<![CDATA[Appleseeds Learning Center - Blog]]>Wed, 13 Dec 2017 22:24:57 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[An ABA Therapist's Perspective]]>Thu, 20 Jul 2017 18:53:30 GMThttp://appleseedslearningcenter.org/2/post/2017/07/an-aba-therapists-perspective.htmlPicture
Pairing, rapport, reinforcement, motivation, behavior, antecedent, consequence, frequency, duration, data collection, function, program...these words and concepts are thrown around like confetti on New Years Eve in the field of Applied Behavioral Analysis. Ask any therapist what their favorite question is, and they will undoubtedly answer: "What does that look like?" You see, we are concerned with the details, with the observable, with the clear and complete, and with the measurable. This is how we, the treatment staff, can show progress. Progress is important; progress shows that I am a effective therapist; progress shows that the intervention is practical. 

I have the privilege of working with children that have Autism Spectrum Disorder as a therapist providing Applied Behavioral Analysis. Often the response is, "Well, that takes a special person," "Wow, you must have a lot of patience" "What do you even do, play all day?" "Oh, I get it, you work at like a daycare!" Explaining my role and my job description is entirely different from the actual tasks that I complete on a daily basis. My role: implement the interventions and treatments created to promote progress with skill acquisition and behavior reduction; which I do, everyday. 

"What does that look like?"

I play: I play with your child, on their level. I make sure I am the most fun person they have ever met. I am the giver of all things: iPads, m&ms, bubbles, trains, tickles, hugs; you name it, I probably have it in my fanny pack. I play with your child to foster social interactions that can lead to communication, play, and imitative progress. I play with your child because they are amazing, fun and I want them to share their interests with me.

I push: I push your child. I do not let them give up. I may make your child angry, I may make them frustrated, I may make them hit me, or bite me, or scream at me. I encourage them and I support them. I continue to work on one skill until I am confident that it can be repeated with anyone, anywhere. I am aware of the limited time frame for language development and social skills acquisition. I acknowledge the incredibly valuable time and money that you spend for your child and do not allow it to go to waste. I push myself, to be a better therapist for your child, to always try something new in a session and to always be transparent with you.

I praise: I praise your child. I give parties like you haven't seen since 1999, and I can say that as I am one of the older therapists that was actually, cognitively aware during that time. I praise all things, big or small, I am indiscriminate. I give random dance parties because I have found that your child loves jazz music or Frozen, techno-remixes. I act ridiculous, I have come up with faces, silly noises, and words with no meaning; just because it motivates your child and I can make them smile.

I worry: I worry for your child. I worry for you. I worry that I will not be effective, that I will not teach your child a skill in such a way, that they can achieve their highest level of awesomeness. I worry that the behaviors they engage in will isolate them, or hurt them, or hurt you. I worry that my being honest about the difficulties we faced in our session today will come across as rude or insensitive; uncaring to you. When in actuality, it was a sharing of truth, and a respect for your position as a caregiver to continue to keep you updated on the reality of your child's progress.

I respect: I respect your child. I always treat them with the dignity they deserve and hold them in the highest regard. I respect you, you are so incredibly important. You are your child's protector, cheerleader, advocate, mother, father, grandparent, sibling, friend, and teacher. You are their safety net. I respect your right to say no. I respect your ability to be the best source of information in regards to your child. 

I love: I love your child. I love their hugs, their laughs, their smiles, their sounds, and their happiness. I love making them happy. I look forward to seeing them each morning or afternoon. I cannot wait to experience their next accomplishment in therapy and to share that progress with you. 

Applied Behavioral Analysis can often attract negative statements of: clinical, robotic, or cold. That is not the way I experience or implement ABA therapy. It is instead, liberally laced with joy, hope, and lots upon lots of coffee. 

Written by Kate Butler
Masters in Psychology; Emphasis in Autism Spectrum Disorders
<![CDATA[100 Ideas for Positive Reinforcement! ]]>Thu, 16 Feb 2017 19:47:55 GMThttp://appleseedslearningcenter.org/2/post/2017/02/100-ideas-for-positive-reinforcement.html"Positive reinforcement is the most important and most widely applied principle of behaviour analysis"
- Cooper, Heron and Heward (2007, p.257)
When a child first enrolls in an ABA program, the therapist will ask the parent(s)/caregiver(s) to complete a reinforcer inventory. The therapist wants to know all of the things that a child enjoys and finds motivating. 
ABA Programs use positive reinforcement to strengthen, maintain, and increase desired behaviors. By providing access to reinforcement AFTER the desired behavior has occurred, it will increase the likelihood that the desired behavior will happen again. It is important to find items/activities that the child loves
The Team of ABA Therapists at Appleseeds Learning Center has put together a list of 100 Ideas for Positive Reinforcement (that does not include food or iPads/Electronics) for families and therapists alike!

Social Activities

1. Sing a Song
2. Bear Hugs / Big Squeeze
3. Board Game
4. Read a Book
5. Face Paint 
6. Jump on the Trampoline 
7. Have a Race 
8. Tickles 
9. Paint a Picture
10. Build a Tower
11. Have a Dance Party
12. Play Hide and Go Seek
13. Go for a Walk
14. Spin Around
15. Play Dress Up
16. Make Silly Faces
17. Work Outside
18. Class Party 
19. Make a Video
20. Paint Nails
21. High Fives
22. Make a volcano
23. Make a Tent
24. Swing 
25. Have a Picnic 
26. Have a Puppet Show
27. Build a Train Track
28. Build a Bird House
29. Ride a Bike
30. Yoga
31. Color with Chalk Outside
32. Plant a garden
33. Walk/Pet a pet
34. Blow Bubbles
35. Funny Voices
36. Bake Cookies
37. Tell a Joke
38. Fist Bumps
39. Make a Secret Handshake
40. Dye Easter Eggs
41. Make a card for friend
42. Play "This Little Piggy"
43. Piggy Back Ride
44. Carve a Pumpkin
45. Play Tag
46. Fly a Kite
47. Play with a Parachute
48. Ring Around the Rosie
49. Play a sport (soccer, basketball)
50. Jump Rope

Tangible Items

1. Pom-poms
2. Play Dough
3. Sensory Bins 
4. Lava Lamp
5. Camera
6. Rubix Cube
7. Legos
8. Puzzles
9. Stress Ball
10. Slinky
11. Magnets
12. Stuffed Animals
13. Flash Light
14. Stickers
15. Trains
16. View Finder
17. Stamps
18. Glow Sticks
19. Balloons
20. Globe
21. Dolls/Doll House
22. Bike/Tricycle
23. Musical Instruments 
24. Water Tumblers
25. Books
26. Ball Pit
27. Sand Box
28. Rock Wall
29. Action Heroes 
30. Kaleidoscope
31. Tunnels
32. Shaving Creme 
33. See Saw
34. Drum Set
35. Ride on Toys
36. Water Table
37. Xylophone 
38. Remote Control Cars
39. Rocking Horse
40. Pop Up Toys
41. Lincoln Logs
42. Tinker Toys
43. Felt Board
44. Squigz
45. Trampoline
46. Abacus
47. Bead Traveler
48. Pin Art Toy
49. Bowling Set
50. Wiggle Ride On Car
Miltenberger (2008, p.73) states that ‘reinforcement is the process in which a behaviour is strengthened by the immediate consequence that reliably follows its occurrence’. To “strengthen” a behaviour is to make it occur more frequently; as clarified by Michael (2004, p. 258) stating that 'when a type of behaviour is followed by reinforcement there will be an increased future frequency of that type of behaviour'.
<![CDATA[5 Ways To Get The Most Out of ABA]]>Mon, 16 Jan 2017 17:55:12 GMThttp://appleseedslearningcenter.org/2/post/2017/01/5-ways-to-get-the-most-out-of-aba.htmlPicture
Applied Behavior Analysis (commonly referred to as ABA) is different than other therapies for children with Autism. ABA typically requires more parent/care giver involvement than other interventions such as Speech Therapy or Occupational Therapy. The recommended number of hours can be as high as 40 hours per week to reach optimal outcomes. Parents often ask How am I supposed to make that happen? or Is that truly necessary? 

We think the  Lovaas Institute gives a great answer to these questions:

"The purpose of 40 hours of therapy is to provide a child with structured intervention throughout the day. During structured intervention, the environment is systematically manipulated to help a child remain successful while also teaching new skills quickly. In addition, parents are empowered to continue intervention throughout the child’s waking hours. Typically developing children learn from the natural environment all of their waking hours. The purpose of an intensive program is to allow a child with autism to learn how to learn in the natural environment and ultimately catch up to his or her typically developing peers."
ABA is more than a therapy, it is a lifestyle change. 

Before enrolling a child in an ABA program, parents should prepare to get the most out of ABA. Here are some suggestions:

1) All Care Givers Need to be on the Same Page
Calling all Parents, Family Members, Babysitters, Teachers, and Therapists!
ABA works best when everyone is on the same page. When a child first enrolls in an ABA program, a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) will work with the child to complete an assessment and write a treatment plan. This treatment plan will include systematic steps to help a child learn new skills or decrease negative behaviors. Whatever your child is working on, everyone needs to be on the same page. Interventions should not stop when the therapists go home. Intervention methods needs to be consistent to be effective. 
2) Learn what ABA is and how to do it! 
I am just a parent, not an ABA Therapist!!!!! Ask your ABA provider to teach you how to help your child at home, school, birthday parties, anywhere! Your therapist will be thrilled! Parents need to be empowered to continue intervention throughout the child’s waking hours.  An effective ABA program focuses on children generalizing skills and learning in Natural Environments. It is important for children to learn with their therapists, but the goal is for the child to demonstrate those skills in other environments and with other individuals! After all, the ultimate goal is that the child does not need the therapist anymore!

3) Show Up to Therapy Appointments
We know it is hard to attend every appointment, but we promise, it will be worth it!
Parenting a child with special needs often means driving your child around constantly from appointment to appointment. While life events might sometimes get in the way, consistency and routine will give your child the best chance to succeed! After an assessment, a  BCBA will recommend a certain number of hours per week for a child to be in ABA. Therapists want the best outcome for each and every child. The recommended number of hours is a plan to help children with Autism reach their highest potential. ABA will only be effective and provide long lasting results when a child receives an appropriate number of hours consistently. 

4) Follow Through with Expectations & Boundaries
Every, single, time! 
Children with Autism often lack receptive and expressive communication skills. This can make understanding the world they live in very confusing. Giving a child with Autism clear expectations and boundaries helps make the world a little less confusing. A great example of how this can help a child with Autism come from Educator Janet Gonzalez-Mena:

Imagine driving over a bridge in the dark.. If the bridge has no railings we will drive across it slowly and tentatively. But if we see railings on either side of us, we can drive over the bridge with ease and confidence. This is how a young child feels in regard to limits in his environment.
Seeking the ‘railings’ he needs to feel secure, a child will continue to test a caregiver until boundaries are clearly stated. Power struggles are a necessary part of the development of ‘self’ for the child; however, the outcome must be that the child knows that the adult is in charge. Children do not usually admit this, but they do not wish to be all powerful and the possibility that they might be is frightening indeed. Children raised without firm, consistent boundaries are insecure and world-weary. Burdened with too many decisions and too much power, they miss out on the joyful freedom every child deserves
This is one of the most difficult things parents of children with Autism have to face. However, this will make the most significant impact on your child's life. Following an intervention plan written by a BCBA often means ignoring a child throwing a tantrum, 
sitting and waiting (even though you are running late) for your child to independently get dressed, or having your child ask (Communication! Yay!) for each cheerio...one at a time. 

5) Reinforce! Reinforce! Reinforce! 
A good ABA Program is a fun ABA Program!
This is the fun part! ABA means you get to celebrate every success, no matter how small! Get ready to have a dance party because your child went pee pee in the potty, keep those M&Ms handy in case your child spontaneously uses a "WH question", and learn all the words to their favorite song so you can sing it when they have a tantrum free day! Reinforcers can be anything that your child enjoys! Ask your therapist to train you on reinforcement or keep an eye out for our next blog post! 
"Positive reinforcement is the most important and most widely applied principle of behaviour analysis"
- Cooper, Heron and Heward (2007, p.257)
<![CDATA[Bert Show Love]]>Wed, 21 Sep 2016 21:10:30 GMThttp://appleseedslearningcenter.org/2/post/2016/09/bert-show-love.htmlWe want to send a special THANK YOU to The Bert Show! 

On Monday, September 19th, Brian Moote from the popular Atlanta Radio Show Q100 and his wife Katie Waissel Moote came to pay a special visit to Appleseeds! The Bert Show is celebrating 100 days of Bert Show Love and we were very excited to be a part of it! 
The team and students loved playing Duck Duck Goose, listening to stories, and having an awesome dance party with our special guests! 
Thank you again Moote and Katie for bringing smiles and laughter to Appleseeds Learning Center! 

Visit The Bert Show's Website!
<![CDATA[What is ABA?]]>Wed, 21 Sep 2016 20:44:38 GMThttp://appleseedslearningcenter.org/2/post/2016/09/what-is-aba.htmlWhen a caregiver is told their child has autism, many are also told they should get ABA, but are often never given any other information about it. What is ABA exactly and what will it mean for your child? For starters, ABA is not just a therapy for autism, it can be used in a variety of situations. ABA stands for Applied Behavior Analysis and is defined as “the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior” (Eden II).  So let’s break that down a little and translate it into English.

The first person to really start studying behavior was B.F. Skinner, a psychologist who began studying the behaviors of rats and pigeons. Over many years of researching, it was found that the laws of behavior can apply to any organism. Be it a rat, a goldfish, a dog, or even a human being, they all learn under the same general patterns. Eventually, someone decided to try applying these principles to individuals with developmental disabilities. At the time, it was thought that people with disabilities were not able to learn, but by rewarding a simple arm movement, it was shown that they can. In 1968, Ivar Lovaas conducted a famous study in which he took a group of children with autism and used these laws to help them learn a variety of skills and decrease inappropriate behaviors. The study was a massive success and ABA for developmental disabilities was born!

So when enrolled in an ABA program, what happens? A good program is overseen by someone with skills and knowledge in ABA, such as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (or BCBA). When a child starts a program, he or she will be assessed. An assessment will look at the child’s strengths and weaknesses as well as take into account any inappropriate behaviors and compare their skills to what is typically seen in child development. Then, the person in charge of the program (e.g. the BCBA) will use the assessment to create a customized program to fit the child’s individual needs. The goal is to catch him or her up to what is developmentally appropriate as well as reduce behaviors that are inhibiting them from progressing.

Each long-term goal gets broken down into “baby steps” based on the child’s current levels. For example, if the long-term goal is to request wants and needs using sentences, it might get broken down by first having the child request using single words such as “ball” or “candy.” Once they get good at that, then they would be taught to say “want ball” or “want candy,” etc. Once they get good at that, they can work on completing the whole sentence “I want ball,” or “I want candy.” Trained therapists will work with the child on these specific targets every day, taking data on their progress. The data is how we know when a child is making progress. The person in charge of the program looks at the data and decides when they are ready to move on to new targets or if changes need to be made to help them be more successful.

The key to learning is motivation. No one would ever do anything if there was nothing motivating them to do it. Would you eat if you never felt hungry or tired or work a long day if you never got paid? Probably not. The same principle applies to children with autism. Each program is designed based on what the particular child thinks is fun and exciting to help bring about desired responses.

For example, if a child is not speaking but loves M&Ms, then their program may involve rewarding speaking with an M&M. When running the programs, therapists try to be upbeat and fun, someone with whom a child would want to interact and approach. An ABA program should be fun, something a child looks forward to.
So what is ABA? ABA is using the science of learning and behavior to help bring about positive change, whether it’s teaching a dog to sit or a nonverbal child to speak. It’s bringing about improvements that you can not only see but that you can prove through scientific data. ABA makes changes to an individual’s environment in order to set them up for success. By avoiding a one-size-fits-all curriculum, ABA becomes something that actually can be used for anyone.

Written by Rachael Dial, MS BCBA