“Mary made the course accessible, but still functional and rigorous. If you are a BCBA and want to enhance your practical verbal behavior skills, this is a great class. If you are a parent and just starting to get language or more complex communication from your child, this course is worth your time. Super practical. He also said it includes all the needed CEUs for a two-year cycle for behavior analysts, and it would be life changing information for parents of younger kids on the spectrum.”
Will Overfelt is a friend of mine and a BCBA in North Carolina. He recently took the Verbal Behavior Bundle and shared that glowing review on his Facebook page. Today we are talking about the benefits of my online ABA courses and community, certifications in the autism field, and even spotting good and bad ABA practices.
Online Course and Community
I offer a variety of online ABA training, including the Verbal Behavior Bundle, which Will took to fulfill his needed 32 CEUs. After sitting down and deciding what skills he wanted to work on, Will decided the VB Bundle was just right and it included all 32 Learning CEUs that BCBAs need every two years. Will found that while he thought this was primarily parent focused training, the skills and lessons were robust and really important for professionals. The videos of kids and the long term access to the course to go back and review material were things he really enjoyed about the course. I encourage anyone who has taken my courses to join our online community, where we ask and answer questions and really focus on making a difference in the field of ABA.
Certifications in the Autism Field
Will shares his story about his fall into the autism world. He received his certification of BCaBA in 2006 and now has his BCBA. We discuss a little about the difference between these certifications. BCaBA is a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst, which requires a Bachelor’s degree, and has strict requirements for mentorship and operating under a BCBA. A BCBA is a more strenuous certification to attain and requires a Master’s degree. To a lot of people, if they are going through the work to get a BCaBA, it makes more sense to just obtain the BCBA. RBT, a Registered Behavior Technician, is a certification that only requires a high school degree and 40 hours of training under a BCBA. We discuss a little about what you can expect from RBTs and the importance of positive training.
Good vs Bad ABA
It’s no secret that ABA has gotten a bad rap over the years. I have discussed this in some of my previous podcast episodes. Will is based in North Carolina, a state in which ABA is still not entirely and widely accepted. Will shares the importance of asking yourself questions and being critical of your child’s experience when observing ABA for your family. Trust your gut. How do you feel about your provider’s demeanor? How are they communicating with you? Are they disseminating information with you or are they using hard to understand medical terminology? Is your child happy and positive about the provider? I am a major proponent of positive practice, 8 positives for every negative. If you’re feeling unsure and your child is crying every time therapy is supposed to start, it doesn’t mean everyone needs to be fired, but it does mean you as the parent need to work with your ABA team to get on the same page and work on the training and reinforcement that you know works.
Will shares so much wisdom in this episode and even shares his unique hobbies and passions. My podcast goals are not only to help children but to help parents and professionals lead happy and less stressed lives. Will drives home the point that to prevent burn out and bring joy, parents and professionals in the thick of the autism world NEED to find interests outside of autism. I am on a mission to Turn Autism Around, please visit us on social media and like, comment, and share to get the word out!
Will Overfelt on Turn Autism Around Podcast
Will Overfelt is a BCBA practicing in Asheville, NC. Will completed his undergraduate at East Tennessee State University studying international studies and special education, masters and EdS degrees from Western Carolina University in Severe Disabilities and Special Education Administration as well as a grad degree in liberal arts from UNC-Greensboro. Will completed his ABA training at Florida Tech and completed his supervision hours under Dr. Denny Reid. He is currently a behavior specialist with Buncombe County Schools, provides behavior consultation for adults through the Medicaid Waiver at FIRST Parent Center, and occasionally teaches classes in special education for UNC-Asheville. He sometimes dabbles in working on local political campaigns and finds his training as a BCBA helpful in work outside of disabilities such as politics, advocacy, and communications.
- Why do BCBAs recommend taking the Verbal Behavior Bundle?
- What benefits can parents and professionals receive from taking the online courses and joining the online community?
- Can you receive CEUs for completing Mary’s online courses?
- Can parents AND professionals benefit from taking the same courses?
- How to spot good and bad ABA practices?
- What certifications are available in the autism field?
