Treating Autism: Why My Verbal Behavior Approach is Different & Better

I recently did a podcast on the 10 ways that I believe my verbal behavior approach for treating autism is different and better for kids with autism. So today, I want to give you the top three ways that I believe my approach is unique and might be able to help you, help your children or clients do better too.

Each week I provide you with some of my ideas about turning autism around, so if you haven’t subscribed to my YouTube channel, you can do that now and join the thousands who already have.

So I have, in the past two decades, seen a lot of ABA programs for treating autism and a lot of programs where people are telling me that they’re using a verbal behavior approach, they’re using a VB-MAPP, they’re implementing some of the procedures in my book. But sometimes when I look at those programs or I look at the VB-MAPP and the treatment plan, or I hear about kids having problem behaviors, I tend to think that professionals and parents could be using my approach to help these children more.

I know that might sound a little egotistical that I think my program is different and better than everyone else’s.B ut I do think that there are reasons that I believe that my approach for treating autism might be able to help you turn things around even if you haven’t made a lot of progress in months or years with some of your clients or children. The first way I reason why I believe my program is different is that I have a lot of experience with different hats. I fell into the autism world in 1999 when my firstborn son Lucas was diagnosed with autism just one day before his third birthday. At that point, I had a master’s degree in nursing. I was a nurse manager, always working in the neurology rehab field. I worked with multidisciplinary teams, created multidisciplinary goals with PTs, OTs, SLPs, parents or loved ones of the patient, so it really did prepare me.

While I was a nurse manager, I had to deal with a lot of organizational behavior management.  I published actually in the nursing field. I published in the field of nursing retention, shift shift reporting, and time management, all very behavioral things that I was studying without really ever hearing the term ABA or Applied Behavioral Analysis. I also, in addition to being a parent and being a nurse, I became a Behavioral Analyst in 2003 and earned a Ph.D. in 2011 and became a doctoral level BCBA. I worked for 7 years as the Lead Behavior Analyst for the Pennsylvania Verbal Behavior Project, working with hundreds of kids all across the spectrum of all ages and all abilities. I also spent at least 7 or 8 years as an early intervention provider with birth to 3-year-olds in schools and in homes. After my book was published in 2007, I traveled the world and just 4 years ago began selling online courses for treating autism to both professionals and parents within the autism community.

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I often can relate to parents and I can relate to Behavior Analysts. I’ve worked with so many speech therapists who’ve done incredible jobs helping kids. So I do think that in this case wearing many hats does help me create programs and create step by step procedures that actually are effective with lay people and parents, new therapists, as well as seasoned professionals who may be very good at what they do, but they’re having a hard time quickly training people without a lot of data.

The second way I believe my approach for treating autism is different is that I use a very common sense ABA approach probably because of the different hats I wear and my perspectives. I know that parents are overwhelmed. They can’t be taking loads of data or any data in many situations and I am very attuned to how people best learn how they are trained.

My dissertation was on training people. So I do think that I use common sense approaches such as we all need 8 positives to every negative. I didn’t create that-Glen Latham first taught me that, but everything I do is very positive. I have thought of if you see problem behaviors, demands are too high and reinforcements are too low, we need to flip that. We need to spend 95% of our time preventing problem behaviors. We need to avoid escape extinction procedures. So in addition to wearing many hats and using a common-sense strategy, I want to encourage both professionals and parents to step back, look at the forest, and not the trees. We don’t just focus on language. We don’t just focus on problem behaviors. We focus on self-care, leisure skills, pre-vocational skills, and academic skills. We look at what the patient and what the parents value, the age of the child, whether they have siblings, just a whole lot of variables.

And so I really don’t like to go right in and start what I call tit for tat programming. I did a video blog on that recently. I like to step back and really focus on the major things that kids need when treating autism. Major being, can they request their wants and needs?  Do they have major problem behaviors at or near zero? How is their toileting? Can they toilet themselves or with some supervision? And these are the things that I think are really going to make a difference in their lives. And sometimes people jump too far in and look at the trees and not the forest. So throughout my courses, I’m using my approach, which is different than anyone else’s because of my background. So if you want to learn more about the ways my program is different, you can listen to the podcast, which is episode number 15.

You can go on marybarbera.com/15 if you would like to hear the whole podcast and if you would like to learn more about joining my online course and community, that’s really the best way for me to help you. It’s a long process to learn how to shift your approach and do things positively. Making more progress and incorporating parents and professionals together to help each child reach their fullest potential, which is always my goal. Do you want to do that? I would love to have you at a free online workshop at marybarbera.com/workshop.

I’ll see you right here next week.

Want to get started on the right path and start making a difference for your child or client with autism?
SIGN-UP FOR DR. MARY BARBERA’S FREE TRAINING