BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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The Power of Praise

When working with children, therapists often have to prepare for the unexpected! The following is a story about an experience with a client and shows just how important praise can be to children.

With ABA with children, we sometimes need kids to practice their skills in the real world or the “natural environment”. With the particular child in this story, the aim was to go to the shops to get some fruits and veggies with the child’s parent (without walking down the lollies aisle and purchasing a bag of lollies!).  Normally a trip like this would  result in lots of nagging behaviour (e.g. I want lollies!) and often with tears streaking down the child’s face.  Shopping was a stressful experience for the parent too!

Little did I know that in this shop, the fruits and veggies section was situated right next to a stand filled with all sorts of lollies! As we moved towards the veggies section (realising that there were lollies in sight), the first line the child uttered was “Can we please get a bag of chocolate? I really want to have it.” Fortunately, the parent and I had talked  before hand and decided to ignore such requests should they come up.  The plan instead was to redirect the child’s attention to the task at hand by asking which fruit the parent should buy. And in this instance, the child in our story was successfully redirected to the task at hand.

In total, we managed to spend a good 5 minutes within the fruit and veggie section without walking out with a bag of lollies. While this may not sound like a big deal…for this child (and their parent) it was huge!

While we were walking away from the shop, I couldn’t stop singing the praises of the child to the parent as the child’s performance exceeded our expectations. It didn’t take long before I started hearing loud giggles behind us.

As we turned around, we were greeted with the widest grin ever. Turns out that the child overheard our conversation and couldn’t stop giggling with happiness.

Moral of the story?  Do not forget to praise your child for good behaviour. Provide them with lots of attention whenever they’re not engaging in challenging behaviour (in this case nagging for lollies). Praise is very important to some children and it also feels nice as a therapist or parent when you have a good reason to do so!

Rachel Puan

Assistant Program Manager, ABACAS

22 Jan 2019

BY: admin

Speech Pathologist

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Singing and language development

Children develop language through watching, listening and practice.  Singing to young children can help them develop early language and literacy skills, such as phonological awareness, auditory discrimination, and vocabulary development. Its no coincidence that young children are drawn to activities with music, rhythm and repetition….all of these elements can help young children learn.

Music doesn’t have to be limited to  watching the TV or listening to the radio. We can create music anytime and anywhere. In addition to singing well known nursery rhymes and children’s songs, why not make up your own?

Typically when children are very young,  you will need to take the lead…providing the music and words, and helping your child do the motions to the songs.  After many, many, many repetitions, you can encourage your child to take charge and lead the interaction. In other words, you follow their lead.

Some Tips for Singing With Your Child

  • Don’t worry if you don’t sound great, children will respond to the rhythm of your speech, and the love and affection with which you sing. The most important thing is to sing slowly and clearly.
  • Use lots of actions with your songs, as this encourages your child to imitate. Remember imitation of actions often comes first, with the words coming later.
  • Make up words to familiar tunes so your songs have more meaning for your child. You can put your child’s name in the song to personalize it.
  • Make use of pausing. For your children this will help them learn to anticipate, for older children it will give them the chance to fill in the missing word or action.  For example “open shut them, open shut them, give a little ……..”
  • Make up simple songs (borrowing tunes if need be) for house routines. Not only are you teaching language, you building up helpful routines.

And if you have worries about language development…

Check in with your child nurse, GP or a speech pathologist. Children develop language at different rates. It’s not about who gets there first, more whether they are meeting milestones around the expected time.

The Child Wellbeing Centre has three speech pathologists available for consultation working on different days of the week. Please contact our reception for further information.

16 Jan 2019

BY: admin

ABACAS Team / Psychology Team

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Our new team members for 2019

January is often thought of as a quiet month but not at the Child Wellbeing Centre! It’s our second week back in January and it feels like we have hit the ground running!

We have two new and one returning team member to tell you about.

