Employee of the Month

Every month one of our therapists is recognized as employee of the month. Check them out below!

What is “generalization” in ABA therapy, and why is it important?

What is “generalization” and why is it important? To generalize something is to be able to connect and apply one stimulus, or object, to a different, relatively similar stimulus. An example of this would be asking your child to bring you a fork from the drawer full of plastic and metal forks. If they were only taught that a fork was a metal object with prongs at the end, they would only bring you the metal one. If they had been taught that a fork is any object that is the same shape, regardless of material, color, or style, it would be generalized. This is why generalization is so important. They are aware even though one is plastic and one is metal, that they are both in fact, a fork.

Chaining – A Method Used in ABA Therapy

What is “chaining?” When I first started as an ABA therapist, I quickly learned the term chaining. Chaining is a method to teach individuals a complex skill by breaking it down into smaller steps to achieve an ultimate goal. I had the opportunity to train at a home where a child was learning to brush his teeth. Forward chaining was used with this skill. The child would complete the first step independently, which in this case was grabbing his toothbrush. Then I would prompt (hold his hand and physically show him) the rest of the steps until he finished brushing his teeth.  This was very beneficial to him because he began to learn the next steps in order and eventually could do most of it independently. It was amazing to see how much he learned every day, and it was natural to him. The second type of chaining is backward chaining. In backward chaining, I would prompt all the steps in the skill, but the child would do the last step independently. A recent example that I helped teach was teaching a child his phone number. I would prompt the first six digits of the phone number and he would independently say the last four. After a few days, I would only have to prompt the first three numbers and he independently said the rest of it. Eventually, he was able to say the entire phone number without any prompting. This was one of the few times I was able to experience teaching a skill using backward chaining. Both types of chaining were a learning experience for me and helped to introduce me to chaining, and how beneficial both can be.

Preparing Your Child For An ABA Therapy Session

How to prepare your child for an ABA therapy session There are many things a parent can do to prepare their child for a productive ABA therapy session.  One of the most important things is to go out and purchase both edible and tangible reinforcers. In ABA therapy, we focus on positive reinforcement or giving a reward for the desired behavior.  We praise your child for every little thing they do right, so the likelihood of it happening again is higher.  For these reinforcers to be at their strongest, these reinforcers also need to be withheld from your child outside of therapy.  Another important thing is to pick a low-traffic room of the house for therapy to occur in.  Eliminating distractions during therapy sessions also increases the likelihood of desired behavior occurring.  Lastly, establish a consistent routine with your child for eating, sleeping, and his or her therapy schedule.  Routine is key to ensuring therapy sessions run smoothly.

Identifying Motivators & Preference Assessments

Identifying Motivators & Preference Assessments As humans, we do things because we are motivated by something. We go to work because we get paid. We eat food because we are hungry. During a therapy session with a client, we want to make sure we know what is motivating to that client for that specific day. How do we identify a client’s reinforcers? We do a preference assessment! We complete these assessments because the client’s preference may be different depending on the day of the week, their mood, or time of day. We want to know what the client is motivated by that day so that they can perform at their best. Would you want to do something challenging for free? Probably not. How do we do a preference assessment? It is pretty simple. Before the therapy session begins, the client’s favorite snacks, foods, or toys are laid out in a row on the therapy table (4-6 items). Then the therapist asks, as they are pointing to the row of reinforcers, “What do you want?” The client then initiates their preference verbally, using a gesture, through eye gaze, or a vocalization depending on the client’s mode of communication. The client is then given that reinforcer and asked again, “What else do you want?” This procedure is repeated until the client chooses the 3 highest motivating reinforcers. Once the most motivating reinforcers are established, then the session can begin. Now, the therapist knows exactly what will be motivating for the client for that session.