- Why should parents and professionals seek hobbies and passions outside autism?
- Workshops – ABA Help for Professionals and Parents
- ABA Therapy Autism Mom: 4 Myths & Truths
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Training (ACT) with Dr. Jonathan Tarbox
- My Journey with The Verbal Behavior Approach
- BCBA Compassionate Care and Interpersonal Skills with Dr. Bridget Taylor
- Mary Barbera on Facebook
- Mary Barbera on TikTok
- Mary Barbera (@turnautismaround) on Instagram
Will Overfelt – Turn Autism Around Podcast Transcript
Transcript for Podcast Episode: 189
ABA Courses Online for Autism Therapists with Will Overfelt
Hosted by: Dr. Mary Barbera
Guest: Will Overfelt
Mary: You're listening to the Turn Autism Around Podcast Episode number 189. Today I have a special guest, Will Overfelt, who is a friend of mine. He's been a seasoned BCBA for a number of years and he works in North Carolina. He's a behavior specialist in schools. He provides behavioral consultation for adults and occasionally teaches special education classes at the University of North Carolina in Asheville. He came on the podcast because he took my online Verbal Behavior Bundle course, which I didn't even know he was taking, but he needed 32 Learning CEUs, which he could get by taking the course. He took the course and he loved it and he wrote an excellent review. Let me just read you part of it. I'm going to give him a shout out here. He said, "Mary made the course accessible, but still functional and rigorous. If you are a BCBA and want to enhance your practical verbal behavior skills, this is a great class. If you are a parent and just starting to get language or more complex communication from your child, this course is worth your time. Super practical." He also said "It includes all the needed CEUs for a two year cycle for behavior analyst professionals, and it would be life changing information for parents of younger kids on the spectrum." So I saw that great review testimonial on Will's Facebook page. I reached out to have him come on the show, talk about his expertise, talk abou his, you know, work, and also why and why he took the course and how he liked it, what surprised him? He also has a really interesting side passion, which we talk about near the end of the show. And Will has one of my very favorite answers at the very end of the show on self-care tips and stress management tools. So love this interview with Will Overfelt. Let's get to it now.
Narrator: Welcome to the Turn Autism Around podcast for both parents and professionals in the autism world who want to turn things around, be less stressed, and lead happier lives. And now your host, autism mom, behavior analyst and bestselling author. Dr. Mary Barbera.
Mary: Thank you so much, Will, for joining us today.
Will: Sure. I'm so glad to be here, Mary.
Mary: Yeah. So we've been Facebook friends for a long time and never met in person right at this point. But you had posted back in early June this whole long post on your Facebook page, really touting the verbal behavior bundle course. And we're going to talk about that today as a seasoned professional, how you took the course, why you took it, what were your hesitations, all that stuff. But before we get into all that, we're also going to talk about what you do now as a seasoned behavior analyst and all kinds of good stuff. But before we get to that, tell me and our listeners about your fall into the autism ABA world.
Will Overfelt on the Turn Autism Around Podcast
Will: Sure, sure. I think I fell into autism the way a lot of other people do by accident, you know, aside from, you know, if you have a family member. But I was actually doing my undergrad in international studies at East Tennessee State and did a internship in Zimbabwe and spent the summer there and really realized that, you know, signed up for the international studies degree because I was interested in third world stuff and I got into it and realized that I probably really wasn't hardy enough to, you know, to live that Third World life. But while I was there, I ended up working in a village for people with disabilities, a very, you know, impoverished kind of village. But as I was there for the summer, I got really interested in that. And when I came back, when I got back to the United States and realized, you know, that I really need to change some things up, I started taking some special ed classes and thought, well, this is really interesting. And, you know, kind of within my, you know ended up getting a minor in special ed for my undergrad and finished up my undergrad and, you know, moved from Tennessee to North Carolina and actually to be an AmeriCorps volunteer, where I work with with people with disabilities and, you know, kind of kind of within that had a had had a lot of had a lot of really good experiences. So.
Mary: Yeah. So I want to give a shout out to one of my best entrepreneurial friends, Temby Becca, who is from Zimbabwe. Oh, cool. And, yeah, she's amazing. So that's kind of what I know about Zimbabwe. So you were there with AmeriCorps?
