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So you know what behaviour you need to teach…but where do you start?
Following on from our task analysis post last week, you may now be at the point where you have worked out the steps of the routine behaviour that you need to teach your child. The question now is to work out which skill to teach first. The answer isn’t as obvious as you may think!
What is Chaining?
Chaining is the technique used in Applied Behaviour Analysis interventions to systematically teach a sequence of skills. Behaviour chains are a series of related behaviours, each of which leads to the next step. For example in brushing teeth, the first step may be to take the lid off the toothpaste, then squeeze a little of it onto the brush, replacing the lid, then bringing the brush to the mouth and so on. Each step along the way cues the next step in the sequence. We are working towards being able to reinforce the last step (e.g. teeth brushed).
There are actually four types of chaining procedures to choose from:
(b) Backward Chaining with Leaps Ahead;
(c) Forward Chaining; and
(d) Total Task Chaining.
Confused? Don’t worry – we are going to break each of these down so you can work out which will be the best procedure to use for the behaviour you are trying to teach your child.
You don’t always have to start at the beginning. Sometimes we can teach a routine by starting with the last step. In backward chaining:
- The steps are taught in reverse order. In another word, first skill to be taught is the last skill on the chain.
- The facilitator supports (prompts) the learner through the first several steps and the learner independently finishes the last step to finish the task.
- Once the last step is mastered, the step before the last step is then being taught.
- This technique is often used for tasks with a motivating end (e.g. baking cookies) or to allow escape (e.g. finish brushing teeth, putting the tooth brush away)
Let’s swap from brushing teeth to cooking a batch of cookies. Most children like cookies so this task may be more motivating. There is also an obvious reinforcer – getting to eat cookies once they are cooked!
The sequence for eating cookies may look like this for a child:
(1) Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients
(2) Stir to mix
(3) Shape into small balls
(4) Place on tray
(5) Push down on the dough on the tray
(6) Bake (note – the parent might choose to do this step for a young child)
Using a backward chaining procedure you would prompt them through steps 1-5. This might look like verbal instruction or physically showing a child how to mix ingredients. When it came to step 6 (and if this was appropriate for their age) the child would be expected to do this step by themselves, with praise at the end from their parent. Once this step is mastered, then the next step is the pushing down on the dough and so on.Reinforcement (praise) is linked to either the end of the sequence once it’s mastered or to the individual step being taught.
The key to using a chaining technique is to be very clear about the behaviour you are trying to teach.
In next week’s post, we are going to look at Backward Chaining with Leaps Ahead.
As always you are very welcome to contact Jenny Lin, Program Manager for assistance on any aspect of your child’s behaviour. Jenny can be contacted through the office on 9274 7062.
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For some children on the autism spectrum (and other children with developmental needs), learning daily behaviours and routines can be challenging. Brushing teeth, getting dressed, putting shoes on or preparing snacks are all examples of daily independent living skills where children may need extra help.
Some children need help breaking down the parts of the task into smaller chunks and learning step by step. Knowing the steps involved in the task are important. You need to be able to identify the skills your child needs to be able to teach them.
What is Task Analysis?
Task analysis is breaking down a complex task into a sequence of smaller steps with specific instructions and the expected responses.
Let’s take the example of brushing teeth. For many of us this behaviour is so automatic now that we don’t even think about what we’re doing. Imagine though trying to teach this behaviour to someone who has never done this or done this by themselves before. To help you work out how to explain brushing your teeth, you might break it down into the following steps:
Go to the bathroom, then find the sink
Find toothbrush and tooth paste
Squeeze tooth paste onto tooth brush
Put toothbrush away
*Note teaching children the actual art of brushing teeth, might be a whole separate lesson, with its own sequence of steps to follow.
Performing an action yourself (e.g. brushing your own teeth) or watching someone else do it will help you identify the steps in the behaviour. Try and note as much detail as you can as this can help you later to work out where to start.
So I have my steps identified, what next?
Now to the fun part. After a task analysis is developed the next step is to teach the steps or skills that make up the sequence. In ABA speak we talk about “chaining procedures”. This is the process where the sequence of skills/steps are taught one after the other…building up until the whole behaviour can be performed independently by the child.
