21 Aug 2018

BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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How Behaviour Analysis can help your child develop new skills

Last week we spoke about some changes in the program, and how they might effect you and your child. This week I would like to talk to our parents and potential new comers about ‘why ABA’ or Behaviour Analysis.

Behaviour Analysis is built on the principles of learning, which have been demonstrated as effective in a huge range of populations. It is most well known for it’s use with children who have an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis, but less well known for it’s use in sports, feeding disorders, substance use, litter reduction and much more. Through ABA we can increase and decrease behaviours and build new skills, and we do so knowing our interventions are evidence-based and ethical.

ABA is Person-Centred

Quantifying behaviours as measurable and changeable can feel very ‘sciencey’, and because of this people sometimes feel that ABA might be impersonal, or out of touch with our loved ones. I’d like to argue that it’s the opposite, ABA is one of the most personalised and considerate interventions available, and above and beyond anything else ABA is the practice of hope for every single person we work with. There is an assumed capacity to learn and acquire new skills for all people, and the skills we teach are ones that are important to our clients and the loved ones in their lives. As people, we are always working through a scope of kindness and care, and as practitioners we are working towards effective and meaningful interventions that are evidence and ethically based.

Working with a range of clients, there is nothing more rewarding than hearing a child say their first word, or listening to the enthusiasm of a parent who’s child is starting to play with them for the first time. The goals set by ABA are often focused on developmental milestones, but these goals are also selected in collaboration with both parents and children, and that makes them so much more meaningful to our ABA families.

An ABA program should include people who are significant to the client. They should know what is being worked towards and what they can do to support these goals. They should also have a sense that these goals will make a difference to their lives, and feel pride in their contributions when steps are made towards a new milestone.

If you’d like to talk more about how ABA can fit in with your family, please contact me on 9274 7062.

Jasmin Fyfe

ABACAS Program Manager

14 Aug 2018

BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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Applied Behaviour Analysis Child and Adolescent Services (ABACAS)

ABACAS Update – Our therapy model is evolving

ABA Programs should be individualised, socially significant and measurable. As a parent it’s hard to know what things to look for in a program, who can administer a program and how often services should be delivered. At ABACAS we are always working towards being in line with the Behaviour Analysts Certification Board. All our staff are Registered Behaviour Technicians (RBT’s), or training to be, and we are supervised appropriately by a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA). As our program grows and changes, we aim to provide a model that is going to be the most effective and ethical.

The program is currently changing its service delivery model.  We want to make sure that our parents have more contact with the Program and/or Assistant Program Manager and we want to provide more supervision for our therapists.  We have introduced Program Evaluation Sessions (PES) into therapy schedules. A PES is where the program manager runs the therapy session with the child, thereby giving the program manager the opportunity to make sure that skills are generalising and that the program is working well. Our plan is to rune a PES every 6th hour of therapy provided, and a Program Review every 12th hour.

What are the benefits of this change?

Other than you and your child having more access to their Program Manager, and more supervision for therapists there are many benefits of working the program this way. These benefits are tied in with the 7 principles of ABA, which have been italicised for your reference. Generalisation will be addressed, to test whether your child has just learnt how to read one person, or if they are consolidating and generalising skills naturally. Programs will be more effective because they are more regularly evaluated, the data can be inspected more often and changes made quickly if a program needs new steps or is stagnating. This also ties into the program being technological, as more time will be spend producing programs that are highly individualised. We will be able to provide more applied interventions, which means working on programs that are meaningful to you, as your Program Managers will know you and your family better.

With increased supervision therapists will better understand the research base that programs are derived from, and are therefore more conceptually systematic. This makes delivery more analytic, in that the programs will be demonstrable in their effects on behaviour, and most important, programs should be behavioural. We focus on building new, measurable, socially significant skills, that are making a difference in your child’s life and future.

We’re very excited about these changes as we feel it will only enhance the therapy we provide for your child.

What do I need to do?

Your program manager will discuss what these changes will mean with you at your next review. However feel free to talk to the team in the meantime should you have any questions.

Jasmin Fyfe

Program Manager

08 Aug 2018

BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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ABA Programs for Children (Part 4) – Measurable Behaviours

Having done a thorough assessment and identified the observable and socially significant behaviours to target in therapy, the next step is to make sure that behaviours are measurable.

From the Part 3 in the series, we learned that it’s really important that everyone can describe the same behaviour. The next step is to make sure that the target behaviour is ‘measurable’. This involves having a clear idea of the ways in which behaviour can be measured. The two most commonly used measures are to do with frequency and duration.

How to measure behaviour

Frequency is simply the number of times the behaviour occurs. Let’s use the example of homework. We could choose to measure how many times a child sits down during the week to do their homework. That the child sits down five times over the course of the week might be useful information. But…we might be more interested in duration.