Will: No, I was actually there for an internship or not for my undergrad at the time. And then when I graduated, I didn't really know what to do with myself and found AmeriCorps and moved to North Carolina to be an AmeriCorps volunteer. And it was focused on disabilities. And I think the first or second individual that they put me with was somebody with autism. And, you know, I was hooked, you know, immediately. This is really interesting. And, you know, just ended up, you know, continuing to work and ended up in a classroom, working directly with a kid in a classroom. And the teacher in that classroom said, you know, you would be a good special educator if you thought about, you know, getting your licensure. And our school at that time contracted with Dennis Reid. And so, you know, a year later, you know, was in a masters in special ed program, was given my own classroom and Dennis was my consultant. And he helped and really helped me to understand what ABA was and then did my supervision. So, you know, it all was always almost like magical how things lined up.
Mary: Yeah. So Dr. Dennis Reid, I've seen him present a few times. Yeah. And he's a very good presenter. I would love to have him on the podcast at some point. But one of the things I want to tell my listeners, because, you know, everybody's tuning in for whatever reason, but it's like, my memory's not wonderful. But I remember one really great thing that he did in this keynote presentation was in Atlantic City, New Jersey. And he had everybody take 2 minutes and write down all the choices they made till they got there. Right. And so I wrote down, you know, what to wear or whether to have, you know, where to park what to have for breakfast to wait until I got there to see if they had breakfast. What to have to drink. You know, all those where to sit, the conversations and just all of these things that happened before 9 a.m. when he did the workshop, the keynote. And he just illustrated throughout the whole talk about how choices really make us happy. And our kids with autism, our clients and our children really have a tough time making choices. And, you know, that really stuck out.
Will: Sure. Sure. I think that the gift that Dennis really gave me was the gift of a pragmatic view of ABA. And he's just exceptionally pragmatic and really taught me how to talk to people and how to interact with people and how to, you know, how to write my reports in such a way that they were that they felt good to people. And, you know how to use all of the ABA soft skills with the rest of the world. You know, we're not just using our we're not just using our science with children with autism. It's everywhere. It's how the world works.
Autism Field Certifications: BCBA, BCABA, and RBTs
Mary: So yeah, yeah. Really good stuff. So you became a BCABA in 2006, and then a couple of years later, you became a BCBA. Correct. I don't know that out of you know, we're on, you know, podcast number 189 at this point, I don't know if we've ever talked about BCABA. So can you tell our listeners what a BCABA is?
Will: And the board is still credentialing, BCABAs as far as I know, it's not an incredibly popular endorsement right now. You know, at the time the BCABA existed before the RBT credential existed.
Mary: BCABA stands for...
Will: They actually changed. It started out, it was board certified associate behavior analyst. And I think before that it had a note another they changed over the years. They had a different...assistant versus associate. That's it. That's it.
Mary: Okay. So associate is the middle little A in the ABA at this moment and back when I became a BCBA, which required a master's degree, the BCABA required a bachelor's degree. And I'm thinking that's still the case.
Will: I think so. From what I can tell it. It seems like people seem to shy away from it because it seems like folks are either doing the RBT or doing the BCBA most likely. Totally sure what that's about except for, you know, with RBT with 40 hours, you can jump in, you can jump into the field and start working. And so I think once people are kind of already in the field and they've already started, you know, they I think people are entering the field under the RBT credential right now. That's what I see more often than not, people are getting their feet wet with RBT.
Mary: An RBT is a registered behavior technician. And that requires only a high school degree. And that is the person that can do 40 hours of training under the direction of a BCBA. They can begin working with kids. So parents that are listening may be interacting with RBT's in their home. And if insurance is covering you, all 50 states cover ABA services in most cases, then they will require that RBT credential. And so over the years, like I've been certified as a BCBA since 2003 well has been certified as a BCABA, and then a BCBA starting in 2006. But since then, things have really changed. Well, first of all, the field has exploded, right? And my number is a thousand something. So I was among the first 1200 behavior analysts around the country and the world. And at the time it did, it required some schooling, some distance learning schooling, and some supervision. Mentorship was allowed. But over the years that's gotten a lot tighter. And I think for BCABA is that's one of the things that you need a lot of supervision, you need a lot of extra post baccalaureate schooling, so you might as well just get your master's and do the BCBA because then as you're working as a BCABA in the past you used to be able to work pretty freely and now you really have to be under the direction of a BCBA, right?
