One thing we know for certain is that consistency equals success. If your child has participated in a 1:1 home ABA program than surely you understand the importance of consistency. Imagine this image of “consistency”: you begin services with consistent team meetings where everyone is clearly on the same page, your supervisor provides weekly and monthly home visits at the same day/time, your therapy team arrives on time for every session, they conduct their sessions in a similar manner as the rest of the team, for the first 6 months there are zero cancellations, you (as the parents) have begun to implement the skills taught during ABA sessions outside of scheduled sessions in a consistent manner, and your child has made great progress! All due to consistency- what a lovely start, right? Then, one day your supervisor arrives at your door during a non-scheduled ABA session time and delivers the news in person. It goes something like this: “I need to notify you that (Behavior Tutor’s name) is leaving, their last session will be next Friday.” You suddenly panic as your equation of consistency=success has been tampered with.
It is no secret that turnover and transition is a part of every ABA agency. Turnover like most things in our world is out of our control and yet it can be extremely difficult to accept. How do we cope with transitions that involve staff changes and turn over? It may be easier to accept if the therapist were not a “match” for your child, or didn’t have the drive or motivation to further himself or herself in this field. However, in most cases the therapist become like a surrogate family; like extended cousins who happen to teach! One such way to find the coping tools for this change is to turn to our children.
Many children diagnosed with Autism find their worlds shaken whenever they are confronted with drastic or minor changes in their environments. Preparing our kiddos with visual schedules and by talking about the next events are helpful tools to aide with transitions; and yet we also know that by exposing our kiddos to unforeseen changes is vital in working through the changes to build coping skills that will last life long. There is one key element in fostering this success- the trust your child has with you and all those who will carry them through the change in a safe manner. It is our instinct to let our children know that “everything is okay.” This usually follows the event the just coped through.
Changes are part of life. They can be scary, unsettling and overwhelming; but they can also be positive! In nearing towards the conclusion of this, July 2012s’ Blog, a note about positive turnover will be placed on the table as food for thought. Consider this, your child has great rapport with their female therapist, “Susan” who has been working with him/her for over 4 years. Their rapport is so strong that your therapist need only glance over to your child to provide non-verbal directives to which your child simply listens and complies. One of the reasons you love Susan is because of her stern, no-nonsense attitude. It is this very demeanor, which has carried your child through the most challenging years in their behavior program.
Sometime in the recent weeks, Susan informs you that she will be entering into a Master’s program in the fall. This will mean that instead of seeing your child 4 days per week, she will only be able to work with him/her 1 day per week. In order to maximize your child’s ABA hours, your supervisor decides to add a new therapist to the case. His name is Mark. Mark will be the first time your child has ever had a male therapist. Mark is energetic, enthusiastic and passionate about floor time approaches to ABA. Mark’s demeanor is the polar opposite of Susan’s. Your supervisor convinces you to give Mark a chance and if he simply isn’t a match, then other options would be considered. After a few weeks, your child begins to smile and laugh more than he/she has in years. Your child appears to be enjoying sessions with Mark and is asking for Mark to come back between sessions. In fact, your child has now made rapid progress across all their goals. You feel less anxious, more comfortable and decide to move forward with the new therapist.
Turnover and internal changes are beyond any agency’s control. At the end of the day one of the only things within anyone’s control is the choice to trust. Your agency, your supervisor, all staff who provided the building blocks of consistency in the beginning will again ask for your trust and patience in the process. Change is also difficult to accept for your agency and staff as well. We are all prone to having our world’s shaken and want for things to be predictable and safe. Just like our kiddos! It has been emphasized how crucial consistency is to the progress of any child, Autism or not. It has been emphasized, the degree and intensity to which change effects the child, Autism or not. Moreover, coping tools and supports provide our children with opportunities to transition through a new phase towards success as difficult and unsafe the changes may feel for them. Ironically, it may be even more difficult for us than for them…
Please share your experiences with turnover and transition positive or negative? What was the outcome? What are your thoughts on this issue? We would love to hear from you…