Each day, many of us need to explain behavior analysis to ensure our clients receive the most effective treatment and our science earns the respect it deserves. We do this through our work within different systems--healthcare, education, developmental disability, and others--each with its own set of state rules and regulations. The OHABA Public Policy Committee is interested in the experiences of behavior analysts whose work intersects directly with an Ohio law, rule, or regulation. In advocating for our clients and our science, we can collectively explore public policy and determine if there are barriers affecting behavior analysis in Ohio.
Rebecca Szanto works as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in Columbus Ohio. Her work often intersects with state and federal law when working with children in residential placements, clients who are in custody of the state, and in school-based settings when her clients are being evaluated for special education. Rebecca commonly encounters barriers when advocating for her clients in the school setting. She is very familiar with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), but notes that even though, “the school will technically following it (for example, drafting a behavior intervention plan or completing a functional behavior assessment), they fall short on actual implementation. For example, a school team may say that they have met the law's requirements because they came together to draft a new FBA and BIP, but no training was provided so the student continues to face challenges.” This is a common frustration for Rebecca and she has had to learn about different programs in Ohio to help the families she works with advocate for themselves--especially those without money for an attorney. Rebecca frequently collaborates with “Disability Rights of Ohio (DRO) to have the family linked with their free program that provides support for families with special needs. DRO’s program provides support via phone and sometimes in person (Attending IEP meetings).” In addition, she sits down with families to review “A Guide to Parents Rights in Special Education.” This guide should be provided to each family at their child’s IEP meeting, but it is not a quick read. Reviewing the guide with families provides a good parent training opportunity to increase a family’s advocacy.
Working with different school districts and DRO has provided Rebecca with a different outlook on collaboration across professions. She thinks it is important for BCBAs to know that there are limits when advocating for families. “I may know about the laws, but I am not an attorney, so it has always been helpful for me to refer families to the appropriate legal representative when the bounds of my competency end,” she states. This is an important consideration when discussing the law with families. While the goal is to advocate for our clients, the BCBA license does not cover providing legal advice. It is worth noting that this applies to other professions-- just as there are state rules surrounding who can practice behavior analysis in Ohio, there are complementary rules for other professions.
Rebecca believes more BCBAs employed by schools could remove the barriers she faces. There are many professionals that are required to be a part of schools teams--such as teachers and speech language pathologists. While that is an ideal, there are barriers within Ohio that currently make that impossible. There are not enough BCBAs in Ohio to fill the need for medically necessary intervention, which would make it difficult to have more BCBAs working within schools. What BCBAs can do is train and disseminate our science to school based professionals.
If you have had an experience with an Ohio law, rule, or regulation and would like to share your success and or struggles, let us know! Publicpolicy@ohaba.org