© Map of a Consultation Model in Education
David Sponder, L.E.P. BCBA, Floortime C3c


Expert Professional Implementer Parent/Lay Implementer




Parent; Paraprofessional; Student


  • Usually a highly qualified, licensed individual at the Master’s or Ph.D. level, qualified to make a diagnosis of a problem and a prescription for remediation or compensatory strategies; These persons have deep expertise   in a defined area; This can include Psychologists; Language/Speech;   Occupational; Physical; Education Therapists, as well as Credentialed Special Education Teachers, and Behavior Intervention Designers (when it comes to things like Task Analysis; Differentiated Instruction; Behavior Plans, etc.).
  • These individuals design programs. They can and do administer specialized tests (that require specific qualification to administer and interpret) and clinical examination (hands-on work with the Student; direct observation of the Student working with others). It also involves interview, history-taking, data examination and collaboration with the other stakeholders and implementers.
  • Often a credentialed individual (including internship hours under supervision) or someone with specialized training to implement instructional plans. Specializes in teaching, but can implement the recommendations of Experts under their guidance, collaboration and consultation.
  • Expertise usually lies in teaching and in managing Student’s behavior; qualified to give instruction of new material that is within the Student’s Zone of Proximal Development (that level of Student skill that is new, emergent, and still difficult for the Student to do without help; that level of Student skill where problems and difficulties are expected).
  • This person knows how to make moderate to minor adjustments to the implementation prescription (i.e. differentiation of instruction).  Knows when to report major problems to the Expert.  Provides data for experts to evaluate the effectiveness of the program.
  • Primary qualification is the personal relationship with the Student
  • Paraprofessionals, under the guidance of an Expert and/or Credentialed Teacher, may implement  instruction and corrective feedback at the practice and comfort levels of skill;
  • Parent: Most valued stakeholder next to the Student; Parents’ expertise is on their child – the child’s history, what they’ve seen work and not work; their intuition about the child and their concerns about the child’s emotional as well as other areas of development; their hopes and dreams and their vision of the child’s best interests and future.
  • Student: Provides feedback in one form or another (makes or does not make progress; speaks up; acts up, etc.)


  • Diagnosis and Prescription; Monitoring of Progress (which requires   regular periodic re-examination or observation of progress); Development of   Remediation/Compensation plans.
  • Provides instruction at levels that are difficult for the Student;   provides ongoing and/or corrective feedback for performance
  • Primarily emotional; Parents should not be expected to act as Special Education Teachers and their homes should not be modeled after schools or that have similar levels of structure and personnel support
Expert Professional Implementer Parent/Lay Implementer

Typical   Responsibilities:

  • Responsible for monitoring progress and complex problem solving; adjusting the plans as the Student progresses and/or if there are any problems with implementation
  • Teaching and tutoring; Implementing recommendations of Experts by developing daily lesson; incorporating feedback from other Experts into all aspects of instruction; keeping data and records of progress; reporting progress to Parents and other Experts; reporting aspects of the program that are not working and sharing the responsibility with the others in solving problems
  • Advocate; find and provide resources; provide the information necessary so that the others take the whole child perspective
  • Makes sure the Student makes a reasonable effort: provides the time and workspace necessary for homework.
  • Provide intermittent supervision of Student working at the easy practice and comfort levels; if possible (and definitely when it comes to behavioral or developmental interventions from ABA providers), provide teaching and implementation of recommendations congruent with the family’s natural strengths, needs and lifestyle.

Typical   Limitations:

  • Expensive; not available for day to day implementation; may not have a 24/7, “whole-child” perspective and may not be aware of what other experts are recommending.
  • Experts are not experts in everything. Experts need to know when they are beyond their area of expertise.
  • Experts do not necessarily make better judgments than Parents or Teachers.
  • Cannot be an Expert in everything. Needs the guidance of Experts in the remediation of specific processing, developmental, emotional or behavioral disorders.
  • Special Education Teachers, Behavior Intervention Designers, Implementers and Parents spend the bulk of time with the Student – but they cannot be expected to have expertise in the underlying processing disorders that predispose children to challenging behaviors or learning failure.
  • Parents work; they have other children and family; they cannot and should not be expected to carry out what did not happen in school, tutoring or therapy


Expert Professional Implementer Parent/Lay Implementer

What the others would want you to know:

  • Take the whole child into perspective; consider the child’s whole day   and how much might be too much (“points of diminishing return”); consider the   emotional and life-space needs of the other implementers, especially the child and parents; consider how long a day a Student with special needs may have and how much of that day is spent in intensive instruction.
  • Even Special Education Teachers cannot and should not be able to turn test data into lesson plans. They need to know how to remediate processing disorders and they cannot be an expert on every type of processing disorder.  Make things understandable to the other implementers and understand their proper roles – they cannot all be nor should they be experts in everything.
  • Teachers and parents do not know your subject as well as you do.  They may not be able to recognize teaching opportunities that occur within the context of their regular activities.  Helping Teachers and parents identify teaching natural opportunities those is your job.If parents are to reinforce skills, it must be in such a way that is congruent with the family’s strengths, needs and lifestyle.  If it is not – they are set up for failure, shame, and losing trust in you. Skills should be embedded into natural, authentic and regular family activities.  Parents may have no more  time to ‘set aside’ for lessons.
  • Teachers have more than one Student.
  • Instruction is not the same thing as working at a table.
  • All progress is predicated on emotional and psychological development and health.  Emotional development is a necessary foundation for academic progress.    Compliance is not equal to emotional development.
  • The more you depend on external, artificial motivation systems, the more you need to re-examine your instructional delivery model.  Special needs Students require more context and authentic products (making things; doing things).  They find it difficult to get interested in or motivated to get from the top to the bottom of a worksheet, or to read about experiences that have no relevance to them and then answer questions.
  • If they cannot express to you what they did yesterday – they are not ready for literature.  They may not be ready for real math understanding with numeric symbols or operations without adequate experience with real amounts, weights, volumes, etc.
  • Language, movement, gross and fine motor skills and emotional development occur throughout the day.  Therapists pulling Students out for therapy rarely works unless their work is incorporated into your interactions with the Student.  Do not convince yourself that pull-out instruction is somehow taking care of that particular need.  If you don’t know how to do implement – it is your responsibility to seek out the Expert’s advice.
  • Homework that is given haphazardly (homework at the frustration or guided   practice levels) can destroy family relationships.  Students cannot spend all of their time doing academics.  Homework that takes 5 hours is harmful to families and the child’s overall emotional and psychological development.
  • Instruction is not the same thing as working at a table.
  • Parents work and they have more than one child.  They may be single parents or they may have marriages and parents of their own and other responsibilities – including to   themselves.
  • Parents need to be a safe place for their children.  They cannot and should not be the child’s third and fourth therapist of the day.  If parents are to reinforce skills, it must be in such a way that is congruent with the family’s strengths, needs and lifestyle.   If it is not – they are set up for failure, shame, and losing trust in you. Skills should be embedded into natural, authentic and regular family activities.  Parents may have no more time to ‘set aside’ for lessons.
  • All progress is predicated on emotional and psychological development and health.  Emotional development is a necessary foundation for academic progress.    Compliance is not equal to emotional development.
  • Acceleration requires intensive instruction – inclusion does not offer that; you may not be able to have both at the same moment.
  • Inclusion provides social opportunities when supported properly; not all academic classes provide social opportunities.  You probably want inclusion for some things, intensive instruction for others, and small to mid-size group instruction for work on social dynamics.
  • Intensive instruction (1:1) is intensive for your child.  Your child cannot keep this up all day.  There is a point of diminishing returns.
  • What you’ve probably heard about developmental windows is based on old research.
  • Your child may not be ready for certain things.
  • Most of the time, this is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Like most difficult pursuits, much of what is tried does not work optimally at first.  Failure is part of the learning process.  It is a signal that adjustments need to be made – that is all.
  • Therapies are like learning a foreign language.  One, two, or even 6 hours a week of therapy is not as effective as the immersion approach – where everyone has a way of reinforcing the skills in the context of what they already do (e.g., the Teacher in the classroom; the Parent at home).  Most of the time, you are better off when your Experts work as collaborative consultants and they do not do all of the work themselves.
  • It is up to the Experts to tailor instruction to fit your lifestyle without destroying or trying to remake it.  If this is what they seem to want – you need to speak up.