps the child develop new skills and behaviors more quickly. This collaboration helps the child generalize their skills in new settings and with new people, as well, which is an essential component of helping children learn and grow.
Challenges of Collaborating with Other Service Providers
Sometimes, collaborating with other professionals can be challenging for BCBAs and for other types of service providers, as well. When professionals working in two different fields try to come together in an effort to help a particular child, challenges may arise.
This could be due to a variety of reasons. However, most commonly the difficulties might be from the fact that each professional is engaging in the collaboration from a focused mindset. They are interacting with the other professional simply from their own point of view and with their own agenda. This then makes them less open to hearing and understanding what the other professional has to say and truly hearing the other person’s valid professional opinions and recommendations.
Additionally, without having enough psychological flexibility, BCBAs can feel stuck in the interactions they have with other professionals. This can interfere with the student’s progress which is the opposite of what the BCBA (and the other professionals involved with the student) are trying to achieve.
Psychological flexibility helps a person to be more open-minded, to change their perspective or their plan of action based on information from other people or from their environment. Psychological flexibility is being flexible in our mind, our thought process, and in our behavior.
Effective BCBA-Teacher Collaboration & Soft Skills
BCBAs can also have more effective collaboration with teachers if they utilize soft skills often. Soft skills are most often described as skills related to the non-technical aspects of working. These are skills that aren’t necessarily related to the particular field you are working in. Instead, they are skills that often translate across different workplaces. Some soft skills will be more helpful in certain careers than in others, but most soft skills are valuable in most jobs and even in your personal life.
What are Soft Skills?
Soft skills have to do with how you interact with others, so how you, as a BCBA, interact with teachers or other professionals. They also have to do with how you manage conflict as well as how you handle your overall job tasks.
Here are a few examples of how BCBAs can use soft skills to collaborate with teachers:
- LISTENING SKILLS: Be sure to truly take the time to listen to the teacher’s perspective and opinions. Express understanding of what you hear them saying.
- EMPATHY: Show empathy in your interactions with teachers. Teachers have a uniquely challenging job. Be empathetic toward them by putting effort into understanding their emotions and perspective.
- COMPROMISE: Compromise with teachers on intervention plans being created for the learner you are both trying to help particularly when your perspectives or priorities differ.
- CREATIVE THINKING: Use outside-the-box thinking to come up with new and creative ideas to help the student. Try getting insight from the teacher to help come up with these ideas (i.e., What materials are available in the classroom? What systems are already in place for reinforcing students’ behaviors?)
- CONFLICT RESOLUTION: Be compassionate when addressing problems. Work together to resolve conflict.
- COMMUNICATION: Be an effective communicator. One way to do this is to create easy-to-understand intervention plans and/or recommendations that you share with teachers. You can have clearly written programs that you share with teachers. You can also practice effective communication skills verbally by using terminology that the teacher might be familiar with when describing your recommendations. It’s okay to use terminology from the behavior analytic literature as long as you communicate your message well.
Structured Collaboration Tips to Improve a Child’s Education
To best collaborate with teachers of students that BCBAs work with, BCBAs should create a structured yet flexible plan. If possible, it can be helpful to meet with the child’s teacher before the school year starts. This can be beneficial in many ways. The BCBA and teacher can develop a plan that will be likely to benefit the child or they can share information with one another about the child’s needs, abilities, and goals. Then, the BCBA and teacher can use this information to improve their services for the child.
BCBAs should also have regularly scheduled meetings with teachers to keep the line of communication open, make changes to interventions as needed, and monitor the progress and generalization of skills. The rate of meetings will vary depending on the student’s needs. It could be biweekly at the beginning of the year and then fade to once every two months. It really depends on the needs of the student.
Including Parents in BCBA-Teacher Collaboration
It is also very important to include parents when BCBAs and teachers are working together to help a particular student. The parent can bring an additional element to improve the collaboration. Parents can also help make the student’s experience in both school and ABA more consistent. Parents can help by sharing their own insight on what their child might benefit from in a behavior or intervention plan. They can also add valuable information about the child’s preferences and personality.
How to Best Collaborate with Teachers as a BCBA
BCBAs can help their clients in many ways; one of those ways being to collaborate with the child’s teacher. To collaborate with teachers effectively, Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) should consider the soft skills they use in their interactions with teachers. They should consider the teacher’s perspective and the teacher’s professional recommendations.
BCBAs can best collaborate with teachers by practicing effective receptive and expressive communication skills, being empathetic, and focusing on the ultimate goal of helping the students in ways that will be most realistic given the child’s educational circumstances, the child’s needs, and the child’s abilities. Be sure to be planful and incorporate parents in your collaboration with teachers, as well.
Billing, Reporting, and Practice Management Support
As a BCBA, you likely know the importance of keeping your reports and client information organized and secure. BCBA practice owners and behavior analysts involved in the administrative side of managing an organization are also familiar with the challenges of billing and keeping track of authorizations. To help you with billing and a variety of other practice management tasks, consider WebABA.
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