National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2022

4th year paraprofessional & 2nd school year in a public school district in FL

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month! I have been so fortunate to be working full time as a paraprofessional for a public school district in FL. Currently, I am in my second school year within the public school district in FL. I have continued to showcase my love and passion for working with students with disabilities. As of last year, I have been so thankful to been giving an opportunity to work on several part time roles with Full Spectrum ABA, an ABA company located on the west coast in FL. Last year, I started out as an autistic advocate and blogger for Full Spectrum ABA. I support and educate Full Spectrum ABA’s behavior analysts and RBTs while creating educational and informative blog stories on a weekly basis. The company helped me grow so much this year by becoming an autistic registered behavior technician (RBT)! I got back into working with the autism population. For the past few months now, I have been providing ABA therapy part time with an autistic client a couple of days a week. We made so much progress in a short amount of time! I’m beyond grateful for the employment opportunities I’ve gotten in the past few years. This is my employment success story!

Want to know ways to advocate and increase employment for people with disabilities? Here is some advice:

  1. Hire people with disabilities
  2. Provide opportunities in various departments within your company or organization
  3. Provide different employment options within your company or organization
  4. Create work spaces meeting employees’ individual needs

How else would you advocate and spread awareness for disability employment? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Time management

A lot of autistic people sometimes struggle with time management. This can be due to focus on special interests or even many demands on their plate causing meltdowns and/or procrastination to occur. What are some ways to balance everything and reduce stress at the same time? Here is some advice on developing time management skills:

  1. Do not make too many commitments that you cannot keep. I admit I’ve taken on more than I can handle before in the past. That was a mistake of mine, and it caused me to feel stressed out. Make sure to create boundaries and stick with them. If you can only handle a couple of tasks and activities a week, stick with it.
  2. Make a schedule and stick with it! I apply color codes on my phone calendar, so I know what I’m accomplishing and looking forward to for the upcoming week. I color code base off of my jobs, college, volunteering, etc. It is important to schedule everything between hard work and fun for your overall health.
  3. Break down tasks and activities into smaller ones. It is important to take breaks in between tasks and activities, so you do not end up feeling overwhelmed and stressed. So much progress can be made by letting yourself take small breaks in between tasks and activities.
  4. Do not wait last minute to get things done! You are better off prioritizing what is important to get done first, and then get everything else done with at a different time. You are more likely to be successful when you plan things out rather than completing everything last minute.

It does take time and practice to develop on time management skills. Motivation is the key towards completion and success!

How do you balance everything? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Extracurricular activities

Want to know some benefits about extracurricular activities for the neurodiverse community?

If not, extracurricular activities can benefit so much for the neurodiverse community. Extracurricular activities can provide neurodiverse individuals who struggle academically with opportunities to shine and grow. Plus, they provide opportunities for neurodiverse individuals to focus on their strengths and interests, develop skills in many areas of life, build self-esteem, and socialize with peers. Not only that, extracurricular activities allow more opportunities for people to develop compassion, patience, and acceptance of individuals part of the neurodiverse community. Now let me share some personal insight about being involved in extracurricular activities.

Reading at my little sister’s kindergarten school with book club back in 2015

It all started in my elementary school years when my family and I participated in taekwondo for a few years. From there, my older sister, my brother, and I got involved with volunteering for my town’s organization called Marlboro TAC. I learned ever since then that it is important to help people and places in need. My high school years was when I participated in after school clubs, such as book club and American Sign Language (ASL) club. I participated in these two after school clubs based on my interests and created great friendships and connections. Not only that, I was a peer mentor for my high school’s cougar connections program, in which I was a mentor to students with disabilities in my high school. Extracurricular activities helped me grow and get to where I’m at today.

Want to know some extracurricular activities to get involve in as a neurodiverse individual or your child as a parent? Here are some ideas:

  1. Sports (ex: swimming, taekwondo, tennis, bowling, football, soccer, etc.)
  2. Boy scouts/ Girl scouts
  3. Music programs
  4. Theater programs
  5. Visual arts programs
  6. Computer and technology clubs
  7. Volunteering

What are some extracurricular activities in your school or in your town? If you have experience with extracurricular activities, what have you been involved? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section!

ABA services in Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)

Credit: Autism Spectrum News

Many families request ABA services at school for their child, not just at home. How do you add ABA services into your child’s individualized education plan (IEP)? Here are the steps to take:

  1. Document the need for ABA services in school due to previous, unsuccessful interventions for your child. Make sure to bring data collection of previous, unsuccessful interventions as evidence when meeting with your child’s IEP team.
  2. Make sure to get recommendations from your child’s teachers and other service-related providers in their school in which they request ABA therapy services in school for your child.
  3. Your child’s IEP team will evaluate reports and materials for your child’s need of ABA therapy in school. The team will look for regression of skills and/or unsuccessful interventions.
  4. When your child’s IEP team approves, they will add ABA services into your child’s IEP, and your child will receive ABA therapy at school.
  5. When your child’s IEP team does not approve ABA services, then parents have a right by law to file for a request for a due process hearing to resolve the disagreement.