Toni Schmitz (Behaviour Therapist and Provisional Psychologist)

Toni came to us last year as a Curtin University student on placement. She did such a great job with the children that she worked with that she got a job offer! In her paid role with us this year, Toni will be working as a Behaviour Therapist and Provisional Psychologist on different days of the week.  Toni will starting off first learning the ropes as a Junior Behaviour Therapist and picking up a psychology case load towards the end of February. She will be available to work with the families she saw as a student last year.

Penny Ya Fen Wong (Senior Behaviour Therapist)

Penny joins the ABACAS team as a Senior Behaviour Therapist. She will be working with individual families providing therapy and be available for parent and school behavioural consultancy. Penny has over 15 years experience  in working with ABA programs and a broad range of experience with children with disabilities, developmental delay and learning difficulties. We’re also hoping that Penny will also have her application for provisional registration as a psychologist approved so she is able to provide psychological consultancy services.

Simone Lombardo (Psychologist)

After having some parental leave last year, Simone returns to the Centre in early February on Saturdays. As a psychologist, Simone has a broad range of experience in working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. She also has a an interest in working with children presenting with social and emotional difficulties. Simone will be be available to see old and new clients. We’re really looking forward to Simone join the Saturday team of psychologists again.

We still have a few more staffing changes to tell you about. The Centre is currently recruiting another psychologist and we are also in the process of appointing a casual receptionist. I hope to have some news about both of those changes in the near future.

Naomi Ward

Clinical Director

07 Jan 2019

BY: admin

Uncategorized

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We’re back from holidays!

Just a short note to let you know that the office is now open.

With the exception of public holidays, office hours will be back to normal (Mon to Sat, 9am to 5pm).

We’re looking forward to catching up with all of our clients and hearing about your holiday so far.

Naomi Ward

Clinical Director

21 Dec 2018

BY: admin

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Office Hours over the Holiday Season

We wish all of our clients and families a safe and happy holiday!

Our office will be shut for two weeks while staff have a well earned break. All of us here at the Child Wellbeing Centre look forward to seeing you again when we open on the 7th January 2019.

 

Naomi Ward

Clinical Director

Child Wellbeing Centre

 

27 Nov 2018

BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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Behaviour is communication

When working with a client recently, I was reminded again that children often use behaviour as a way of communication.  In many of our  posts we have covered, more than once, that there are four functions of behaviour, escape, tangibles, automatic and attention. Behaviours can provide access to more than one of these simultaneously and these behaviours may be appropriate or inappropriate.

All behaviour has a purpose

Inappropriate behaviours are never just something to be reduced to manageable levels, they are communicating a need. It could be “I don’t want to do this” or “I don’t have the skills to do this”. Sometimes it’s “I’m having a great time, but I don’t know how to show you” or “I need something”. For many children on the Autism Spectrum, there are skill deficits that can leave a gap between what a child is trying to say, and what they are able to communicate effectively to another person. Hence the importance of standing back sometimes and thinking about what is happening.

So, what does this mean for practice?

I speak about “replacement behaviours” often and that is first and foremost what needs to be addressed through therapy. Children have a right to develop the skills to independently communicate, so long term they can be their own advocates and control their own lives.

In the mean time, before those skills are developed and consolidated, as parents and therapists we can make environmental changes to reduce the demands on children, provide visuals that support them to understand the rules and what is happening next.  It’s important to remember the onus is on us to support them. Children don’t act out to be malicious, or to spite anyone – we are responsible for their behaviour.

Our Program Managers are there to help if you have a child who is displaying problem behaviours and you’re unsure what they are trying to communicate.  We can help you tease it the behaviour out, and develop a plan with you to work on reducing the problem behaviours, modifying your environment, and reducing the skill gaps.

Jasmin Fyfe

ABACAS Program Manager

13 Nov 2018

BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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Preparing for the long holidays when you have a child with Autism

I know you may not want to hear it be we are approaching the end of the school term and the long holidays. Many parents of children with autism often face this time with a range of emotions – relief and anxiety.  Relief that there is an end in sight for the daily school & daycare routine. Anxiety when you think about how you will be keeping your child occupied over the holiday period.

