Are we a team yet?

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Before I start, there's a housekeeping item I wanted to get out of the way. "Poor spelling" has been cited a few times by more detail oriented readers and I feel it's important to address this. I was raised to use British spelling for certain words (favour, behaviour, colour, etc). So if you're used to seeing the American spelling it might look odd, but these are valid alternative spellings.

So you've gone through all the gut-wrenching process of arming yourself with a diagnosis; the life impacting decision process of going with an ABA program; getting funding for the ABA program; interviewing and selecting a suitable BCBA; and unless that BCBA provides a team for you, interviewing, hiring and training the interventionists.

Now you've got your "team" in place and they're ready to go! Right? Go Team!

It turns out that tossing a collection of people together, calling them a "team" and mandating them to go forth and instantly start producing outstanding results for your child is a bit like putting lipstick on a pig. (And yes, I've been waiting for just the right moment to use that expression in a blog post.) We've all seen high performing teams in action - professional sports has many examples to choose from - but what is less obvious is what exactly goes "under the hood" that turns a collection of people into a "team", much less a highly effective team.

So what does it mean to be a "team", and how do we get there? What is the secret sauce???

In addition to co-managing my son's ABA team, I've spent most of the past 10 years of my professional career building and developing high-performing teams of engineers; and I've coached youth soccer and hockey teams for more years than I can actually recall (12 maybe?). When I was first asked to volunteer to coach my son's soccer team, I discovered that when it comes to building that sense of team, those 7-year-old boys had a lot in common with the technical professionals I was accustomed to working with, or the revolving door of interventionists on our ABA team.

What I've learned from a decade of coaching professionals, ABA teams, and youth sports and recreation programs, is that there are a few key elements that go into a highly effective team:

  • Shared goals
  • Clear expectations
  • Open communication
  • Trust

The best teams have all of these, whereas the teams that struggle to get results are always lacking in one or more of those. Without shared goals or sense of purpose, individual agendas take over and people start working at cross-purposes. Of course it's not enough to just have shared goals - each team member needs to know what is expected of them. And because nothing ever goes precisely according to plan, maintaining frequent and open communication is critical so that rapid course corrections can be made with minimal surprises. Finally, none of it holds together if team members lack trust in each other's commitment and ability to do their part. Tools (like ABAKiS) can support teamwork, but building a strong team takes purposeful intent and hard work.

Whether you are running an ABA team or a member of one or more teams, how strong is your sense of "Team"?

17 thoughts on “Are we a team yet?

  1. Cendall Carpentar

    Hi “Team Abakis”
    Something tells me you guys have the concept of Team locked down. I had this blog post shared to my FB feed. It is well written but it felt like it went off on a tangent and never got back ton the purpose of the post, which is team work. I was hoping to learn how you managed to get a working ABA Team together and how long that Team ran for (or is it still running?)

  2. Marc Le Duc

    I liked this post but really wanted to know more about your ABA Team experience. Both of you write good posts but they always end too soon!!!

  3. Mathew Larson, Autism Warrior Dad

    Heard you were an Aussie Company so the spelling makes sense. Makes me trust ya more mate! Luke the blogs so far. The Orange Key was the funniest! My Son reasons the same way. Good ta know I am not alone out there in all this. Look forward ta more of your entries.

    1. Erik Post author

      That rumour seems to have been going around for a while. We’re actually Canadian (or, as I like to say, “as Canadian as possible under the circumstances”) but we love our Aussie mates too. Thanks for the reply, glad you enjoyed the post. Knowing that people are reading and enjoying makes the writing easier, so I’ll be sure to do more.

    2. Felicity Spano

      Yes. Also heard you were an Aussie Company! Good on ya mate! Funding for Autism is scant here and infomation is even less readily available. Found your site on a fluke and boy am I glad I did. We use the Lizard Clinic here and I will ask them about your Program for My Team! Keep up the great blog posts. You have a fan in me!
      Felicity, Autism Mummy!

  4. Greg Pash

    What does “Canadian as Possible” mean exactly?? Great Blog Post. It’s so difficult to put a good Team together. Love to hear even more!!

    Gregory Pash

    1. Erik Post author

      I’m starting to realize it may be an inside joke. Every Canadian I talk to gets it but can’t explain why, but it seems to be lost on most everyone else. I think it comes from our cultural obsession with being inclusive, so sometimes it’s hard to know what it means to be Canadian. Then I find myself hanging out with my youngest son at the local Tim Horton’s having maple glazed donuts after a 6am hockey practice (and it’s still dark out) and I realize I’m a walking stereotype.

