Sticker charts, M&Ms, and a few high fives is not an ABA program! How can a parent determine what an ABA program is and if it’s being implemented correctly?
When piecing together your ABA team, the first step is to make sure that the program and treatment is under the supervision of a certified professional. The BACB (the credentialing board for Behavior Analysts) restricts the practice of ABA to certified professionals (Board Certified Behavior Analysts) or individuals under direct supervision of certified professionals (Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts and Registered Behavior Technicians).
After you have your professionals in place, evaluate the program using the
7 Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis:
Social Stories are wonderful and fun visual aids to go over with your child before "spontaneous" or "out of the ordinary" events occur. Feel free to print and laminate the Halloween social story to read with your trick-or-treater this Halloween.
Reduce the amount of words used to explain yourself. During early learning, instead of "Tommy, I need you to pick up the green ball from under the table" try "pick up the ball."
Be concrete! The ASD brain sees the world in very black and white terms. It is best to speak in literal language to get your ideas across. Individuals on the spectrum often need specific training on how to understand idioms, metaphors and other popular phrases. Say exactly what you mean and what you want your child to do. Instead of "Run over and get your ball" try "get your ball."
Pair your voice with positive words! When your child hears your voice, you want them to think good things are available (not just task demands). When you use your words, tell your child what they SHOULD be doing not what they should NOT be doing. For instance, instead of yelling "Tommy, stop throwing Phil's ball at Chuckie's head!" try "let's toss the ball into the hoop!" (This takes practice, patience and training!).
Turn your voice OFF. Use nonverbal prompting as much as possible when your child is engaging in challenging behaviors. Make sure you are not reinforcing behaviors by giving them attention.
Avoid using your child's name when placing demands! This pairs his name with demands being placed. How responsive would you be if your name was always ONLY followed by "do my laundry, drive me to the movies, make me lunch!" Work on using your child's name mostly with praise.
During challenging behaviors, avoid asking for verbal responses. It is best to place demands that you can prompt immediately to ensure instructional control.These were my tips from an old blog, but worth publishing again!
~Elizabeth Gagliardi, MSW, BCBA Owner and Behavior Analyst of ABA Interventions
The most influential and widely cited review of the literature regarding efficacy of treatments for Autism is the National Research Council's book Educating Children with Autism (2001) which concluded that ABA was the best research supported and most effective treatment for the main characteristics of Autism.
Yes, ABA is an effective treatment for Autism, but it is also a very effective treatment for children who engage in challenging behaviors or have other developmental or intellectual disabilities. ABA is also great for language acquisition, educational goals, children with developmental delays or speech/language delays. ABA has helped children with a variety of challenging behaviors such as self injury, frequent or high intensity meltdowns, physical aggression, challenges with peers and social situations, elopement or wandering, difficulties with leisure skills, deficits or difficulties with daily living skills/hygiene, etc!
Interestingly enough, ABA is also used in fields outside of special needs/education. ABA is being studied and used in organizational settings (industries, factories, work place environments), environmental initiatives (decrease littering behaviors!), psychotherapy, substance abuse, sports, health and exercise, gerontology,...the list goes on!
If you're not sure if ABA is appropriate for your child, always ASK for a consultation!
~ Elizabeth Gagliardi, MSSW, BCBA owner and behavior analyst for ABA Interventions.
While I love every ounce of my profession, my biggest goal is using ABA principles and techniques to teach kids to be KIDS! Discrete Trial Training (DTT) is very important, but it is equally as important to generalize these skills across people, settings and stimuli. Today, we had fun with dinosaur bones and fossils. If your child has a list of ABA program goals (and if they're with me, you know they do!), don't forget to carry those goals into fun activities. I'll try to post some of these ideas under the Everyday ABA heading.
Baking/cooking is probably one of my favorite ways to incorporate ABA program goals into a child's day without it feeling like "work." Mix up your own salt dough with your child. While making the dough with your child, count and measure, work on action words like "stir" "mix" "scoop", ask about textures, temperatures and all those other describing words listed in his/her program book. This is also a great time to work on pesky positional words: put the flour in the bowl, put the spoon on top of the table, etc. For my older kids, I like to have them draw sequence cards to work on remembering steps and putting steps of a task in order.