Start planning for the holidays now (while you have the time and energy!)

Here are three ideas/strategies to help you cope with what’s to come:

  1. Create a visual holiday routine/schedule

For someone who struggles to differentiate between the days of the week, it is essential to establish a routine for a child with autism. By establishing a routine, you will be able to offer a sense of control and structure. It will also be much easier to transition to the back to school routine once the school term starts again next year too.

When a child is anxious about what is going to happen it will often come through in their behaviour. For example, I have seen children ask repeatedly for swimming throughout the day as they do not have an idea what they will be going next. Obviously, it’s a rare parent and child who is not going to be stressed by this behaviour (in the child’s case note being able to go swimming on demand). And yet, this behaviour may be avoidable.

With a visual schedule, children can see what is expected of them and what they can expect to do next. From a therapy perspective I would encourage you to think about including some time to practice the skills that they have mastered during therapy sessions too.

Your therapy team can help you work out how to create a visual schedule so please let them know if you’d like this help. Putting one in place now (even when it may not be as needed) is a nice way to transition into the holidays too.

  1. Let’s keep learning!

Learning does not end when the school term ends. When therapy stops (e.g. at the end of term) we often see a decline in skills acquisition and maintenance over the long holiday period. Being out of routine and not having therapy can lead to lots of stimming time and not enough skills practice.

Apart from keeping up with regular therapy sessions, I recommend my parents to spend time generalising the skills that their children have mastered within sessions. Holiday time can be spent expanding their skill sets and to exposing them to new stimuli. For example, teaching children to tact zoo animals when you make a visit to the local Perth Zoo or teaching them to tact car colours while playing “I spy” on the road.

  1. Have some down time

Being a parent is hard work. Therefore, it is very important to look after yourself during the holidays. Be it spending some alone time by the beach or even taking a short 5 minutes break to sit and sip on a hot cup of coffee before it gets cold. Do it. Because you deserve it. And remember, happy parents usually make for happy children too!

Holidays don’t have to be stressful!

In actual fact, holidays can be a lot of fun. Start thinking about how you will set up your days, particularly once you get past Christmas.

Please talk with your Program Managers about the activities that you could do to help generalise the skills that your child has learned during their therapy sessions.  While the office will be shut from the 22nd December through to the 7th January, most of the team will be on board through-out the rest of January.  We usually have a bit more flex during the holidays so increasing therapy sessions is also an option.

Rachel Puan

Assistant Program Manager (ABACAS)

11 Nov 2018

BY: admin

Psychology Team

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National Psychology Week – 11th to 17th November 2018

National Psychology Week begins this week with the theme “Connect to Thrive”. Children’s mental health and wellbeing is enhanced by caring and supportive adults in their lives and a positive social network of peers. This is the same for their parents. Feeling that you have a network of others around you that care, that you can talk to and just be with is important for parents overall sense of well-being too.

Why we should be concerned about loneliness?

Emerging research is showing that feelings  of “loneliness” not only impact on our mood but behaviour. Too much loneliness can colour how we view the world and others around us. Hence the theme for this year’s National Psychology Week – Connect to Thrive. Developing relationships with others that are positive and meet our social and emotional needs boosts mental health.

Key skills that can help manage feelings of loneliness include positive thinking, stress management and communication. Finding opportunities to meet others is also essential, hence the emphasis on social networking (and not just online!).

The link below will take you to a tip sheet on how to “connect” with others developed by the Australian Psychology Society.

https://psychweek.org.au/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/18APS-PW-Tip-sheet-A4.pdf

How to help children

Children benefit from positive connections with others too and many of the suggestions in the adult resource above also apply. Helping children develop and become confident in their use of social skills (so they can form positive relationships) is a great way to start. So too, is teaching children about positive thinking and optimism.

We will be looking at optimism in another post this week, both what it is and how parents can help children develop it.

As always though, you are very welcome to talk to any of the staff in the Centre should you have concerns about the wellbeing of your child. Reception will be able to provide information about our services on 9274 7062.

