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Building relationships with TikTok- Daily Drip #5

May 26, 2023

To be honest, I have a lot to say about this topic. Primarily because I myself have been highly passionate about both sides of this discussion at one point or another. It wasn’t until I looked at my own behavior with an open mind that I realized that both sides of the discussion were saying the exact same thing with different words.

It is similar to how when you talk to other analysts at a conference, you are going to use a different language than when you are in the middle of a caregiver training session. The “jargon” for lack of a better word needs to be modified depending on your audience. In my opinion, this discussion is much the same. One group (I will call them the technical group) will use precise scientific language to discuss the relations between stimuli being formed during sessions, where the other group (I will call them the casual group) refers to those same relations in looser terms which present more flexibility.

Disclaimer- In no way am I saying that those in the technical group cannot be causal, compassionate, and build real relationships with their clients. Likewise, the casual group is more than capable of having technical discussions of the inner workings of these relations… The separation is more based on their initial verbal behavior “bias” when entering into a conversation. I am making broad generalizations to make a point.

To further expand on the above video, lets go over some of the different groups' languages and see how they can relate to each other. We will do this by first showing a casual statement and then a technical statement and translating as needed. 

Casual group- “Building trust and relationship is crucial when meeting clients. They need to be able to understand that while you may offer them hard things to do, you are there if they need support or help”

Technical group- “This client has a history of asking preferred adults for assistance completing tasks. Therefore, one way to increase the probability of a request occurring is creating a similar environment in the clinical setting. To become a preferred adult, let’s associate me with preferred reinforcers and tasks.”

If you look at each statement, they are both saying the same thing. In the casual group, their statement is frankly easier to understand and plays into that common sense morality that is ingrained in us after being raised in this culture- Trust leads to better relationships. This is contrasted by the technical groups description of the situation, where they take more of a systematic approach in their languaging of the situation. First, identify an environment wheere a target behavior takes place (around preferred adults), then make the clinical environment close to that environment. We could go even further and talk about how the principle at play here is renewal mitigation, as we want a behavior that already occurs in one setting to generalize to another setting so we set up common stimulus across settings.

Casual group- “Relationships and trust take work to establish but also maintain. Therefore we should always be providing our client with safe and preferred settings and continually trying to strengthen the bond between tech and client to maintain trust. 

Technical group- “Following an initial pairing of a neutral stimulus (technician) and a preferred stimulus (playing with toys), the neutral stimulus becomes a conditioned reinforcer. However, conditioned reinforcement is constantly fading when not being repaired with a backup reinforcer. Therefore it is important to constantly be repairing the technician with preferred stimuli in order to not lose conditioned reinforcement quality.

Again, there are clear differences in the words that were said but if we take a non judgemental look at both statements, they are saying the same thing. To me, this is where the meat of the discussion is. BOTH groups are true in what they are saying, one is just using a different type of language that may lend itself less to an environment consisting of caregivers and clients and more to an audience of analysts.

To make things even more interesting, lets examine where I first started learning about this distinction… Social media. Now, I have LOTS of thoughts about the pluses and minuses of social media for our field (which will be another blog post) but it is important to note that the speaker (or writer in this case) has very little control over the audience in which they are speaking to. Because of the virality of social media, one statement meant for analysts can be shared to a group meant for caregivers or clients who have received services. The same thing can be said for someone “speaking casual” and describing ABA with real world language being screen shotted and shared around academic twitter. 

This lack of audience control has been the center of many controversial times in ABA (rightfully so) because it has forced analysts to examine the effect of their language not just on the audience they would prefer to hear it but also on the wider population. While this post is not about the neurodivergent affirming movement and the autistic population’s critiques of ABA, I will say that I think this lack of audience control has contributed to some of the outrage pointed at ABA. And please, do not mishear me… Social media is NOT the reason ABA is getting critiqued the way it is. There are systemic issues in our field that need to be (and in some cases are being) addressed to make our science more socially valid and compassionate to the population we serve. 

Well everyone, we went a little off topic, but I think I am going to leave this content in rather than editing it out like I usually do. What started off as a conversation about how non-precise language can still be precise has turned into an analysis of social media’s effect on the field, and honestly I kinda love it. 

Thanks for listening, and I will see you in the next one!

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