  5. Mazeah Shedal

    Also would like to here more about what it takes to have a good, lasting ABA Team. We have had issues with both our Clinic host and the providers sending us People who will blend well with our family. So far putting a cohesive team together has been a bust. Love our BCBA, not so found of our Interventionist. Glad to know that is does get better but what can we do as parents to influence the out come?

    fyi just had our first over the phone Demo with your company. The lady we had walk us through was both amazingly patient and hilarious! I can see you guys do have a great team! Looking forward to the free trial!


    1. Kelly Anne, Frazzled but hanging on!

      OMG!! The woman who did our Demo killed it! She was so funny and totally “got it” she put me at ease instantly and made learning the program easy. Maze I totally feel you! We love our BCBA as well but our BI leaves a lot to be desired. You guys at Abakis should have a directory of good places around the world that do ABA! Love resources like that. Creating a team is the toughest thing we have faced after our diagnosis. Our second child was just diagnosed and I couldn’t be happier. We have no idea how to parent a Neuro Typical kid at this point. Go Team!

      1. Carole Ashbury, BCBA

        The woman who did our clinics Demo was wonderful as well. Can’t remember her name but she had a slight Irish Accent. I was sure this was an Aussie Company but she was for sure Irish 🙂 It is hard to find people who are passionate about their work and this woman was. I signed up for the free trial on the passion alone. So far so good. Not really finding an issue with the program. Simple to use. Love that I can add pictures. That is a surprising bonus! If you are having an issue uniting your ABA Team I recommend you try this program as it is easy to use. The big part for us is customer service. Hard to find a place that will contact you night or day no matter your time zone to help you work through an issue. Great job Abakis for showing us what a “Team” really is. Thank you all for being part of our Team!

        1. Erik Post author

          Thank you for the feedback! I can’t tell you how encouraging it is to read. I’m not able to respond to every comment but we read them all. And yes, everyone here has a personal connection to autism so we’re all really passionate about what we’re doing.

      2. Erik Post author

        That’s a great idea about the directory. I don’t think we could provide recommendations but I know a lot of jurisdictions have directories of local practitioners. I’ll bring that idea to the team. Hiring BIs is always tricky because they tend to be younger and the good ones don’t stay long as many will quickly move on to become SEAs or even BCBAs. I was lucky as my sister was able to step in, so we always had that continuity on our team which I know really helped.

  6. Pingback: The answer you’ve all been waiting for …My Abakis | My Abakis

  7. Belinda Cross

    Also thought you were an Australian Company. I tried your program last fall and it was very well put together but we did not qualify for funding at the time. I just signed up for another free trail and Lord have Mercy, the program now looks amazing! So many changes since last fall. You guys have done a fantastic job. Talk about team work!! lookig forward to more blog posts!

    Belinda Cross

  8. Rick Cussler

    “Team” has so many meanings in an Autism Household. The parents and extended family need to be a team (as it takes a village) Your Provider must provide your child with a Team, and that team must fit in with your family team. Then there is the Team at school (if your child attends a mainstream school) and that team must function with the other 2 teams. It is so exhausting at the end of the day but everyone must work like a well oiled machine. Your are right that honesty is a big part of it because if one part of the team is not working, none of the team will work.
    Thanks for this blog. The words should be obvious, but we ALL know it isn’t.

  9. Lydia Nyall-Postma

    You said it right Rick Cussler, there are so many meaning to team. I found this when it was shared to our Autism Moms group and it really hit home. I think everyones “secret sauce” is a bit different, the team dynamic must all be based on the same ideals. Great blog! Looking forward to more posts from you. I now follow your twitter feed as well as your Facebook Page. Page needs way more content but I will keep tuning in. I read everyone elses response and have signed up for the Demo. I am not sure 2 weeks is long enough for a free trial of anything as important as this, but I will most likely give that a shot. You need section where peope can ask questions about you and your company and the abakis data collection program. Tried to find anything like that on here but found nothing like that.


    1. Erik Post author

      Yes, you’re absolutely right. It’s definitely time for us to get a discussion forum going. As far as the trial goes, I’ll let you in on a couple of secrets. First, if you need a bit longer for the evaluation period just ask. Second, we’re working on a special deal for the month of July only for first-time subscribers that includes some discounts and a 100% money-back guarantee so stay tuned for that as it should be announced in the next couple of days.


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