Keep in mind that if your child is already receiving ABA therapy services outside of school, make sure your insurance company can cover for costs of ABA services at school as well before advocating them into your child’s IEP.

Do you think ABA services should be implemented in schools like OT, PT, and speech therapy services?

Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Back to school

Many states have been back in school while some have not just yet. Autistic people often face difficulties with transitioning back to school because of either being home all summer or engaging in other structured activities over the summer. How can you help an autistic child, client, or student get back into their school routine?

Here are some ways to help transition an autistic child, student, or client back to school:

1. Communicate! It is important to let an autistic individual know ahead of time that they will be back in school real soon. When they are given the heads up, autistic people can prepare themselves for the school routine.

2. Provide visual supports! Autistic people need support through visual cues to get them back into their school routine. This can be done through token economy boards, a visual picture schedule of school and classroom routine, written list of behavior expectations and tasks, a school map, etc.

3. Teach behavior expectations! It is vital to teach autistic people appropriate behaviors for school through clear instructions. You can provide written instructions as well for those who are visual learners. A couple of approaches to teach autistic people appropriate behaviors for getting back into school routine is through modeling and shaping.

4. Increase choices for activities! Getting back into a routine can be stressful sometimes. By providing autistic people choices, it allows them to create their own routine. They learn to make decisions while helping them transition smoothly back to school. Not only helps them, but it helps you as a teacher, therapist, parent, etc.

5. Create a sensory space! After slowly getting back into school routine, create a sensory space for autistic people to recharge themselves. Fill up the sensory space with comfortable cushions, favorite toys or teddies, visual timers, fidget toys, a heavy/weighted blanket or other sensory calming toys. Autistic people should have the time like everyone else to recharge after being out all day before getting back into routine at home.

These tips can help autistic people get back into their school routine after having a good summer. What do you think? How else would you get an autistic child, client, or student back into school? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Interview with Dr. Jennifer Bellotti as a BCBA-D and executive president of FSBA

I am so excited to announce I reached 40 guests in my podcast series on, “The World of Autism”!

Over a year now, I had 40 guests featured in my podcast series for the “The World of Autism”. I brought on autistic self-advocates, therapists, teachers, parents, siblings, professionals, etc., come on to share their experiences with educating about autism and advocating for the autism community. The 40th guest is someone I personally work with from Full Spectrum ABA, and I am honored to have this guest featured on, “The World of Autism”. Here is my 40th guest:

Dr. Jennifer Bellotti

Dr. Jennifer Bellotti is a behavior analyst doctorate and executive president of FSBA (Full Spectrum ABA). She has extensive expertise and experiences with providing behavior therapy services in multiple settings for clients ages 4 to 18 with all kinds of disabilities. She provides behavior therapy services for all levels of functioning and behavioral needs. Also, she’s been involved in many behavior analytic studies and presented at conferences. Plus, her and Collin Streetman (BCBA) developed the autism advocacy program for FSBA, in which involves inclusion by hiring people with disabilities to work in multiple departments within the ABA company. Currently, there are 8+ autistic staff members in FSBA. I thank Dr. Jennifer Bellotti for all that she does for the company! Here is the guest interview I did with Dr. Jennifer Bellotti:

To learn more about Dr. Jennifer Bellotti, click on the link here: https://www.fullspectrumaba.com/phds-bios

Do you have any questions about FSBA? Do you have questions for Dr. Jennifer Bellotti? Share your questions in the comments section!

Open book tests in schools

Do you feel open book tests should be incorporated more in schools?

As a paraprofessional for a few years so far, I’ve noticed students struggle with memorization tests more so now than ever before. I understand the education system needs to implement memorization tests to assess students’ knowledge, but it should not be the main way of assessing students. Not all students respond to memorization tests as well as others. Therefore, open book tests should be placed in schools and classrooms.

Open book tests teach students to be resourceful. Not only students should know the answers to questions, but they need to be able to look up the answers as quick as possible. Many skills are incorporated that will be valuable for students’ future, such as looking up information within students’ college courses and in their jobs and careers.

Furthermore, we know that memorization tests increase students’ anxiety, so open book tests help decrease anxiety students feel when taking tests. Open book tests help students better focus on subject concepts. As a result, creates a better outlook for taking exams in school and beyond.

After reading this blog story, do you agree open book tests should be incoporated more in schools? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Advice from an autistic paraprofessional

Entering 4th school year as a paraprofessional

As you all know, I wear many hats because I work more than one job. I have been a paraprofessional for many years. Recently, I entered into my 4th school year as a paraprofessional. I am not just as any paraprofessional. I am a paraprofessional on the autism spectrum! Most of my experiences consist of working with elementary school students on the autism spectrum, but I have experiences working with elementary school students with various disabilities. So, what is my advice for paraprofessionals working with students with disabilities?

