Back to School

Buy school supplies. Check. Attend school orientation or registration event. Check. Meet the new teacher. Check. Pack backpack. Check. Ready for the first day of school, right? Well, not so fast.

For some families, the start of a new school year means concerns about how their child will adapt to the new class and teacher, whether the child has the appropriate skills to succeed in school, and whether the individualized education program (IEP) will be implemented adequately by the school. How can behavior analysts support this transition?

In a recent longitudinal study, researchers examined the early predictors of class placement and academic achievement of children with ASD. These researchers conclude “interventions targeting cognitive skills and parent participation in early treatment may have cascading effects on long‐term academic development.” Thus, the importance of early diagnosis and early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) becomes apparent. Not only can we promote skill development through EIBI, but our interventions can have a long-lasting impact in our clients’ lives. It could help determine their educational placement in school and, as a result, their academic achievement later in life. What we do as behavior analysts matters. 

Pre-requisite skills such as following group instructions or being able to write one’s name should not be our sole focus when planning interventions. It turns out the skills that best predict success for kindergarteners are social and emotional skills. A study published a few years ago highlighted the importance of fostering social skills, such as appropriately expressing emotions and resolving conflict, showing empathy, the ability to adapt to novel situations, solving problems and working collaboratively with others. Teaching social skills should be a key focus for behavior analytic interventions, particularly as we prepare our clients to transition to general education classroom or other less restrictive environments. Do you routinely include social skills in your early intervention programming? What is your favorite social skills curriculum and why?


Next week I’ll be attending the 38th annual meeting of the Florida Association for Behavior Analysis (FABA). Some of the things I look forward to, in addition to catching up with colleagues, include watching my students present our work (if plan to attend FABA, check them out!), Mark Sundberg‘s keynote address, and presentations by Bill Heward, Claire St. Peter, and Janet & Coby Lund. I’ll report on some of the highlights when I return.



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