Creating effective meetings with your child’s BCBA and other service providers can be difficult. In this month’s ASAT feature, Preeti Chojar, Board Member of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT), shares some valuable tips about how parents can make the most out of these meetings. To learn more about ASAT, please visit their website at www.asatonline.org. You can also sign up for ASAT’s free newsletter, Science in Autism Treatment, and like them on Facebook!
Answered by Preeti Chojar, Mother and ASAT Board Member
It is terrific that your team meets monthly! Collaboration and consistency amongst members of the professional team is the hallmark of a successful home program. I have found that a great way to build teamwork is to have regular meetings 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, but keep in mind that some teams may need to meet more frequently (depending on the composition of the team, level of oversight required, and needs of the child).
Ideally, a time should be scheduled when the entire team can be present. A supervisor like a behavior consultant (e.g., BCBA) or a family trainer should be present as well. It could also include any related service providers, such as the speech pathologist, occupational therapist, or physical therapist. Assembling the entire team can be difficult but try your best, as the benefits will make it worthwhile.
Develop the agenda
Always create an agenda well before a team meeting. Please note that this agenda should not side-step any other communication that should be occurring (e.g., the consultant may want to know right away if a new skill-acquisition program is not going well).
- Start by writing down any new behaviors, both positive and negative. Also note if there is evidence of lost skills or discrepancies in skill levels across settings, situations or people.
- Any data taken by instructors should be summarized and analyzed before the meeting.
- Add anything that the supervisor or the collective wisdom of the group could help resolve.
- One of the 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 is beneficial to seek input from those providers as well. Any observations made by people in the community that highlight some skill or skill deficit which had gone unnoticed can be brought to the table too.
- Finally, make sure the agenda is well balanced and addresses everyone’s concerns. Prioritize agenda items and if necessary suggest some time limits.
Circulate the agenda
- Make sure to circulate the agenda to everyone attending the meeting, ideally a few days before the meeting.
- Ask all team members to notify you ahead of time of any other agenda items they might have that were not added yet.
Starting the meeting
- Begin the meeting promptly (and end on time as well).
- Ensure that there is agreement about the agenda items and inquiring as to whether there are any important items to add.
- Consider asking members to share a personal good news story. This is a good way to get to know each other and build team morale.
During the meeting
- Stick to the agenda to the extent possible, being flexible to add in any new items of importance.
- Encourage every team member to share their ideas, tips for working with the child, or difficulties. Often team members will find specific reinforcers or strategies that they can share with the group. Similarly, they may be struggling to teach a particular skill. This will help them learn about any discrepancies across team members or general concerns.
- 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 and other “small talk.”
- Discourage attendees from checking their phones or texting during the meeting.
Vary the format as warranted
- It can be beneficial to review videos of teaching sessions as a group.
- In some instances, the child can be involved in the meeting as well. Every team member can work briefly with the child on one or more tasks while the remainder of the team observes. The supervisor will take notes and give feedback afterwards. Consider having the supervisor demonstrate new and important procedures. This will go best if there is a positive, nurturing atmosphere on the team and everyone is committed to one another’s professional development.
Make sure to end on a positive note
- Mention any positive events or achievements of the child.
- Reinforce the efforts of the team or particular individuals’ efforts (be specific about what is being praised and why).
Take meeting notes
- 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 from distributing written recommendations (this would be particularly important if a behavior reduction plan was warranted).
Distribute meeting notes
- 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 attendees initial a group copy to ensure that the notes were reviewed and understood or respond back via email to indicate such.
Use applied behavior analysis with your team, not just with your child, by assessing the team’s skill at using meeting times productively and efficiently and at taking steps needed to improve both group process and outcomes. It helps if everyone is committed to helping the child realize his or her fullest potential and to investing in the process to become better providers and team members. Best of luck to you with your meetings.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Preeti Chojar, MCA has been a Board Member of ASAT since 2007 and currently serves on the Newsletter/Website Committee. Preeti completed her Bachelors in Computer Science and Masters in Computer Applications in India. In 1994, she married and moved to the United Kingdom and ultimately to the United States where she and her husband are both software consultants. Their son was born in Pennsylvania in 1997 and diagnosed with autism in 2000. At that time, she had no knowledge of autism. She set out to educate herself by attending numerous conferences, asking many questions and reading a wide array of books. She worked hand in hand with the early intervention team at her son’s preschool. She used her software skills, innovative thinking, and her commitment to her son to develop and carry out an unrelenting path forward for him. Her level of involvement and commitment to science-based treatment has sustained over the years. Her son is now 19 years old. After searching for the best public schools for him all over USA, they settled in Maryland.