As parents, you may see your child engaging in a behavior frequently that you would like to see increase or decrease in the future. For instance, If your child is engaging in snacking all day and you want to reduce snacking to 1 time per day. To be able to reduce the amount of time the child is snacking, the first step is to take data on the skill to know where you are starting from (baseline). Once you know the starting place of how often the behavior is occurring, you can put a plan into place to be able to increase/decrease the behavior in the future.
Collecting data on various behaviors or skills is also known as measurement in Applied Behavior Analysis. There are 6 different types of measurement that are broken down into two categories: Continuous and Discontinuous measurement.
Continuous measurement is any type of data that you collect every time it happens. This means you are constantly or continuously taking the data.
The types of continuous measurement are:
1. Frequency- Counting every time the behavior or skill occurs (i.e. Counting every time a child eats a snack)
2. Duration- The length of time the behavior or skill occurs (i.e. The amount of time the child spends eating a snack)
3. Rate- count over a specific amount of time (i.e. The number of times the child spends eating a snack in one hour)
4. Latency- the time from a demand being placed to when the client engages in the skill (i.e. the amount of time it takes from telling the child to clean up a snack to when they start cleaning up)
5. Interresponse Time- The time between responses for a skill or behavior (i.e. The time between each snack)
Discontinuous measurement is any type of data that you collect over a specific sample of time.
The types of discontinuous measurement are:
1. Partial Interval- Break the day into equal parts and place a checkmark on any part of the day that the child snacks (if the day is broken into 30 minutes place a checkmark on any 30 minute interval that he snacks and any part)
2. Whole interval- Break the day into equal parts and place a checkmark if the child snacks during the whole part of the interval (If the day is broken into 30 minutes and the child snacks for a 30 minute interval)
3. Momentary Time Sampling- Breaking the day into equal parts and placing a check mark each time you look up at the designated time and they are engaging in the skill (I.e. If the interval is 30 minutes, set a timer and look up each 30 minutes to see if the child is snacking)
While each way to measure a behavior or skill comes with its own set of pros and cons, choosing a way that fits your window of opportunity to be able to measure the skill will help you to understand how often the skill is happening and provide information to help you navigate where to move the skill in the future.
Vacation typically includes some kind of travel. Traveling with children with Autism can include some extra preparation. Here are some things to remember when readying a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for a trip.
1. Plan for any unexpected noises: Practicing wearing headphones for a trip either in a plane or on a long car ride will help the child to be able to sit for longer periods of time.
2. Practice sitting for long periods of time while playing: this will help your child to prepare for a long flight or prolonged time in a car.
3. Create a story: showing pictures of where you are going and the trip along the way will help the child to prepare for the trip. If flying in an airplane, writing a story with pictures of the flying process will help them to know what to expect. When driving, knowing where you are stopping or what a rest stop looks like could help them transition during that time.
4. Master the art of waiting: Working on stopping for prolonged periods of time during short car rides will help your child to be able to wait for longer stops.
5. Create a visual schedule: Following a visual schedule to show the different steps to a vacation can help your child to be able to understand steps to a larger event.
Preparing by following the steps above will help your child to be able to enjoy the upcoming trip and help put the entire family at ease for travel. Thinking about the process of the trip and explaining what will happen will help the child to be able to anticipate what is to come.
While some parents and children may feel completely prepared for an upcoming school year, many struggle with the amount of things to prepare for and the fact that the environment is so different from the home environment. Here are some tips to prepare your child for school for the first time:
- Talk to their team of therapists: While social skills may be important, making sure the entire team that works with your child is on board with them having the necessary basic skills such as following 1-2 step directions, a type of communication, and attending skills before placing them in a school setting.
- Use a visual schedule: Create a mock school schedule with visuals in your home and practice transitioning from activities such as calendar or reading to centers will help your child to be able to prepare for upcoming events in the classroom.
- Ask questions: By asking the teacher ahead of time what a typical day looks like to asking the transportation system for a practice ride, there are many people who are willing to accommodate to a child who needs extra supports
- Utilize social activities in the community: Places such as the library and nature school can mimic some parts of a child’s day at school with built in peers and peer models such as circle time, song and dance, arts and craft activities and following directions in a group setting
By providing some of the structure above, you and your child will be ready to take the leap into an educational setting with ease and comfort. Enjoy!
Have you seen the videos or photos of people making silly faces on different apps such as Tik Tok? Making those faces could actually be the foundation of your child learning language. How? Oral/Facial imitation has been researched for years and is thought to be the foundation of imitation in childhood development. According to Sarah Lydon, a Speech-Language Pathologist at Playworks Therapy inc, Oral imitation is the primary skill before vocals and other language emerges.
Imitating movements such as:
- blowing raspberries
- opening their mouth
- sticking tongue out
- moving their tongue from side to side
This will give your child an idea of how their mouth moves to make sounds. While some may be able to imitate this right away, repetition is key!
