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Assess Better - Put down the Cookie (cutter)

NBC Admin - Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Assess Better – Put down the Cookie (Cutter). Individualizing the assessment process
By Dr. Megan Miller, BCBA-D

The Feb theme for the 2018 Do Better Movement is Assess Better. We started this month with a video activity related to identifying skills to assess with an early learner. The Do Better community identified quite a few skills they would assess further. However, there was a general theme of relying on commercially available assessments for this process. In our webinar for Assess Better, we discuss in more detail the next steps we took in the assessment process for this learner.

The professional development activity for this month was a 3-hour webinar covering the topic of Assessment for learners diagnosed with autism. The webinar focused on describing a multitude of commercially available assessments for learners with autism, providing examples of ways these assessments can be used together to develop appropriate intervention, discussion of assessment in general and different resources to use for assessing skills that do not related to commercially available assessments, and reviewing some video examples. Currently, behavior analytic training programs both at universities and through supervised fieldwork seem to focus too much on training individuals to complete 1 or 2 specific assessments instead of training on the assessment process. Behavior analysts successfully developed very effective interventions for learners well before the existence of any commercially available assessments and it is critical to our field that we continue to develop skills related to this process. This webinar is available for FREE until March 13th, 2018 and can be accessed in our Slack Group #assessbetter channel and/or on Navigation Behavioral Consulting’s Facebook page found here. After the 13th, the Webinar will be available on our website:

For our assess better blog, we are talking about how to put down the Cookie Cutter and develop individualized assessments for our learners. I could probably write a whole book on this topic but for the sake of time, I have narrowed down the focus to a few key areas: observation, learn your population, familiarize yourself with resources available to you based on this population, and an example document of how we make use of the resources available to us.


When conducting assessments, it is critical that observation occurs PRIOR to determining which formalized assessments will be used with the learner and to help you pinpoint what may need to be assessed further. It is near impossible to know that the proper assessment process is being conducted with a learner if you have never seen the skillset of that learner. Observation can be done by viewing a few quick video clips of the learner when feasible or by observing the learner’s natural interactions when conducting the intake. During the observation, it is important to look for:
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Think Better - On How to Think Like a Behavior Analyst

NBC Admin - Friday, January 26, 2018

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ABA Therapy with NBC!

- Friday, March 07, 2014

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Some Insights From a Message Board

- Saturday, May 08, 2010

I participate on a few message boards related to autism, autism intervention, and behavior analysis. Recently, someone posted a discussion about a “new cure” for autism. One of the members of the message board responded to the post and I think his description of what snake oil salesmen are doing to families and people diagnosed with autism and what it means to be autistic is a very well articulated. I asked him if I could re-post his response for others to see, and he said yes. Below is his original post followed by some tips that he gave when I sent him an email asking if I could post this.  Read More

When Does ABA End?

- Thursday, April 08, 2010
I often hear parents and even behavior analysts say that their child or client is "done with ABA" or "graduated". While I have met many children who no longer need intensive behavioral services, I have never met an autistic child who no longer needs to have the principles of behavior/learning incorporated into their daily life. The purpose of this blog is to explain why incorporating principles of behavior technically never ends for autistic children or people in general. I know that doesn't sound very hopeful and might give readers a bad taste in their mouth to start but bear with me and you will see that even though incorporating principles of behavior into the child's life  should never end, that doesn't mean your child will always require intervention or a behavior analyst. In this blog I will discuss what people typically mean when they say a child is done with ABA, what it means to incorporate behavior analysis into everyday life, and examples of situations with explanations of whether ABA is truly "done." Read More

What Does it Mean to Be a Behavior Analyst or to Do ABA?

- Monday, February 15, 2010
Behavior analysts take many different paths to get to the point in their life where they decide to pursue behavior analysis as a career. Some take a few psychology courses as an undergrad that have a behavior analytic focus, some want to work in another setting (mental health, nursing homes, businesses, developmental disabilities) and then are exposed to how effective behavior analysis is, and the list goes on. I personally, took psychology classes and was drawn to Cognitive Behavioral Psychology because it was the only type of therapy that seemed effective and I was additionally fascinated with the field of autism. Originally, I didn't want to go to graduate school at the Florida State University to learn behavior analysis, I wanted to learn about how to more effectively work with children diagnosed with autism. My professors constantly reminded me that I was not in an autism program I was in a behavior analysis program. I consider myself extremely fortunate that THIS was the type of program I was in. Some college programs do not have this focus, they are other programs: special ed, developmental disabilities, general psychology, etc that add in a behavior analytic component. But FSU'S program was a Behavior Analytic program that taught about the various applications of behavior analysis. I am often astounded and baffled when I meet fellow behavior analysts working in the field of autism who literally do not seem to have a clue about behavior analysis. I know that they are well intentioned and probably came from the same path in life as me: working with children diagnosed with autism. However, they somehow missed out on learning a VERY important component of being a behavior analyst: using behavior analysis to develop programming. Some of the people are "experts" in the Lovaas Method, or Verbal Behavior Approach, or Pivotal Response training, or using the ABLLS but throw something at them that is a little different from how they were originally trained and they have no clue what to do. This is NOT a behavior analyst.  Read More

Teaching a Child to Use Their Words

- Friday, February 12, 2010
I have noticed on a few of the list servs that I am on that a lot of parents and providers ask questions about children who are hitting, tantruming, etc because they do not have the words to communicate what they want/need. Sometimes people will focus too much on reducing these behaviors and not enough on increasing functional language and responses. It is very important to teach a child what to do rather than just focusing on what not to do. Children who engage in tantrums, aggression, SIB, etc typically have a skill deficit of: not being able to communicate and not being able to calm themselves, or leave the situation. I highly recommend using Behavior Skills Training (BST) and Functional Communication Training (FCT) to help children acquire these skills. Both of these methods are supported by the research and are used very often by behavior analysts. In this blog I will provide a brief description of each of these procedures with examples. It is important to keep in mind though that the examples I am giving are specific to a particular child and should not be used directly for your child/client. I am only providing them as a model. It is also important to read the research on BST and FCT for yourself in order to better understand the techniques. I have included resources at the end. It is also important for both of these techniques that the behavior is analyzed to determine the function and the areas of deficit so that you are training the child a response that is functionally equivalent. If you think that the behavior is occurring because the child wants out of a demand and you teach the child to ask for a break but really the behavior is happening because the demand is too hard and you don't teach the child to ask for help, then the behavior will probably still occur.  Read More

ABA Myth: ABA is Not Fun!

- Saturday, February 06, 2010
One of the largest critiques of ABA is that the intervention is not fun. It is rote, boring, repetitive, etc. I once had a parent tell me prior to starting the intervention that her parents were nervous about doing ABA because they heard it was like bringing in a drill sergeant and she didn't want that for her son. I have often wondered why so many people think ABA is not fun, especially when I have read so many articles, seen so many sessions, and talked to so many behavior analysts about working off the child's motivation and having fun during sessions. For this blog I am going to explore some of the reasons why this myth exists, explain why the myth is false, and then provide some resources for making sessions fun.  Read More

Convincing Your School to Allow ABA

- Tuesday, February 02, 2010
A parent asked me for advice on how to convince a school system to use ABA so I am going to attempt to answer that question in this blog.  Read More

It Is Time for Some Dos and Dont's

- Friday, November 20, 2009

This is a list of things I tell parents to do or not do when I do workshops or initial parent training. This list is obviously not comprehensive and just covers some of the KEY DOs and DONTs when it comes to interacting with a child (not just autistic children by the way, this could actually be applied to people in general).  Read More