Verbal Behavior Approach: How to Teach Children with Autism and       Related Disorders [Mary Lynch Barbera]

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Getting ABA/VB Services Started in Your Child’s School

There are lots of ways to try to educate school staff on the principles of ABA/Verbal Behavior and get this type of programming in place within educational settings. Bringing in a knowledgeable speaker on the topic of ABA/VB is probably the most common way to begin. This can often "jump-start" enthusiasm for ABA/VB but will take time and money to sponsor a speaker. If you have a local autism support group or autism school with some ability to bring in a speaker, you may want to try to get that agency to sponsor or co-sponsor a workshop.

Many parents and professionals have said my book (The Verbal Behavior Approach) gave them a great overview of the concepts so for relatively little investment, some parents have purchased multiple copies of my book for their child’s teacher, SLP, OT, and paraprofessionals.

But if education professionals are not motivated to read the book or attend a workshop, you could be wasting your money. And, even if they do hear a knowledgeable speaker present on ABA/VB and/or read my book, they still will most likely have difficulty applying the concepts.

Without on-going consultation and support, it is usually very difficult for teachers to learn how to apply ABA/VB concepts to correctly program and teach children on the autism spectrum. Some schools who agree to provide an initial training on ABA/VB will also contract with the trainer or another qualified Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) to provide on-going consultative support for a particular classroom or school. This is often a very good situation with program oversight provided for the entire classroom of students and training and guidance for the staff.

If you have difficulty getting things going in your child's classroom or school, another strategy is to start small and focus on getting ABA/VB for your child only (not for the whole classroom). One way to get things started for an individual child is to try to get a BCBA with VB expertise in your child's IEP for a specified period of time each month (i.e. 4, 6, or 8 hours) for program oversight. Putting staff training (for example 6 hours before anyone new works with the child) in the IEP also can also be essential and the BCBA whose services are the IEP can provide that training.

Having the BCBA hours within one child's IEP may not change the entire classroom immediately but over time it might. Plus, if these services are in your child's IEP, the BCBA and staff training requirements will follow the student to middle school and then to high school. This may mean that you won't have to start your advocacy efforts over again as the child transitions and as staff come and go over the years. Getting BCBA services and staff training in the IEP may be difficult but since the IEP legally drives services, I believe it might be something worth pursuing.

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  1. This is a great idea.. however getting it implemented is very difficult if not impossible. As a teacher (in Autism)I can tell you first hand that there is a very negative opinion about ABA/VB as a service in the county I work for.(Mostly due to cost and ignorance). Although I like it, and am trained (from another school district) it is not the preferred mode of delivery in my new county, even though parents are requesting it. How do you get this service on the IEP when the county is bullying parents and teachers not to put this in the IEP? Parents are told that ABA/VB is only 1 way to educate the child. Why a Cadalac if a Chevy will do? kind of mentality. If I suggest ABA/VB, I am sternly warned not too because then the county would have to pay for it and it is too costly. Not to mention, I would be evaluated negativly on my yearly review for 'making waves' This county has had some parents take the meeting to due process and on 3 occasions the services were omitted because basically you can not tell a school district how to teach, they are the experts and parents, BCBA's are not teachers. How does this happen in modern times? All of this meeting time between school and parents costs time and money on both sides. Yet, parents must be educated and stand up for what is right for their child. As teachers, we know what needs to be done but often our hands are tied for monetary and ignorant reasons.

  2. Mary, I think your suggestions are excellent, as usual; and the anonymous concerns are also realistic.
    Dick Malott BCBA-D

  3. what if there are just no BCBA's in your area? i teach in a rural county and would love to onbtain BCBA consultation for my students, at least on an as-need by case basis, but just cant find one.

  4. One way to find BCBA's is to search for them by zipcode at If you don't have luck there, you could contact your State Department of Education and see if there is a specialist with ABA experience who could assist.