Reaching Across the Aisle

Recently Thea Davis, MS ED, BCBA, of Autism Bridges, spoke at the Social Thinking Conference in Boston.  Thea shared the Skills® curriculum as part of her presentation on the use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to teach higher order complex behaviors to individuals with autism.  ABA is used to teach these complex skills, including cognition (perspective- taking and private events), complex social language, and executive functioning.  Each of these skill domains is necessary for advanced social interaction.  As a comprehensive curriculum Skills® is unique in that it includes entire domains and many hundreds of activities for teaching the intricacies of these skills.  Thea was able to share all of this at the conference.

Sharing the Skills curriculum and the research behind it isn’t big news.  We are proud of our curriculum and always excited to share it.  We speak to behavior analysts about Skills every day.  The big news here is that Thea wasn’t speaking to behavior analysts.  She was speaking to 500+ speech pathologists, school psychologists, school district staff, and other service providers outside the field of ABA.   The attendees of the Social Thinking Conference were professionals who routinely work with children with autism, but may not have had previous exposure to the  complexity and scope of skills that can be taught using ABA.

Without diving too deep into politics, the field of ABA has struggled to promote itself and the remarkable advancements and outcomes in ABA research.  As scientists we tend to think the results should speak for themselves. The problem arises when these results never reach outside the ABA community.  We end up practicing in a bubble and non-ABA practitioners and consumers can’t benefit from our developments.   Most damaging of all, when advancements in the field aren’t shared, practitioners outside of the field often maintain outmoded understandings and prejudices about ABA.

At the conference, Thea had the dual role of introducing new information and serving as an ambassador for ABA.  Thea was excited with the response she received from the attendees.  Many were not aware that behavior analysts had developed a curriculum to address such complex skills and there was a lot of interest in incorporating the Skills curriculum into programs for children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome and even into speech and language programs.

Opportunities like Thea’s give behavior analysts a chance to increase the understanding of ABA to those outside the field. If we continue to interact and collaborate with as well as learn from and educate professionals in the educational and medical fields we have a very exciting future.  The benefit for practitioners is huge, but the benefit to our clients and students is incalculable.