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When we arrived in New York for orientation two weeks ago, the team completed an

activity in which we answered a variety of questions. The questions focused on our

motivations for being a part of SkillCorps, and included what we hoped to bring to the

experience and get out of it. During my last week at Alcanzando, I had an experience with a

student and her team that really highlighted all that I hoped to bring and receive from this

adventure.

 

Over the last week and a half with Alcanzando staff, I went out with one of the supervisors

to visit with a student. This student, like all that we met at Alcanzando, was very sweet and

had come a long way during her time with the center. When I met her, she was engaging

in some behaviors that made learning a challenge; she would flop to the floor or put her

head down on the table when work tasks were presented, or bolt from the room. These

behaviors happened at high enough rates that it was difficult to get through her teaching

programs.

 

Based on the frequency of these behaviors, and an analysis of the antecedents (things

that come before) and consequences (things that happen after) of her behavior, we

hypothesized that the behavior was maintained by escaping work tasks. That is, by

flopping, crying, or bolting, she escaped or delayed doing any learning tasks. Through

collaboration with the student’s supervisor, we came up with a behavior change plan to try

to decrease these behaviors and increase her ability to work on a learning task for longer

periods of time.

 

What happened when we first implemented this intervention was one of my proudest

moments, to date, as a Behavior Analyst. The change in the student’s behavior was

immediate. Her whole face lit up. The most amazing change was that she started coming

willingly back to the table without physical prompts (which were often needed before) to

continue working. We talked about how to maintain this behavior change while increasing

her learning requirements gradually over time, and eventually fading out the token system

we had implemented.

 

This is the power of behavior analysis. Not only did the intervention help the student, but

it changed the behavior of every single person working with her that day. The instructor’s

smile was contagious, as she saw how the changes in her behavior as an instructor had

affected the student’s behavior. The supervisor saw that by using the principles of

behavior to create interventions based on the (hypothesized) functions of challenging

behavior, positive outcomes for her students would increase. What I saw was behavior

change on three different levels: that of the student, the instructor, and the supervisor. It

was an incredibly rewarding experience.

 

This is also an excellent example of the model of the Global Autism Project. We do not

go into a center in a foreign country to work directly with their kids for a few weeks and

leave. Even if behavior change occurred, it would not be sustainable. What would the staff

do once we were gone? What if the student did not generalize our teaching to his or her

own teachers? At the Global Autism Project, we teach so that supervisors can learn how

to make behavior analytic decisions and increase their ability to be effective teachers. This

kind of training will impact all of their clients, and all of the staff they work with. We want

to give supervisors the tools to change their own community. Sustainable teaching and

sustainable helping around the world are what sets the Global Autism Project apart.

Stephanie Keesey

SkillCorps Peru team member

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