This interview is a little different than others featured on the show; today Beth and Amie from Coach Me If You Can interview me. You’ll hear a little of my back story, which I’ve shared before, as well as some advice from my resources on ABA and BCBAs in schools.
A Positive Approach
You’ll hear me quote over and over in this episode and many others, “You have to have 8 positives to every negative.” This is at the core of my approach and has to be the core of ABA in schools. I’ve seen too much negativity and tension in classrooms, both with students and paraprofessionals, and that just is not going to work. I talk with Beth and Amie about how The Verbal Behavior Approach and Turn Autism Around are founded in positivity and how my new course, Train the Trainer, is all about continuing that positive approach.
BCBAs in Schools
During my time with The Verbal Behavior Project, I spent a lot of time in schools and contracted privately as a BCBA to be involved with IEPs. It is often so common to see BCBAs brought in at the last moment to do damage control, but BCBAs need to be utilized to be proactive, prevent problem behavior, and collaborate with the teacher and IEPs for realistic goals.
Because this is a feature recorded originally for Amie and Beth’s podcast, we close out with some questions about me personally! I shared about my mastermind group, how I became motivated in the online learning space, and some other fun facts about what I enjoy. I really enjoyed this chat and thought Amie and Beth asked some great questions.
Beth Mand and Amie Krummick on the Turn Autism Around Podcast
Amie Krummick is an NSSEO District Coach who has been working in the field of education for over 20 years. She was trained as a school psychologist, and I have supported school districts, families, and students with autism during this time. Amie led the team in her previous district in setting up Structured Teaching classrooms for students with social communication and sensory needs. She also completed the necessary steps and was an Autism Coach with IATTAP, completed the Level I Social Thinking Clinical Training in San Jose, California, and most recently passed my BCBA exam. Amie has also worked with students from early childhood through transition age and continues to have a strong interest in coaching teams around verbal behavior, using Social Thinking concepts in their everyday work with students, and executive functioning skills.
Beth Mand is part of the team of NSSEO District Coaches and the DHH Satellite Program Facilitator. Since joining the world of education in 2005, Beth has worked as a paraprofessional, general education teacher, and special education teacher, supporting diverse populations in a variety of settings. She holds degrees in general education, special education, and administration. In her coaching role, she has supported book studies, professional learning opportunities, job embedded coaching, and surrounding the VB-MAPP Assessment and instructional practices surrounding verbal behavior.
- Dr. Mary Barbera’s Story and Fall into the Autism World.
- The importance of a positive approach.
- Finding ABA in schools and training staff.
- How are BCBAs utilized in school involvement?
- A look at Dr. Mary Barbera’s inspiration and free time.
Beth Mand and Amie Krummick – Turn Autism Around Podcast Transcript
Transcript for Podcast Episode: 224
Coach Me If You Can Hosts Beth and Amie Interview Dr. Barbera on ABA in Public Schools
Hosted by: Mary Barbera
Guest: Beth Mand and Amie Krummick
Mary: You're listening to the Turn Autism Around Podcast Episode number 224. Today we are doing something a little bit different. We're doing a Turn the Tables interview where I was interviewed by Amie and Beth from the Coach Me if you Can podcast all about how to better equip teachers and BCBAs within school districts to help kids with autism and toddlers and preschoolers showing signs. So they asked me some really great questions that I haven't answered on the podcast before. So I thought we would use this as a way to give you some of my stories and my insights on how to help the special education field. So let's get to this really great reverse interview with me and Amie and Beth on how to improve things in the education system.
Intro: 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.
Amie: Hi, Mary. Thanks for joining us and coach me if you can. This is our podcast and we cannot express how excited we are to have you today. Beth and I are big fans. We have lots of fun questions for you and we want to hear all the information from you that we can today. Can you just start by telling us a little bit about yourself and your background and then just end with really one hope that you have for our listeners today?
