Big Dreams, Small Steps Part 2

One of my all time heroes, and still, to this day, the most influential person on my practice is Dr. Temple Grandin . Dr. Grandin did not speak until she was three and half years old, her communication consisted mainly of screaming and humming. In 1950 she was diagnosed with Autism and the professionals recommended her parents consider institution. Her mother, an advocate; years before her time, implemented continued applied intervention to treat Temple’s behavioral deficits and increase functional skills. She continued to ensure the message “Different, but not less”. Dr. Grandin, who received her PHD in Animal Science, is also a well know advocate and activist in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. Prior to her first book Emergence: Labeled Autistic the Autism diagnosis was viewed as a death sentence for most families (“Temple Grandin, Phd”, 2012). Temple gave people hope, and continues to show achievement and productive lives are still possible while on the spectrum.

“My Advice is: You always have to keep persevering.” — Temple Grandin (About Temple Grandin ).

I find myself repeating this quote like a bedtime prayer over and over again. Perseveration and persistence in this journey of government funded ABA services for Malta. We are tackling this with a continued push for education and awareness. With over 100 current clients and 40 more on the waiting list, this has been nothing if not overwhelming. History has shown science will prevail, but how to educate enough people on the importance of ABA? I started this question with looking at Temple Grandin. How did ABA become the most sought after, evidence-based, practice of 2015 when in 1950 the number one recommendation from professionals was institutionalization? My answer lies in the “Different, but not less” quote. There is no better advocate then a parent. So this is where we started, with parents.In small groups we are providing parents with introductory ABA training. Parents are learning the key components of Applied Behavior Analysis, functions of behavior, data collection, and the importance of reinforcement procedures. The most effective intervention is found in the natural environment of the child. Parents and caregivers make the biggest impact on their child’s progress. Most importantly, families are educated on how to advocate for their child. Informed consent and parent/client rights designed by Jon S Bailey and Mary R Burch are explained in detail. According to Bailey and Burch,

“The behavior analyst always has the responsibility to recommend scientifically supported most effective treatment procedures” (Burch & Bailey, 2005, pp. 65–66).

“Clients have a right to effective treatment (i.e. based on the research literature and adapted to the individual client)” (Burch & Bailey, 2005, pp.66).

“We (BCBAs) also have an obligation to avoid making false claims about our effectiveness and to ensure that any public statements are factual” (p. 192), (Burch & Bailey, 2005, 192).

Finally, we inform families of our hope for government funded weekly intervention and how their support is key in achieving this goal.

After completion of Parent ABA training, the child is given traditional ABA programs tailored to their individual needs. Parents or caregivers provide 1–2 hours of continued applied intervention; take data, and videotape their sessions. Each week, families are given weekly consultations where questions are answered, the video is reviewed, and data is analyzed. This alternative pales in comparison to continued weekly, in home, intervention with trained behavior professionals as seen in the United States, but data reflects progress.

My research on the progression of ABA service also shows ensuring awareness in the community is of high priority. We committed to an interview with the Times of Malta, the Island’s national newspaper. In which we shed light on what ABA is, why it’s important, and whatthe BCBA credential is. Again, I find myself speaking with passion on the issues at hand, advocating for my families, and referencing research. When asked how ABA differs from other interventions I had to stop myself from yelling, “it differs in everyway!” I tried to keep my answer simple yet informative. All intervention decisions are based upon research and data collection. All intervention methods reflect science and continued measurement of the child’s progress ensure changes are made no less then every 6 days. When utilizing ABA you are never questioning if you are making the right decisions because the data reflects immediate progress. Being the only BCBA on the island of Malta, the BACB (behavior analyst certification board) requires my strict adherence to a code of ethics as well as continued education and training to remain current in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. Finally, proper ABA incorporates family and caregiver within the intervention ensuring intervention that generalizes in the child’s natural environment.

In the words of Temple Grandin, we keep perseverating. Perseverating on the child.


Burch, M. R., & Bailey, J. S. (2005). Ethics for Behavior Analysts . Mahwan, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates, Inc.

Temple Grandin, PHD. (2012). Retrieved from

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