Mary: Yeah. So I mean, that may been a little technical for the parents listening, but I think for professionals it might be helpful because a lots of things have changed over the years and and there are still real issues with, you know, RBTs I know in my online community where people take my course and then go into the community, you know, there's a lot of complaints like they just sent this RBT this registered behavior tech, you know, and she doesn't know what she's doing. She's brand new. Like, I don't like her. Well, you know what? She's brand new, number one. Number two. You're in my course and community. You know, if she's there and she's pleasant. I would and I would pair myself with her. And I wouldn't expect anything except for her to be pleasant and open to feedback. And I would work with her to implement the things, the strategies in my courses. I would not be overly critical or expect really anything from new RBTs. But do you have a different philosophy?
Will: Um. No, I agree with you. Um. And keep in mind, I live in a state, I live in North Carolina, and we are only this year getting licensure. We are not a state where not a state where ABA has been well accepted over the years. We're just really now, people are starting to realize that we're okay and that we're skilled and that we're competent and that, you know, if you have a child with autism that needs support, we are the best professional for the job. And most occasions, as long as you're willing. I'm big on collaboration. I don't like behavior analysts who think they're the way the truth in the life of all things. We do good work and we do good things. But I really do strongly believe in collaboration with the SLPs, OTs, Occupational Therapists, PTs. The full team. Especially within the school system. The schools are really set up under the, you know, either the multi-disciplinary or the transdisciplinary model where, you know, different people wear different hats within the work that they do. And that model has a lot of...we don't do a lot of research on that model within our world. But if you go into, you know, the special education literature and there's a really strong evidence base for that kind of transdisciplinary collaborative models.
Mary: Yeah, and to also involve the parents in that multidisciplinary team because they need to have an important seat at the table and the intervention. Yeah, I totally agree with you on that. So you talked about how, you know, we do good work and everything, but we have seen some pretty not so great ABA and I know I did a podcast we can link it in the show notes. This is podcast 189. I got a link in the show notes, but it was like the four myths and truths about ABA and there just does seem to be a lot of not so great, if I may say it bad ABA going on and I'm sure you've experienced it but like. How can parents and professionals tell good ABA from bad ABA?
Good ABA vs Bad ABA
Will: I think there's certain things that certainly, you know, I don't have a list or anything. But I think there's some red flags and white flags. I guess you can look for the good and the bad. I think it you know, I think for a parent, a lot of times it's going to be gut instinct. What does it feel like? What is this? What does this relationship feel like? And it is a relationship. Particularly if you have a child with a more involved disability and you've got, you know, the BCBA and the RBTs in your home you're in, you're going to get to know these people really well. They're going to be in your home, in your kids school, in your community life. You know, I've had some families say that, you know, the BCBA just kind of becomes a family member because they are so, you know, engaged and work as an entity.
Mary: Yeah. No, I mean, I think being positive, you know, is key, like being pleasant, being positive and not just assessing the child and telling you exactly how it's going to go, but also assessing the family members and their strengths and their hesitations and their need for involvement. Ah, they wanted to know more or you know, I do see it now. I don't work 1 to 1 with kids, but I do see it in our online community where I think some BCBA's and RBTs, but more so the BCBA's can get threatened with an overly knowledgeable parent.
Will: Sure. Sure. I've seen that happen plenty of times. And for me, one of the big red flags is if the team comes into your home and they try to take control of your home and your life and your situation. And they start using a whole lot of clinical terminology. That's one of my big pet peeves. We need to talk to people like they're people. In a language that makes sense to me. Sometimes I feel like I see BCBAs as going to situations. It's almost like they're using the language as a way to kind of get one up on the relationship in terms of being the smartest, most competent person in the room. But it doesn't matter if you're the most competent person in the room if you're a butthole.
