ABA, BCBA, RBT, VB-MAPP...what?
I love to start every presentation I participate in with the same introduction, “My name is Lacey Weber and I am an MS, BCBA that delivers exceptional ABA therapy to children diagnosed with ASD under the strict guidelines of the BACB. When treatment begins, I conduct a VB-MAPP assessment or possibly the ABLLS-R or AFLS, of course that all depends on the AAEC. Following the assessment, an RBT will become familiar with the case and the ABA journey will begin!”
Families new to this process will look at the above paragraph and possibly think I’m speaking a different language from a new undiscovered island with natives who abide by foreign concepts and ideas that are like no other. I remember when I first started this journey back in 2011 and I had no idea what any of it meant. For years…yes years…I walked blindly trying to figure out where to start, what to do, who to call, or most important, how to help my child.
Before I decipher my introduction, let me explain how my adventure began. In 2010, I suspected my daughter was different from other children. The most obvious difference was her blatant refusal to talk! Other “quirks” followed, such as lining up the toys she obsessed over (during this phase it was those hard figurines giraffes and horses made by Schleich®), an unwillingness to break away from routine (chocolate milk and holding my thumb every morning), smacking her head on the floor at random times, what seemed to be a high pain tolerance, no fear of running away from an adult (even in a parking lot with moving cars), and no concept of being told, “no” or complying with such a notion. My child was a blank slate and in a world of her own. For a while I was under the illusion that I was part of her world, or more so that she was part of my world, but it would turn out that neither was true.
In April of 2011 we were accepted into the Approved Autism Evaluation Center (AAEC) at the University of Michigan Hospital; you should remember that abbreviation from above! We were placed inside of a standard medical treatment room for approximately six hours while a battery of professionals came in to assess my child; Cognitive Psychologist, Neuropsychologist, and Speech and Language Pathologist. At the end of the day it was decided that my daughter had ….da da dum...AUTISM! I only say that with such sarcasm due the stigma that initially came with such a diagnosis, but I’ll save that for a later post!
During this same time period, I was enrolled in school to become a Clinical Psychologist with my main focus on being one of those scary clinicians who diagnose children. However, due to the numerous appointments with specialists and treatment teams for the care of my sweet girl, I had to let go of the future I had originally planned. A poem written by Emily Perl Kingsley sums this experience up perfectly for me, and might help you too! As an additional glimpse into my world, a very special person we encountered at my daughter’s first school gave this poem to me and it helped me a great deal.
Skipping ahead to today, because honestly I need to save some topics for later posts, I found the most rewarding career as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) when an Autism Advocate employed at my daughter’s second school district informed me that I should give it a look. Luckily, I had already obtained my Master of Science (MS) in Psychology, so making the transition into the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) was done seamlessly. I hold my BCBA certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), but soon Michigan will implement a passed law that recognizes those in my profession as licensed practitioners. The BACB also oversees the Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) who work alongside me as individuals who carry out the Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs) I write for my clients (this acronym was a little extra bonus for you!) Throughout my career, I have been trained to conduct assessments such as the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement (VB-MAPP), the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills-Revised (ABLLS-R), or the Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS).
Unfortunately, the above paragraph does not even dent all that there is to know about the field of ABA. I graduated from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology with high honors, worked as a Graduate Assistant for the school, and passed my BACB board exam in May of 2014; but here I am still learning! It takes a lot of time and patience to navigate through the sea of the unknown, but once you’ve found your way you’ll notice an island off in the distance that can be reached with a bridge. Since our children don’t fit into our world and we don’t fit into theirs, there needs to be a bridge that connects the two. Think of this as Bridge ABA.
My name is Lacey, and I am a mother of a beautiful little girl named Harlee. She was diagnosed with Autism, but that does not define her and it does not define our family. We struggle everyday with tasks that would seem simple to the “neurotypical” family, but I wouldn’t have it any other way because our world is filled with laughter and things we would have never experienced without the “dreaded” diagnoses.
I became who I am as a BCBA because of the experiences I lived through. I can “see” children diagnosed with Autism and can understand your experiences because I too have lived them. As a BCBA, I am serious about working with children and families and I am serious about being the best practitioner I can be. I hope you continue to read my blog posts as they come, and reach out to me through email or on my Facebook page for support or to share your experiences too!