I have been working as a Behavior Specialist Consultant for about 25 years, working in the Lancaster, Berks and Chester County areas. I finished my ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) and Autism coursework in 1999/2000. As a consultant I work in schools, homes and the community setting. I can work wherever the need presents itself or the child/family need assistance with skill development and/or behavior modification. The goal for my work is to assist families to decrease interfering behaviors, develop replacement skills for those behaviors and achieve a greater level of independence for their child.
Inclusion in the community should be the goal for everyone. Inclusion means that people are not limited to available resources due to a disability or an inability to be successful in the community. There are now so many modifications available in the community for people with disabilities from curb cuts, ramps, electric doors, etc. The access to the community for folks with disabilities is within reach and becoming more and more available. People lead better lives and feel more valued when they can actively participate in their community.
As a Behavior Consultant the most interfering variable for me in getting people included in the community is the lack of frequency in training new skills in the community. For a new skill to be learned and then naturally reinforced in the community, it needs to be attempted, trained, reinforcers and modified many times for a replacement behavior to become functional. Having enough opportunities to teach in the community can be a challenge. Once a skill is mastered and functional in the community setting, planning for break-through or the reappearance of past behaviors can be a challenge.
Everyone who works with children with developmental disabilities wants the child to develop as many skills as possible so the highest level of independence with the least amount of support is the goal. Being included in the community demonstrates a high level of independence. Although, we all strive for inclusion and independence, there are some prerequisite skills that need to be developed before inclusion can be attempted. These skills can be practiced and developed in the home, school or even in the community but need to focus on safety and being able to access assistance when needed.
Families should know that children, at any developmental level, can be included in the community. There is room for everyone! It takes a positive attitude, perseverance, a team working together for a common goal, realistic expectation. time and effort.
When inclusion is successful it works for everyone. It gives the family greater access to the community; the child gets to participate in a greater amount of experiences in the natural environment (the most beneficial way to learn and to experience) and it is just a better way to build independence. For me, folks having greater access to people is increasing diversity across all levels. Increased diversity is a benefit for all.
Patrick M., Behavior Consultant