Once they have mastered these skills you can begin to work on imitating facial expressions with vocal sounds such as smiling while saying “ee” or “cheese”. Along with animal sounds or vehicle sounds such as a siren. These sounds are perfect to do with songs and movement as well to engage the child and gain their attention so that they can imitate the facial expressions.
Getting creative and paying attention to your child’s interests can help improve your child’s eye gaze, scanning and imitation skills as a whole. While you and your child may have limited time to work on skill development, creatively implementing them into your daily routine can be enjoyable for the whole family and fit them naturally into your schedule.
Make a silly face! Oral Motor Imitation: What is it and why should you target it? PlayWorks Therapy Inc. (2022, February 16). Retrieved July 5, 2022, from https://playworkschicago.com/make-a-silly-face-oral-motor-imitation-what-is-it-and-why-should-you-target-it/
Let’s set the scene. A person working with your child decided to implement your child using a break card to get a break during activities that are challenging for them. At first, the break card seemed to work and your child wasn’t falling to the floor or crying as often. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the crying came back into the picture in an extreme way. Now your child is falling to the floor, crying AND biting themselves. When is it time to throw away the break card and start over?
First, take a deep breath. Now let’s talk about why this is a good thing. Yes, you read correctly. This is a great problem to have! In Applied Behavior Analysis, we have a term for something that happens often called an extinction burst.
What is an extinction burst? First let’s talk about what extinction is. Extinction is when we no longer provide reinforcement or punishment to a behavior by simply ignoring the behavior or manipulating the environment so that the behavior isn’t reinforced anymore. This can bring about a change in the behavior. All of a sudden, your child isn’t engaging in the behavior anymore. However, your child may begin to notice this and try with one last full effort to engage in the behavior to gain the reinforcer they’ve been using for so long.
Those old tricks and habits can be hard to change right? This is the case for clients in an ABA therapeutic setting as well. While the client may want a change, it may be harder for them so they use one last ditch effort to see if the easy way can gain them access again to what they want. This is what an extinction burst is. The good news is remaining consistent with the intervention in place to keep the behavior on extinction will help the behavior to eliminate completely in the near future.
So when you see a behavior increase, “keep calm and carry on” as the saying goes. Soon your life and your child’s may look different, but in a positive way with less behaviors!
The pools are open, the sun is shining and it’s time to get outside in the community! While some caregivers may be excited about this opportunity, others may be nervous about how their child with autism may interact in a community setting, especially with Covid-19 providing less social opportunities in the past. Here are several ways to practice community skills in the summer time that will help a child with Autism interact in a social based setting:
- Use interests to gain community skills: What interests does your child have? Using interests even if they are different from other children to motivate a community activity. For instance if your child loves water, swimming lessons and interactions with a lifeguard could help your child learn water safety. If your child loves light up toys, a trip to the fire station to meet firefighters and see the lights on the vehicles may be exciting and engaging for them and create a social opportunity with a community helper.
- Call or research community plans in your area: Once you know your child’s interests, call or research what is available throughout the summer for free. Typically there are events happening each week. A great place to start is the local library for free social events.
- Prime ahead of time: Always provide insight to your child ahead of time so that they know what is going to happen at the event, how many people may be there, etc. A social story or pictures of where it will take place can be helpful.
- Bring reinforcement: Bring along your child’s favorite items so that they can have something to motivate them during a new activity. Also bring any sensory items they may need such as noise canceling headphones.
Community outings can be overwhelming and stressful, but planning ahead can make them successful and help a person with Autism achieve skills in the area of engaging with their community. This is a lifelong skill that will benefit them.
What does your child play with often? For some, they can quickly come up with a list of preferred items their child enjoys. While others may struggle to find items that are appropriate for their child. Some children can fixate on one or two items while may have a variety of items they enjoy. Finding a method to see what your child is interested in each day may help for you to be able to engage in play skills or other activities.
In Applied Behavior Analysis, a way to identify items your child may be interested in as a reinforcer is called a preference assessment. There are several different ways to conduct a preference assessment that may help you gain new or different reinforcers for skills and activities your child is engaging in.
There are 9 different types of preference assessments that are broken down into three categories: Asking the child, observing and trial based methods (as seen in the diagram below).
Asking the person is any type of preference assessment that you ask the child to rank, make a choice, or answer an open ended question.
- Choice- Make a choice between items
- Rank ordering- Ranking items by most preferred to least preferred
- Open ended questions: Asking the child what they like, how much they like it, etc
Observing the person is any type of preference assessment where you observe the child playing in the natural environment.
