As a community dedicated to helping those with autism and other disorders, it’s important to understand that it really does take a village to help individuals manage their behavioral challenges.
No ONE person, no matter how well-trained, can provide the support that these individuals need to thrive. Yet, the more people that your organization recruits to help provide Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy (ABA), the more likely it is that mistakes will be made and progress will be hindered.  That’s why it’s so essential that support staff receive the proper training!
But how should we be training support staff? How can you ensure that each player on your team is equipped with the skills to make a real difference in the lives of those who really need it?
This blog post will provide a simple evidence-based 6-step training procedure proven to help support staff provide quality care for those on the autistic spectrum:

Step 1: Why is This Skill Important?

Have you ever been forced to learn a skill when you didn’t understand why you were learning it? It’s not easy! High School Algebra comes to mind for me.
Before you start training your support staff in a specific ABA skill, make sure that they understand why they need to know it. Describe exactly what they will learn, and exactly how it will benefit the patients that they’re helping.

Step 2: Put it in Writing

Developing specific ABA skills can take a lot of time and effort. For many support staff, it can be very helpful to provide a succinct written description of the skill that you’re trying to teach them, and how those skills will improve the lives of their patients.
Remember… this simple written reference should be short, succinct, and easy to read! While a longer (and more complex) document might provide more information on the skill that they’re trying to learn, they probably won’t read it… at least they won’t refer to it as often as they should.

Step 3: Show the Skill in Action

While spoken and written instructions are essential, the easiest way for people to absorb a new skill is to simply see it in action.
Stage a role-play session in which a skilled trainer interacts with a staff member playing the role of a behaviorally challenged patient.
Trainers should “freeze” at certain points to highlight specific details of the approach, so that the trainees can more easily absorb what’s being taught.

Step 4: Practice Makes Perfect

Support staff training should never end with a scripted training session! Instead, provide your staff with opportunities to practice their new skill in a controlled role-play environment, so that they can master the skill before they need it in a real patient scenario.
This practice component requires a lot of time (so many skip it), but you should find the time to allow your staff to practice their skills. Observing these valuable practice sessions is the ONLY way to ensure that your staff is equipped to serve your patients.

Step 5: Provide Feedback

Some of the skills required in effective behavioral analysis therapy can take years to master! Chances are, your staff won’t get it right in their first run through. Be sure to provide regular feedback during each and every practice session, so that you and your trainees can identify common mistakes early, and immediately work to improve upon them.

Step 6: Repeat Steps 4 and 5 to Mastery

As time consuming as staff training can be, it’s well worth the time and effort that you put into it. Be sure to repeat your practice sessions, and continue providing helpful feedback, so that the skills that you’re trying to teach have time to sink in.

Putting Your Training into Action

No matter how robust your training programs are, each patient will bring unique challenges to the table. To help your staff learn to manage the case-by-case challenges of ABA therapy, provide regular on-the-job assessments for each of your staff, so that they can learn from real world feedback on their skills.
Ultimately, the MOST important thing is to provide each and every patient suffering from behavioral challenges with the best possible care. Support staff training should not be an afterthought. Apply the steps provided in this post, and you WILL see measurable progress in the people you’re helping.
The steps and procedures outlined in this article were drawn from an academic article called Evidence-Based Staff Training: A Guide for Practitioners. Click here to read the article, and understand all of the nuances of this 6-step training method!

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