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For some children performing a particular skill may be challenging for them, which often leads to problem behaviours. Therefore, it is important to determine the functions of the behaviour. Behaviours may include: attention, tangible, sensory, and escape.
What does escape look like?
Today, we are going to focus on escape. Typically, a child will try to “escape” whenever the demand that is placed upon them is too much or when the task is too difficult for them. This behaviour may look like: running away, crying, shouting, placing their heads onto the table, “shutting down” (or refusing to respond), throwing things off the table, and hitting.
For a child who has difficulty expressing himself/herself, these behaviours are just a means for them to communicate to us that they are not able to perform the task.
What can we do when a child’s behaviour is about escape?
With children who are non-verbal or partially verbal, the first step might be to look at teaching them functional communication. For example: handing over the ‘help’ compic whenever they require assistance with something. Obviously we need to also teach to the skill deficit. In other words, teach them the skill they cannot do.
For younger children, we would usually prioritise learning to learn skills. Instead of telling them to “sit down” and “behave”, we will focus on skills such as eye contact, sitting still on the mat/chair, manding (requesting), joint attention, matching, etc. Without these skills, a child will not be able to attend to new information as they are being presented to them. Nor are they ready to learn new skills.
For higher functioning children, we still need to identify the skills that needs teaching. However it may look very different to a younger child’s needs. The skills needed may be more of a social skills. Some children find social interaction really challenging. Therefore we might look at skills like maintaining eye contact, respecting other people’s personal space, knowing when it is appropriate to interrupt a conversation, how to interrupt a conversation appropriately, reading another person’s body language, understanding other people’s emotions, recalling past events, staying on topic, etc.
By stepping back and looking at the function of the behaviour, we can gain insight into what supports the child needs. From there its about breaking down a difficult task into small achievable steps via task analysis. At the end of the day we want our children to develop competency across the range of skills needed in daily life.
Please feel free to contact myself or Jasmine Fyfe on 9274 7062 for further information on how we can help your child.
Assistant Program Manager, ABACAS
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As children learn to speak, they need to expand their vocabulary. Children need to learn the meaning of new words and to able to use them appropriately. A lot of this work occurs naturally for a child. They learn through hearing adults (and older siblings) talk around and to them. However there are ways of communicating as a parent that are more likely to help children learn than others.
Increasing your child’s vocabulary
Let’s start by talking about what your child is interested in! If we try to talk to your child about doing the laundry – they won’t be interested or motivated to tune in to what you say! However you might see a different response when talking about dinosaurs, making fairies fly, and jumping around the house.
Use play time with your child to help their language. This can be challenging but also very rewarding. During this play you want to ensure you are playing with what your child wants to play with, and how they want to play with it. To illustrate, if they want to play with cars, great! If they want to make the cars fly like spaceships – great lets do that! Try not to insist that the cars drive on the road in the ‘proper’ way – let your child lead the way! From here we use the child’s natural language and expand on it.
If your child is able to speak – repeat what they say, and add to it! For example a child says “It’s a monkey” we can repeat this but add something new to build their vocabulary e.g. “Look it’s a big monkey! It’s a big silly monkey!” Don’t forget to speak in an animated way, emphasising the key words, slowing down your speech, and repeating yourself.
The 4 S’s of vocabulary building
Say Less- limit your what you say. Yes your child may understand you if you say “Look the blue car is going down to big slide and then let’s move this car under the big brown bridge!”. However, they cannot imitate this. Provide this information to your child in sections that they can try to imitate e.g. “the blue car goes down!”
Stress – emphasise the key words you want your child to learn! E.g. “The blue car goes down!”
Go Slow – Slow down your rate of speech!
Show – demonstrate what you are talking about – if you say “the blue car goes down” – make sure the blue car does go down the slide!
Repeat! Repeat! Repeat! Everything you say – say it more than once! Repetition is the key to your child listening and taking in what you are saying!
Remember – you are not going to be able to change your communication style overnight – it’s going to take time and practice. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t speak to your child in this way every minute of the day. Set aside time to practice each time and focus on your communication.
Consulting a speech pathologist may also be helpful if you’re feeling worried about your child’s language development. Please contact reception for more information about the speech pathology service we provide on 9274 7062.
Strategies adapted from The Hannen Centre.
Occupational Therapist Team
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This year we are starting a series of posts around the occupational therapy services in our Centre. While Occupational Therapists work with adults, they also work with children and adolescents too.
What do Occupational Therapists do?
Occupational therapy helps a person become more independent carrying out every day activities. These activities include self care, work and leisure. For children, school is their “work” activity, but so is play! Play is an opportunity to practise the activities of life, including social interaction and problem solving.
How can Occupational Therapy help my child?
Occupational therapy can help children in a number of ways:
– It can help children to achieve developmental milestones involving coordination and fine motor skills.
– Give children strategies to improve skills such as getting dressed, eating, using a pencil, scissors and cutlery.
– Help parents and assist children to understand their body and sensory system and how it influences everything they do.
Occupational therapy very much works from a partnership model. That is, the OT, family and child working together to identify goals and learn new ways of doing things. Occupational therapists are also able to work with school based staff to develop strategies to support school aged children in the classroom.
At the Child Wellbeing Centre our Occupational Therapists work with young children, primary and secondary students.
Currently OT is available one Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in the Centre. Please call reception for more information about our services on 9274 7062.
