**Blog post by BACA Z Administrative Assistant Rae Eberle
To say that there is no small job at BACA is an understatement. In fact, any person who is involved with one of our clients plays a huge role in their development. Every part of our client’s days is spent “working.” Their work looks much different from adult work or even the work of their typical peers. Even the simplest of tasks is work. Acknowledging a peer, asking for a needed item, expressing want for an activity or item – all of these activities and so many more can be difficult for a child with autism. That is where our hardworking staff comes into play. Each day I watch as therapists work with clients to build skills that will make their clients life better. Most days, I am lucky enough to join in and assist in the learning process.
Clients pass my desk several times a day as they pass throughout the center. I often have small treats on my desk for myself or staff as they pass by. One day, Abbi passed my desk and asked me for a Skittle, one of her favorite candies. She did not know before asking that I just happened to have Skittles in my drawer. Her request was granted! From then on, Abbi assumed that if she came to my desk she could ask for a Skittle and I would have it. Of course, I made sure I was able to reinforce this mand. Abbi started off with a basic mand: “Can I have Skittle?” As Abbi mastered asking for the Skittle, her therapist then had her gain my attention before asking. She could gain my attention by tapping my shoulder or saying my name. Abbi soon learned that she wanted to request a specific color of Skittle and not take her chances with receiving just any color. I’m proud to say that Abbi will now ask her therapist to “Go see Rae.” Once at my desk, Abbi can mand for her Skittle using both my name and the color of Skittle she wants mostly independent of prompts from her therapist and say “thank you!” What once was “Can I have Skittle?” has evolved and been shaped into “Rae, can I have red Skittle?” And once she receives her Skittle she will say “thank you.” The amount of work that both Abbi and her therapist have and continue to put into the simple task of requesting a favorite candy is well worth it to see Abbi smile when she receives that red Skittle. This process and skill will one day transfer into Abbi needing or wanting an item from an adult or peer and having both the skill and confidence to request it. By following Abbi’s motivation for an item, her therapists have practiced several skills that Abbi can generalize throughout other areas of her life.
I could go into all of the ABA techniques that Abbi’s therapist uses, but from my perspective the most important thing is my role as a non-therapist in Abbi’s learning. In my role as administrative assistant I am lucky to be involved, even on a small scale, in each client’s journey. Each person in the building plays a special role for the clients learning process whether they know it or not. We don’t just come to work, we play a part in the development of skills that will last a lifetime and make a meaningful difference in the lives of our clients and their families.