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Safeguarding your investment: Guidelines for selecting trainers for the Supports Intensity Scale

Electing to use the Support Intensity Scale (SIS) to identify the support needs of people you serve is an investment in the future. Results from SIS assessments help you align support needs of your clients with available resources. However, the resource allocation process can only work fairly if you have accurate SIS interview data. This means that SIS interviewers have to know what questions to ask clients, how to ask them, and more importantly, understand the intent of the Scale so that data collected truly reflects client needs and goals. States and organizations alike are seeking strategies for building internal capacity for having trained and reliable staff conduct SIS interviews. The following guidelines will help you select the right individuals to become internal Supports Intensity Scale trainers.

Points to consider before SIS Training
There is an old adage that ninety percent of work is in preparation. Spending the time building internal training capacity to successfully implement SIS is critical to its success. Pre-selection steps include:

Clearly articulate what you expect SIS to do for your state or organization. Creating this vision, desired outcomes, and timeframe will support the decisions to be made concerning implementation of SIS. Write down the vision, outcomes, and timeframe, and share it with the people you support, their families, providers, and other key stakeholders. Modify it as necessary. One expectation for example is: We are committed to using the SIS to help develop individual objectives and to assure the equitable allocation of our resources among all those we support. We envision supporting 4 staff persons to become proficient teaching our 15 support coordinators on how to successfully conduct a SIS interview. Once trained, each support coordinators will complete 30 interviews before December 2.

Identify your need for trainers. Your vision, desired outcomes, and timeframe will help guide this process. There are no set rules on how many trainers you will need to implement SIS. This varies greatly depending on the scope and intensity of work. One state may need 300 interviewers while for another, 20 may suffice.

Determine the role of SIS trainers. Are these individuals responsible for training only or will they be responsible for completing interviews as well?

Will they be full-time or part-time trainers? If part-time, what current work/responsibilities will they “give up” in order to have the time to meet this training need? You may decide you need full-time trainers for a set timeframe and part-time trainers thereafter.

Identify the reporting relationships. Define who the trainers will report to. This may require a matrix management strategy where the trainer receives clinical supervision (content expertise on SIS) from one person and programmatic supervision (scheduling, who is to be trained, when, etc.) from another.

Define your internal Inter-rater Reliability (IRR) process. Individual IRR is an AAIDD (formerly AAMR) requirement for successful completion of the Train-the-Trainer program. Annual IRR is also required. It is also recommended that an internal IRR process between and among internal trainers be implemented. In addition to building a sense of team, an internal IRR process will also ensure a continued focus on the integrity of the interview process. Frequency, scheduling, and tracking of IRR should be considered. Additionally, identifying an internal data management strategy around IRR data will identify difficult interview areas for the interviewers and suggest possible training topics or other quality improvement efforts.

Determine the available pool of SIS trainers. Where will they come from and how will availability be determined? How will they be approached? Sharing information and allowing time for trainers to become comfortable in their new role prior to beginning the process will also contribute to the success of your SIS implementation plan.

Determine strategies for managing potential real or perceived conflict of interest. In situations where states are pursing the Train-the-Trainer model and will use state staff to conduct interviews, an inherent conflict of interest may exist. This is especially true when the SIS is being used for resource allocation purposes.

Choosing the Right Trainers
In one regard, the selection process is fairly straight forward. The desired attributes for a trainer are listed below. However, a significant attribute required for a SIS Trainer is the willingness to understand and implement a new, progressive supports-oriented assessment process. The ability to transition from a skills focus while conducting assessments to a needs and supports orientation is a must. A SIS interviewer must be willing to listen to the respondents and gather feedback, rather than recording a perception of what s/he thinks the person requires as supports and services.

• Effective communication skills

• Public speaking skills

• Ability to relate well to groups

• Ability to work well with people with various backgrounds

• Effective audience management skills

• Availability to work when needed, including commitment to completing work within designated timeframes.

• Willingness and eagerness to participate as an internal trainer

• Analytical skills to address difficult questions or problematic participants

• Ability to effectively use audio-visual equipment

• Effective time management skills

• Flexibility to modify presentation based on audience

• Strong organizational skills

• Practical knowledge of adult learning strategies

The selection process may offer other challenges as well. This includes gauging the spirit of the person. While difficult to assess, the following attributes contribute significantly to the overall process:

• Ability to deal with ambiguity (the rules will not always be clear or multiple changes may need to occur.

• As ambassadors of the SIS implementation strategy, the person selected should present a positive view of the process and have a solid understanding of the SIS process and the tool.

• Always seek to improve effectiveness and achieve greater efficiencies in the implementation strategy. Be part of the solution and not part of the problem

• Demonstrating a sense of humor and the ability to promote humor in a training session is essential.

Follow-up Trainer Supports
Training on a regular basis can be challenging. The trainers may require follow-up supports that may include:

• Opportunities for sharing training experiences, frustrations, new approaches, and recommended changes. These may include, but are not limited to, quarterly trainer meetings, a listserv, or periodic teleconferences where issues and concerns can be discussed.

• Developing a “community of trainers” among the group. As a natural support group, they rely on each other for problem solving, sharing what they are learning, or for improving the overall effectiveness of your SIS implementation process.

• Developing strategies for dealing with interviewer (and trainer) turnover.

• Supporting the analysis of IRR data to determine potential training trends, identify individuals for whom interviews are difficult and improve the overall quality of the training process.

Proper preparation and selecting the right SIS trainers for your organization is essential to a successful SIS implementation plan. For further information and consultation, click here to send an email to AAIDD on your specific SIS training needs.