Dr. Mary Barbera’s Story:
Mary: Okay. Well, it's a lot of background to summarize quickly, but I can do it quickly. So I was a registered nurse, had a master's degree in nursing administration, was a head nurse down in the Philadelphia area in the eighties and early nineties. Then my husband is a physician, so we moved back to my hometown of Redding, Pennsylvania. When he got done with his residency, I was nine months pregnant when we moved, so I had Lucas first and then I had Spencer and back to back 18 months apart and I thought everything was great. I thought, okay, there are two kids, everybody's healthy. And Lucas started to regress. He actually, in hindsight, started to regress after his first birthday. But I didn't notice it because I was pregnant and everything. But he started to regress when he was about 21 months of age. I say this in my first book, The Verbal Behavior Approach. My husband first mentioned the possibility of autism. I told them he didn't have it, and I never, ever wanted to hear the word autism again. I went into a deep state of denial for a year or more, and he was finally diagnosed not at 21 months, which he could have been, but at 36 months, one day before his third birthday. And then he finally started ABA treatment at 39 months. And I felt extra guilty because then when he was diagnosed, I was like, found out about applied behavior analysis, ABA therapy, and I was like, okay, but we can, you know, really turn things around. And the doctor was like, well, not so much. I mean, now he's got moderate, severe autism. He didn't say if you would have brought him in 21 months, maybe we could have had a shot at really making major gains. But so I was just like, okay, it's not too late. He's just turned three, you know, the day before three. I'm just going to like, you know, really do whatever I can to help him reach whatever potential he has. So then I founded the Autism Society in my county because I was just like, Oh my gosh, this is such a mess. Like, all these kids are diagnosed. It's 1999.
Amie: Where do you go for information?
Mary: There was no Facebook or really the Internet. I have an AOL account and barely knew how to use it. And so I founded the Autism Society. Then I got involved with something like a first science grant, and then I became a behavior analyst. I started working for the Pennsylvania Verbal Behavior Project in 2003. I was the lead behavior analyst for that for seven years until 2010. It's still going strong. It's just known as the Patton Autism ABA Supports Initiative. And that's really where I learned how to be a consultant, how to work with kids that were nonverbal, that were severely self-injurious, that, you know, did sign language. Like I got a wide variety of experiences with thousands of kids over the years and worked with teachers and speech pathologists and paraprofessionals and bus drivers and cafeteria aides and all kinds of things over the years. And then I wrote my first book, The Verbal Behavior approach in 2007. It's in 17 languages, including Spanish, which was the last translation so far. And then in 2000, 15 eight years. Actually, almost today, I started my first online course for professionals and gung ho parents. And so really know what I do is I, I run online courses and communities and do a podcast and do all kinds of things. And then in 2021, I wrote my newest book, Turn Autism Around, which is an action guide for parents of young children with Early signs of Autism, which is the book I needed. I mean, literally, it was the book I needed when I was in denial. When parents are on wait lists, when professionals don't know how to break things down, it's also good for kids that are older who still need help with talking tantrums, eating, sleeping, potty, going to the doctor's/dentists/haircuts without a fuss, advocacy. So this has really been my life's work, my life's passion to help parents and professionals. My ABA approach is based on science, of course, and verbal behavior. Skinner's analysis of verbal behavior, my book of verbal behavior approach. It's also based on my nursing background, my background as a parent, as an advocate. It's very child friendly. We don't use any kind of escape from extinction. We don't use punishment. We prevent everything. Everything goes through a four step, very proven system, and we're making tons and tons of gains. Our online participants are making amazing gains. I'm so proud of that. And I just started a trainer program and we're beta launching that march/end of march, April, May and June, because every day we get our parents saying, Where can I find somebody that knows Mary's approach? You know, I got ABA, I got to the front of the line. And now they're saying, my kid just needs to scream and, you know, no, you know, the speech therapist is saying, no, you can't come back with your child to watch the therapy. Like it's just no, so parents and professionals are really all in this together and we need to be. So that's my story. My hope for listeners is that you're just open to, you know, learning. And even if you're doing the VB-Mapp and at the top of your game and consider yourself very positive and proactive, I mean, I know I learn stuff every single day, so I'm sure there is a lot more we all can learn together.
Beth: And Mary, I think that's one of the strongest things that you bring to this, is that ability to make ABA seem so approachable. I think a lot of people steer away because they hear all the words, and it seems very complicated. And what it really boils down to is just really good teaching. And I think you have a really good way of making that relatable and understandable to people who have not been through a full BCBA program. So in all of your different roles, right, because you're a mom, you've been a teacher to teach teachers and all different kinds of people about autism and the verbal behavior approach. What advice or tips do you have for school staff who are working on incorporating verbal behavior into their practice?
