When working with individuals with special needs a good Job Coach must first evaluate their client’s needs in terms of what are the true problematic behaviors. The reason we say true problematic behaviors is because, the only behaviors that a therapist is interested in reducing or eliminating are those that are hindering a person from being independent in their life. Coming from an Applied Behavioral Analysis background, we use a FAST or Functional Analysis Screening Tool. This screening checklist or worksheet allows a therapist to identify factors that may be influencing the problem behaviors. A FAST is not only done by the Behavioral Therapist but it is also filled out by those closest to a client’s circle of support including the Job Coach to get a clear understanding as to what are the contributing factors that are maintaining the behavior. Once the FAST is complete a good therapist should conduct a Preference and Reinforcement assessment to see what their client is interested in, enjoys doing, enjoys eating, and cant go a day without. Having knowledge of these things can allow a therapist to make a determination as to what is required to reduce or eliminate a behavior.
According to the behavioral research by B.F. Skinner, each behavior is maintained by one of four functions; Sensory, Escape/Avoidance, Attention, and Tangible. Depending on the function of the behavior, a therapist will develop a clear understanding of what is the required treatment to reach a behavior reduction. To maintain high ethical standards, we do therapy with positive reinforcement only, therefore those items listed from the Preference and Reinforcement assessment will be used to reward, or reinforce the desired behavior.
A Job Coach, not only has to follow the above listed protocol but also must create and generate naturalistic teaching opportunities while working with their client. These teaching opportunities are created depending on the goals a family or client wants out of the therapy. These goals could include learning; life skills, mobility training, further education, vocational development, or any other goal a family would like to see their loved one accomplish. The best Job Coaches are trained with the love for teaching, and finding reward out of the smallest levels of improvement they are noticing. The goal is to always have fun! This form of therapy should not feel like therapy but more of a mentorship.