#138 - Learning More About ABA with Whitney @thespectrumcompass

by Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC & Jessica Hill, COTA/L February 10, 2021

 Listen & Subscribe on Your Platform of Choice:

Learning More About ABA with Whitney From The Spectrum Compass

This week’s episode is an incredible conversation with Whitney Sarnowski. Whitney spent the first few years after graduating with her undergraduate degree - in special educations and a minor in primary education - teaching children with Autism. In her third year of teaching, she decided to pursue her ME.D with the end goal of becoming a BCBA. Whitney then gave birth to her son (now 3 years old) who was diagnosed with ASD.

Whitney now uses her education and training to empower and educate parents on the fundamentals of early intervention and behavior principles. ABA can be a very controversial therapy and Whitney works very hard to break down the misconceptions and fears surrounding ABA, in order to help children and families feel safe and confident when accessing ABA for their child.


Learning More About ABA With Whitney, The Spectrum Compass

With extensive experience as an autism support teacher, Whitney is deeply committed to offering specialized assistance to children with diverse and complex needs in special education settings. Her family's journey with autism has served as an inspiration, driving her to pursue further education and training in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA).

What Is Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)?

As a highly effective and flexible therapy program, ABA is specifically designed to cater to children facing behavioral challenges' unique needs. It is widely recognized as the most extensively researched and scientifically validated form of intervention available today.

In essence, ABA involves teaching skills by breaking them down into smaller achievable steps and providing positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviors. Over time, this significantly improves communication, social interaction, academic performance, and independence. 

Who Can Benefit from ABA Therapy?

ABA therapy is highly beneficial for individuals with diverse needs, including children on the autism spectrum, those with ADHD, and even adults grappling with behavioral challenges. Moreover, ABA has effectively enhanced these individuals' behaviors and skills associated with daily living, communication, and learning.

Effective ABA Strategies For Motivating Children

ABA therapy employs various techniques to motivate children, such as prompts, shaping, chaining, and positive reinforcement. These techniques reduce negative behaviors and encourage the child's acquisition of desired skills.

  • Prompting involves providing cues or hints for a task to increase the likelihood of success.
  • Shaping refers to breaking down a complex skill into smaller, more manageable steps that can be taught individually.
  • Chaining involves linking several behaviors to create a sequence of actions that leads to a specific outcome.
  • Positive reinforcement is provided as the child completes each step in the desired sequence of behaviors. 

Teaching Effective Communication Skills With ABA

When interacting with nonverbal or nonspeaking children, the main objective is to empower them with practical communication skills to express their needs and make requests. Various strategies can be employed to accomplish this, including using assistive devices or implementing the picture exchange system (PECS), which utilizes visual schedules for communication.

To ensure effective PECS instruction, the child's board-certified behavioral analyst (BCBA) or registered behavioral technician (RBT) will provide support by gently guiding their hand during the picture exchange process. Additionally, promptly rewarding the child with their most desired item when they hand you the corresponding picture reinforces their behavior.

The concept of behavior momentum centers on consistently empowering children to voice their needs and desires. This type of positive reinforcement plays a crucial role in nurturing the growth of communication skills, fostering development, and cultivating independence.

Implementing Effective Behavioral Strategies At Home

Parents play a crucial role in their child's therapy journey, embracing therapists into their home and implementing therapy strategies diligently. Equipping parents with comprehensive training in diverse therapeutic domains, accompanied by educational support, is paramount.

Collaboratively designing communication strategies and integrating positive reinforcement techniques into daily routines ensures consistency between home and therapy sessions, fostering a cohesive and impactful experience for all.

How To Choose The Right ABA Clinic?

When considering ABA therapy, selecting the right clinic that meets your child's unique needs and offers a supportive and welcoming environment is crucial. Here are some essential factors to consider when choosing an ABA clinic:

  • Experience and Qualifications: Ensure that the therapists at the clinic have adequate training and experience in ABA therapy.
  • Individualized Treatment Plan: Look for a clinic that tailors its treatment plans to each individual's specific goals and needs.
  • Parent Involvement: The clinic should prioritize involving parents in the treatment process and providing them with the necessary training and support.
  • Collaboration with Other Professionals: Check if the clinic has a network of professionals, such as speech and occupational therapists, to provide a comprehensive treatment approach.
  • Data Collection: A reputable clinic should collect data on an individual's progress regularly and use it to adjust the treatment plan accordingly.

Advice For Parents Starting ABA Journey

Every child is exceptional, and their therapy journey should be customized to address their specific requirements. Whitney emphasizes that ABA is not intended to alter the child but rather to equip them with practical skills to enhance their independence and enrich their lives.

Every milestone your child reaches, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is crucial in their growth and development. With the proper resources, support, and unwavering dedication, ABA therapy can influence children's lives significantly and lay the foundation for a brighter future.





While we make every effort to share correct information, we are still learning. We will double check all of our facts but realize that medicine is a constantly changing science and art. One doctor / therapist may have a different way of doing things from another. We are simply presenting our views and opinions on how to address common sensory challenges, health related difficulties and what we have found to be beneficial that will be as evidenced based as possible. By listening to this podcast, you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or your children. Consult your child’s pediatrician/ therapist for any medical issues that he or she may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast. Under no circumstances shall Rachel Harrington, Harkla, Jessica Hill, or any guests or contributors to the podcast, as well as any employees, associates, or affiliates of Harkla, be responsible for damages arising from use of the podcast.

Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

This podcast should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing “standard of care” in a legal sense or as a basis for expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.

Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC & Jessica Hill, COTA/L
Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC & Jessica Hill, COTA/L

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in All Things Sensory by Harkla

#309 - In-Home Neurofeedback Training with Vital Neuro Headphones ft. Co-founder Alex Doman
#309 - In-Home Neurofeedback Training with Vital Neuro Headphones ft. Co-founder Alex Doman

by Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC May 21, 2024

Read More
#308 - Simple, Effective Heavy Work Activities in the School Setting
#308 - Simple, Effective Heavy Work Activities in the School Setting

by Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC May 14, 2024

Read More
#307 - Social Emotional Learning, Sensory Corners, and Fidgets with Jewelisa Blanks, M.Ed, Founder of Gifts of Joy
#307 - Social Emotional Learning, Sensory Corners, and Fidgets with Jewelisa Blanks, M.Ed, Founder of Gifts of Joy

by Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC May 07, 2024

Read More
Liquid error (layout/theme line 832): Could not find asset snippets/oneclickupsellapp-theme.liquid