School Staff and Verbal Behavior:
Mary: Yeah, so all of my years working in schools for seven years, I mean, we were rolling up our sleeves, we were in there, we were coaching, you know, staff. And just like the kids need a positive environment. Kids and adults need 8 positive to every negative. So that's a stat from Glenn Latham, who wrote Positive Parenting. He also wrote Behind the Schoolhouse Door. And I've been reviewing the Behind the Schoolhouse Door for my training the trainer program. And there's one quote in there. I mean, it's a very old book. I mean, both his books 94 and 97, but I still think the best of the best and actually Behind the Schoolhouse Door is available for free download. But it's eight skills every teacher needs. And in that he talks about the eight positives to every negative and in his work and his study. And he had a Ph.D. so he was doing a lot of research on the positive to negative ratio of interactions. And he was saying that in his work and his research that special education students rarely got positives. In fact, they were 15 negatives to every positive. And I did see that in my work, especially when kids were having problem behaviors. I sat back one time and, you know, was just listening, pretending like I was doing something else. And really I was taking data on the positive to negative interactions. And it was bad. It was like, Stop that, Nate. I told you, if you don't get this done, we're not going to, you know, go to recess and come on, you know how to use a pencil and all that negative, negative, negative, sit up straight, stop slouching, It's all negative. And we wouldn't want to be nagged like that. And kids with special education needs certainly don't either. So I'd say if you want to incorporate the verbal behavior approach or the turn autism around approach or just any child friendly therapy, no matter what you call it, when people are like, Well, what do you think of this? Or what do you think of this type of therapy? The first thing you have to do is make sure your positive to negative ratio is great. So kids and staff like I had a teacher once and she. Yeah, I was just going in for what we used to call a site review where we would fill out a rubric to see how they were doing and the tension in the classroom between the teacher and the paraprofessionals was really off. It was really bad. And I'm like a stranger in the classroom, like, whoa, I could feel a lot of tension here. And so we sat down after, you know, the kids had gone, you know, to lunch or something to review the kind of data that I saw. And she's like, well, you know, how do I get them to the paraprofessionals to do their job kind of thing? So I gently tried to tell her, well, you know how the kids need a positive type of negative. Like I didn't see any positive interaction. And she's like, Well, they don't do anything right. What can I say? Like, start with like, I like your shirt, it's a beautiful day.
Amie: Or glad you're here today.
Mary: I like your earrings starting with something. Like because nobody wants to work in an environment that's not positive.
Amie: Right? Right. So then your thought is just encouraging staff to continue to be more positive even as we move towards incorporating verbal behavior. And that kind of brings me into more setting up opportunities for the pairing to happen, right? Like how do we start to develop positive trusting relationships with our kids and that takes time and it also takes intention on the adults part.
Mary: Mhm. Yeah. In my first book, the Verbal Behavior Approach, I have a whole chapter on pairing and I didn't realize until I became good friends with Amanda Kelley 'Behavior Babe' that there's very little research on pairing or what we call pairing, but she did some research for her doctoral dissertation. I mean there's some out there but it's just general reinforcement and the environmental factors that make for happy marriages and good relationships with any child and good relationships with coworkers. I mean, there's all of that research, which I'm not your girl. If you want me to cite studies and just like, be nice.
Beth: Make it a place people want to be.
Mary: Yeah, right.
Amie: Well in your consultation to work with schools, how do you see or can you talk a little bit about how you see the role of a BCBA best supporting student outcomes in schools? I think more and more schools, at least in this area around Illinois and our districts, we work with a lot of schools as well as our programs here are hiring and trying to incorporate BCBAs within, you know, school staff. And so how best can BCBAs be involved in helping with student positive student outcomes?
