Rehabilitation and Independent Living

Photo by Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash

By Chris Persel

The Rehabilitation and Independent Living (RAIL) SIG, established in 1981, has continued to support the integration of behavior analysis in the field of rehabilitation, neurorehabilitation and related areas, especially for those individuals that have experienced a brain injury. Patients with acquired brain injuries or other neurological disabilities require behavior analysts to develop treatment programs in settings such as hospitals, free-standing clinics and private rehabilitation facilities with multidisciplinary teams. These individuals may also be dealing with complex, related medical conditions, intense psychosocial challenges, and significant disruption to their lives.

This SIG has the opportunity to be a gathering point for rehabilitation treatment professionals, including BCBAs, so they may compare program needs, treatment success and challenges, brainstorm innovative ideas, and help gather support to expand the field. Over the last 10 years in particular, the RAIL SIG has enjoyed participants from states across the US and from as far away as India, Canada, and Ireland. Unfortunately, with conferences and meetings being held in a virtual arena for over a year, many participants have lost touch. The primary and consistently exciting event for the RAIL SIG has been the ABAI annual convention. The amazing discussions and plans that have been developed at that convention’s meetings have suffered with the absence of an in-person opportunities. Most members and active participants have been working diligently to pivot their practice and work to adjustments dictated by the COVID mandates and restrictions. The neurologically impaired population remained at great risk during the last year and the lockdowns were devastating to their mental recovery and ability to receive the vital treatment they needed.

The SIG continues to support expanding the understanding of brain injury and the need for behavior services. RAIL SIG members previously helped develop, with the BACB, a long-term action plan for growing the field of behavior analysis in acquired brain injury. This plan remains relevant however continued implementation has been difficult. As outlined previously, the plan described numerous areas of challenge, and key points needed to develop the field include increasing the number of faculty mentors and related opportunities to provide education on brain injury to behavior analysis students and collaborate on research projects. There remained a great need for practical training and supervision of students including internship opportunities and partnerships between current treatment programs and BCBA verified practicum programs. The SIG has outlined plans to present material and research to not just ABA conferences, but expand to other related professional conferences to promote the expansion of services. As the country opens post-COVID, it is the hope that more job opportunities in rehabilitation will be available, allowing the BCBAs to demonstrate their positive impact. Collaboration amongst treating BCBAs and other professionals will be vital to make this happen. Finally, as guidelines for behavior treatment in brain injury rehabilitation are being formulated under a program with the Brain Injury Association of America, research on interventions with brain injured patients is both limited and lacks clarity. More, well thought out research, is desperately needed.

The RAIL SIG has continued to welcome members from such diverse backgrounds as physicians and brain injury professionals to students and concerned family members. The power of that diversity is evident in lively discussions, informative exchanges of information and long-standing relationships that provide much needed support. Members are encouraged to share articles, program ideas and professional experiences. Members of the RAIL SIG must be a part of the solution. Growth of the RAIL SIG has come from current members networking with their peers and having the courage to step up to significant challenges this treatment population presents.

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