Mary: Yeah, and we've done an interview with Bridget Taylor on Compassion Compassionate Care. I did an interview with Jonathan Tarbox about how professionals can work with parents so we can link those in the show notes as well. But I think the number one thing is everybody's positive with each other delivering 8 positives to every negative. If the child's screaming when the doorbell gets wrong, you know, when the therapist comes, it doesn't mean you have to fire everybody. It just means that they're not doing the kind of ABA that Will and I would approve of. Right. And those individuals that team, that organization really needs more training. So why don't we talk about the verbal behavior bundle and how Will needed credit... And what made you like how you found it and what was your analysis of like, should I take this or shouldn't I?
The Verbal Behavior Bundle, Online Course
Will: I am notoriously bad for waiting too late to get my CEUs. So I did need a batch of CEUs. It's one of my resolutions for the coming year to spread my CEUs out and not wait. So.
Mary: Every two years BCBAs need to get 32, they used to be called type two CEUs. Now they're called learning CEUs. So they need to get those CEUs under their belt every two years. So the bundle, just by chance, includes 32 Learning CEUs, including four ethical CEUs. So you came upon the need for CEUs, and somehow you found out that my verbal behavior bundle included them.
Will: Well, I've had a little list of training I've wanted to do for a while. And usually what I do when it's time to do CEUs, I try to sit down and look at my deficit, the things that I think that I'm not good at, things that are going to be the things that I want to be better at as a clinician. And, you know, one of those things is because here in North Carolina, that the type of ABA that I've run has been more geared towards because I work in schools and schools aren't necessarily where we do provide ABA is a, you know, one of the methodologies. But, you know, schools are not generally going to do like a full ABA kind of a program. And to be honest, I don't know, nor do I think they nor do I think they should. I really honestly prefer a little bit of a mix there. But because of that, I've never felt like I never got fluent with the verbal behavior operants and, you know, learn, you know, learn those for me for my BCBA test. And, you know, obviously, you know, I think everybody knows how to, you know, do a lot of mand work and a lot of tact work. But then when you really start looking at, you know, some of some of the other, you know, more, I guess, advanced verbal operants, it takes a lot of skill to run those, it takes a lot of pre-planning. It's not something that you can just kind of, you know.
Mary: Wing it.
Will: You can't wing it. So I thought, you know, I really really need to get better at that. I need to, you know, that that needs to be a real strong tool in my tool belt. And to be honest, I have and this is no slap on Dr. Carbone. I've been to a couple of his other training sessions years and years ago. And to be honest, I just don't think I'm smart enough to fully understand him. I always felt like he was just too brilliant for me. And so, you know.
Mary: I have a ton of training with Dr. Carbone because I was part of the lead behavior analyst for the Pennsylvania Verbal Behavior Project from 2000 and 2003 to 2010. And every year we went up once or twice to his clinic, and we learned for two days out a shot, which was amazing. Right? So I've been there, you know, eight or nine times for two days. And then the other great thing was I would come home and I would try stuff on Lucas right where I'd come back. So it's not a matter of Dr. Carbone not being a good teacher or you not being a good learner. It's a matter of you just didn't have that training that you could apply right away.
Mary: And we also were in the Verbal Behavior Project. I had a verbal behavior consultant starting in the year 2000 with Lucas. So like I knew the ABLES, I knew how to program from the, you know, like right away. But there's lots of people and you don't even need to learn that like, my course isn't like you have to come out of it. Any certain way, it's just you realize, I think when you take the course how tricky especially intermediate learners are, but also how tricky any learner is. And I also think about my experience as a parent, as an advocate and as a registered nurse, where I'm constantly like, hey, I'm pretty sure that's medically related and just tying that all in throughout the course, so.
Will: Sure, sure, sure, sure. Yeah.
Mary: So you guys are on the list. You are considering your options. You decided to go for it, but you were also hesitant that maybe it would be too basic, right?
Will: Well a little bit I thought, well, this is more geared towards parents. It's a bundle towards parents. But I thought, well, you know, if she is able to bring this down on a level that a parent without any prior training and experience can really start implementing, and that's what I wanted the quick and dirty work. You know, I wanted to be able to start implementing stuff quicker.