  1. Do not expect progress right away. Your student as a 1-on-1 paraprofessional, or your students as a classroom paraprofessional will not grow right away. Progress takes time.
  2. Observe how your student(s)learn. They may pick up new skills more quickly than others. If you see a student struggle with a skill after practicing, then teach them a new approach to master the skill. Through your observations and various teaching approaches, your student(s) will grow.
  3. You must be patient! Be patient towards students with disabilities because they need some accommodations and modifications to be successful in life.
  4. It is important to take things head on and be flexible because in the end, students will appreciate what you do for them in the long run.

I believe my advice can help paraprofessionals approach students with disabilities from different lenses. What do you think? Was there anything I left out for paraprofessionals to be successful? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

ABLE to save month

Did you know it is #ABLEtosavemonth?

#ABLEtosavemonth recognizes the need to help people with disabilities save and invest money. By opening ABLE accounts, people with disabilities can save and invest money for their future. ABLE accounts are a game changer for the disability community! Want to know how?

  1. ABLE accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts, which means income earned by individuals with disabilities are NOT taxed.
  2. ABLE accounts can help individuals with disabilities take care of a wide variety of expenses: employment training and support, health care expenses, housing assistance, college education, car purchases, assistive technology, personal support services, other expenses which help improve health, independence, and/or quality of life.
  3. People with disabilities can save and invest up to $16,000 per year into their ABLE savings account.
  4. ABLE saving accounts can hold onto an individual’s money ranging from $235,000 to $550,000. It varies from state to state for total ABLE account savings.

How cool is that!? ABLE accounts have already made a difference for so many lives of individuals with disabilities. Now it’s time to continue spreading the word!

Disability self-advocates, would you open up your own ABLE account? Parents, would you open an ABLE account for your child with disability? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

OBM and PM in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

What is organization behavior management (OBM) and performance management (PM)? How do they relate to the applied behavior analysis (ABA) field?

Organization Behavior Management (OBM) uses applied behavior analysis (ABA) in workplaces. It uses behavior interventions and strategies to change peoples’ behaviors in workplaces, such as businesses, governments, and etc. Wilder et. al. (2009) shares that OBM is focused on using practical strategies to improve performance of individuals, groups, and companies. For instance, an OBM within an ABA company can motivate BCBAs, BCaBAs, and RBTs by setting their performance goals and then allow them access to rewards and incentives once goals are achieved, such as positive feedback. Many factors are considered to impact performance from individuals and companies, such as work environment, rules and regulations, behaviors of higher ups (ex: supervisor), hierarchy of management, and etc. OBM uses behavior principles, like antecedent and consequence interventions (ex: positive reinforcement), to motivate and improve employees and companies’ performances. This leads to another specialty area, known as performance management (PM).

Performance management (PM) is a specialty area within OBM that implements effective strategies proven through use of data to maximize performance in workplaces and organizations. It applies behavior principles in order to manage performance of employees, groups, and companies. Daniels (2016) explains that since PM is based on precise data approaches, solutions to issues can be repeated in the same or similar settings/environments while extended to new settings/environments with the same results. PM helps supervisors, managers, and etc, know how to impact and influence behavior changes. For example, a behavior analyst provides supervision to their BCaBAs and RBTs by observing their performances as required and giving specific feedback on strengths and improvements in areas needed. PM helps higher ups in companies and organizations become effective leaders because they know strategies to manage behaviors of their employees. Performance management (PM) is a specialty area within OBM that can increase employee engagement, which leads to better financial and health outcomes for everyone from a productive work environment/setting.

Based on the ideas of OBM and PM, common business practices with behavior analytic approaches should be implemented in workplaces instead. It gives insight into employee’s behaviors and performances in the workplace. Daniels (2016) describes that behavior analytic approaches can help companies and businesses understand aspects that can motivate employees, increase their performance, and help them establish a strong and trustworthy relationship with their employees. Workplaces, such as businesses and companies, that create culture cohesiveness, demonstrates inclusion and diversity of employees, has passionate leaders, and etc are developed from behavior analytic approaches. Antecedent interventions like behavior analysts training new RBTs and consequence interventions, such as specific positive feedback, impact new RBT’s motivation to grow in the ABA field. Behavior analytic approaches used in workplaces help businesses and companies keep valuable employees for many years, increase work environment production, and create positive financial and health outcomes for everyone.

Stakeholders and organizations got to learn about OBM and PM. OBM is a kind of discipline within ABA for using behavior principles to achieve business goals. PM is for using effective behavior strategies from proven data to maximize employees’ performances. Behavior analytic approaches provide insight about employees and their performances in workplaces. Behavior analytic approaches should be used in workplaces to help motivate employees, impact productivity, and increase profitability for all. OBM and PM with their behavior principles and approaches provide positive outcomes for workplaces.

Based on this, do you think its important for workplaces to learn behavior principles, so it helps companies and organizations make themselves good and have valuable employees for years? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

References:

Daniels, A. (2016). Bringing out the best in people: How to apply the astonishing power of positive reinforcement (3rd Edition). McGraw-Hill Education.

Wilder, D. A., Austin, J., & Casella, S. (2009). Applying behavior analysis in organizations: Organizational behavior management. Psychological Services, 6(3), 202–211.

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