BCBAs and Student Outcomes:
Mary: Yeah, I think that's a great question. And, you know, even early on, you know, in 2005 or 2010, you know, years ago I was in school as a BCBA. You know, the work with the Verbal behavior project was such that we weren't really we weren't allowed to be on IEPs or be on IEP meetings and that sort of thing, but. Because of that work, I started to get hired, contracted independently to do functional behavior assessments, to work with certain students. Like I had the verbal behavior project for the elementary school kids. But then there was one, you know, gung ho mom that had a child in middle school and she, you know, so she convinced the school district to contract with me just for her son. I also have a 26 year old Lucas with moderate to severe autism, intellectual disability, and he needs 24/7 supervision. So he had a BCBA on his IEP from the age of nine. I also, when I was working in schools, there were, like you said, Amie, there were some school districts that were beginning to hire or contract with the BCBAs. So a couple things is, in my experience, seeing people especially employed BCBAs within schools, they tend to hire too little, too late, and that one BCBA ends up in all the IEP meetings for all the putting out fire cases, for all the litigation cases. And it doesn't tend to be, you know, it tends to be a very hard role. Right. And that's not the role that I think any of us would want to play. But when I was on cases, I was on like one child case or maybe the classroom and maybe weekly or biweekly. But the other thing is if you're on-call, you have to be a contractor, you have to have some ability to change things. Like, if you just go in there and you get a teacher who doesn't appreciate strangers in the classroom, she feels like she's in a fishbowl. She doesn't buy into it. The family's already pushing for litigation or pushing for the X, Y and Z. And then I go in and I'm kind of like, I can't make a lot of moves, but things can change. And because the Verbal Behavior project has been going on since 2002, I believe that's a model that other states have looked at, have recognized, and have duplicated to some degree so that we can make change. And so we have to go in if we're going into a strange situation or new teacher or new classroom or new district or new parent, new family. And we're going to work with them. We have to remember that there are 8 positives to every negative. We have to remember to talk in lay terms to you know, I had this teacher once and it was a VB project, but she had older kids and she had kids with Down syndrome and, you know, different I think it was a life skills class. And I was working with another BCBA or student BCBA who was all gung ho and she was talking about motivational operations. And I could tell this teacher was like ready to blow a gasket. She was just like, Oh. And finally I said to her, Well, it was only a couple, a couple sessions in, you know, over maybe October in the school year. And I was like, you know, how can we help you? Like, I know this is a lot. And she's just like. On my IEP for this 14 year old girl with Down's syndrome is not. Requesting. It's not like we were basically creating what we used to call, like a Mand monster, like we created her requesting and then she'd over request and it was just bogging the teacher down. And she's like I said, Well, what is on the IEP? What could we help with? And she's like, setting the table on the IEP. Perfect. Let's do that. You know, do you want her to carry all the plates over or do you want her to gather up all this? You know? And she's like, I don't know. And I'm like, okay, well, let's think about this. What would be reasonable? Would she drop the plates, you know, like, let's break it down and let's work on something that you want to work on that is well within our scope in ABA.
Amie: Thanks. So what I heard you talk about initially with the schools, too, is trying to maybe further identify the role of the BCBA within the school. So they're not that person who is not utilized just to, like you kind of said, putting out fires or kind of the more reactive. Right. I just thought I wrote down how to work with your BCBA to not be in a reactive position, to like to start to work on some of these behaviors and systems and support from the beginning.
Mary: Yeah. And really work on preventing problem behaviors. I remember I went into one school building and the principal's like at the door and he's running up the steps and, you know, he's like, Oh, you're here so and so is aggressive? I'm glad you're here. It's like, okay, no.
Amie: You're not going to get to do all the other things you wanted to do.
Mary: Well, and also for that point, it's a no win situation. You know.
Amie: Like at the end, you.
Mary: Ya know, could you take a look at this, at this client who is highly aggressive? Well, I need reinforcement. I need an assessment. I'm not just going in there.
Amie: To go fix it.
Mary: And get attacked. And so that's that putting out fires we really need like Lucas's BCA, who was on his IEP from age nine till I mean, she still technically is in his adult plan. You know, she would go in 10 hours a month, she would meet with me one hour a month. She would, you know, program like for fluency, she would program for new, you know, help them come up with systems. And she would also prevent and show them how to react to any problem behavior. So that I mean that's dedicated because there was a BCA in the IEP for my son and I was in certain kids IEP. So then they can attend the IEP meetings and they can, you know, they're written in as support for staff. So it's part of the IEP and then it's not as hard to make changes. So you can actually have not just an FBA done, but you could have behavior goals in the IEP. I think that's missing on so many IEPs, like double digit additions on the IEP, but no behavior reduction goal is in the IEP and it's like, well, you're working on the behavior plan. I'm like, Well, I want a goal. I want a couple goals. Otherwise everybody thinks that's just like a supplement.
Amie: Just going to happen, right?
Beth: Well, and I think too, you're talking about like finding the buy in with the teacher, about asking how my work is going to be meaningful to you, at least in that beginning part of the relationship to see that value and how I can help support you in a little way before making maybe larger systems change in a room would be really important and sort of coming in gung ho about, right, this is my plan for ABCD.