Duration is the length of time that the behaviour occurs during an episode. While it might be useful to records the number of homework attempts, it actually might be more interesting to look at how long the child sat down and did their homework. Five seconds, 5 minutes, 15 minutes or 30 minutes starts to tell a different story.

Two other factors might help is understand the behaviour – latency (how much time passes between a prompt and the occurrence of the behaviour) and intensity (the force with which a behaviour occurs). Latency is a big one when understanding homework. For example the child may sit down 5 times a week to do their homework, for 20 minutes at a time. However their parent has to prompt them every minute to “do your homework”. Frequency and duration are looking fine but latency is not looking good at all!

Measurable behaviour and progress

Part of creating an ABA program is focusing on how data can be collected to allow a thorough and meaningful evaluation of progress.  Hence you’ll always see our program managers spend time with the behaviour therapists working out the best way to measure behaviour. Those of you already in the program know that this is often the first thing that is looked at in program reviews. At the end of the day we want everyone to feel good about therapy AND for the data to show us that real progress is being made. Data can also help us problem solve when progress isn’t going according to plan.

As always please contact the team on 9274 7062 should you have any questions.

Jenny Lin

Program Manager, ABACAS

Post Script – Jenny finished up in her role last week to fly back to America to be with her family and partner. She will remain a Board Certified supervisor working with the team long distance. Jenny brought a lot of enthusiasm for ABA to her role, as well as considerable skill and knowledge. We were very fortunate to have had her with us for the last 18 months and we will still miss her (even though we will have her from time to time on Skype!). Naomi Ward, Clinical Director.

31 Jul 2018

BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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ABA Programs for Children (Part 3) – Observable Behaviours

Observable behaviours? In the first post in this series, the team talked about the need for thorough assessment to understand a child’s needs. This was followed by a discussion on how an ABA programmer will work out which behaviours to focus on. We termed those “socially significant” behaviours – in other words behaviours that will make a real difference in the life of the child and their family. The next step is then to define the behaviours in a way that everyone can be clear about what is going to be taught.

Observable Behaviours

Once target behaviours have been identified, a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst or Assistant Behaviour Analyst (BCBA or BCaBA) will carefully define the behaviours in observable and measurable terms. The definition for the behaviour must be objective, clear, and discriminate between what is and what is not an example of the target behaviour.

The first level of the target behaviour is observable, that is, everyone must be able to see the same thing.

For example, “Hitting is defined as open palm, closed fist, elbow, upper arm, striking, slapping, punching, swinging at a person.”

Hitting does not include using head (e.g. “head butting”), using body (“pushing”), or using feet (“kicking”).

Definitions Matter

With a clear definition, it becomes easier to collect data on the behaviours we can see (hence, observable).  An ABA programmer will avoid descriptive terms such as   “The child is feeling anxious.” “The learner is confused.” “The person is scared.” These  terms “anxious”, “confused” and “scared” are not clearly defined. What looks “anxious” to one observer, may appear angry or agitated to another.

Rather an ABA programmer will focus on the specific behaviours and use observable terms to describe them. For example, “the child is biting his nails”  (when he might be anxious); “the student has paused and is not writing down the answer” (when the child might be confused by the question); or “the child is shaking and hiding behind his mother” (when he might be scared).

Why do we want behaviour to be observable? So we can measure it! Measurement is the core of all ABA interventions. How do we know if things are getting better (or worse) if we don’t have a system of evaluation?

Part 4 in this series next week will explain the role of measurement.

As always please feel free to come and talk to the team should you have any questions or need support. Jenny and the team can be contacted on 9274 7062.

Jenny Lin

ABACAS Program Manager

 

24 Jul 2018

BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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ABA Programs for Children (Part 2): Socially Significant Behaviours

In our last post we talked about the steps before an ABA program can be developed for children. Your program manager needs to undertake various assessment steps in order to build up a good picture of your child. From there, the next step is to identify target behaviours. In other words, the behaviours to start changing.

What makes a behaviour socially significant?

Behaviours or skills in therapy must be socially significant for the child and their family (or classroom). There is no point teaching something that doesn’t improve the child’s overall quality of life. Instead we’re looking for behaviours that increase the child’s well-being, capacity to engage with others, have their needs met (in a positive way) and support their overall learning. Socially significant behaviours also have to be appropriate for the child’s development.

These behaviours usually become clearer in the discussions between the program manager and the parent. It should become possible to identify the top 2-3 socially significant behaviours to work on. These then become the focus in the therapy intervention.

How to know if a behaviour is socially significant?

Some questions that the program manager will consider along the way, include:

Is the behaviour harming the learner and/or people around the learner? An example of this would be the child who repeatedly runs away off from their parent and there is a risk of harm.

