Working with Providers

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is providing many opportunities for people to access supports and services that they may have never been able to before.

It also opens up a dynamic, and innovative marketplace, for new, and exciting providers to provide specialty, niche services, based on the needs of the consumers.

Once you get through the initial planning stage with the NDIS, you will then have to choose service providers. There are lots of options, depending on what your needs are, where you live, age, etc and lots of ways to find different service providers. Google is a great place to start – google ‘the service you are looking for’ + ‘your suburb and state’ and it should give you some information.

When choosing a service provider to work with, there are a range of different things to consider. Below is a list of some of these. Before signing up with any specific organisation, ensure you feel comfortable, and have any questions answered.

service agreement

Service Agreements

Generally you will have a service agreement, that should be clear, and easy to understand. This will describe what the service you are signing up for, involves – including sessions, times, costing, complaints procedures, and how to end the service agreement. The NDIS have provided a template on their website. You should be able to take the time to read through the service agreement, and suggest any changes you want to see.

question mark

Ask Questions

Ask as many questions as you want! Find out everything you need to know. Make a list of what you want to know, write down questions, and take it to your initial meeting. Also grab the details of your contact at the organisation – email and/or phone number – so if you have questions later, you can always contact them.

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Goals

Your NDIS plan should have specific goals you are working towards – does this provider line up with supports to help you achieve your goals. On the flip side, how does your provider measure goals and progress? Do they provide initial assessments? Are there ongoing monitoring tools? Are the monthly session summaries? It is important to make sure the supports you have in place are helping you to achieve your goals, and the best way to do this, is monitor, as you go! (Not just at the end of your NDIS plan!)

There are many other things to think about and consider, and you may be able to access some support in finding and engaging service providers, through a Local Area Coordinator (LAC), with the NDIS.

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Working with Providers

How do we get from A to B?

Just a short blog post, but this is something I have been having many discussions with lots of different people – both colleagues, and families – over the past few weeks.

I recently delivered a workshop on reading assessment, so that sparked my thoughts on the matter, but in general, this is something that I believe is absolutely essential in any program.

Assessment. In general, not specific assessments, or Naplan testing, or those “bigger picture” thoughts about assessment, but just the idea of assessing where you are at, before beginning a program.

It seems like common sense, you need to do some sort of assessment before knowing where to begin, or what you are going to do, but more often than not, I come across professionals, in different areas, who have no done no assessment (either at the beginning of a service, or throughout), or sometimes cannot even clearly share goals that they are working towards.

I often wonder why some professionals who are involved with families I am working with do not have any form of initial assessment, goals, or review assessment.

As I said, it seems fairly straight forward to think a) you need to know the current level of skills of the individual and b) you need to know where you are planning to get to and create goals. It helps guide what you are doing, it gives you direction. (Perhaps B is forgotten because there are no goals… again, happens more often that I would hope.)

Why is this the case?

Are these professionals not informed about assessment and how to use it effectively in their study? Is it not part of their ongoing professional development?

I have come across some professionals who have extensive experience in assessment, but don’t seem to do much with it. I also have come across some professionals who don’t seem to think it is essential to assess, and rather just get straight in and start implementing…

Both those points confuse me. I don’t see the point in just doing an assessment for the sake of it. It needs to have more purpose (planning, overview of skills, comparison etc), otherwise, why spend time doing it? And then just not doing it at all… how are you meant to know if what you are doing is working? Helping? Effective?

For me, when working with different people in different capacities, I ensure I always have a timeline for the program or service. Starting with an initial assessment, goal setting/skills teaching, and a review component with a report, after a certain period of time.

Up until that period of time, there is ongoing data collection and monitoring (daily/weekly), because the time between the initial assessment and report, and the review, could be up to ten weeks, and you don’t want to be doing something that isn’t working, for ten weeks.

I like to share this concept, with not only the family I am working with, but other professionals too. I have had one person say that it was helpful for her to see how I collected data, created goals and planned using my assessment. I’m not sure if she took on board some of the things I shared, for other clients of hers, but she was interested when we were working together.

I also find sharing this idea of assessment, planning, ongoing monitoring and reviewing, with families, is beneficial. Particularly in early intervention. A lot of parents sign up for services because other parents suggested it, or they were advised (as part of a generic list) during the assessment to try particular services. I try to stress the importance to parents to ask specific questions, ask for reviews, ask for reports. Hopefully they take the information with them and are slightly more critical when accessing services.

I’m not sure if this is restricted to services and professionals in Australia, and not necessarily the case in other parts of the world, but it would be interesting to hear people’s thoughts.

How do we get from A to B?

How did I get here?

Occasionally, I stop and think on how I got to what I am doing, and why. I sort of know the origins of my interest in behaviour and ABA, but it really hasn’t been something I can recall from a young age.

I remember doing Ed Psych at uni, (EDUC105!) and learning about all the different developmental theories out there. Skinner’s theory resonated well with me. I am not exactly sure why. I think I liked the positive reinforcement aspect, and I definitely didn’t understand it in its purest, behavioural form just then, but I knew I liked it.