Mary: Right? We got to get everybody on the bus. I remember working with another junior BCBA because with the project we would go in in twos, a BCBA and then either BC-ABA or somebody training to be, you know, and I remember another gung ho. I mean, she ended up being a great BCBA, but early on she was just so much like you said back, that she had a plan. And I'm like, the bus has taken off and only you're in it, right? Get back and, you know, get a plan that people can buy into and understand.
Beth: Right. So again, it's about being able to take the BCBA language and turn it into layman's terms so that everyone at the IEP table understands it.
Beth: So I'm talking about IEP teams. One of the things that our district coaches do a lot of support around is evaluations. So we wanted to ask you, in your experience, what are some tips or suggestions you have for approaching conversations with parents when the IEP team or the educational team suspects that the student might have autism and wants to conduct an evaluation?
IEP and Autism Evaluations:
Mary: To see if they have autism. One of my first video blogs is on denial, and I don't see it. Well, now I don't work with older kids. I really focus on my online courses and I don't really work with any kids, 1 to 1. But I think just kind of listing the things you're worried about, like here are some things we're seeing. His language is not on track. I mean, we had kids that showed up at kindergarten, still on bottles with no autism diagnosis or they came in and they were like, level two VB-Mapp. And they, you know, were very impaired. And nobody even thought about autism before they showed up at kindergarten. So I think it does depend on the age. And there is a lot of overlap with older kids that might have anxiety, depression, ADHD. I mean, the difference between ADHD and autism and OCD, it is very tricky. And so I would approach it with here's some things we're seeing kind of get their input on things. They're seeing maybe another diagnosis that they like better, that they don't want to approach the autism diagnosis. And I don't know that in all cases, like I've had adults, friends of mine who approach me and they're like, you know, I always had ADHD, but I think it's autism. And they're like, you know, fortified, married with a couple of kids and a job. And I'm like. Is it really going to matter? I mean, if you're functioning, it really doesn't matter what the diagnosis is. If they're more comfortable with ADHD, which is probably a big part of it, if the child is older and they have that. You know. I don't know. I mean, coming from a medical background, I would only trust, like, an ADASS diagnostic test with a at a teaching hospital kind of diagnosis, because I think there's a lot of you just keep piling on diagnoses and sometimes it's with not to put down school psychologists or educators, but it's tricky enough without doing really high level ADASS testing. I and I have been trained on the ADASS tests early, but I mean, I'm not you know, I haven't kept that up or ever got research trained or anything. But I would be careful about pushing a specific diagnosis because it really is about the goals and the services. Right. Yeah, I mean, but I mean, you could also be someone from my work and I mean I have on my Turn Autism Around podcast, I have lots of episodes with adults who have a diagnosis and teens. And early on you get more services hands down if you have a diagnosis of autism. So for younger kids, I don't see it as being as hard to convince parents, especially parents who now really want to roll up their sleeves and help the child.
Beth: And I think you said right when you were the parent or the parent. Right. Back then, in the early stages, you wish you had had the book Turn Autism Around. Yeah. So. Like a specific chapter or anything out of that specifically that you would lead people to read or to reference back to, to give them some more wording around how to phrase something or share information.
Mary: So I'd say the first two chapters, the first chapter is, and this is 2021, you can get turnautismaround.com, you can read the first chapter, listen to the second chapter, and get all the book resources for free at turnautismaround.com. But I'd say the forward's done by Temple Grandin. The first chapter is early signs of autism are in emergencies so why are we waiting? And that, I think if you know, talks about my denial a little bit and talks about other people's, you know, early journeys. And then the second chapter is, is it autism, ADHD or just a speech delay? That's the real key to the whole book is it doesn't matter. Half the members in my toddler preschool or course do not have an autism diagnosis, but they were willing and able to kind of get over the autism word, thrown out every other sentence, every other word to get their kids help, because it's just how to increase talking, decrease tantrums, work on picky eating, sleeping, potty training, going to the doctor's, done haircuts. It really could turn into a program for any toddler. It's just great parenting, great if you're doing early intervention, it's great positive early intervention therapy. And so it's not going to hurt anything. And I did consider not putting autism in the title. A lot of people don't like the title Turn Autism Around. They're like, What do you mean by that? Or are you trying to cure it or you trying to stamp it out? And it's like, I'm just trying to help kids improve, get their delays caught up as much as possible. I don't think autism is a gift. I think it is a disability and it's serious. And anybody who wants to argue that it's a gift like it's great for you if you think your autism is a gift. God bless you. Mm hmm. Providing 24/7 care to my son and, you know, living and working in the autism field for over 20 years. It's a hardship for families, for kids, and for taxpayers. I mean, even if you know no one with autism, which is hard to believe as a taxpayer should be concerned, and the earlier you can treat these things, the better. So, yeah, I think listening to my blogs and my podcasts and getting this book, if you have anybody in denial, I think I make a good case and it doesn't matter if you want to stick with it's just a speech delay or it's just ADHD. Still do the course, still read the book, still listen, because nobody in the speech delay community or ADHD community is going to provide the help that I can provide. And that other very child friendly BCBAs teachers, speech therapists can provide.
