The R.E.A.L. Gift for Behavior Analysts


Teachers slapping high fives

I am a behavior analyst practitioner working with children on the autism spectrum living in a world of chaos and distractions. I greet them each day to work and play–saying “goodbye” when I end my day. 

I could teach children the alphabet, how to count, identify colors, shapes and even imitate. I was told by parents, “he didn’t understand when everyone went home; he felt lost and confused wanting to be left alone.” No conversation and not wanting more, they found themselves saying, “what was this all for?”

I asked myself do “I continue to do what I know?”, surely there has to be more. The children I work with are not generalizing, “Am I doing something that is compromising?” 

Where do I look? Who do I know? I want to increase the world the child with autism knows. “What is it that I am looking for?” I cannot afford not to grow.

Rethinking Generalization book cover

Then I learned about The R.E.A.L. Model, Recreating Environments to Accelerate Learning. A behavioral framework to teach for generalization–comprehensive, systematic, and works within any ABA program based on a strong behavior analytic foundation.

I start with training stimulus control moving toward making the program whole. I concurrently teach other life skills, communication, and play and see the child’s life unfold.

As I teach for generalization to develop concept formation, persist, see and listen to “what the world can offer me” is exactly what the child with autism needs.

I introduce environmental distractions when the child is near. Programming now becomes crystal clear. I know I must be informed by the behavior principles I hold so dear as I move intervention into what naturally appears in everyday life from month to year.

Autistic children creating a fall craft

I use the Real Individual Child Matrix as a map to integrate the child into day-to-day life. Then, I bridge concepts and skills and build repertories where the child will begin to be a self-starter—asking, giving, initiating, and conversing, not seen, prior to intervention days since.

Halloween kidMoving from teaching for generalization in the natural environment, I am mindful of my judgment with societal norms and careful not to scorn. The child now needs to learn to adapt from the consequences of life’s mishaps. 

New contingencies, new environments bring opportunities of growth and learning. Now I see what ABA programming offers; it was never about me. The child with autism benefits from the world, but not of the world. Teaching for generalization from beginning to end is what
we can all agree.




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