For dinosaur day, we worked on matching dinosaurs into salt dough fossils and also worked on putting dinosaur bones in order from small-->big, heavy--> light and thin--> thick!
I must give credit to the wonderful world of Pinterest for initially giving me this idea a year or so ago! If you want to make your own salt dough, follow this recipe:
~Elizabeth Gagliardi, MSSW, BCBA Owner and Behavior Analyst of ABA Interventions
Flexibility can be taught in many different ways and it's a skill that can and should be practiced daily. After discussing what we mean when we tell a child to "be flexible," it's great to role play, model and find activities to discretely practice flexibility. A fun way to practice flexibility is through an obstacle course. Set up a few fun activities like a trampoline, a tunnel, pile of blocks and a stack of pillows. Tell your child, "jump on the trampoline 10 times" and before they get to 10, say "never mind! I meant to say go through the tunnel 10 times!" Make it fun and praise your child for "being flexible" when they transition to a different activity. Keep going through the obstacle course, but limit how many tasks actually get completed before you say "never mind that one...!" A few of my kids love to "be the teacher" and provide feedback on my own flexibility when we play these type of games. How flexible are we moving from one task to another with limited notice? Practicing and shaping appropriate responses to spontaneous task demands is such an important skill!
I love Applied Behavior Analysis. When I say LOVE, I mean I have a passion for working with children that need a specialized way of learning. It took two major life experiences until I picked up on the signs that I was meant to work with children with special needs.
Raina. She was my introduction to a Picture Exchange Communication program and drove my passion and determination to help children. I was at a nutrition clinic in Guatemala with an organization called Hearts in Motion when a group of us saw a nervous, shy little girl. She was dropped off at the clinic and had not spoken a word. One of the leaders in the group drew a ball on an index card (because Boardmaker, laminators, velco and fantastic PECS folders are limited in Guatemala) and started attempting to get Raina to make a communicative exchange. We had limited time with Raina and making such a big change in her communication methods wasn’t as doable as I hoped it would be. I left her in smiles and with plenty of hugs, but no communication. The time and training it takes to implement a communication system wasn’t available, but it was necessary. I returned with the drive to help children, more importantly to learn how to help kids talk and communicate. I was told that I wasn’t going to Guatemala to change the people, but the people would change me.
Going to Guatemala won't change the country, but it will change you.
It wasn’t until I was in graduate school that I learned the most effective way to help children communicate. While in graduate school, I picked up a part time job as a clinical living support provider with a family of a nine year old boy. I was introduced to a behavior analyst and the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. My part time job turned into all I could think about and I researched and put together as many tools as I could to teach this boy how to imitate, match and communicate. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and scheduled meetings with the child’s behavior analyst and learned as much as I could. I followed the behavior plan and programs, but I needed to know more. I then signed up for ABA courses on top of my graduate school course load and decided I needed to be a behavior analyst for this nine year old boy and for all of the kids like Raina. I learned fast, completed my courses, and worked with countless number of children and families before finally becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.
Written by Elizabeth Gagliardi, MSSW, BCBA. Behavior Analyst and Owner of ABA Interventions. 901.517.8269
If you've had parent training classes with me, you should be well aware that I am not a fan of free access to screen time and electronics. I love using the ipad and other electronics in a therapeutic setting as a REINFORCER or just as fun materials to teach. I don't like to leave kids alone with these apps, but I love to sit with them and use the app as a therapy material.
1. Between the Lines - This is a great app full of videos, idioms, and social training exercises. A lot of my preteen kids, especially the ones that think flashcards of smiles and angry faces are "for little kids," enjoy 10-15 minutes on this app.
2. Moose Math - A lot of my kids DO NOT like to count! All those counting bears and assorted tiny, cute toys we find at the teacher stores are still not cutting it! Moose Math is a fun app that allows kids to explore counting through activities like sorting and counting fruit to make assorted juices!
3. Fun with Directions - This is a fun app to work on single and multi-step directions with kids!
Written by Elizabeth Gagliardi, MSSW, BCBS. Behavior Analyst and Owner of ABA-Interventions in Knoxville, TN. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org