A friend of mine started doing Intensive ABA therapy, and she said she could really see me doing it. I then went on exchange to North Carolina and did an early intervention subject and a literacy in elementary education subject. I actually used my exchange period to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

Anyway, as I said, the two subjects helped me realise what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to do primary teaching, I wanted to do early childhood, but it was too late to change. I remember having a conversation with my Mum on the phone one afternoon saying I didn’t know which path I wanted to take! Literacy or Autism? (/ABA). And this was before I had any experience in either! I have always said, I should have picked one over the other, and while I don’t regret continuing down both paths, it definitely has made things a little more difficult, and perhaps slower than if I had focused on one or the other. But I honestly couldn’t pick one over the other now!

When I got home from my exchange period, I found a family who needed an ABA therapist / school shadow and it was a perfect position for me. I got to be in the classroom with his two teachers, who were amazing at what they did! And I got to practice ABA. This family is one of my families I am still in touch with today 🙂 I am so grateful to have been given that opportunity.

I then also started working on the literacy side of things at the same time, tutoring using specific programs.

Its all funny how it works out. An aside memory I have, which has nothing to do with my choices of study or work, but it was interesting as it was said to me, was when I was working at BBQ Galore (one of my many, many, casual jobs!) A man who was buying a BBQ asked what I was doing (other than working there!) I told him I was studying primary teaching. He sort of laughed it off and said I should do special education. Not necessarily at Macquarie, but anywhere, as there is always a need for more special ed teachers. Obviously, it was a passing comment, and from a teacher, who knew what it was like, but I think its funny that I ended up in this field.

I’m so glad that I did end up in this area. I think innately, I have skills that are beneficial, but I know I have had to develop skills that are crucial for my work. And I’m not even talking technical skills. These are personal skills that allow me to do this work. Empathy, understanding, concern, persistence, perseverance. There is a fine line between being completely empathetic and understanding of a family’s concerns, and being too empathetic which can lead into being condescending. I feel as if I do a good job of “being on the family’s side” without losing professional (ABA) integrity, and being too empathetic. It is difficult to juggle.

I still know I have a lot more to learn. I know I continually will be learning. I am trying to read as much as possible, connect with different people around the world, and definitely continue to study. I am very motivated to work towards my BCBA for 2016. I think it will make things so much more concrete for me, and even now, re-reading things on verbal behaviour, or learning about different applications of ABA, or revisiting operant conditioning, or transfer procedures, or CMO-T’s … 😛 it is all making more sense.

I’m so glad I have figured out what I want to do, and am able to do it. There have been some ups and downs (some pretty down downs), but I am very content where I am now, and where I am headed. I know I am lucky to work in a job I love, and in particular at a place of work that I really enjoy. Not everyone can do that.

It is a very rewarding job, and I know my friends can take it lightly when I tell them I went to the beach for the afternoon with one of my kids, but I know they know how hard I work and that when things are bad, they can be pretty bad. And in that situation, as a family member, its hard to put aside emotion and deal with it. Its hard enough for me to do so, but I know how to work through it. And that comes with experience and practice, and is what I am there to do!

Anyway, I had this originally titled as “Blast from the past” because I was going through old uni folders. I am very embarrased by some of my earlier essays. And astounded at my dedication to study! I used to write up notes for each week’s lectures! And even scan in parts of my textbook! Ahh the early days of uni! Behaviourism – in its earliest form, via me.

I also now have a much clearer purpose of what I want to achieve. Some of it is within Australia, some of it is outside of Australia. I definitely want people to understand what I do, and how what I do can be applied – ABA is not just for kids who have Autism! It’s not even just for educational purposes! I know that there is a big push from a lot of behaviourists who want to do this, and make it more understood. There have been a few social media campaigns recently that have helped with this, in particular, The Skybound Therapy video on a very successful ABA program. But that is all for another blog post another day 🙂

I always like hearing how people ended up in this field. It never seems to be a straight forward, “Oh I wanted to be a behaviour analyst when I was a little kid…”

How did I get here?

Around the world with 80 Behaviour Analysts …

Part 1, Hawaii!

Although that would be quite cool to travel the world, chatting to behaviour analysts and seeing how they work in different parts of the world, I’m not quite sure how manageable that would be. So I’ll start with a short meeting in Hawaii.

I recently spent a few nights in Hawaii, celebrating some milestone birthdays with friends, but because I can’t seem to be able to sit still, I organised to catch up with Behavior Babe – Amanda Kelly!

hawaii

We chatted over dinner about the way funding is organised in the US vs Australia (and the differences between the states within the US) and just in general about the quality of programs and educational opportunities for Behaviour Analysis at universities and colleges.

It was great to catch up and just gain another perspective on ABA and the whole behaviour certification thing I have been aiming towards for many years.

And I have since come back very motivated and refreshed, and ready to keep going!

