2016 is almost here!


And with it, brings lots of (positive) changes!

For the past few months, I have been trying to figure out what I want to do with Great Start Educational Services. Do I want to provide services for more families? Do I want to focus on dissemination and training? There are so many things I want to do, and I just have to slow down, take my time, and eventually, I’ll get to where I want to be :)

The first change is – the name! I have had this “Great Start” idea pretty much ever since I started working in this field. I originally chose “education” because I am a teacher, and it encompasses the learning part (I hope!), however, since I am now firmly in the behaviour analysis camp, I’ve decided to change it to “Great Start Behaviour Services”. This will also work nicely with the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the range of supports they provide. I am currently having my logo “re-jigged” (I’m keeping it identical, just changing ‘education’ to ‘behaviour’ – I love the design :D)

The second change is in relation to services. I currently have a part time job with another organisation. I then spend my time on the other three days of the week, plus most evenings, doing work related to Great Start. I love it, and enjoy it, and am happy to do it, however I am starting to feel exhausted. I know towards the end of the year, that is more likely to happen anyway.

So I am starting to figure out how I can make the very slow transition into working wholly within Great Start. It is exciting, and scary, but I think it will ultimately be where I end up. I’m very happy about this because I can focus on providing services exactly how I want to – incorporating what I know has worked for me in the past, and find new, and innovative ways to share information about evidence-based interventions, with families. I also am developing a strong network of peers I can continue to learn from as I go out on my own, and will continue to work with my fantastic BCBA-D supervisor, who is helping me with many opportunities :)

I also was finally able to submit my registration! It was extremely difficult using a Mac, which hopefully they will rectify soon, but, it’s done! I’m on my way to being able to provide services under the NDIS.

NDIS submission

Those are pretty much all the changes :D Not many, just huge! I am currently also working on a comprehensive goals list for 2016. This one will be much more specific and detailed, and I will have a lot more opportunity for goals related to Great Start, particularly if I am going to be devoting 100% of my working time to it!

So, watch this space! The NDIS is rolling out in more areas in Sydney in mid 2016, so hopefully families will start meeting with planners, and possibly even receiving funding packages by the end of 2016!



The National Disability Insurance Scheme

2016 is almost here!

Checking in.

Seeing as it is now NOVEMBER (!) I thought I would check in with what my revised goals were for 2015.

1. Continue with at least one more subject towards my BCBA coursework.

Unfortunately, this did not happen :( However, I am registering for my next subject to start in January 2016, so that is a positive!

2. Attend at least 1 conference in 2015.

This weekend I am actually attending a MultiLit conference, celebrating 20 years, so that should be quite good, and interesting!

3. Read and review 1 article every two months.

I have read a few articles over the pas few months, and actually reviewed a few for my supervision sessions. Other articles, I didn’t specifically review, but I did discuss them with different people!

4. Read an article or book about a different application of ABA, and write a review and summary.

This one is a little trickier. I have read a few books about Autism, and not necessarily ABA. I might have to be on the lookout for other books.

5. Make comments in ABA chats and groups on social media at least twice in 2015.

If I’m going to get quite technical, I think I did this earlier in the year :D but I should make a note of when the next chats are scheduled to run.

I think aside from the goals, I have continued to develop my knowledge and understanding around ABA. I am signed up to attend a Community of Practice Meeting with the NSW Behavioural Insights Team in December. I am also working on a research poster to present at the ABAI Conference in Chicago next May. I also am working towards developing workshops and training about behaviour to deliver to families and professionals, both in person and in online. But I will elaborate on my future plans shortly :)

I think I also need to start working on my 2016 goals, because they will be very different, and a lot more explicit, to help me really focus my aim for 2016. Lots of changes coming up too :D

Checking in.

Slight change of plans…

This probably isn’t the best time to make decisions (when you are exhausted, and a little bit tipsy on the delicious Marlborough Sav Blanc available freely in the Qantas lounge), but it is something I have been considering for a while.

For the past three years, I have been working towards becoming a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA) through the Behaviour Analysis Certification Board. I obtained my Masters in Special Education in 2010, and have always been interested in obtaining the BCBA certification, as I believe it will equip me with valuable skills for the work I do.

I have been “completing” this certification for the past 3 years, however I’m not in any rush. I guess because it isn’t actually required for me to do my job here. I am fortunate that the skills and qualifications I have already acquired have allowed me to do this. As I said, I believe it will just be an additional level of qualification, and at the very least, encourage me to keep up to date with what is current in the world of ABA.

However I am at a point where I want to continue to have a good work like balance, yet also continue to develop professionally. I guess the reason I originally started working towards my BCBA was partially because I already have my Masters, and I was potentially going to be working overseas, however that is definitely not happening anytime soon (puppy!).

I also think the fact that I can work towards the BCBA certification later down the track as well, makes this is a bit of an easier decision.

So I have kind of decided to obtain my BCaBA certification for now (most likely by June 2016). I’m pretty happy with this decision, and it has felt like a weight has lifted off my shoulders, just thinking about it.

It will mean less study that I need to complete, less supervision hours, and less of an exam that I need to take. Not that I don’t enjoy doing those things, but I also enjoy, not doing those things :D

I also feel that in my current role/s I am able to keep up to date with current practices and research, and am learning a lot, and improving my skills every week, so not necessarily obtaining a BCBA qualification at this point in time, isn’t necessarily going to be detrimental.

It also ties in with the fact that within Australia, there are still less than 50 people who have either a BCBA, or BCaBA, so it would still be a rare qualification to obtain, but one which I believe will be extremely valuable in the future.

