Working as a Team: Building Collaboration within a Home ABA Program
Answered by Preeti Chojar
Parent of a beautiful 11-year-old boy with autism
ASAT Board member
Having monthly meetings is a great way to keep the whole team on the same page. Here are some suggestions to help you use this time effectively and efficiently. In our particular case, we meet monthly as well, but keep in mind that some teams may need to meet more frequently (depending on composition of team, level of oversight, needs of child).
Ideally a time can be scheduled in which the entire team can be present. This would include any related service providers if feasible such as the speech pathologist, occupational therapist, or physical therapist. A consultant, supervisor, or family trainer may be present as well. Assembling the entire team can be difficult given constraints such as other children on caseload, family responsibilities, school schedules, etc. Try your best!
Always create an agenda well before a meeting. Please note that this agenda should not side step any other communication that should be occurring (e.g., the consultant, supervisor, or family trainer may want to know right away if a new skill-acquisition program is not going well).
Develop the agenda:
- Start by writing down any new behaviors, good or bad. Also note if there is evidence of lost skills or discrepancies across settings, situations or people.
- Any data taken by instructors should be summarized and analyzed before the meeting. Ideally, only the new findings would be added to the agenda.
- Add anything that the consultant/supervisor or the collective wisdom of the group could help resolve. Also add anything to share with the whole team.
- One of agenda items should always be to review last month’s meeting notes paying close attention to any open or unfinished items.
- If the child is also receiving services in a school or center based environment, it may be beneficial to seek input from those providers as well. Any positive or negative observations made by people in the community should also be added to the agenda.
- Finally, make sure the agenda is well balanced and addresses everyone’s concerns.
Circulate the agenda:
- Make sure to circulate the agenda to everyone attending the meeting, ideally a few days before the meeting.
- Ask all therapists to bring along any other agenda items they might have. (Ideally, these would reflect new issues).
Starting the meeting
- Meetings should begin promptly (and should end on time as well).
- You may go around the room and ask members to share a personal good news story. This is a good way to get to know each other.
During the meeting
- Stick to the agenda to the extent possible, being flexible to add in any new items of importance.
- Make sure every person gets a chance to talk.
- Whenever two members go off on a tangent that doesn’t require the full team’s attention, ask them to discuss it after the meeting. This would include off-topic discussions.
Vary the format as warranted
- Sometimes it is beneficial to include review videos of teaching sessions as a group.
- In other instances, the child can be involved in the meeting. Every team member can work briefly with the child on one or more tasks while the remainder of the team observes. The consultant/supervisor(s) will take notes and give feedback afterwards. This will go best if there is a positive, nurturing atmosphere on the team and everyone is committed to his/her professional development.
Make sure to end on a positive note
- Mention any positive events or achievements of the child.
- Praise the efforts of the team or particular individuals (be specific about what is being reinforced).
- Take careful notes of any recommendations, ideas or changes to specific programs.
- Meeting notes should clearly identify any action items along with who is responsible for completing that item (include time frame for completion).
- Any action items not completed from last month’s meeting notes should be continued on the subsequent month’s meeting notes.
- The meeting notes would not preclude the consultant, supervisor, or family trainer from distributing written recommendations (this would be particularly important if a behavior reduction plan was warranted).
- Send meeting notes to everyone attending the meeting and anyone who missed the meeting (we rely heavily on email with the assurance that the email content is privileged and kept confidential). Send copies to any other relevant people like the child’s teacher or other related service providers.
- In some cases it may be helpful to have instructors initial a group copy to ensure that the notes were reviewed and understood.
Use Applied Behavior Analysis with your team, as well as with your child: assess the team’s skill at using meeting times productively and take steps needed to improve both group process and outcomes. Of course, it helps if everyone is committed to learning how to be better instructors and to helping the child realize his or her fullest potential. Best of luck to you with your meetings.