So thank you Amanda for meeting with me, and I will hopefully see you again, on future trips to Hawaii … potentially for conferences 😀

Around the world with 80 Behaviour Analysts …

I would lose my head if it weren’t screwed on.

I say this, and “I wish I were an octopus” at least twice a day. The first one, because I can’t believe I remember half the things I need to do. And the second one, because I live up four flights of stairs, and I am only going to make one trip up from my car, so I carry all my bags in one go. And if I had eight arms, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue 🙂

In regards to remembering everything I need to do, I do have a few little tips and tricks that make things easier.

I live with one of my best friends (or at least, I think I still do – we haven’t crossed paths in a few weeks!) and it is always hard to keep track of where each other is and when we will be back. Fortunately 3M Post-It’s have provided us with a solution 😉

Helps keep track of what is happening during the week
Helps keep track of what is happening during the week

This weekly schedule sticks right on the fridge or wall, and can be wiped clean at the end of the week, ready for the next. I can see when my roomie will be home, or when she will be paddling across the Pacific Ocean 😮 , and we can keep track of when the rent is due, or the cleaner is coming. Very easy to use and it can help me know when she will be home so we can catch up!

Another prompt that has been extremely helpful, has been a visual prompt on the door, again, courtesy of 3M Post-It’s 😉

My lovely roomie has been training hard, waking up at 4am most mornings to do ocean paddling training, and not that I ever have been up at 4am, but I would definitely agree that some sort of stimulation would be needed i.e. coffee.

More often than not, I would wake up at a more reasonable hour to make my coffee, only to find a shot of coffee sitting in a cup on the coffee machine. At first I thought my roomie was being very kind and leaving me a pre-made (cold) coffee … and then I realised the more likely conclusion was, my roomie would make her coffee, and then forget to take it with her!

A visual reminder near the keys (needed to leave the apartment) has been successful.
A visual reminder near the keys (needed to leave the apartment) has been successful.

Since this visual has been in place, I haven’t found one cup of coffee left on the machine! I am tempted to withdraw the visual prompt to see if it is now something my roomie can remember without the need of a visual, but she did say it has been helpful (if it were me getting up at 4am, I think I would need two coffees!)

I have many other ways of helping me remember everything I need to do during the day or week.

My calendar on my phone – with reminders – tells me where I need to be and what bills I need to pay. Facebook alerts me to people’s birthdays (and this week it has been going crazy with birthday alerts!) I write post-it note lists and stick them to the back of my door to remind me what to pack, or take take medication.

These slightly unobtrusive, but in my line of sight prompts, help keep me on track. I like to point these things out to the families and workers I am working with to indicate we all use visuals, to varying degrees, to help us get through the day.

Another 3M Post-It product, that I think is rather clever, though I haven’t used it yet, are reminders for your bag, seat belt or steering wheel!

Small, handy reminders that are portable.
Small, handy reminders that are portable.

These would be great for if you need to stop by somewhere on the way home, take something with you or even to make a call. They stand out and remind you that you need to do something.

Visuals can be helpful for us to remember what we need to do, or plan ahead and know what is coming up, as long as they make sense, and are meaningful to us.

Check out 3M Post-It’s Home collection, available at Officeworks in Australia

I would lose my head if it weren’t screwed on.

Where do I begin?

The entire development and creation of ‘Great Start Educational Services’ has been a long time coming. It has something that has been at the back of my mind for many, many years. I kept a journal through everything I have done to help remind myself of what I want to do, and how to get there, and even though I still have a way to go, I know I am on the right track.

I honestly love what I do. I know I am very lucky to be in a job where I do love doing everything I do. I love the concepts, and the ideas of behaviourism. I love how I can look at any situation and know that I have a variety of tools and strategies at my disposal to use. I love working with passionate, like-minded people. I love learning new things, and finding out new things, and attending conferences, reading research, even just having conversations with people about a range of different topics that I am passionate about.

But I guess the main thing I love the most about my job, and what I thought would be a most appropriate first ‘official’ blog post, would be the families that I have worked with over the years.

I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to be a part of so many different families lives, and to help support them through different (and most often difficult) stages of their lives. I have worked with some amazing kids, and even more amazing Mums, Dads, siblings, Grandparents, teachers, Speechies, OT’s psychs, Pediatricians … the list goes on!

I love being able to be there for a family when they are unsure what to do, or how to tackle something. I love being able to teach new skills to kids, and see them get it, when it finally clicks!

This feeling is the same for all the kids and families I know. From the very first kids I worked with many, many years ago, up until all the families and kids I still meet today. Knowing them, and being a part of their lives in some way, shape, or form, has definitely shaped me into not only the person I am in my working life today, but the person I am in general.

So thank-you! I feel so lucky to know all of you 🙂

My aim for this blog is to be a (hopefully!) regular blog where I can post things I have found, different teaching ideas, interesting information, to help spread the word and share information about behaviourism.

Where do I begin?