I also need to keep reminding myself that obtaining the BCaBA is still an effort! And a lot of work, just not as much work as the BCBA certification.

I also feel as though I will be able to do everything I want to do with GSES in the future, with the BCaABA at this point in time too, so that is helpful.

So these are my random Friday musings :)

Slight change of plans…

It’s already July…

Half the year is gone! I can’t believe how quickly it has gone. So much has happened, and things have recently gotten busier, so I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my goals from the beginning of the year, and see how I’m going.

Despite my insistence of having clear and specific goals for programs I’m working on, I usually hesitate to set goals for myself, because I don’t like the feeling of not accomplishing them :D I know, I know, practice what you preach. So I came up with some reasonably achievable goals, and thought I should check in with myself, and see what I have accomplished, what I still need to do, and find ways to make the remaining goals happen.

1. Continue with at least one more subject towards my BCBA coursework.

Not yet, but I plan to start up again in the last quarter of the year, in October, so I’ll see how I go :)

2. Get back into supervision for my BCBA certification.

Done! I started this up a couple of weeks ago :) It is going really well so far, and I am enjoying it. I probably need to set goals for my supervision too, and I have a few ideas for things in 2016.

3. Attend at least 2 conferences.

So far, I have attended 0 conferences this year :( There are actually quite a few I can go to, and are interested in, but other things got in the way. I feel I should make this 1 conference in 2015 now, and there are a few coming up I’m interested in, but I really don’t think I will be able to attend 2 this year.

4. Read at least 2 research articles a month on ABA technology.

While I don’t think I have read 2 articles a month, I am sure I have read at least 5 articles this year (maybe more.) However, I don’t have anything specific that is jumping out. I am thinking I should change this goal to read and review 1 article every two months.

5.  Learn about a different application of ABA (i.e. not related to Autism).

This is not a very clear goal. It is quite vague, and I realised none of my goals are very specific. This is actually a very poor example of the types of goals I should be writing! I think I need to change this to read an article or book about a different application of ABA, and write a review and summary.

6. Collaborate with other behaviour analysts and disseminate information about ABA.

Again, this is a very ambiguous goal. Collaborate could be interpreted in multiple different ways. I think I will change this goal to make comments in ABA chats and groups on social media at least twice in 2015.

That was actually quite helpful, and I think I have made things clearer in my mind.

So my new (revised) goals for the last half of 2015 are:

1. Continue with at least one more subject towards my BCBA coursework.

2. Attend at least 1 conference in 2015.

3. Read and review 1 article every two months.

4. Read an article or book about a different application of ABA, and write a review and summary.

5. Make comments in ABA chats and groups on social media at least twice in 2015.

I guess the next step is to figure out how those will be achieved i.e. pick a book to review, find some articles to review, figure out which conference I can go to, and find some groups to comment on :)

It’s already July…

Throwing the ABA out with the bathwater

Great Start Educational Services:

Really interesting piece.

Originally posted on Nic Hooper, PhD:

In the past few years I have worked at three Universities and in each of them I managed to squeeze in an introductory lecture to Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). In the first university I taught it on a module called ‘Clinical Psychology’, in the second university I taught it on a module called ‘Persuasion and Influence’ and in the third university I taught it on a module called ‘Atypical Development’.


Each time I teach ABA the same two things happen. Firstly, undergraduate psychology students in the final year of their degree do not really know anything about ABA. A long time ago, following the development of cognitive psychology, it seems that psychology departments throughout the world (not just those that I have worked at, which are great places by the way!) dismissed the utility of behavioural thinking in managing problematic behaviour. But in doing so…

View original 736 more words

Throwing the ABA out with the bathwater

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?

Book Review: What Shamu Taught Me About Love, Life and Marriage – Amy Sutherland

This book was something I figured I would get around to reading eventually. It was on my list, it was about behaviour, but within a different application than the one I am used to, and I think I have just been on a roll with reading books this year, so, I read it :)

The author is a journalist who was writing about animal training methods at aquatic parks and the like. She became quite invested in what she was learning and attempted to apply it to her life and relationships, with quite good success!

The book discusses various techniques she learned while observing the training, and while they have different names, it was clear to see how it linked in to what I know and do.

It was also interesting to see how she started to think about the world and her interactions with others. Thinking about everyone around her’s behaviour, as well as her own, and what could she do to try and prevent the undesirable/challenging/frustrating behaviour from occurring.

It made me think about how I do try to think about that in my daily interactions, however for slightly different reasons. It did make me think about how I could try and think about the ways in which I could implement more antecedent strategies with some people in my life, and think I may have come to a reasonable understanding about that (for myself).

In regards to the animal part of the book, she has two lovely dogs, who you can tell her, and her husband, love dearly. She discusses the training aspect and how she implemented some strategies with her puppies, even though they were older. Spoiler alert (highlight the text)if you love dogs, just be warned there is a little bit of a sad bit towards the end (sorry!)

It also reminded me of when I visited Universal Studios a few years ago and saw the Animal Training show. I felt that it all made a lot of sense then, and it was very interesting reading this book and getting to know more about the process and different strategies they use when training lions, elephants, dolphins, birds… etc

I also was a little bit concerned that there was going to be no mention of behaviourism or Skinner, but about halfway through the book, there was a nice link to Skinner and his contributions to what the animal trainers were teaching.

Again, one of those books that I think as a behaviour analyst, you probably want to read, but I think I know a few people I could recommend it to, as an interesting read. It is quite an easy and short read, and provides a good understanding of the general principles, and use, of ABA.


Sutherland, A. (2009). What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage.

Universal’s Animal Actors

Book Review: What Shamu Taught Me About Love, Life and Marriage – Amy Sutherland