By | November 1, 2015

An Interview with Donnie Staff


Q: “What comes after training new employees in proper Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) interventions?”

A: Funny enough, the answer is Applied Behavior Analysis.

Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) uses the principles of ABA to improve business operations.

To better explain, we met with Donnie Staff from Optimal, an OBM firm that specializes in organizations operating within the health and human services field. Donnie gave us three great ABA training tips to help senior clinical staff take their service to the next level.


Teaching Verbal Behavior to Your Staff

Therapists engage in verbal behavior everyday with their clients, so why not fine-tune it within your business? Donnie suggests that managers teach their staff to communicate clearly and accurately.  He says it is key to –

  • Teach staff how to discuss the treatment procedures with families
  • Train staff how to ask important questions

ABA Training in Implementation

In order to perfect staff’s field implementation, Donnie recommends an in situ Model-Test-Extend approach. He says, “The staff’s approach needs to be shaped while they are shaping others.”

Supervisors need to schedule time to:

  • Observe therapists at work,
  • Take notes/data and
  • Give constructive feedback.

To standardize this process, Donnie suggests creating an in-house staff assessment that is mandatory for all supervision. It is also important to set up a routine assessment so that supervision can be used to improve staffs’ implementation over time.


Collecting Data

“Data-based decision-making is very important when observing therapists,” noted Mr. Staff. Just as therapists observe a child with autism, supervisors should collect data on staff performance. Agencies should train their staff to be decision makers through data. How?

  • Recognize trends so therapy can be tailored to the individual.
  • Make data-based decisions in the moment.
  • Read data after-the-fact and make decisions.

While Relias Learning can assist you in providing quality autism and ABA training for your entire staff, Optimal can assist you in establishing comprehensive methods to create a solid platform for employee retention and company growth.



About Donnie Staff

ABA TrainingAs the primary contact for all Optimal clients, Donnie has developed a reputation for providing quality customer relationships. He specializes in human performance technology and helps his clients achieve measurable performance outcomes.

Donnie is a frequent presenter at professional conferences and a current member of the Association for Behavior Analysis, the Organizational Behavior Management Network, the Texas Association for Behavior Analysis and the International Society for Performance Improvement.





About Optimal

Optimal is a Washington-based consulting company that applies the principles of behavior analysis to help companies improve their business performance. While our services have the potential to benefit all types of businesses, we have a particular expertise in the health and social services sector, and we are focused on helping businesses in this rapidly changing environment adapt and grow in a way that is sustainable, reducing unnecessary activity and costs while at the same time maintaining exceptional

Emaley McCulloch, M.Ed., BCBA

Vice President, Relias Institute||In 2008 Emaley McCulloch co-founded Autism Training Solutions, LLC and is currently the Vice President of Relias Institute at Relias Learning. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and holds an MA in Special Education. She has over 20 years’ experience in the field of autism and ABA and has provided and overseen services to individuals between the ages of 18 months to 24 years in homes, schools and clinical settings. For eight years she served as a consultant and supervisor at agencies based in Hawaii and Japan where she trained groups of professionals and parents.

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