How to Support Siblings of Children with Autism

How to Support Siblings of Children with Autism Did you know that children who grow up with special needs siblings often end up being more accepting, caring, compassionate and independent individuals?   In fact, a study published in 2006 called, “The Adjustment of Non-Disabled Siblings of Children with Autism” found that siblings of children with autism were much more likely to have positive view of their behavior, intelligence, scholastic performance and anxiety.   But it will not happen unless proper care and attention is afforded to them. This can be very tough at times, when home-based autism services and additional teaching or therapy is centered on one child. It’s vital for parents to share their attention, encourage communication and find a balance that fits the family. There are many things parents can do to empower and support each of their children, such as:   Make Individual Time for Each Sibling The most important support comes in the form of time and attention. The lack of these two things can leave children feeling neglected and overlooked. Thankfully, showing each one of your children that they are important is a simple task. It can be a fun activity you two do together or a special bedtime story. It can even just be parts of the day that you to watch TV, grocery shop or cook together and talk. Small (even 15-minute one-on-one sessions) will help each child feel valued and reinforce the idea that they are important and loved.   Be Fair There may be different expectations from each child, but there should also be a clear set of rules that everyone is expected to follow. If you discourage a bad behavior (such as yelling and throwing toys) for one of your children, you should not let another get away with it. Don’t just accept “that’s how it is.” If there are any adjustments made for one child, it’s very important to explain why this is the case.   Talk to Them about Their Feelings Negative feelings can build up in anyone, which is why it’s so important to keep lines of communication open. Having a brother with autism can be difficult for a child and cause them to build up feelings of concern, jealousy, anger, embarrassment, guilt and discouragement. Share your similar feelings with them and acknowledge their feelings even when it may be tough to hear. Be careful to communicate in a non-judgmental way and seek out opportunities and activities that will encourage them to express their feelings, such as drawing.   Allow Them to Make Decisions Another way to counteract negative feelings and frustration is by getting children involved with planning and allowing them to help in decision-making processes. Whether it’s choosing what to eat for dinner or where to go play on a Saturday, involving them in these simple decisions can have a wonderful impact. It not only shows that you care and are listening to them, but that their opinion is important and matters.   Seek a Support Network Friendship is a gift that lifts burdens. Friends can help children feel empowered and encouraged (not just a sibling of someone with autism), so it’s important to make time for these relationships to blossom. In addition, a support group can be largely beneficial for everyone—both parents and siblings. Joining a family support group or finding a sibling support group may be something worth trying.   If you are just in need of additional tools, be sure to look at the Organization for Autism Research’s “Autism Sibling Support” initiative and go to Autism Speaks to request A Sibling’s Guide to Autism.   If you have child with autism who is in need of extra support to overcome communication or learning challenges, we at ABC provide a wide range of autism therapy services, including ABA therapy.  

A Word on “Progress”

  A Word on “Progress” What does it mean when you work with a client day in and day out over the course of months or even years? It means that you celebrate all the small victories along the way. Every single tiny step, every little moment, even something as seemingly insignificant as teaching a child to utter a single sound or helping them learn to receptively identify a picture of a butterfly. It means you become focused on the progress. We are trained to hone in on the small steps, the fundamental skills, the building blocks to successful learning. This process doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work, dedication, an unbelievable amount of patience, and most of all, it takes skill. Skilled and knowledgeable clinicians who know what goals to work on, how a particular child learns the best, how to motivate, encourage, and reinforce good behaviors, while simultaneously tearing down the barriers that stand in that child’s way to learning. When you work with a client day in and day out, sometimes you can lose sight of the big picture. I recently went and observed a session with a child whom I hadn’t seen in a year. The teaching procedures remained the same, the focus remained the same, the overall process remained the same, but the child had changed.  The child had grown and progressed in his learning so much in one year it was remarkable.  He was taught one small step at a time. Fine motor skills, language skills, social skills, play skills, and many more, all building on each other, all collectively coming together to create a solid foundation of the skills required to be successful in learning and successful in life. This process is similar to building a house from the ground up. You need a solid foundation and by adding one block at a time on the exact level that is needed you will eventually construct a beautiful and solid structure. The child I observed was still working on constructing his house. The current therapists were facing some of the same obstacles to their construction and even some new ones, but they remain on course, they don’t let any small hiccup stop that child from achieving their goals. The therapists are down on the ground with the child helping them to construct every area of their house, aiding in the process, offering guidance when needed and then removing that guidance slowly and systematically until the child is independently creating his house.  From the plumbing, to the electrical to the frames of the rooms, and everything in between.  It’s difficult when you are this involved in the process to step outside of the house and marvel at all its glory as all these areas are coming together. While observing that session I had the opportunity to do just that.  The therapist working with this client was probably wondering why tears were constantly welling up in my eyes as they worked on their goals.  I watched in amazement as they worked together.  I watched the child sitting so nicely in his chair, following instructions, engaging and playing with the therapist, and showing off all of his new skills.  My heart was melting, and I realized that I don’t do this enough.  I don’t step outside to take a breath, and simply appreciate the progress. There will always be a goal. There will always be a plan, and there will always be room to grow, but now and then it’s important to pause, take a deep breath, and take a moment to recognize all the hard work, and appreciate the child for where they are and where they’ve been. By: Nina Koehler