19 Sep 2018

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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

12 Sep 2018

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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

04 Sep 2018

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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

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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

21 Aug 2018

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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

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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

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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.

01 May 2018

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How to tell when your ABA program is effective.

It’s not enough to like your therapy team, parents should also have the means to evaluate their effectiveness. In other words, know whether therapy is being effective.  There are 7 dimensions of an Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) program that any good intervention should include, these are that they are: Applied, Behavioural, Analytic, Technological, Conceptually Systematic, Effective, and Generality.

Some of the key points from these dimensions are that ABA should always focus on skills that are socially significant for that child. And the best way that we can work out what skills are significant is by working with both the child and the family to set meaningful goals. Programs should teach skills that will help improve day to day life for the child (and family). For some children this might mean focusing on communication, learning to learn skills (e.g. listening and attending), social skills and independence.

ABA is behavioural, and always looks at measurable behaviours. If we can see and describe a behaviour, then we are in a position to be able to teach it. By being able to measure behaviour, we are also in a position to check progress and to identify what is working and what isn’t.

Generality is a key idea in ABA too. This is the concept that skills must be able to continue, with new people and new environments, after formal intervention has ended. There is no point teaching the skill if the child is only able to show it in therapy!

As you can see ABA is focused on working with people, to create practical, independent skills for their futures. Whether this is academics, learning to talk, daily living skills, or social skills it is about what is important for that individual, their family and their local community.

If you’d like to learn more about what principles guide ABA interventions and how they can help you please contact Jenny Lin, Program Manager on 9274 7062.

24 Apr 2018

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ABACAS Tuesdays – Learning to Learn Skills

Ever wonder why your child, who you know is so clever, might be struggling in school or to pay attention to others? They might need to work on a set of skills called “Learning to Learn”! Learning to Learn skills are the foundation skills a child needs before they can learn effectively in places like a classroom or in therapy sessions.

ABA can help children to achieve these skills by breaking them down into small, achievable parts, and scaffolding them into a whole skill set for your child. Skills like sitting on your bottom with still feet, making eye contact with a teacher, and waiting for a peer to finish speaking before asking a question are all a part of this group. Without some of these skills, children are not able to experience the full benefits from their daily experiences.

Because ABA is always focused on being applied, generalised and effective, we can work with your child 1:1 or provide training and interventions to teachers or carers who can support learning these skills in the context they need to be used.

If you have a child who might benefit from these skills, or are a professional who would like to learn how to foster them please contact Jenny Lin, Program Manager on 9274 7062.

10 Apr 2018

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Autism Awareness Month – let’s talk about ABA and Autism!

Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is a set of principles that explains how behaviour works and how learning takes place. Over the past 70 years, the field of applied behaviour analysis has been testing out many techniques and methods to make sure interventions are effective and to eliminate treatments that are harmful to the children and may interfere with learning.

As a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA), the principles of ABA I find myself using everyday are (1) finding out the functions of behaviour (the “ABC”), and (2) task analysis.

Finding out the function of a behaviour is the first step to create an intervention. And by knowing the function, it makes it so much easier to understand the causes of the behaviour.

Task analysis, also known as chaining, is a process of breaking a skill down into smaller and more manageable components. We teach the skills from the smaller components, such as putting on a shirt, slowly build up to a bigger picture, like completing a morning routine. And even within the smallest component, like putting on a shirt, we can deconstruct the skills into even smaller and more precise steps to teach and to master.

Do you know what’s behind your child’s intervention? Ask your therapist this week! If you have questions about ABA, please email Jenny Lin, Program Manager at cwbc@westnet.com.au

Autism Awareness Month is a month to ask questions and to understand what autism is. And I’m here to answer your questions!

Read more on ABA for Autism at:


Jenny Lin, Program Manager, ABACAS

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