Mary: And to be honest, the toddler course is really created and is heavily marketed towards parents. Right. But the verbal behavior bundle I first created starting in 2015 and originally, it was called Autism ABA Help Online Training for Professionals and Gung-ho Parents. Right. I wanted only the parents that were going to go to hear Carbone's lecture. Only the parents who were going to be in the front row like I was. So it is a lot more technical and related to professionals than probably my marketing is.
Will: Well, absolutely. I thought it was very robust. And because it was quite a few hours, it was you know, I knew it was something that was going to give me some fluency. You know, it wasn't going to be like, you know, I think I did the course over the course of like six or seven weeks. So I was able to, you know, sit and do a little, sit, do a little, sit, do a little and, you know, think about it and process it and think about how I would use it. And then come back to another module.
Mary: Yeah. Yeah. So what surprised you about it? Anything?
Will: I would just I think, that it was robust, you know, not that your trainings wouldn't be robust, but since you're, you know, gearing it towards parents who don't have expertize, I felt like it was you did it in such a way that it worked for me as a professional and that it would work for a parent, too.
Mary: Right, right, right.
Will: It's kind of that needle. Yeah.
Mary: I've had requests from people in the past that wanted me to come and do a lecture when I used to, you know, go around the world speaking on autism. And they'd be like, okay, so in the morning you'll speak to the parents and then in the afternoon you speak to the professionals, No, and I don't want to break up because I'm going to say the same thing. You might as well get me for the whole day talking to everybody because we all need to work together. I'm both a parent and a professional. I don't think you can slice it out. Right. And I like what you said. Well, like, you know, you took the course, like thinking, well, if I could explain it better to parents, like I love going to lectures about even basic vb or basic procedures because it's like I hear a different way. And one of the things that. You probably well, you definitely saw that my training is filled with videos of kids.
Will: Right. And that's I think that's the kicker. I'm like I needed to see that. I needed to see you. I needed to see the cookie, cookie, cookie.
Mary: Right. And the intermediate learner course, where no one really goes is, you know, how to teach prepositions, how to teach pronouns, how to train somebody, to teach pronouns and the mess that that entails and how to teach in intraverbal webbing. You know, and a lot of these procedures, I mean, I've created some of them actually from scratch, but a lot of them are adaptations of stuff I saw Dr. Carbone or Dr. Mark Sundberg doing in lectures that I couldn't rewind. I'd come home, try it with Lucas, try it with clients in the Verbal Behavior Project, and then adapt it because it usually wouldn't work for Lucas because he was not at the same level that the kids, where he was doing it with were.
Will: Sure, sure.
Mary: Yeah. So now you feel more comfortable with it. We also talk about the VB-MAPP and how to do it, how to program from it. So.
Will: Absolutely. And I like that you get access to the course, for a while. So, you know, if there's something, you know, next month, you know, I'm working with a kid and think, well, I really like to go back and watch that video again. I know it's there.
Mary: Yeah. And we usually, you know, we we do recommend that people stay for a very, you know, low fee so that they can engage not only with the courses and 25 bonus videos, but also with the community. And I was telling Will before we have record that in the coming months, I don't know what month, but I am going to be developing a train the trainer a more not a whole new course but how to use this course quickly to become very fluent and trained in my approach Verbal Behavior approach, Turn Autism Around approach. They're all the same thing, it's all just taking the science making it super practical to help kids reach their fullest potential and increase talking decrease tantrums, but also not just language work on eating, sleeping potty training, going to the doctor's, dentists, haircuts without a fuss. I mean, all of these things are so intertwined how to deal with medication trials and and all these things, how to take data when when you're, you know, the child or client is is starting a new Med or titrating a dose up. I mean, these are things that we as the interdisciplinary team and the experts on behavior should know and should be recommending. Absolutely. At Least as an option.
Will: Absolutely. I feel like ABA has made breakneck speed in the last ten or 15 years. And we've done a lot of things like the general ABA stuff. I feel like the VBs got to catch up. We become a bigger part of the general package and you know I did my supervision, it's been a long time since my clinical hours, the coursework, I did at FIT. I had an amazing experience with my coursework at Florida Tech. I am guessing because it's been so long, those courses now probably have more of a VB focus.
