19 Sep 2018

BY: admin

ABACAS Team / Uncategorized

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Back to Basics (Part Two) – Functions of Behaviour 2.0

In an earlier post this year we touched on the four functions of behaviour being:

  • Attention
  • Tangible (things)
  • Sensory/Automatic
  • Escape

(This is the link to the post in case you want to re-read it – https://www.childwellbeingcentre.net.au/abacas-team/functions-of-childrens-behaviour/

To expand on last week’s blog about the three term contingency, we’re going to talk about how we can reduce motivation for children to engage in problematic behaviours, specific to their function.

Functions of Behaviour

First things first. When starting a new intervention it always help when your child is eating well, sleeping and in good health.  Sometimes this is where we need to start before we can change behaviours. However for this example, let’s assume everything is fine. Let’s look in the example below:

Antecedent Behaviour Consequence
Child is playing alone for 10 minutes with parent in room Child throws object at parent. Parent scolds child about importance of not throwing items.


A child has been playing on an iPad for an hour, parent removes and gives demand “clean up your room” Child throws tantrum Parent withholds iPad, but does not follow through


How does knowing the function help us?

In each of these scenarios a child has engaged in problematic behaviour.

Let’s tackle problem one. In this instance a child was engaging in appropriate play behaviour for 10 minutes before they engaged in the problem behaviour. The problem behaviour resulted in parent delivering attention, where as the play behaviour did not. The prolonged period without attention creates a state of deprivation  which increases the value of a reinforcer (in this case attention). This means a child is more likely to give responses that have previously resulted in attention being delivered.

To improve the behaviour in this example, we can look at catching the child being good.  Delivering attention often enough (for the behaviours you want to see more of) will make it less likely that the problem behaviour occurs.

Problem two lets us see an example of satiation which reduces the value of a reinforcer. These parents may successfully be able to get their child to clean their room on a regular basis using a “first, then” instruction with the iPad. However in this instance the child had prolonged free access to the reinforcer, and so  it has temporarily lost its value. When you are offering reinforcement you should check for value, not just assume it is what the child wants.

A large part of the what the team does is to identify the purpose of behaviour. One we understand that we can make effective changes.

Please feel free to contact me on 9274 7062 if  you would like to know more about functions of behaviour and motivations or talk about our services.

Jasmin Fyfe

Program Manager, ABACAS

13 Sep 2018

BY: admin


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Difficulties Making Friends?- Five Tips for Primary School Children

Nothing is more heart breaking as a parent to hear that your child isn’t making friends. We all want the best for our children. The reality is that for some children (particularly the more shy and reserved variety) making new friends can be hard. Not only do children need some confidence to walk up to others but they also need an array of social skills to draw on.

5 Tips for Making Friends

Making friends (and keeping them) involve using a range of skills. These include being able to recognise when others are open to friendship and knowing how to approach and engage others.  Then of course are the skills needed to keep friendships – which can also be tricky. But let’s start at the beginning with how children can make their first approach more successful…

The following are some tips for primary school aged children who have language skills but they can be modified for those a little less verbal:

Look for interest from other children

Imagine being in a park with lots of children running around. Running up to a random child who looks like they are doing something interesting might get a response but it might also lead to rejection.

Instead, encourage your child to look for other children that appear interested in playing with them. Who are these children? The ones that may already be looking at your child (watching what your child is doing) and the ones with a smile on their face. These are the children that are more likely to be positive about an approach from your child.

Children who are heavily involved in a game (particularly in groups) or playing with other children are less likely to give a positive response. They already have someone to play with. Sometimes groups of children want others to join them…especially if it’s a game that involves lots of running around. However if children have already worked out who they are playing with, they may not welcome approaches from others.

Say Hello

Sounds simple doesn’t it?  However  many children forget to say hello or introduce themselves. And of course, when your child does say “hi” to another child they need to look at them (eye contact) and smile too! This signals to the other child that they are being friendly.

Get Talking

Most of us enjoy it when others show interest in us. Your child asking “What are doing?”, “Can I play too?”, or “What’s that?” are good ways of starting up a conversation. They are also a way of testing the waters to see if the other child is interested in getting to know them too.

When the other child starts talking to your child, this is where conversational skills become important. Your child needs to show interest in what the other child says.  They can also share something about themselves too. All of which helps to build a connection.

Be flexible

It’s great for your child to suggest activities that they and the other child can do. However if the other child wants to play another way or differently your child may need to go with the flow initially. Turn-taking with ideas and games can develop once your child works out that this is someone they want to spend more time with.

Be positive

It’s OK if your child discovers that the other child isn’t that interested or isn’t the friend for them. Children can agree to disagree and part ways too. As a parent we can acknowledge our child’s disappointment but we need to refocus them on all the other children out there that may be the right sort of friend for them.

What to do if things just aren’t working?

The good news is that friendships skills can be taught. Many schools now provide programs targeting social skills and confidence so start by asking what your school may have available.

The internet also has bundles of resources and ideas for parents to access to help their children in this area.

In our Centre we teach social skills one on one in therapy and in various group programs (so children can practice their skills with other children).

Please call the Centre if you would like more information about our services on 9274 7062.

12 Sep 2018

BY: admin


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Back to Basics (Part One) – What is the three term contingency?

Three term contingency?? For parents who are new to ABA, you’ll be discovering that we use a lot of jargon. It is our job to make sure that we not only translate this into layman’s terms for you, but also educate you about ABA terminology throughout your therapy journey. This is going to be one of a 5 part series focused on educating parents about terminology, what they mean, and how you can start applying them yourself. Parents continuing the work we do into the home, especially during Early Intervention (EI) is essential to see optimum success.

5 Part Series

In our five part series we will be covering the following terms:

  • The three term contingency
  • Functions of behaviour
  • Verbal Behaviour
  • Reinforcement and Punishment
  • Prompts

The Three Term Contingency

The three-term contingency is a critical part of ABA, and all behaviour can, one way or another, fit into this breakdown. ABC, or Antecedent – Behaviour – Consequence, is how we frame behaviours. Behaviour and learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum – there is never a behaviour with no explanation. An antecedent is what happens before, and a consequence is what happens after. An antecedent can signal that reinforcement or punishment is, or is not, available for certain behaviours.

Here are some examples:

Antecedent Behaviour Consequence
The teacher says “who knows what letter this is?” Child responds by putting his hand up and saying “a” Praise from the teacher (attention)
A child has a difficult homework task in front of him. Child says “Can I help you with the dishes mum?” Mum says “yes of course” and they do dishes together (escape and attention)
Therapist says “What goes woof” Child responds “Car” Praise and an edible are given (tangible and attention).
A parent asks a child to turn off the TV The child has a tantrum The child is allowed 5 more minutes (tangible, escape).


The consequence that is provided determines whether or not learning will occur. In three of these examples some “unhelpful” learning is occurring!

Sometimes your therapy team might ask you to keep ABC data on a behaviour of interests so that we can help design an intervention based on function (more on that next week).

If you are interested in this topic, or have any questions further questions about how this might be applicable to your child please feel free to call me on 9274 7062.


Jasmin Fyfe

ABACAS Program Manager

06 Sep 2018

BY: admin


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A glass of red? Not during pregnancy!

International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day is on Sunday 9th September every year. Yet many people have little idea of what FASD is and how it is caused.

What is FASD?

We’re very used to hearing in the media that alcohol consumption can cause a higher risk of many health conditions (e.g. cancer & heart disease). Alcohol use is also related to a higher rate of injury such as falls and vehicle accidents. And for some, alcohol is their addiction. It’s also associated with higher rates of depression, self-harm and suicide.

Alcohol use in pregnancy is the primary risk factor for babies being born with something called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder or FASD.  Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are neuro-cognitive disorders that may present with a range of markers, including: unusual facial features; developmental delays; learning disabilities; behavioural difficulties; and health complications. As there is a spectrum of symptoms, FASD is often undetected until the child is older. However we now understand that it is a lifelong condition and children (adolescents and adults) often need ongoing support.

What’s the best thing to do in pregnancy?

FASD is an outcome of parents being unaware of the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Messages surrounding alcohol use during pregnancy in the past have been confusing. Do you remember back when the occasional glass of red wine was recommended for pregnant mothers? What we now know is that any level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy can present a risk to the baby in utero.

The tragedy of FASD is that it is avoidable.  No one intentionally sets out to harm their baby. Views about alcohol use during pregnancy can vary from family to family, and culture to culture. However the reality is that exposure to alcohol during pregnancy can cause harm and no one knows how much or how frequently alcohol needs to be consumed to cause harm.

The safest thing to do during pregnancy is to cease drinking all alcohol. Just as with smoking (and our knowledge now of the health risks involved with smoking during pregnancy), stopping alcohol consumption is the safest thing to do for the developing baby.

Helpful resources

Children with FASD have their own challenges which can vary from child to child. Families with children with FASD need support and often this starts with diagnosis and recognising the problem.

A great resource to find out more about FASD is the NoFASD website at:


And as always you are welcome to come and talk to any of the psychologists in the Centre about any aspect of your child’s development.


Naomi Ward

Clinical Director

04 Sep 2018

BY: admin


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Early Intervention and ABA Therapy

Many parents who are first starting ABA as part of their child’s early intervention (or may have had some experience with ABA therapy) often ask  the question, “will my child be sitting at the table the whole time?”. For Early Intervention (EI) clients, the answer should be no. Early Intervention ABA Therapy focuses on a combination of teaching developmentally appropriate skills and reducing challenging behaviours. How many small children do you know who spend 2+ hours a day seated at a small table with an adult? I imagine the answer is none.

ABA Therapy might teach children some skills at the table because this is a good way to ensure focus, reduce distractions and deliver the maximum number of learning opportunities. However, once these skills are mastered at the table then Natural Environment Training and generalisation should be used so these skills can consolidate. There is no point in children having ‘therapy skills’ and no practical skills.

What skills can be taught?

ABA can focus on improving play, social skills, daily living skills and toilet training. If these are socially significant goals for your family and your child, then ABA can teach these using the same principles of learning applied when teaching a child to discriminate between two flash cards. Social relationships, which is often one of the most difficult skills for children with an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis, should be taught in a way that will open up opportunities with peers, not just therapists and adults, and sets children up for success in real life situations.

Daily living skills (such as brushing teeth, washing, dressing etc) can all be taught using ABA in the natural environment. Your Program Manager should be able to develop a behaviour chain for any skill, and teach it to your child until they are able to function independently. The goal for any skill is that is provides benefit to the child, whether that be increased independence, increased access to learning, or increased access to relationships.

Early intervention ABA should use a range of strategies

It is important to have realistic expectations of children in a therapy context, including how much time is age appropriate to spend at a table. ABA programs should be comprehensive and focus on more than table top skills. They should be individualised and consider self care, social relationships and play as well as language development and verbal behaviour milestones. They should use a range of strategies to ensure that all that valuable learning can be used in different contexts.

If you have any questions about your child’s program please contact your Program Manager on 9274 7062.

Jasmin Fyfe

ABACAS Program Manager

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