Amie: Great. So I know both your books have a wealth of information in them. I know recently you've come up with your online autism assessment. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and how to use that and where to find it?
Dr. Mary Barbera’s Books, Courses, and Information:
Mary: In the back of my first book, The Verbal Behavior Approach, there's an appendix with a five page assessment that I created, you know, a long time ago. So that assessment came into a I condensed it into a one page assessment. I think in 2009 when I was writing a little article. And then over the years it has. So it's in my turn Autism Around book as a one page assessment on page 49 and this is in the pre book resources turnautismaround.com. That's one of the free resources is the one page assessment. So the one page assessment is great. You can do the whole thing in 10 minutes. But as a person who really would like quantifiable data because I get tons of testimonials and success stories where kids are going from two words to 500 words. In fact, I tried to get such a study published in a peer reviewed journal last year. And I didn't get it published in a peer reviewed journal I wrote. I wrote it as a white paper because I had two words to 180 words and phrases. I had COVID lockdown with the mom only doing my course, getting zero therapy, taking her out zero times. And I also had a pre and post that she gave me pre and post standardized speech therapy evaluations, which were very much in line with major gains in that period when she took the toddler preschooler course and nobody wanted to hear it. They were like, it's not a strong enough design, because it was a retroactive, you know, case study. And I also have a vested interest in showing that my work works. So that was discouraging because, you know, I've been at this for a long time and I'm tired of seeing a lack of progress in terms of research and applied research. So I'm an online entrepreneur mastermind, and some of my friends have produced software, so I'm like, I want a software. So I took this assessment and was hired in a software company in Canada, spent a lot of time and money and got everything on this one page assessment. Quantifiable scribble. We've done a lot of field testing like the baby map, field testing early on, but we've done a lot of field testing with typically developing kids as well as kids with autism, kids with just speech delay. So the difference between the one page assessment is like describing all sleeping issues, whereas in the digital assessment is, does your child have sleeping issues? Yes. No. So if you click yes, that gets into the scoring as a as a it kind of gets points dinged against them if you have sleeping problems and then it has a pull down mode, sleep alone, trouble falling asleep, requires medication or supplements, won't nap or whatever the issues are, and they all get points either added or deducted. And then you get scores in three main areas. You get scores and self-care daily activities, eating, sleeping, potty training, grooming, dressing. You get scores in a score in language learning, imitation, matching, social, and then you get a score on problem behaviors and then you get an overall score. So from our field testing, we have kids with moderate, severe autism, scoring about 30% in all categories. And then we have one of my podcast guests. Her name is Katty, and she has some with just a speech, Joy, trying to get him diagnosed with autism or evaluated. And they kept saying, no, it's just speech. Her scores would have been fairly high, like 70, 80% for self-care and problem behaviors and 20% for language. So you're actually able to take the old one page assessment, put it into the scoring and backdate it. You're able to get your score. I know that's not like credible research, but she was able to get like a 20% on language learning. And after a year of the toddler preschool our course, and then she moved on to the robot behavior bundle and watched all this and did all the activities. And now the child's conversational. His scores are over 85% in all three categories. And is that research I can publish? No. However, we now are tweaking the software and we have had over 20,000 people who have completed the free assessment just since November. So it's got a lot of potential and I have a lot of data.
Amie: So people are interested and people are really seeing this as a useful tool. Maybe a couple of reasons, maybe to get the conversation started with either like with their family, with a doctor, with a school team. So and then you're starting to see growth over time, too, by people using this.
Mary: And using my approach. So we make this one page assessment, still a printout of a one page assessment. This gets emailed to you right after you complete the assessment. So if MaryBarbera.com/freeassessment I said it would be free for the first thousand. Now it's been free for 20,000.
Amie: 20,000 Later.
