Monday, May 9, 2022

Working in a System - Why Can’t We Get It Right

Here are my notes from one of the sessions at the Converge Autism Summit. This presentation was: Working in a System - Why Can’t We Get It Right by Dr. Brandon Clark (Director of Autism Clinical Services at Springbrook Autism Behavioral Health in Travelers Rest, South Carolina).

Dyadic vs. Systems Theory


  • 2 party relationships
  • Traditional ABA 
  • Focuses on the individual 

Systems Thinking:

  • Overall organization and process for execution
  • All the factors that contribute to successful outcomes

Weaknesses of Dyadic:

  • narrow focus
  • undesired effects on the environment
  • behavior change may not last
  • How to identify? Lack of progress or behavior not generalizing

Levers of Change:

  • Behavior - What we want and how to do
  • Process - How we are supposed to do
  • Organizational Levers - Why we do

Weaknesses of Systems Approach: 

  • Too much emphasis on process and not on the human component
  • We must learn the art of interaction 

Healthy systems integrate both approaches. 

Behavior change is not sustainable without identifying and addressing barriers. 

Barriers to Implementation - there are 31 of them. 

  • Top 3 barriers are managing problem behaviors, remembering to implement, and competing responsibilities. 
  • Other barriers are school culture, conflicting beliefs, administrative support, and structure and time. 

Change Resistance:

  • Education: The less education an individual has obtained, the less likely a person is to accept change.
  • Age: The older someone is, the less likely the person is to accept change.
  • Tenure: The longer someone has been employed, the less likely the person is to accept change.
  • Role conflict: When expectations of a job are incompatible with a person’s skill set, or willingness to assert additional effort, the person is less likely to accept change. 

Framework for Intervention:

  • Organizational level- Funds available, materials, space and equipment, organizational health. External level- District community, government, federal policies, etc. 
  • Intervention level- Complexity, time, materials, number of people and resources needed. The more complex it is, the worse the integrity.
  • Implementer level- Implementer competency, professional development, competing responsibilities for other tasks/students. 

Strategies to Address: 

  • Modify intervention
  • Modify timing
  • Re-teaching expectations/intervention
  • Problem-Most strategies are simply aimed at re-teaching expectations. This doesn’t solve the problem in a non-supportive environment. 

5 Emerging Themes:

  • Establishing supportive culture
  • Admin leadership and support
  • Attending to structure and use of time
  • Providing ongoing support for professional development
  • Facilitating family and student involvement 

Feedback = Task Engagement: (Variable  leads to Outcome)

  • Task significance  leads to Higher task dedication
  • Task autonomy leads to Higher task dedication
  • Frequent feedback leads to Higher task dedication
  • Perception of tasks as unnecessary leads to Job burnout
  • Employees prone to burnout leads to Less likely to use critical thinking skills used for problem-solving
  • Staff not aligned with company mission leads to Job burnout/failure to thrive 

6 Boxes:

Expectations and Feedback: Information about what to do and produce, how to do it

  • Align expectations with consequences. ASK if people know what to do!
  • Provide Feedback

Tools & Resources: The environmental and human resources needed to do a job.
Supportive physical space and ergonomics, sufficient time to do the job

Consequences and Incentives: Formal and informal, tangible or intangible results of behavior that increase or decrease its likelihood of occurrence.

Skills and Knowledge: Specific capabilities or expertise that the individual must use to perform a job. “Never assume that training is the solution. Training without a foundation in the “first three boxes” will probably not work or be cost-effective” 

Selection and Assignment: Having the right people for specific jobs, based on their social skills, personality, willingness to learn, etc.

Motives and Preferences: What types of incentives, work, and other job factors people prefer.

  • Check to see if the person is inherently interested in the work.
  • The success of a behavior plan is mostly dependent on someone’s willpower. And that load is much lighter when shared by many people.

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