Dr. Gil Tippy, co-author of Respecting Autism, recently did an extensive interview w/ Autism-Community‘s Abby Twyman, M.Ed., BCBA, Autism-Community is a website featuring an extensive information on Autism, Education Issues, Communication, and other Resources for parents, teachers and more. Here is an excerpt from the interview on Respecting Autism, Rebecca School, DIR/Floortime model, ABA and more:
Are the students at Rebecca typically there through the duration of their schooling?
“Oh, no… I think we have probably turned over 80% of our student population. They go to less restrictive environments or they go to other places. So really our goal is to not have kids here forever and as soon as we can help them get to another place that will be valuable for them we help them.”
80% of your students have made that transition?
“Well, we started with 44 kids. We don’t have many of the original kids here. Most of those kids have moved to other places. All of them have moved up developmentally. Once they reach social emotional developmental level 5 and 6, which are the levels that we take to represent abstraction if you’re thinking in the Piagetian way, they’re able to function and they’re able to go back to their other less restrictive schools or other private schools that are less restrictive. That’s generally what happens here.
Then we have some kids who are actually going to age out, we go from [ages] 4 to 21, so of course we’re in the process [of planning for transition]. [The] transition planning schedule here in New York [starts] at the age of 16 getting real transition plans and the summary of performance that has to go with them. We wanted to make sure we weren’t following the traditional vocational route. We really wanted to create a DIR/Floortime consistent vocational training or travel training and we’ve developed our own transitions program here. It’s up and running and we’ve got 24 kids out of the student population are already in that transition planning phase.”
Can you tell me more about that and how it’s different from a traditional transition program?
“The only actual out and out argument I ever had with Stanley Greenspan – who was a fairly imposing figure, he’s a giant in the field and an extremely opinionated man – so the only time I actually stood up and said “no I’m not doing this” is when he said “I want you to start putting together a vocational program.” Having had some experience in vocational programs, having worked in group homes and day habs and seeing what was available to kids where I live here, I wouldn’t allow that to happen. What we ended up doing was developing with Stanley something that he suggested calling ‘Taking Floortime to the Larger Ecological Context” – Stanley was never good at naming things, they were always convoluted. What it really means is that we take what Floortime looks like for little kids and expand it. All that really means is that we’re thinking developmentally all the time.
What we’re really doing is continuing the developmental work and doing that in the larger context of the community. So kids get out of this building and when we do travel training it’s not traditional travel training its travel training where the [young adult] has to really continue to develop their ability to be more abstract. Because, in New York City and probably where you are too if a subway line goes down and you’ve learned that this is the way you go and these are the strategies you use, those strategies fail. If it rains too hard and the 6 train tunnel gets flooded all of the sudden kids are stuck and don’t know what to do. So our way of working on those things is a much more Floortime consistent way. The very first time we’re going out and doing this kind of work with them we might stand at the corner and wait for the kids to say “Hey, what is it we’re supposed to be doing here?” or make a gesture or use their augmentative communication or however they’re communicating and the Floortime person, the person with them, will say “Well, it’s your job to be thinking about this, what are we supposed to be doing?” So, it takes 30 times longer to go the grocery store and buy things than it would if we were using a lot of prompts and a lot of supports, but what’s happening is the kids are actually developing their ability to be more flexible in those situations. It’s difficult for the trainer but it really works.”
Would you say that you’re not using any principles of ABA, or you’re simply not using the ABA-based intervention method DTT?
“All of us are behaviorists. We’re all working behaviorally so all of our work of course overlaps. All of the principles of applied behavior analysis apply. It’s not that I don’t think that paying attention to learning histories and paying attention to what’s reinforcing and what’s not reinforcing isn’t useful and absolutely applicable. Of course it’s all meaningful. When I was working more in what I would consider a more traditional applied behavior analytic setting I really was a positive behavior support follower. When I first saw Bob Koegel present I said “ah, OK. I get this. This is where I want to go.” So I have no question that we are always sort of sharing common ground, these two positions. I think the difference is that we are really a relationship-based model. I think the best behavior analysts I know get the best results because of the relationships that they have with the kids. They don’t really realize that it’s the relationship that’s doing a lot of the work and not the reinforcer and not the punishment. I think that’s probably where I have the biggest variance. Some of those people are thinking developmentally as well. You have to have a developmental model in your head; these are after all developmental disabilities. You’d be surprise, there are people who don’t think that way.”
To read the interview in it’s entirety, visit Autism-Community’s website.