06 Feb 2019

BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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Understanding why children avoid homework

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.

Rachel Puan

Assistant Program Manager

 

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

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

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)

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

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.

(Attention)

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

(Escape)

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

04 Sep 2018

BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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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

28 Aug 2018

BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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Parent involvement in behaviour therapy and why it’s so important!

Through this post we talk a lot about our evidence-based practice, what ABA is and how this therapy can help you. You might not realise this but parents have a huge role in therapy and are often pivotal in the progress that children make.  Therapy requires commitment from all parties but the results are worth it.  The evidence shows that parental involvement in early interventions can predict academic outcomes later down the track, and the amount of school support required.

Therapy is not something therapists ‘do’ to your child.  Therapy is not a quick fix for problem behaviours. Neither is it a cure for anything (and we don’t want it to be). Therapy is a long term investment in skill development that sets your child and family up for the best quality of life possible. An important message to take away from this is that the skills that are being learnt are not just skills for your child. Therapy provides an opportunity for you as the parent to learn new skills. It’s about showing you different ways to respond to behaviour and also how you can foster your child’s development and honour behaviour support plans.

How Can I Engage with Behaviour Therapy?

Parents often start off feeling a bit lost when they start therapy. Should you ask lots of questions? Yes! Should you know your child’s goals? Yes! Should you feel comfortable with the techniques being used and do you have a right to say no? Absolutely. All therapy should be negotiated with you and you should be regularly updated by the therapist about the progress your child makes in therapy and any problems along the way.  Your understanding of therapy will help to foster continued use of strategies in the home…and hence allow your child to make positive steps.

Therapists love parents asking lots of questions so if you’re feeling unsure about how to do something please ask us. Therapy skills need generalising with new people, in new environments all the time and parents are some of the best people to do this.

Work with your Behaviour Therapy Team

An ABA Team can consist of many people.  In our program your main contacts are your 1:1 Behavioural Therapist and your Program Manager. Program Managers aren’t out as often as your regular therapist.  It’s important that you can be open with your Program Manager and communicate frequently. Make sure you email or call if you have concerns and ask your regular therapist to CC you in on any updates. You can also take up parent training and consultation services. Aside from a nice way to meet other parents (training) it’s also a way we can empower parents and help to work through issues that are occurring outside of therapy.

As always please feel free to contact your program manager on 9274 7062  to discuss any concerns or to fin out more about programs.

Jasmin Fyfe

Program Manager, ABACAS

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