My favorite blogs to follow are those of bloggers that I know a lot about. I know their kids’ names, I know how they met their husbands, I know where they shop, I even know what they planted in their vegetable gardens this summer. I share a lot of my personal life here on my little blog, mostly because I use it as a way to keep in touch with friends and family who live far away, but there is one aspect of my life that I haven’t shared a lot about, despite it being a major part of my life: my job. I guess this must be pretty common in the blog world, because when I started to think about it, besides bloggers who mostly write about their work (graphic designers, photographers, etc.), I realized that don’t know what many of my “blogfriends” do with their days. Maybe people use blogging as a way to escape from their daily occupational worries? I know that I’m certainly guilty of that! So today I’m going to tell you about my “day job” and call upon my readers to do the same!
When I move to California last August, I got a position as a Behavioral Interventionist. We go by different titles in different places; you may have heard of a behavior therapist, behavioral instructor, or behaviorist, but we all do basically the same thing. I work with children with autism spectrum disorders using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. I work for a company that is contracted by school districts and regional treatment centers (both funded by the state). Throughout the day, I travel to clients’ schools and homes, all within about 15 miles of my home. My schedule is different day-to-day and week-to-week, but I usually work with the same 4-5 clients and their families. This all sounds really clinical and kind of boring, but I promise it’s fun and not ever boring. Most people are probably pretty familiar with my role at school; I follow one student throughout the day and help him or her complete classwork and activities, as well as manage any behavioral issues that may arise.
But at home, a lot of what I do might look totally strange. The purpose of ABA is to provide students with methods to acquire their wants and needs without using the problem behaviors that you might attribute to a child with autism, such as tantrumming. Many times this involves either teaching a child to speak or expanding upon their limited vocabulary. To a child with autism, language can sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Teaching them and speaking to them using basic language helps them to learn words and skills that they will hopefully be able to generalize to all settings and situations in their lives. The method we use to teach skills is called Discrete Trial Teaching (link is a short video). We often use photos on flashcards or other props to demonstrate ideas. The programs we use are specific to each child, but we can use this method to teach anything from letters, numbers, and colors, to greetings, conversation topics, and other social skills. Here’s another video that shows a slightly longer teaching trial. In my home sessions, I also help to train parents in behavior intervention techniques.
Whenever I tell someone what I do, I tend to hear the same questions over and over:
How did you get into the field?
During college, my university had a “co-op” program, in which students worked full-time for three periods of six months while in school. I was studying athletic training, and I took a job as the assistant to an adaptive physical education teacher. This was the first time I worked with children with disabilities and I totally fell in love with it. I continued to work at the same school throughout my remaining time at college and for several months after I graduated. When I moved to LA, I was looking for another job working with children with disabilities, and I found this. [At least in California] I didn’t need to study anything specific to get into this field, my company trained me in the principles and practice of ABA.
You must have a LOT of patience.
Honestly, no. You think I’m lying, but hear me out. Do I have patience for children with severe mental disabilities and behavioral disorders? Absolutely! Everyone does! I’m sure you do too, even if you tell me you don’t! Do I have patience for fully-functioning adults? Absolutely not. Probably less than the average person, and I’m sure that if I have readers out there who do similar work, they will agree with me. Knowing the fact that every time the mother of my three-year-old client wants to give him a haircut, she has to hold him down as he screams and cries and kicks and bites, gives me so much less patience for daily complaints of traffic and weather. Of course I complain about these things too, everyone does, but the point I am trying to make is that you do not need to be a saint to do what I do, and doing what I do does not make me a saint.
Is that really hard?
Okay, so I get this a lot, and I’ve really struggled with how to respond. Because to me, it isn’t, but I feel like answering “No” to this question makes me seem totally self-righteous. So let me put it this way: a lot of things happen to me at work that would not happen in most workplaces in the world. All of the following have happened to me at work at one time or another: I have been scratched, pinched, bitten, hit, kicked, drooled/spit/peed/vomited on, had my hair pulled, my glasses knocked off, my necklace ripped off my neck. But the other 95% of the time when these things aren’t happening, I am singing songs, tickling, chasing, playing trains, and laughing, because kids are HILARIOUS! My least favorite parts of this job are the things that everyone deals with at work: office drama, endless paperwork, and dealing with clients (or in my case, parents).
In a nutshell, that’s my day job. If you have any more burning questions, feel free to comment and ask.
So what’s your “day job”? Share in the comments or link to your blog, I’d love to know!