- Contrived free operant- placing items strategically in the environment to see what the child gravitates towards
- Naturalistic free operant- watching the child play in their natural environment with toys
Trial based preference assessments are types of preference assessments where items are placed strategically on a table and the child is required to choose an item or engage with a reinforcer
- Single Stimulus- One reinforcer is given at a time and the amount of time the child engages with the toy/item is recorded to see what their preference is
- Multiple Stimuli with/without replacement- A child has several items placed in front of them and are told to choose one (this is a type of ranking preference assessment but the child is just told to choose instead of verbally ranking). If you are replacing the item with a different item it is called with replacement and if you continue to have the child pick an item without replacing the toy/item it is called without replacement.
- Paired stimuli- Where two reinforcers are given at the same time and the child is requested to make a choice.
For visual examples of how to set up each preference assessment to determine which one would work best for your child, see Vanderbilt University’s Evidence Based Instructional Practice videos on Youtube.com where they show each type of preference assessment.
- Dillon, L. H. (2018, July 13). Preference Assessments. Applied Behavior Analysis – ABA made simple! Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.appliedbehavioranalysis.com/symmetry/
- YouTube. (n.d.). Vanderbilt EBIP. YouTube. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYNvAL_UF-7AqQaeiZivq2g
Learning community signs and symbols are important to engage with a culture and community. For instance, learning the public restroom sign helps someone to know where a bathroom is in the community. Learning crosswalk signs is also important for a person to know when it’s acceptable to walk across the street and when to stop. Here are three steps to quickly teach your child these universal symbols to navigate the community:
- Have them find the symbols: Print out the symbols and teach your child to find them in a group of items while explaining what they mean. This will help them learn how to discriminate between the different types of symbols they may see in the community.
- Have them label the symbols: By being able to label the symbols, this will help them to be able to express what they are looking for in the community and how to find places such as a specific street, crosswalk or public restroom.
- Take them into the community to practice: By taking them into the community to use the crosswalk, find the bathroom, and identify community helpers that can help them with each school, they will be able to be more independent in the environment.
Using these three steps will help your child to be comfortable finding community helpers and using national or international symbols that are universal. This will open up several opportunities for them to understand and interact in their community and can put you as the parent at ease when they are traveling in the community.
With summer approaching and the school year ending, some parents may be wondering how to help their child retain what they learned throughout the school year. According to Quinn and Polikoff of Brookings education, even for students who are neurotypical, schools have mixed reviews but confirm that children typically lose some skills over a summer vacation, however the numbers vary based on the location. (Polikoff, David M. Quinn and Morgan 2017) Here are several approaches in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis that can aid in maintaining skills your child has gained through the course of the academic year:
- Have a list of mastered skills you want to retain: Contact the teacher or therapy providers and ask them what skills your child has mastered. Create a list of the skills so you know what you can practice throughout the summer.
- Record when you practice the skills: Date when you practice the mastered skills and report if they did the skill independently or not so you know what you need to work on more often (the skills they needed help with) so they can continue to maintain those skills.
- Reinforcement is key: It is ok to use a variety of reinforcement that your child responds to and fading out consistent reinforcement for a skill. However, for your child to maintain some skills they still need to be praised and provided tangible rewards.
- Fading reinforcement: Once your child masters a skill, it’s appropriate to begin giving them reinforcement less often. For instance: going from reinforcing on every instance, to every other instance of the skill.
- Catch your child using the skills naturally: Socially praise and provide high rewards when you catch your child using skills in the natural environment that you have been working on during the summer to maintain their skills.
While it may seem daunting, especially as your child gains more skills, having a way to maintain skills and check up on your child’s progress is vital to their learning process and success. Using the points above will help you gain insight into your child’s education and grow your relationship in a way where they know you have an invested interest in their development.
Polikoff, David M. Quinn and Morgan. “Summer Learning Loss: What Is It, and What Can We Do about It?” Brookings, 14 Sept. 2017, www.brookings.edu/research/summer-learning-lo. Accessed 6 May 2022.
Sometimes children, in general, need a place to calm down that feels safe and supportive. While some things differ for each child, behaviorally speaking it’s important to make sure the space includes and does not include certain things. Below are 3 ways to create a break or calm space:
- Choose an area that is naturally calming for the child: Providing an area such as a tent, bed, couch, or area that the child naturally gravitates to but is not reinforcing in itself is beneficial for creating a positive space.
- Do not include reinforcers: Including toys in the space can be confusing for the child and interfere with their ability to calm down. Limiting items in the space can help your child gain coping skills to be able to utilize lifelong and will reduce the place being reinforcing so that the child engages in behaviors to enter the space
- Include designated time in space: Allow the child to pick the space whenever they feel it is needed but give the child 2-5 minutes at the calm space at a time so that they are not escaping the task presented or the environment that is aversive completely.
While a calm space is important, providing a break in an appropriate way that minimizes behaviors and the amount of breaks while encouraging the child to regulate and maintain in the environment longer is vital for the child as they age. Implementing the steps above will help you and your child gain confidence, communication and decrease the dysregulation depending on the function of the behavior.