My "Show Me the Data" Journey to Becoming a Precision Teaching OT

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the now famous line, “Show me the money!” from the movie Jerry Maguire. While many people view that as a symbol of the greed that consumes society, for me that expression conjures up an entirely different viewpoint—measurement! Whether we like to believe it or not, “money” is a measure of success. At the very least, it is a tangible thing that allows us to say, “I did this, and earned that!”

On the other hand, when I’m treating a child, can I measure his or her improvement with money? Of course not! This is where the “show me the data” piece from my title comes in. As a person of science, it used to bother me when people would question the efficacy of OT. People would say things like… “OT is not a data-based science” or “Sensory is not evidence-based.” I would always respond, “I know it works, because I’ve seen the progress.” Although I was probably right, guess what? “Gut instincts” are simply not tangible like money or more importantly–DATA!

Before I understood the importance of data and evidence in the clinical setting, I had some uncomfortable and sometimes contentious interactions with an ABA therapist I worked with. She often questioned the integrity of my science and I often became defensive in return. One day I decided to approach her differently. I decided to shed my ego and actually listen to what she had to say. Guess what? She was right! That’s not to say that OT interventions don’t work, because they certainly do. They were simply not measurable. Furthermore, I realized that “behavioral” issues were actually interfering with my therapeutic outcomes and inhibiting progress.

As I think back on my experience with this ABA therapist, I am reminded of the following quote from the book Tao of Pooh:

Knowledge and Experience do not necessarily speak the same language.
But isn't the knowledge that comes from experience more valuable than the knowledge that doesn't?

Not only did I see Precision Teaching as a way of bringing about an evidence-based methodology within my OT practice, but it also offered the potential to help my son in his academic struggles. I had tried all the after-school programs in my area and even engaged private tutors, but nothing worked! At the conclusion of the lecture, I asked the professor if there was anyone utilizing this approach with children. This would serve as my introduction to the world of Fit Learning–a transformative educational program that employs ABA, Precision Teaching, and Direct Instruction.

Not only did it prove to be highly transformational for my son’s academic deficits, but it opened my eyes to a whole new way of approaching my career. It made me realize that helping kids requires more than just a linear approach, but rather–one that is collaborative, multidisciplinary, and holistic in its pursuits.

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Throughout much of my career, I had been guided by and likewise clouded by the knowledge that I accumulated over the years. This inhibited my ability to be objective toward other professionals and competing fields. I then began to grapple with this idea of “competing fields” and whether that approach was truly acting in the best interest of science or in the best interest of the child. After all, are we not all better off in a more collaborative environment than one fraught with competition and grandstanding?

Interestingly enough, my real epiphany came not out of my real world experiences, but instead from the hallowed halls of academia. Although my eyes had already been opened to the world of ABA, the certification I pursued would provide me with some essential tools for applying it. While enrolled, I was fortunate enough to sit for a lecture on Precision Teaching. I was absolutely mesmerized by what I heard!

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the now famous line, “Show me the money!” from the movie Jerry Maguire. While many people view that as a symbol of the greed that consumes society, for me that expression conjures up an entirely different viewpoint---measurement! Whether we like to believe it or not, “money” is a measure of success. At the very least, it is a tangible thing that allows us to say, “I did this, and earned that!”

On the other hand, when I’m treating a child, can I measure his or her improvement with money? Of course not! This is where the “show me the data” piece from my title comes in. As a person of science, it used to bother me when people would question the efficacy of OT. People would say things like… “OT is not a data-based science” or “Sensory is not evidence-based.” I would always respond, “I know it works, because I’ve seen the progress.” Although I was probably right, guess what? “Gut instincts” are simply not tangible like money or more importantly--DATA!

Before I understood the importance of data and evidence in the clinical setting, I had some uncomfortable and sometimes contentious interactions with an ABA therapist I worked with. She often questioned the integrity of my science and I often became defensive in return. One day I decided to approach her differently. I decided to shed my ego and actually listen to what she had to say. Guess what? She was right! That’s not to say that OT interventions don’t work, because they certainly do. They were simply not measurable. Furthermore, I realized that “behavioral” issues were actually interfering with my therapeutic outcomes and inhibiting progress.

Thinking back on my experience with this ABA therapist, I'm reminded of this quote from the book Tao of Pooh:

Knowledge and Experience do not necessarily speak the same language. But isn't the knowledge that comes from experience more valuable than the knowledge that doesn't?

Throughout much of my career, I had been guided by and likewise clouded by the knowledge that I accumulated over the years. This inhibited my ability to be objective toward other professionals and competing fields. I then began to grapple with this idea of “competing fields” and whether that approach was truly acting in the best interest of science or in the best interest of the child. After all, are we not all better off in a more collaborative environment than one fraught with competition and grandstanding?

Interestingly enough, my real epiphany came not out of my real world experiences, but instead from the hallowed halls of academia. Although my eyes had already been opened to the world of ABA, the certification I pursued would provide me with some essential tools for applying it. While enrolled, I was fortunate enough to sit for a lecture on Precision Teaching. I was absolutely mesmerized by what I heard!

Not only did I see Precision Teaching as a way of bringing about an evidence-based methodology within my OT practice, but it also offered the potential to help my son in his academic struggles. I had tried all the after-school programs in my area and even engaged private tutors, but nothing worked! At the conclusion of the lecture, I asked the professor if there was anyone utilizing this approach with children. This would serve as my introduction to the world of Fit Learning--a transformative educational program that employs ABA, Precision Teaching, and Direct Instruction.

Not only did it prove to be highly transformational for my son’s academic deficits, but it opened my eyes to a whole new way of approaching my career. It made me realize that helping kids requires more than just a linear approach, but rather--one that is collaborative, multidisciplinary, and holistic in its pursuits.

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