What did you say?: A lesson in keeping it simple


The other day I attended an ARD to help a HQT present her G&O’s for an IEP to some parents of a student with OHI. An LSSP presented an FBA identifying escape motivated behavior maintained by R- and draft BIP that included DRO strategies. The parents brought a OSP who inquired about IHT and OT. Everyone agreed and the parents were given PWN and the IEP was implemented.

If you don’t understand what I just wrote then I have a problem. If you do understand everything I just typed then you probably have the same problem as me. As Behavior Analyst, and long time special education teacher, it is tempting to use a lot of official and unofficial jargon in my daily work. Special Education is racked with acronymns and the field of applied behavior analysis uses a lot technical jargon, so I’m doomed to be misunderstood, right? One of my goals over the past few years has been to work on how I present my position in a manner that is easy for parents and teachers to understand.

A secondary goal has to disseminate accurate information (hence this blog). When I use a lot of acronyms and technical jargon my message gets missed. I find that I have to often rephrase my message in simpler ways multiple times. When I do not, the learner will interpret my message the best they can, that’s how the chain of misinformation begins. That is not the fault of the learner, but rather my fault as a teacher to properly explain the concepts. That being said, at times it can be difficult to explain behavior analytic concepts in simplistic ways without losing the essence of the concepts themselves.

The same goes in special education, when we use a great deal of jargon with parents partly due to maintaining procedural integrity. However sometimes our message gets lost. We then have to take time to explain what we just said, instead of just getting it right the first time. (On a side note, this can cause parents to become hesitant to ask questions for fear of getting a technical answer, and that too is not helpful)

Some of my weaker relationships were created when I used more formal and technical language in my work. There was a disconnect. Over the years, I have discovered that my most trusting relationships with parents and teachers have come about because I’ve been able to speak in terms that we all understand and modeled the principles in action.

Whether a parent or teacher, what are some things a professional has said or done to better help you understand behavioral concepts?

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One thought on “What did you say?: A lesson in keeping it simple

  1. Aw, this was a really nice post. In thought I wish to put in writing like this moreover – taking time and precise effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and by no means seem to get one thing done.

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