Mary: And so I don't know. I don't know that it's always going to be free but it's free right now and then it sometimes spills over if you have a lot to write into a second page and then you get your scores. And it does say the scores are not standardized and they're, you know, field tested at this point. But then we take this assessment and in my courses, all of my courses. We teach people how to go down the left and then the middle and then the right hand column, and to make a plan so that we're working on all these things. This isn't going to get better on its own and it's not going to get better for one with one speech therapy a week. And it's not going to get better if you're not using a child friendly approach with multiple control and baby operations and fluency. And you're also working on potty training in a child friendly way and desensitization, it's not going to just get better. But the assessment is not linked to my course. So you could do a pre assessment and a post assessment maybe for your kids that you're already doing a VB-Mapp on in the beginning and end because this gives you scores. It is even though I created this well before the VB-Mapp was published. You know, of course, it is very much in line with all that, because I'm very much in line with all of that. I had the pleasure of field testing the VB-Mapp in 2006 when it came out in 2008. So. We just have to. And Mark Sundberg gave me permission to use all his self-care checklists and everything within my book. So we're very, you know, Mark's Sundberg wrote the foreword for my first book. We're still very good friends. He's a very good mentor of mine, and nobody's in it, you know, to make a quick buck like we're in it to change the lives of children with autism and toddler showing signs. And I think the earlier you can get to it, the earlier you can start turning things around, the better the child's going to do, the better the family's going to do, the better the professionals are going to do too.
Amie: Well, we love this. I mean, we love your books. They are helping to make change. We use them within our practices and we recommend them to the teams we work with. We refer to them a lot during our training. A lot. A lot. If someone's like, Oh, this is too much. I'm like, You need to read Mary's book. The first one has really helped. You know, people kind of grasp some of these things, so keep doing what you're doing because we are everyone's using it and appreciating it.
Mary: So yeah, yeah. And I think there's a lot of fans out there of my first book because it was really one of the first since Let me hear Your voice, which was very practical and brought in Skinner's analysis, which we definitely need. But I think that if you love the first book, I think the second book is even better. It's more streamlined, there's more stories, there's more stories of people making progress without me even meeting them. And so that's really gratifying too.
Amie: All right.
Beth: Well, thank you so much for your many insights today. I think some of my biggest takeaways from today are really you're talking about that proactive approach and how it's so important to put that positive first. And your talk about using the 8 to 1 with staff and students when the BCBA comes in, again, using that proactive approach and getting ahead of the problem and being a valued team member by sharing your experience and something that's going to be able to be implemented right away.
Amie: Mary, we just have a couple of fun questions for you. Okay. We'll get off the heavy stuff. Although we wanted to hear some of the heavy stuff. But what is something that empowers, inspires and connects you? Like what? What is something that I don't know if that makes you feel good and kind of inspires me? You can be within your work or outside of your work.
Mary: Yeah. I've been in this group coaching program and then a mastermind with my online mentor, Jeff Walker, for years since 2016. So we get together a small group of like 30 entrepreneurs from all over the world. They're all doing different things, selling different things, and they're all like total rock stars in their industry. So just meeting with them, we have a signal group we get, you know, I already booked my flight for June to get together and really think about our businesses, work on our businesses instead of in our businesses. And they're all, you know, so inspirational. So I think that's one big thing that I mean, it's been a big investment of my time and financial resources, but it's been worth it because I don't think I would think this big, having not joined that fairly early on. And fun fact, one of the reasons I joined is because they had this competition in 2016 that you had to be a part of the launch club and some guy who won that competition with ten people on the stage won a Ferrari, a red Ferrari. And I was like.
Amie: That got your attention.
Mary: And then they were doing their little five minute, you know, pitches to win the competition. And I was thinking, I can't be on that stage. I go all around the world speaking on autism and, and that would be cool. And you know, and then all ten of them got to go to mastermind with Jeff Walker in Durango as like the runner up prize. But that's really what I wanted, right? So I'm like, I'm going to join and I'm going to be in the top ten next year. And I did. I joined. I was in the top ten and I won the competition. You did? In 2017. And I won a cruise. I won a vacation voucher. And I took 15 of my family members on a cruise to Bermuda. So that was like, you know, for my parents, who are both now 83, it's just been such a trip of a lifetime. And so in the end, that was also a really great result of me taking action to just be like, You know what? Mm hmm. You know, I have nothing to lose and so much to gain. So I just think people need to, you know, kind of break free from there. Well, I'm a teacher and this is, you know, the steps I need to take and just think bigger. And I know there's a lot of online entrepreneurs, but, you know, I just see the power of online learning. You know, one of my friends teaches knitting and I took a piano course during COVID, and I learned how to do podcasts with a course. I learned how to do webinars over the course. I learned how to create a video studio in my house with the course. And so I just feel like anything's possible through online learning.