Naomi Ward

Clinical Director

01 Nov 2018

BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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Back to Basics (Part Five) – Behaviour Change…What does it take?

In the last post of this series, I want to talk about behaviour change and ABA. I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about ABA being more than just tackling problem behaviour.  ABA build skills, provides early intervention, social training, and much more. However, tackling problem behaviour is something we do, and often do very well. Working with problem behaviours requires multiple steps, and commitment from a number of people.

What’s involved with behaviour change?

I’ve outlined some basic steps for effective intervention below:

  1. Baseline
    Your Program Manager will want to establish a stable base-line before they intervene. This can tell us a number of things such as, is the behaviour naturally decreasing and maybe doesn’t need intervention? What situations does the behaviour occur in, and are we able to predict it accurately? What does the behaviour look like?
  2. Function
    All behavioural interventions should be function based. Interventions which are function based are supported in the research to be the most effective. Evaluating this might require formal testing, or can sometimes be done through observations.
  3. Replacement Behaviours
    How can this child get their needs met in other ways? People have a right to get their needs met, and others have a right to have theirs met too. The solution should involve not only reducing the problem behaviours, but increasing skills and tolerance of the reasonable preferences of others.
  4. Plan
    Once all this information is gathered, there needs to be a long term plan to fade any artificial systems that might need to be put in place to increase tolerance and skill building to a level that can be maintained by the natural environment.

Making sure everyone is on board

The initial phases are the easier part, once all this information is gathered and a plan is written, all the people involved in the child’s life will need to buy-in to the plan. This means that they commit to following the recommendations consistently, across the board, and increase to the next stage of the intervention only when criteria is met in all environments. This part of the process is just as important as the plan itself.

For more information about ABA and how we can help with challenging behaviours please talk to your Program Manager (Rachel or I). We will be able to work out with you the best way to help.

Jasmin Fyfe

ABACAS Program Manager

24 Oct 2018

BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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Back to Basics (Part Four) – Reinforcement and Punishment

The collective gasp of all the people in the room is a familiar sound every time I mention the word “punishment”. I can thank some poor ethical choices from 50 years ago, and the confusion between the word punishment in regular language versus what it means in the context of Behaviour Analytic literature. This article will cover what reinforcement and punishment are in terms of behaviour, and hopefully you will have a better understanding of how we use these effective techniques, in a safe and ethical way.

Reinforcement

Let’s start with reinforcement. Reinforcement is the addition or removal of a stimulus, that increases the future frequency of a behaviour. Any time behaviour is increasing (or maintaining) you are reinforcing it. You can reinforce your partner doing the dishes or them sitting on the couch, your child’s tantrums or their use of functional communication. There is no good or bad in reinforcement, it only refers to the behaviour increasing.

Punishment

This is the same for punishment. Punishment is the addition or removal of a stimulus, that decreases future frequency of behaviour. Once again, there is no good or bad, and punishers are not necessarily things the average person would find aversive or see as harmful. Let’s look at some examples.

Antecedent (before) Behaviour Consequence Future Frequency
A parent says “please do your homework” Child completes homework Parent praises the child Behaviour increases, more homework is completed (reinforcement)
A parent says “please do your homework” Child completes homework Parent praises the child Behaviour decreases, less homework is completed

(punishment)

We may think we’re doing one thing…but actually  children see it as another!

In this example the same sequences of events occur, and we see different effects on the child’s behaviour. It is these effects on behaviour that determine what is punishment or reinforcement. We see this happen in our daily lives all the time, we think that we’re helping, but behaviour isn’t changing or it’s getting worse. When we break it down something that we are doing in earnest, is actually punishment (reducing behaviour).

In conclusion, reinforcement and punishment are not about good and bad, they are scientific terms that help us understand behaviour. Once we understand a behaviour then we can change the environment, or up-skill people around us, to help a child better succeed and have a happier time in their home, school or community.

Please call Rachel or I on 9274 7062 for more information about your child’s program or about any of our services.

Jasmin Fyfe

ABACAS Program Manager

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