Covid-19: The Great Equalizer or Worse?

How fitting that Friday March13th, 2020 would mark the beginning of the greatest disruption and period of collective fear that our generation has ever seen. A pandemic descended upon us without warning or care.

Now, we are nearing the month-long mark of this new norm where social distancing, washing until our hands are raw, and sheltering in place have resulted in a complete halt to our hustling, bustling lives. Home has turned into so much more than a place to eat and sleep; the dining table has turned into a home office, bedrooms into middle school science labs, and living rooms into high school auditoriums.

As a working mother, the ripple effect has resulted in both exhausting challenges and unforeseen blessings. Some days my children play and work beautifully together while on other days I want to pull my hair out as I listen to them bicker over some of the most trivial things (can you say first world problems?)

I am grateful for the work my husband and I are in because it remains consistent during such uncertain times. However, I have to admit that when this all began, my heart sank as I thought of all the students and families who would not be in similarly fortunate circumstances.

As an educational consultant and behavior analyst, I have the best job ever (in my opinion)! I get to work with nearly 70 school districts where I support special educators, students, and their families. I also know I am within the minority of behavior analysts who have high hopes for schools and public education to one day embrace behavior analysis as common practice. I do not share the disdain that I often hear coming from the ABA side regarding the inequities and shortcomings of public schools. Haven't both sides been equally guilty in the fallout between behavior analysis and public education?

But I am going to place the onus of responsibility on our field. Yep, I sure am, and here's why.

  • We are the ones who received the intensive training in the principles of our field.

  • We are the ones who work with clients who demonstrate the exact same behaviors we are griping about schools exhibiting on a systemic level.

Would we ever talk this way about our clients?'s why.

We would say that our clients are behaving using the skillsets known and available to them. We would say that behavior is communication, and the client's behavior is telling us that they need a better way in order to be successful.

The behavior of public education is telling us the same thing. In fact they are screaming it while running from the burning building!

Did we expect it to be any less inappropriate or disruptive?

It also requires our field to acknowledge that a majority of us have little experience working within the constraints that guidelines from the USDE (department of education) and OSEP (office of special education programs) ties their hands with, not to mention contradictory policies mandated by their individual states.

Socially Relevant Change of Greatest Proportions

As Dr. Richard Foxx once said to me, "if we really want to prove our worth, then it's time that we moved past perfecting the practice as behavioral technologists working in the sterile lab, and begin developing behavioral artistry in the inherently messy environments that are the real world".

Right now, more than ever, the educational world needs us to help flatten it's own curve of systemic inequities and failures that has been gapingly revealed in the wound of Covid-19.

I hope today's musings find you all in continued safety and good health.

Mari C.