Is the behaviour occurring in a high frequency? For example the child who is regularly temper tantrumming.

Is the behaviour relevant to future skill development or inhibiting learning? For example, a child who is unable to pay attention in class.

Will the intervention reduce negative attention from others (to increase a person’s access to his/her environment)? For example, a child who constantly hums in class and annoys both teacher and peers.

Once we identify the socially significant behaviours, we can begin to planning for the intervention. This will be the subject of the next week’s post.

As always you are very welcome to contact the team to discuss your child’s behaviour and how we may be able to help on 9274 7062

Jenny Lin

ABACAS Program Manager.

17 Jul 2018

BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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How we set up ABA programs for children

Ever wondered how Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) programs are developed for children? Over the next three weeks, we will talk about the steps to develop an ABA program for a learner. Week 1, we will talk about the role of assessment. Week 2, we will focus on socially significant behaviours. And in week 3, we will talk about defining the behaviours so that they can be measured and monitored.

Part 1: ABA and Assessments

In ABA, assessment allows the team to identify target behaviours (the things we want to see more of) and to develop the necessary interventions. While each child and family is unique, there are four different methods for how this is down.  Methods for obtaining assessment information include: interviews, behavioural checklists, direct observation, and tests. When we’re assessing we’re looking at skills and barriers in the environment to learning.

Here are some examples different strategies that may be used:

Interviewing – interviewing the key adults in the child’s life,  including:  parents, family members, carers, teachers, community members and sometimes the child. This help us narrow down what the priorities and 1-3 target behaviours for intervention.

Checklist– There are a range of checklists the team can use to collect baseline information on the child.  For example the VB-Mapp (which looks at verbal behaviours) and adaptive behaviour (which looks at daily living skills) measures. This give us more quantitative and qualitative information about specific behaviours.

Direct Observation – observing the child in his/her natural environment including home, school, day care, community settings (i.e. church, parties, etc). So much can be learned about what is happening by just watching.  The observation by a Program Manager (BCBA or a BCaBA) is invaluable in understanding challenging behaviour and working out next steps.

Test – Testing or probing the behaviour or skills by a Program Manager (BCBA or BCaBA), or using Functional Assessment techniques can help narrow down what is happening with complex or challenging behaviours.

Assessment is a really critical step for understanding a child and setting the foundations in place for a good therapy program. Our program managers like to bring what they have learned to parents to start a conversation about behaviours and strategies. The goal is always to increase “socially significant” behaviours in a child…something that will talk a bit more about next time!

As always you are very welcome to contact the team for support on 9274 7062.

Jenny Lin

Program Manager, ABACAS

06 Jul 2018

BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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Friendship Club Enrolments for Term 3 – Now Open

Friendship Club, Term 3

Jasmin Fyfe from the ABACAS team will be running the Friendship Club for children aged 5-6 years old in Term 3. The program will be on one afternoon after school per week and focus on the social skills children need to make and keep friends.

Social skills programs are small and run by two facilitators to make sure that children have lots of opportunity to practise skills, have fun and make new friends. Jasmin will need to meet with parents of new clients to the Centre to make sure that the program will meet their children’s needs.

For more information about the program please contact Jasmin on 9274 7062.

03 Jul 2018

BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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When to give instructions and to use prompts

So what’s the difference between an instruction and a prompt?

An instruction is the initial demand given to a child. For example “please wipe your nose”.

Any instruction, cue, hint, signal after the first demand is a prompt. A prompt is added before and after the demand instruction to increase the rate of responding, lower frustration, and to help children learn more efficiently. As children achieve higher success (that is, they follow through with the instruction), children have more frequent access to reinforcers (e.g. praise and tangibles) which in turn increases the motivation to learn.

How do I make my instruction more effective? 

Do you often find yourself asking your child the same thing over and over? For example, when you ask your child to clean up, do they keep on playing and ignore you, or do they argue with you saying ” no I’m not done yet’?

Well, when you are repeating the instructions, you are giving prompts. However, because there is no follow through with the prompts (and hence no success nor reinforcer after the prompt), the prompts were not effective.

Make sure when you give an instruction, you follow through to teach your child to complete the task. Helping or  prompting the child to complete the task with success is fine. Don’t forget to  praise when the work is done.

How do I prompt?

Give one instruction and pause. If the child does not respond within three seconds, give another instruction (aka ‘ the prompt’) and get your child to follow through with the instruction, which may be “start cleaning”, “moving towards the bathroom to brush teeth”, “picking up clothes to get dressed”.

Do I reinforce the child right after I prompt him/her?

No. Because we have not established compliance yet. Compliance simply means that the child did what they were asked to do.

I will explain. Here is an example I see a lot.

A parent asks the child to come to get her nose wiped. The parent chases down the child, puts their arms around them (to stop her running off), wipes her nose, while saying “good girl”.  All the while the child is struggling to get away.

