I've just finished a long, but very interesting, two days at the Carbone Clinic, just outside of Boston, attending an Essential for Living Workshop. It was not only great to be able to finally understand the program, and how the assessment works (really, really amazing!), but it was wonderful to be in the presence of Dr. Pat McGreevy, who was a very engaging, yet laid back presenter (which is right up my alley!)
Essential For Living Workshop, Boston.
If you're unfamiliar with what exactly Essential for Living is, you can click on the link to visit the website, but I will give a very brief breakdown and overview here.
Firstly, it is a way to decide a method of speaking for an individual. It helps the people completing the assessment (who are supporting the individual at the centre of the program) figure out what would be the most appropriate way for this person to communicate, easily. Secondly, it is a functional life skills assessment and curriculum, which means it looks at what are the "Essential" skills for being able to live a happy, safe, and productive life. It not only provides a very thorough, yet easy to administer assessment, but it suggests appropriate skills to teach, and allows you to track them. The thing that really stood out for me was that it would help the individual, at the centre of the program, be able to express their basic needs, which would be beneficial for many different reasons. Anything that promotes, actually, really promotes Quality of Life, is something I want to be involved in.
Some other things I took away from the workshop, were ideas for data collection overall - what do I really need to be taking data on, and how can I make this effective, and useful, through Behaviour Techs who are implementing the program? Data collection is always tricky, but I really think I can re-shape how I am doing this, and make this much more worthwhile.
The second thing that stood out for me was how can I incorporate even more Natural Environment Teaching (NET), into my sessions. It was wonderful to be able to watch Dr. McGreevy demonstrate how to teach requesting, or tolerating 'no', and sitting there thinking... "Great, that is what I'm doing! I'm on the right track!" It's not easy to implement NET throughout sessions, particularly if you've come from early intensive behavioural intervention (i.e. intensive ABA), like me (many, many, many years ago!) It is almost a completely opposite way of practicing, and takes some time, and practice, to get used to, and seize all the opportunities you have during a teaching session. But, it has given me a lot to think about, and ideas for training our Behaviour Techs in ways to do this.
An example of an EFL data sheet, with small steps in skills - including can the person do this skill without problem behaviour, without prompts, in different settings etc
It was also quite nice to be in a professional development/training situation where a) I wasn't delivering the training!, and b) we were talking about motivating operations, and echoic-to-mand transfer procedures 🤓 AND being able to follow and understand! I got to chat to a few people who were also attending, and there were a lot of classroom teachers, who were going to be using this assessment and curriculum in their classrooms! Such a strange concept for me - I cannot imagine any schools in Australia doing this, or anything even remotely like this, but good to hear about.
The last thing I loved about it, was being able to finally attend a workshop at the Carbone Clinic. I have been observing their workshop schedule for years, and tried so hard to get to a Verbal Behaviour workshop, but have not been able to make it. So I got to meet some of their lovely staff including Emily, and pick her brain about training ideas.
My brain is swimming with thoughts and ideas, but I will have to try and make sense of them over the next few weeks. Looking forward to chatting more in person to families, and colleagues, when I get back!
And, just to demonstrate how small this field is (although this wasn't really related to ABA specifically), but one of the workshop attendees handed me a research article he just happened to have in his bag, on Australian teacher perceptions of ABA. Apart from that just being interesting to consider in the first place, the idea behind the research was, if teachers have an unfavourable opinion of ABA, can we provide a short presentation/training on what ABA is, and how it can be utilised in classrooms to change their opinions. That presentation/training is now what I know as the 'Positive Teaching Workshop', that I deliver a few times a year around the country! Professor Wheldall, of MultiLit, and his colleagues were mentioned multiple times in the article! What a small world!