For many of us, the word normality means having a sense of comfort around our current state, a predictable routine to help us get through the day, and knowing what to expect from one day to the next. The last several months have brought on many new changes and challenges, disrupting that comfort zone.
This blog is intended to go through just a few of those challenges and discuss how we can adapt to them — including working from home, providing telecommunication services, and increased reliance on technology.
- Working from home is one major challenge that many people are facing. Prior to the pandemic, many of us were accustomed to working from home in some capacity — whether it meant completing progress reports, putting together client materials, or auditing supervisee work. However, with many centers closed or open on an as-needed basis, we are facing a new challenge: having to complete the majority, if not all, of our work from home.
This introduces the problem of separating “work life” from “home life” when both occur under the same roof, sometimes even in the same room. In addition to this, many children are also attending school from home and child sitters are no longer available due to the pandemic. Having children at home while you work brings on an additional level of challenge that many parents weren’t ready for and has made the attempt at trying to balance life and work even harder.
- As part of working from home, a majority of clinicians are providing telehealth services in order to continue delivering care in the safest way possible. This rise in telehealth services is a huge transition, with the majority of us being used to working with staff and clients face-to-face. Telehealth services come with their own unique set of challenges, including teaching parents and children how to use the technology, finding new ways to engage the client in therapy through a screen, and attempting to provide direct feedback to supervisees. One recommendation I have is to check out the CentralReach Institute, which has some really cool CEU webinars on client assent and how to engage during telehealth services.
- In ABA, we are also seeing a higher reliance on technology in general. Providing services through telecommunication is just the tip of the iceberg. With the stay at home orders and inability to engage with family and friends, technology usage has increased tremendously. Not only are we using it to help complete our job responsibilities from home, we are also relying on technology to help us engage with the outside world. We have seen an increase in virtual happy hours, award shows on virtual stages, virtual concerts and performances, and even virtual gaming with friends that once took place at a table. We may not want to rely on this forever, but as of right now this is the new normal. Just like any other new challenge though, we can implement various intervention procedures to help.
- Boundaries are a critical component of our new normal. One of my major takeaways from this experience is the understanding that it’s important to establish boundaries when your work life and home life operate under the same roof. These boundaries can include antecedent manipulations like having a pre-designated work space (i.e. a traveling desk that sits away in a corner), establishing specific work times, and closing the computer when the work day is over.
In addition to this, for those that have children, you may want to think about setting boundaries for them as well. You can do this by letting kids know when they can and can’t interact with you. This can be taken even a step further by establishing a visual boundary — for example, if your office door is closed, then they must respect that space and wait until the door is open to ask you questions. Another example would be to use a light (kind of like an “on air” light that filming studios use) that, when turned on, signals that they are not to interrupt your conversations — and when turned off, they may interact with you freely.
- Creativity is key. Antecedent manipulations aren’t the only important piece of an intervention strategy. It’s also important to establish appropriate consequences, and in today’s current state we have to get creative. A good example a colleague of mine used was this: instead of going to happy hour at Top Golf every Friday, they chose to instead engage in a virtual gaming night with those same friends. In addition, you want to make sure you are working with powerful reinforcers that are contingent upon a specific behavior. For example, if you really enjoy Taco Bell but are trying to get in shape, maybe you can reward yourself every Friday night with Taco Bell if you consistently engage in at least thirty minutes of exercise for five days out of the week.
While these are just a few thoughts on how you can help your current situation, never forget to give yourself grace. On my own personal journey through the pandemic, I’ve learned a few key things. First, our sense of normality is a change that is inevitable and learning to be flexible and adaptive is critical. Second, some days we need to recognize that just showing up and being present is enough. Finally, to be mindful of what others are experiencing. We have all been dealing with our own unique set of challenges and finding the best ways to cope with them.
Moving forward, I challenge you to think about what you want to see happen from all of this. If a vaccine is found and things go back to pre-pandemic normality, what do you hope to take away from this experience?
About the Author
Justyn Harvey, M.Ed., BCBA
CentralReach, Customer Success Manager
Justyn found his way to the field of behavior analysis when he moved to Florida for a job as a Behavior Technician after graduating with his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the Ohio State University. He was very passionate about the work he was doing and went on to pursue his Master’s Degree and certification in behavior analysis.
After spending a few years working his way up from an RBT to a BCBA, he came across CentralReach where he realized that he could make a more national impact by assisting ABA companies with a software to automate some of the daily administrative tasks and allow for more time with the clients who need it.