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Changing Behaviors, Changing Lives with Engage Behavioral Health

Engage Behavioral Health’s Assessment Clinic in Full Force                                                                     

By Nicole Hanney, Clinical Director of Engage Behavioral Health

Engage Behavioral Health (EBH) specializes in serving individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and a variety of other developmental disabilities and neurological disorders. EBH is currently providing services to clients in our clinics, their homes, schools, and community throughout Tampa Bay and Tallahassee. EBH provides therapeutic services based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

Using the science of behavior, ABA focuses on the development and implementation of effective, behavioral interventions that will create socially significant behavior change. In addition to these services, EBH recently established an Assessment Clinic at its South Tampa location. The Assessment Clinic specializes in conducting functional analyses, the gold standard in ABA assessments, which are individualized to each client.

Typically, prior to beginning therapeutic services, a functional behavior assessment (FBA) is conducted to identify a client’s deficits and strengths. The FBA model uses direct observation to identify, “why” the client is engaging in problem behaviors. The Engage Behavioral Health’s Assessment Clinic takes the assessment process a step beyond direct observation.

Through their assessment clinic they will be able to gather critical information in a shorter amount of time by using a functional analysis. A functional analysis can be compared to a behavioral allergy test. When a physician tests for allergies, each potential allergy is tested separately to identify if one or multiple allergies are causing the reaction. The results of the allergy test then allow the physician to treat each specific allergy. In a functional analysis, just like an allergy test, the clinician tests each environmental reason that may be causing a client’s problem behavior to occur; the results will then allow the clinician to more specifically target each problem behavior. Some of these specific types of problem behaviors that clients may engage in can include aggression, self-injurious behavior, noncompliance, property destruction, elopement, pica, etc.

The duration of each assessment ranges from two to three hours. A camera is located in the assessment room, which allows for the caregivers to watch the assessment from an iPad in the adjacent room. In the future, Engage Behavioral Health will train the caregivers to actually be included within the assessment, which may allow clinicians to observe more of the behaviors that the caregivers experience in the home environment. Once the assessment is completed, clients can begin receiving direct therapy services and most importantly caregivers are also given the opportunity to receive training on how to manage the client’s behavior.

The therapists conducting the functional analyses are Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA). Currently at the EBH clinic, Nicole Hanney, PhD, BCBA-D, the Clinical Director, is the clinician conducting the assessments. Engage provides their BCBA staff with 8-10-hours of training which includes a mastery of all assessment procedures, an observation of the actual assessment, and then conducting partial and full assessments with supervision from Dr. Hanney. Furthermore, students pursing their master’s degree in behavior analysis and BCBA certification will have opportunities to also observe the assessments, which bridges the gap between learning the science in the classroom and transferring it into clinical practice. This training process incorporates learning opportunities, professional development, best practice clinical recommendations, and community outreach.

Ultimately, this assessment clinic will hopefully enable EBH to reach out to more families on their waitlist. Caregivers will complete a questionnaire during the intake process, which will guide the clinicians to design an appropriate, individualized assessment for each client. The information from the assessment questionnaire alongside the functional analysis will provide the clinician with a lot of information in a short amount of time. The Engage Behavioral Health Assessment Clinic will benefit families with clients who engage in a variety of problem behaviors impeding functioning in both school and home environments.

Read more about Engage Behavioral Health’s Assessment Clinic!

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