Mary: Yeah, yeah.
Will: I think all the other training programs probably have more VB.
Mary: Yeah. And I mean, I know you've had my first book and, you know, read my first book, Verbal Behavior Approach and that was published in 2007. And really that has done I mean, it's selling better than ever and it has done so well. And I luckily wrote it very evergreen. So it's still a classic. There's nothing in there that's like, oh, you know, I mean, I talk about the ABLES, which, you know, now I recommend of course the VB-MAPP, and my assessment, my plan, which are more basic, easier but it's all the kind of the same and that my first book is in I can think 17 languages now. So we did a training for, I think, Lithuania, and we made that into a podcast. We can link that in the show notes for those of you that like to have been in the field for over a decade and really. Just, you know, been around a long time. And I agree we need to make verbal behavior. You know, there's a lot of anti-ABA people out there. It's like we have to make sure the ABA that's being provided is quite unquote good ABA and has a very robust verbal behavior process going on. Like we're not with my 26 year old son, Lucas. We're not sitting down and doing mixed intensive teaching VB. Sure. What? If, you know, his cousin has a girlfriend and they're two, you know, they've been together for eight years and they are with us and he doesn't know her name. Then I am going to kind of do some little drills with her name. I might get a picture, you know, if he's got a new staff member or a new procedure or we are using ABA and verbal behavior every day within his life. So this doesn't have to be like, Oh, well, I don't need that because I'm not running intensive teaching.
Will: Right. Right. Oh, absolutely. Oh, my dog's barking.
Mary: Oh you've got dogs in the back, which is totally fine. Okay. So I think that's great. And I would love to have you in our community long term so we can definitely talk about that. And we have many professionals. We have our parents and professionals from over 90 countries. We have people in our community from, believe it or not, 2015.
Will: Oh wow.
Mary: Yeah. So it's not just, oh, get in and get out because we really want to change the way ABA is being offered.
Will: Sure, sure.
Mary: Yeah. So as we get closer to offering that train the trainer, professional training or whatever we're going to call it or do, I would definitely want to prepare.
Mary: Okay. So I know you are currently working in the field as a behavior analyst, but you also have some side interests. You're working on a political campaign and you also are doing medical advocacy. So why don't we talk about your BCBA or how let's talk about how you got into the whole medical advocacy and what is that?
Finding Hobbies and Passions Outside the Autism Field
Will: Sure. Sure. In 2020, right before COVID hit, my dad was very, very ill and was in our local hospital. And we'd been there many, many, many times before. But the hospital had been sold to another company, I won't say their name very, but they were the largest hospital company in the country. And things changed. Things changed in the hospital. And I realized pretty quickly that it wasn't safe to leave my family alone there. And so I started a Facebook group to talk about health care issues in the region and talk about things that have been happening since the sale of our hospital. And thinking that maybe I would, you know, it was something I'd never done before. It was outside of my expertise area. But I thought I'll get ten or 15 people in the group and you know, that it would be, you know, a little group that we talk to each other about. And then I realized that a lot of people were having the same feelings that I had about the loss of innocence, the death of our, you know, community hospital and, you know, ended up with, you know, over 13,000 members in the group now. And I'm a plaintiff in a lawsuit against some companies based on the quality of care. And it's really kind of become a second life. And in some ways, I will always have autism. I always love autism. It will always be my primary work. But I think what I realized is that some of the skills that I learned as a BCBA, even just some of the simple things of breaking down messaging into little points and you know, knowing how to constantly reinforce the thing that you want to see. I realized that those skills were transferred into communications work and into other advocacy work. And, you know, it's really turned into its own sort of unpaid, side profession. But, you know, it's something that I love and that's something else that helped younger BCBAs and folks that are, you know, fairly new to the field. I teach some at one of the local universities for their special ed classes. And, you know, one of the things that I tell folks is, you know, it's okay to get yourself entrenched in this work and it's okay. It's okay to love it. But you gotta have something else. You've got to have other things that you care about and you've got to have other, other ways that you calm down and relax and hobbies and passions and personal interests. I think it's really important to find other things so that you can stay fresh with the work that you do. And, you know, for example, you know, I'm not doing it because I work for the schools. I'm not doing a whole lot of work this summer around autism. I'm doing a lot of my advocacy work. And, you know, I kind of walk away from autism for a little bit there in the summer. But when I go back in the fall, I'm refreshed and I'm there and I'm engaged with it rather than being burned out. And I think this is a field that's very, very easy to become burned out in.