Don’t worry! In the next ABACAS Tuesday the team will be talking about how to use chaining techniques at home. However you don’t have to wait. If you have a particular behaviour that you’d like to teach your child, why not grab a pen and pencil and see if you can’t start breaking the behaviour down into steps.
Want more help?
Jenny Lin, Program Manager and the team are available for consultation. All you need to do is to call reception on 9274 7062 for further information.
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Last week (while on holidays) I sat in a food hall with my family admiring the way another parent was managing their four year old’s temper tantrum. I wasn’t there for that purpose but these things happen when you least expect them.
As far as temper tantrums go this was a good one – kicking, screaming, crying, and shouting out loud “I hate you”. The trigger? The family were at the bakery and the parent (after much negotiation with two children) bought a ginger bread man to share between two. As soon as she went to buy it, the child in question started telling the mother that he wanted his own. From there it escalated…
What I admired about this mum is she held the line. She didn’t give in and buy two ginger bread men as it would have been so easy to do. She told the child “no” and dealt with the consequences. She ignored the impatient sales assistant and stuck to her guns. The child could be heard screaming all the way to the exit and on a couple of occasions made a break from his mother and ran back towards the bakery. She calmly picked him up and hustled him to the car. I don’t know what happened in the end but I admired her calm response (when under considerable fire).
Temper tantrums are stressful in public (and at home too). Staying firm and consistent is so important no matter where you are. Here are some thoughts about how to stay strong:
- Start as you mean to go. Do you really want your child behaving this way as a 16 year old? It’s important to start early to help children learn both how to self-regulate and to accept disappointment. You’re not going to hand over your credit card to a demanding 16 year old are you? At least I hope not!
- Remind yourself that no matter how bad it is, it will be over soon. For some of us that might mean 20 mins for some, longer. The longer you hold the line, the shorter the temper tantrum becomes over time…until there are few to no tantrums.
- Ignore the hurtful words. The four year old screaming “I hate you” doesn’t mean this – what they are communicating is “I’m angry and I don’t like your decision”. What they’ve learned is that those words hurt and might cause mum and dad to give way.
- Ignore the onlookers or at least only look at the ones that are sympathetic. People forget how tough parenting is. That parent would never have known but my husband and I were quietly cheering her own and praising her for being such a great mum.
Lastly, if you’re stuck in a recurring pattern of temper-tantrumming – call in the “Calvary”. That’s the psychology and behaviour team in the Centre. Having others to problem-solve with you and support you while you make changes can get you across the line.
Please call Tracey on reception to tell you more about our services on 9274 7062.
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Following on from the last blog on this topic. As parents we can spend a lot of time “refereeing” fights. The alternative to this is to take the time to set things up so that children are more likely to get along with each other or at least chose more helpful behaviour!
Here’s some ideas to explore:
1. Make sure your expectations about behaviour in the house is known and understood by everyone. Teachers often have a brilliant class rule along the lines of “Keep hand, feet, objects to self”. It works in the home and I would probably add “mean words” to the list too.
2. Remember to model what you are asking your children to do. It doesn’t help if children see poor conflict resolution occurring among their parents.
3. Share your attention between your children where you can to avoid that “missing-out” feeling children sometimes develop. This doesn’t mean that you have to be a super-parent, just that you need to look for special time with individual children.
4. Where you can, create spaces in the house where children can spread out. They are less likely to tread on each other’s toes that way.
5. If there are frequent squabbles over resources (e.g. devices or special toys) then create a roster. Roster in times for each child. Apply the “if you can’t abide by the roster” rule you both lose access to the good stuff. This teaches children to work together rather than fall apart – especially if the item is of value to them both.
6. Create times where the children are away from each other and have their own space, e.g. separate play-dates or after school activities. We appreciate each other more when we have time apart.
7. Don’t forget to praise, praise, praise! When children are playing well together we should be praising them for that! This is the behaviour we want more of at home so this is the behaviour we should praising as often as we see it.
Hope these tips help and please remember that the psychology team is here to help at the Centre if the squabbles are getting out of hand.