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Some children ‘just get it’ when it comes to toilet training. Others, not so much. Toilet training is a huge developmental milestone. It increases independence, helps social relationships and it can be a really important skill when thinking about school readiness. For those young ones who aren’t having success with conventional methods of toilet training ABA can help.
Let’s look at the example of “Johnny” (not his real name!). He’s been engaged in therapy for about a year, responds well to reinforcement, is making lots of gains in his program. However he’s about to go into Kindy and has been unsuccessful in his toilet training attempts with his parents so far. Johnny’s mum approaches her ABA Program Manager about this skill and they develop a program to toilet train him. Within three weeks he goes from zero toilet use to independent requests for the toilet for both wee’s and poo’s!
How did we toilet train?
There are a few key area’s that need to be addressed in toilet training. First, you need to be able to “catch a wee”. This then gives you the opportunity to reinforce weeing in the toilet. Second, you need to teach the sensation of a full bladder and teach this as a natural antecedent to Mand (request) the toilet. Third, fine motor skills for pulling up and down pants are important if the child’s toilet use is going to be independent.
In a typical toilet training intervention, we will work on all of these skills through a very intensive program. This will include taking the child to the toilet regularly and providing reinforcement, then thinning out the schedule and increasing teaching opportunities to request independently.
In summary, ABA can help toilet train almost anyone! This case reflects the success of a young child, but these methods can be implemented with a child of any age, both younger and older.
When thinking about toileting interventions, your practitioner will need to get medical clearance from your GP first. They will need to rule out any underlying medical problems that may be causing toileting problems. The next step is to meet the parents/carers and talk through strategies and to explain any risks and the realistic time commitments before you begin. An intensive intervention around toileting can be hard work…but very rewarding too!
Please feel free to contact Rachel Puan or myself should you want to know more about our toileting interventions on 9274 7062.
Program Manager ABACAS
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Many parents find getting their children to do homework challenging. For some children school = work and home = fun. Some children will question the fairness: “But mum, I’ve spent 6 and a half hours at school doing work. Why do I have to do school work at home too?” Others may feel that they simply have better things to do and resist your efforts. In these instances you may need to simply stand your ground, set good routines in place and practice patience!
For some children though other factors may be at play that impact on them being willing or able to do their homework. Just three to start with:
- The level of homework that is given to your child may be too difficult.
- Your child is physically and mentally tired after a long day at school.
- Your child is feeling stressed by homework and their own internal need for it to be “perfect”.
How then do we tackle such behaviours?
First and foremost, we have to determine the function of behaviour. In other words, why does the child not want to do their homework. Was the task too difficult? Does it have something to do with a skill deficit (e.g. the child simply can’t do it)?
Some of the things that we can look into include:
- Breaking down the work into small achievable steps (learning to deal with money require other skills such as coin recognition, addition and subtraction, coin value – more and less, etc.).
- Place small demands (10 minutes of homework before play time and increase expectation slowly).
- Have strong reinforcers in place (if the child sits down and does 10 minutes of homework for a week, he gets to pick a fun activity to do over the weekend).
- Communicate with the child’s teacher to see they are able to provide homework that is catered to their current level.
- Sit down and spend time with your child. Your attention may be more valuable than anything else.
For our some children the underlying issue may be straightforward. For others, it may be more complex hence the need to work through barriers.
For children in our ABACAS program, your program manager is there to help work through these issues with you. They can sit with you an objectively have a look at what is happening and work with you to put some steps in place to ease the transition back into a positive homework routine.
Assistant Program Manager
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Children learn language by watching and listening to others. As a baby your child listens to your voice and tries to copy you with all those lovely babbling sounds. From 6 months onward, some of those sounds begin to sound like words (e.g. dada and baba). Then from 9 months onward, you’ll see your child start to recognise words (e.g. no, ouch, ta and bye-bye) and they will find ways to tell you what they want (e.g. raise their arms to be picked up). Use of individual words can start anywhere from 12 to 15 months. This is the exciting phase when children start to develop a vocabulary of words to let you know their needs (e.g. juice, doll and doggie).
As a parent you play an important role in helping your child develop their early language skills!
How can parents help?
Taken from The Hanen Centre, the following are some tips to help guide your child’s language development.
1.Use many different kinds of words when talking with your child.
2. Make a point of highlighting a variety of word types when talking to your child, not just the names of things. It is important for your child to learn a variety of word types in order to talk in short sentences.
3. Emphasize action words (sleep, eat, run, push, squeeze, break), descriptive words (soft, hot, big, sticky, funny, tired), location words (up, down, in, on, under), words about belonging (my, your, his, Mommy’s), and feeling words (sad, sick, happy, angry), as well nouns or names of things (dog, book, bed, cup).
4. Repeat these words often and make them stand out when you use them by exaggerating your intonation and slowing down a bit. For example, “Mommy is very… TIRED (yawn). I must go to bed because I need to have a good sleep. Then I won’t be so tired.”
5. Talk about your child’s natural interests (e.g. their favourite toy) with them. For example, if your child says “ball”, you can extend this with something like “yes, that’s your big, red ball!”.
Where to go for help?
Children can struggle with language development for a range of reasons. A conversation with a child health nurse, GP or early childhood teacher may be helpful in providing reassurance or pointing you in the right direction. Consulting a speech pathologist for advice may also be helpful as they are able to let you know if there is anything to be concerned about and if there is a need for therapy.
The Centre has three speech pathologists available who work on different days of the week. Please call reception on 9274 7062 for more information about our speech pathology services.
Georgina Klimaitis and Naomi Ward
Child Wellbeing Centre