What you’re praising here is the chasing down, and the forcing the child to get her nose wiped – in other words, ‘non-compliance’.

The alternative is to:

  • Give the instruction: “Let’s wipe your nose.”
  • Chase down the child, hold her in your arms and get her to stand still first (Physical Prompt)
  • Repeat the instruction “Let’s wipe your nose” (Verbal Prompt)
  • The child then reduces her struggle and lets you wipe her nose. (Showing some compliance).
  • Follow up with a specific praise “Good job wiping your nose!”

Obviously we want to shape the behaviour over time (with prompting and praising) so that when the child is asked to wipe their nose, they just do it!

I’m overwhelmed! Where do I start?

Don’t worry. Let’s put 15 minutes aside each day for ‘training’ for yourself and your child. During that 15 minutes, when you give an instruction, make sure to follow up. For the rest of the time, make sure don’t give instruction where you cannot follow up.

You’re also very welcome to contact the team for advice on 9274 7062.

Jenny Lin

Program Manager, ABACAS

19 Jun 2018

BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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The Easiest Way to Practise Skills Learnt in Therapy at Home

Parents often ask us how to help support therapy goals in between therapy sessions. The most important thing that you can do as a parent is to create learning opportunities for your child so your child can practice the skills they are learning.

Being a parent means juggling many balls in the air at the same time (particularly if you have more than one child). However there are simple steps that you can take and can weave in during the day that will help your child progress in the therapy.

Create Opportunities to Practice Therapy Skills

For those of you currently accessing services from the ABACAS Team, you may have heard them talk about Natural Environment Training (NET). NET is using the principles of ABA to teach in the “real world”, in other words outside of therapy sessions.

For example, let’s imagine that a therapy goal for your child is manding (or making requests of others). There are so many things that children can request of others during the day. As a parent though you might choose to set some time aside to help your child practice this skill.

In this example, knowing that your child loves cookies, you might bring out a plate of them and sit them out of reach. First establish motivation (make sure your child see the cookies and wants them.). Prompt your child to ask for the cookies either using one word or use a full sentence (depending on his/her therapy goal). Don’t give your child a whole cookie! If you give a whole cookie, your child will satiated from the cookie quickly hence no more learning opportunities. Instead, you might give a bit of the cookie so that your child asks for more. Most importantly, only give your child the cookie when he/she mands properly (single word or full sentence).

During NET practice with parents, your child not only is practising generalising the skill (i.e. manding) from a therapist to parent, but also expanding the skill to another setting (i.e. therapy session to kitchen). This is also a great time for parents to gain instructional control from the child. And of course, it is great bonding time with your child as practice can also be fun.

What else can you do to help with therapy goals?

What should you do next? Ask your therapist or Program Manager what are the skills that can be generalized and how you can  practice with your child at home.

 

12 Jun 2018

BY: admin

ABACAS Team

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Helping Your Child Learn New Skills (Part 4 – Final)

We’ve been covering a lot of techniques to help children learn new skills or sequences of skills in the last few ABACAS Tuesday blogs.

In addition to finding about task analysis, we’ve also learned that there are various starting places to teach skills from. Steps don’t always need to be taught from the first step to last. There are different starting places. However the goal is always to use prompting and reinforcement (praise) along the way to teach new steps.

To finish off the series we’re going to cover off two last techniques – Forward Chaining and Total Task Chaining.

Forward Chaining

For many parents, this is often the technique of choice – in other words starting at the beginning – and in many cases it makes sense.

In forward chaining, steps are taught in ‘forward order’. The learner starts with the first step of the routine, with the second step in the routine prompted. Forward Chaining is often used when the student already does the first step but cannot sustain whole task with multiple steps.

An example of a Forward Chaining could be a child helping with the laundry. The first step is taking the full basket of clothes to the laundry room. The child is already doing so, then you can prompt the child to put clothes in the machine. You might do this by showing the child or using verbal instructions.

Total Task Chaining

The fourth and the last method of Chaining is the Total Task Chaining (Total/Whole Task Presentation). This method teaches all steps in one learning trial.

The steps that need support are prompted or modelled. You would use Total Task Chaining when when the child obtains multiple steps in the sequence and can independently perform some steps but might still need support with some other steps.

Pulling it all together

Unsure of what method are to use to teach your child a new skill? Start a Task Analysis and do a quick assessment on what skills can the child perform, what skills need support, and what level of support does each skill requires. This will show you where to start.

Once you have an idea of steps and what skills the child can currently do by themselves, then it will become clearer which of the chaining techniques you can use.

Needing help?

You are always very welcome to contact Jenny Lin, Program Manager for help and advice. The best way to reach Jenny is through reception on 9274 7062.

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