Mary: Yeah. Yeah. And you also are working on a political campaign. We won't say what party or I mean.
Will: I was, it's finished up but it was a primary campaign. And I just really, really enjoyed that work. And as you know, the thing that was interesting to me is, you know, we worked on messaging and worked on communications and worked on, you know, how to get people to come to events. It was all behavioral. And I can you know, I was able to use some of my skills in that capacity. And you think they won't transfer, but you know, they really will.
Mary: They definitely do. I mean, people aren't going to show up unless there's reinforcement in some capacity. So, you know, even for the parents listening out there, I think that's spot on for professionals to, you know, develop other interests and develop interests where you could use your talents and your skills to help in whatever you're passionate about and just be open to it, you know, like your dad got sick and, and you weren't thinking that, but just be open to I mean, I've gotten myself into so many different alleys where I'm like, Well, how did I get here? But let's go for it. But even parents, you know, you're overwhelmed with your child and everything. But you still also need some outlets and some passions that aren't necessarily 24 seven autism, which is a great lead into the final question. You know, part of my podcast goals are not just to help the kids, but also help the parents and professionals be less stressed and lead happier lives. So besides getting involved, you know, which we already cover, which I think is a great one, but do you have any stress reduction tips or self-care management tools that you use?
Will: You know, the first one of the first classes that I took in ACT kind of stuff, yeah, really taught me to think about how our own language and how language can be the cause of suffering in our lives. You know, languages cause suffering and it causes our greatest ability to interact and communicate with people. But for me, because so much of what I do is heavy autism work, communications work, language based kind of stuff. I like fun and things that don't have a whole lot of language I like. I like hanging out with my dog. I like hanging out with my mom's bird. I've got some possums on my porch that I feed that actually during the pandemic sort of became a little bit of like a possum celebrity because I've posted up online.
Mary: I do remember that on Facebook, Will's personal page, he started feeding possums, which totally freaked me out. I was like, What are you doing? I am not a big animal, you know? I don't have pets and everything kind of freaked me out, but it was very entertaining. Like, well, is is kind of the Possum Whisperer.
Will: So I just did it during the pandemic, you know, when we were all kind of sitting at home and not working. And I saw a possum come on the porch and I said, you know, I'm going to make it my mission. I'm going to pet that possum. And I did. And then I got a webcam and I started making possum masks for my friends. And you've got to find other things that are joyful.
Mary: I love that. It's like my favorite answer to this, you know, for as long as I can remember. So I love that. Yeah, well, thank you, Will. Thank you for joining my course for being so positive about it, being so public about it. It really will help others, other behavior analysts, other professionals, sLPs, RBTs, PTs really think about the training and yes, there is a fee and I also provide lots of free information, low cost. You can get the book for free at the library, you know, like if you're not ready to invest. But really in the end it's not that much money especially I like what you said about CEUs, like you have a list of skills that you want to get CEUs from so like you want to get to use around. So like that as a professional, don't just get CEUs that are not going to be helpful to you in the future. So like, I think the whole episode was great in terms of lots of wisdom in here. So thank you so much for your time.
Will: Absolutely. It was a pleasure.
Mary: If you're a parent or an autism professional and enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out my online. Course and community where we take all of this material and we apply it. You'll learn life changing strategies to get your child or clients to reach their fullest potential. Join me for a free online workshop at MaryBarbera.com/Workshop, where you can learn how to avoid common mistakes. You can see videos of me working with kids with and without autism, and you can learn more about joining my online course in community at a very special discount. Once again, go to MaryBarbera.com/Workshop for all the details. I hope to see you there
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