Amie: Great. And so it sounds like the group that you're a part of also is a group that you get a lot of energy and ideas from, which is something we all need, right, to kind of think outside of our lane and outside of our box. How can I make it bigger and better into what I want it to become? I love that just the last couple rapid fire questions. So we want you just to say the first thing that comes to mind. What is something new that you've recently learned?
Mary: I think it's not brand new, but just reviewing, you know, Glen Latham's work with teachers and some of the traps you get into and the skills that really can turn things around. I've been reviewing that and it's just so powerful that I think we can, if we just got that information out to the world, that would be amazing.
Amie: Okay. And who was your favorite teacher or educator when you were growing up?
Mary: I had some great educators. I'd say, you know, in high school, I had a great writing teacher, you know, that really taught me to write. I also took a typing class when I was in ninth grade because my brother said, Don't take the college typing class, take the typing for secretary typing class. And so that has been a phenomenal skill for me to have as I've spent my life typing.
Amie: And what is a book that you're currently reading?
Mary: I am reading Two Weeks Notice by Amy Porterfield, who I learned a lot from Amy in terms of how to do webinars and how to do podcasts. And she's a great online entrepreneur. So she just came out with a book called Two Weeks Notice that I am not. I don't have a job. I mean, I run my own business, but it's a great book. I mean, I don't have a job that I can quit. I'm not looking to give my two weeks notice and drink Mai Tais on the beach or anything. But I and the book are pretty basic for people that are thinking about maybe doing a side business or, you know, like you guys creating a podcast and, you know, in addition to your work or maybe eventually leaving your work and doing something that lights you up. So I do think it's a good book. I'm just kind of perusing it because I love Amy so much.
Amie: That sounds like a great resource. I think I'm going to add one more question there. What do you like to do for fun? Because you sound like you're very busy with your family now, your podcast, with your book, with your assessment. What do you do for fun?
Mary: Yeah, so I like to talk a lot and I like to go out with my female friends. I like to go for walks. I have a park right behind my house. I like to go for walks and chat with somebody. Hopefully I'm very close to my sister who's less than a year older than me. We're Irish twins, and so we get together a lot and chat a lot. And then I also like to go to the New Jersey beach. I live in Pennsylvania, but I go down to the New Jersey beach a lot. So I like hanging out there.
Amie: So you're a beach girl. Okay. Well, I know throughout the podcast today you shared some resources, information, but just to kind of close this out, what are the best places that people can find out more information about you and your resources? You share that one more time.
Mary: Yeah. So MaryBarbera.com. B A R B E R A has, you know, all of my resources in one spot. But if you forget my last name or you're out running or you're exercising and you're listening to this, you can always search Mary autism plus the topic you're struggling with. So if you want to see my old Denial blog or you want to learn, I did a podcast with my online mentor or you want to learn, you know, about potty training or stimming or what my thoughts are about escape extinction or anything. You can just type in that topic and chances are very high that I will have something that answers your question.
Amie: This is great because this is a great place people can go to to find all the resources, information that you talked about today, and they can dig in a little bit deeper to that.
Mary: Yeah. And one caution is I do have a free workshop you can attend and this free assessment and my book and my free resources. But I would caution you not to stay in what I call the sea of free too long because time is of the essence, and the quicker you can start turning things around, the better. So I do think that the best path forward is to quickly find out about me, but quickly move to take one of my online courses. I have courses for parents. I have courses for parents of toddlers, parents of older children, and I have courses for professionals. So check out all the details. Go to MaryBarbera.comcom, go up to courses, workshops, drop downs and find the course that's right for you. But I would do it because you know we're not getting any younger and our kids aren't getting any younger and we really need to help them reach their fullest potential and keep it there. You know, there is no end to reaching your fullest potential. So you need to keep the bar high, and you need to learn more and more and more.
Amie: Right. So all of us can jump in and so that we can learn all of these things, so people can start taking action right forward. Well, this has been great. We are so thankful for your time today. We really appreciate it. It's been a pleasure to talk to you and hear all of the great things you share with us and your resources as well.
Mary: Thank you, guys. It's been fun for me as well. 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 and 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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