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There are 4 functions of behaviours: Social Attention, Tangible (or activities), Escape or Avoidance, and Sensory Stimulation
A person may engage in a behaviour to get some attention or reaction from another person. For example, a baby throws a cup, mommy comes to her high chair to pick up the cup and also talk to the baby.
Tangible or activities
A person may engage in a behaviour to obtain a tangible item or gain access to an activity. For example, a child cries and throw himself on the floor at the checkout counter because he wants a bar of chocolate.
Escape or Avoidance
A person may engage in a behaviour to get away or delay getting to a (hard) task or work. For example, a child refuses to write her homework. So she cries. The longer she cries, the longer she doesn’t have to do her homework. And eventually, mom gives in and say you can do your homework later.
The behaviours under the function of sensory stimulation (or self-stim) do not rely on anything external. The behaviour serves a function to give the person some internal sensation that is pleasing. For example, a child sucks his finger; an adult twirl her hair when she’s nervous, a person rocking back and forth at the desk.
You may have one behaviour that serves multiple functions at one moment. You may have one behaviour that demonstrates different functions in a different location with different people.
Follow along with us as we explore the functions of behaviours. Pick a behaviour you have observed of yourself, your child, your partner, or even your neighbour or colleague. Next week, we will talk about how to respond to these behaviours under different functions.
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Anyone that has ever grown up in a family with more than two kids will know that children fight for a range of reasons. Jealousy, competition and boredom to start with a few.
As parents there is always the temptation to jump in and take sides, particularly when there are younger siblings involved. However reacting to children fighting isn’t always the best course of action as it can lead to more frustration and hurt feelings for children and adults alike. Often we tend to favour who-ever we think is the most vulnerable (e.g. younger, smaller, cuter….) and yet they may be the one that has instigated the conflict. Imagine how that feels for the other child!
Instead, try not to get pulled into the fight and let the children sort it out. If you have to step in because you’re worried then involve both parties in solving the problem. Rather than the “judge”, take on a “coach” role.
Split the children up until they are both calm enough to talk through what happened. You’re not going to get very far if one of them is still upset.
Don’t put too much focus on who started the fight. Sometimes fights are the inevitable consequence of a build-up of perceived grievances over a period of time. Rather the focus needs to be on “the solution” e.g. how they can take turns next time with a favourite toy, or how one of them can come and get you when there is a problem, or how they can play in separate spaces if they are annoying each other.
Once you have your plan in place, don’t forget to praise both children the next time you see them playing cooperatively.
Prevention is always better than cure! So look out for Part 2 where we have a look at how to get children playing co-operatively with each other.
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I often have parents telling me, “ My kid just doesn’t listen. He throws a tantrum. He cries and he kicks and yells. He is out of control.”
Then they asked me, “ Can ABA therapy work for my child?”
My approach usually is, “Tell me more about that crying incident.”
I first identify the problem behaviours. Then, I ask questions about what happened just before the problem behaviour. And ask parents, “What do YOU usually do right after the behaviour?”
What I am doing here is gathering information for the ABC.
A stands for Antecdent.
B stands for Behaviour.
C stands for Consequence.
Example: Child wants a chocolate bar at the checkout lane. Parent says “no”.
Child cries, yells, and throw a tantrum..
Parent gives in and buys the chocolate for the child.
Can you identify the A, B, C?
Behaviour- child crying and yelling.
Antecedent – Parent said “no” (denying access to a tangible)
Consequence- child gets the chocolate.
From the scenario, the child learns next time when their parent says no, he will just cry and yell, and throw a tantrum, then he will get what he wants.
What is the function of crying and yelling in this scenario? Tangible – which is the chocolate (and Attention).
Now that we know the child cries to get the tangible and also mom’s attention to buy the tangible, we can better find a solution to reduce the tantrum.
Do you know what the four functions of behavior?
Stay tuned to ABACAS Tuesdays! We will tell you more about the functions of behaviors in next few weeks.
Please contact Jenny Lin, Program Manager on 9274 7062 if you have any questions or want to know more about Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA).