Staff alumni Jackie MacDonald, PhD, BCBA-D, Robert Parry-Cruwys, BCBA, and Diana Parry-Cruwys, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA, never would have guessed that their six-plus years working at The New England Center for Children would have led them to where they are today. For Robert and Diana, that includes a marriage and children, and for all three, successful careers in the ABA field and a joint project that has exceeded their expectations. Jackie, Robert, and Diana are creators and hosts of the ABA Inside Track podcast, an ABA-topic centered podcast with more than three million total downloads.
“Our podcast allows people to listen to something that’s relevant but in a way that should feel like another podcast they listen to about their hobbies,” said Rob. “We always wanted it to have that vibe that this is three friends talking about research. The topics are serious, the discussion is serious, but the vibe is respectful, but a little bit loose.”
According to Diana, the podcast was “a marriage between all of us because everyone really had ideas about it.” Rob had started an ABA journal club in which attendees could talk about behavior analysis with the bonus of earning continuing education (CE), but it was sparsely attended. One day, Jackie was a guest on Rob’s podcast, one he created for fun to discuss his favorite songs, and she floated the idea that he should do this but for journal articles.
“It was very frustrating because the journal club was a great way for people to get CEs and keep up with the literature, but nobody came,” said Rob. “We thought that if we had a journal discussion on our own and it’s freely available wherever one happens to be, they might listen to it. And after about a year, some people did.”
The trio aired their first podcast in March 2016 and grew exponentially in the first couple of years. Today, about three to five thousand listeners tune in each week. Each podcast focuses on a topic in behavior analysis and is supplemented with peer-reviewed research and literature that pertains to that topic. Each hosts tackles an article and breaks down the important components of the research; sometimes there is a guest host to help. Listeners can earn CE credits for a small fee, a trailblazing attribute of the podcast.
“With each episode we try to make [the topic and research] more engaging and fun for the people who are not experts in the field,” Jackie explained. “We try to make the research consumable and digestible in a fun way. We want to put a fun spin on it so when they read articles they can understand and enjoy the material.”
Diana shared that while most of the topics discussed on the podcast are related to working with clients with autism or development disabilities, they also “think it’s really important to examine where our science works in other areas,” she said. “We are trying to ensure we give our listeners a real breadth and range of topics to review, such as environmental sustainability, classroom management, and cultural diversity within the field.”
The hosts spend an estimated 40 hours a week producing a single episode between researching, recording, sending out CEs, among other tasks. It’s quite a heavy lift given all three have full-time jobs in the ABA field. Rob is a BCBA for Shrewsbury Public Schools while Diana and Jackie run the Regis College Master in ABA program and co-director the Regis Autism Center.
“Like anything you do on the same schedule for six years, it becomes work,” Rob said when asked about the future of the podcast. “When we’re recording, we have a lot of fun. And as long as we can sit in a room and talk research and feel like we’re learning new things, I think we will keep on going. It’s a privilege that we have so many smart people producing such high-quality research and we have so many more answers than we did when any of us started in this field.”
His cohosts agreed. “Even coming into this with a PhD, I feel like I have learned so much about so many different topics,” said Diana, who, along with Jackie, earned her PhD through NECC’s graduate program with Western New England University; Rob earned his MSEd through the Simmons University program and his BCBA through NECC’s Northeastern University program. “It’s given me a chance to grow and appreciate what we have in our science as well as thinking about ways in which we can continue expanding and improving what we do.”
To learn more about or listen to the podcast, visit abainsidetrack.com.