Do-It-Yourself Fall Crafts: Paper Plate Owls and Apple Sensory Cards

Crisp sunny days and cool nights mean that Fall is really on its way. The changing weather is a great opportunity to work on some seasonal activities with your kids. We found two wonderful little do-it-yourself fall craft projects for parents and teachers to engage in with their kids this season.

Dr. Carrie Wells over at Huppie Mama came up with an adorable Paper Plate Owl project that requires no more than just a few easy-to-find materials:

  • White paper plates
  • Scraps of construction paper
  • Glue
  • Markers, crayons, or paint

…and of course, some creativity!

Click here for the full DIY Paper Plate Owl project by Huppie Mama, and let us know how creative you and your kids get with these owls for Fall!

Samantha at Stir the Wonder came up with an apple-themed project that introduces various tactile sensations to young kids. Colored in red, yellow, and green, these Apple Sensory Cards can be used to incorporate a variety of textures, such as bumpy, smooth, rough, and soft, all with the following materials:

Click here for the full DIY Apple Sensory Cards project by Stir the Wonder, and share with us what kinds of textures you come up with for your kids!

Tip of the Week: Altering the Teaching Environment to Address Problem Behaviors

A few years ago, I went in to observe an ABA therapist I was supervising. She was working with a ten-year-old girl with Aspergers. One of her goals was to increase eye contact during conversation, but her student wasn’t making much progress in this area. She had consulted the research and was considering a new behavior intervention plan, and wanted my input before doing so.

junior school classroom at the German School in Ham, by 3S Architects. Image shot 2006. Exact date unknown.The first thing I noticed when I walked in to observe was that she did her entire session at a long wooden table, sitting side-by-side with her student. After watching for about ten minutes, I asked if we could change the seating arrangement. We moved her student to the end of the table, then had the therapist sit next to her, but on the perpendicular side. This way, eye contact was much easier as they were able to face each other. The student’s eye contact improved instantly with a small environmental change. (Of course, once we made the environmental change, we worked together to address other changes that could be made to encourage eye contact.)

Environmental changes can be a quick and simple solution to some problem behaviors. Here are some questions to consider in order to alter the environment effectively:

  • Is it possible that a change in furnishings could change the behavior? For example, moving a child’s locker closer to the classroom door may decrease tardiness, putting a child’s desk in the furthest corner from the door may decrease opportunities for elopement, or giving your child a shorter chair that allows them to put their feet on the ground may decrease the amount of times they kick their sibling from across the table. You may also want to consider partitions that allow for personal space, clearly-marked spaces for organizing materials, proximity to students and distractions (such as windows or the hallway).
  • Can you add something to the environment to change the behavior? For example, your student may be able to focus better on independent work if you provide noise-cancelling headphones, line up correctly if a square for him/her to stand is taped to the floor, or your child may be more efficient with completing chores if they’re allowed to listen to their favorite music while doing so.  I’ve also seen some cases in which the teacher wears a microphone that wirelessly links to a student’s headphones, increasing that student’s ability to attend to the teacher’s instruction.
  • Will decreasing access to materials impact the behavior? For example, removing visuals such as posters and student work may increase your student’s ability to attend or locking materials in a closet when not in use may decrease your student’s ability to destroy or damage materials.
  • Will increasing access to materials impact the behavior? For example, making a box of pre-sharpened pencils may decrease the behavior of getting up frequently to sharpen pencils. (I recently visited a classroom in which the teacher put pre-sharpened pencils in a straw dispenser on her desk, and each week one student was assigned the job of sharpening pencils at the end of the day).

Whenever you do make changes to the environment, you may want to consider if the changes require fading. For example, if I make a square on the floor out of tape to teach my student where to stand in the line, I will want to fade that out of over time to increase their independence.

A final consideration is that whatever impact you expect the environmental change to have should be clearly defined and measured. Take data to ensure that the intervention is working so you can make adjustments as necessary.

For more detailed information on modifying environments, there is a great article from the Council for Exceptional Children by Caroline A. Guardino and Elizabeth Fullerton entitled “Changing Behaviors by Changing the Classroom Environment.” Click here for the article.

WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-12 in NYC. Working in education for ten years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam has developed strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals.

States Begin to Include ABA Coverage

It looks like progress is being made on getting treatments such as ABA covered by insurance. Disability Scoop is reporting that states are finally starting to include coverage of treatments like Applied Behavior Analysis for children with autism under Medicaid. This means that states must cover services consistent with the categories defined by Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment services (EPSDT). This includes Applied Behavior Analysis, speech and occupational therapies, and other personal care services.

Read the full article here.

Has anyone in CA, NV, and CT had success with getting services like ABA covered?

 

 

 

Pick of the Week: Unifix Cubes & Workbook with CD – Hands-on early math activities

Perfect for early counting and mathematical operations, our newly added Unifix Cubes and accompanying Mathematics for Unifix Cubes Workbook and CD: Kindergarten will provide numerous activities and games for teaching young learners early math concepts. This week only, save 15%* on your set of Unifix Cubes and/or the accompanying Mathematics for Unifix Cubes Workbook and CD-Rom by entering our code UNIFIX at check-out.

Each set of Unifix Cubes contains 300 cubes in 10 assorted colors: red, dark blue, light blue, yellow, green, orange, maroon, brown, black, and white, great for teaching math concepts such as patterning, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and much more.

Your 90-page Mathematics for Unifix Cubes Workbook and CD: Kindergarten provides ready-to-use activities for early math, including worksheets, games, cards, and full teaching instructions, assessment, and extension suggestions. The accompanying CD-Rom contains a digital version of the workbook, as well as virtual Unifix Cubes that can be projected on the computer to make rods, patterns, and more.

Don’t forget to use promo code UNIFIX at check-out to save 15%* this week on your set of Unifix Cubes and Mathematics for Unifix Cubes Workbook and CD!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EDT on September 23rd, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Simplifying the Science: Parent-Conducted Toilet Training for Kids with Autism

For many of the families I work with, toilet training their child with autism becomes a long, painful process. I typically recommend the Rapid Toilet Training (RTT) protocol developed by Azrin & Foxx (1971) but many parents struggle to maintain implementation without the presence of a behavior therapist or toilet training specialist. And while Azrin & Foxx’s results have been replicated in other studies, RTT has primarily been used in educational and outpatient settings, and the amount of time it has taken to complete toilet training has been longer than in the initial study.

This is why I was especially excited to come across the study by Kroeger & Sorensen (2010) about “A parent training model for toilet training children with autism,” which is based on Azrin & Foxx’s initial study with some key modifications. This study focuses on parent-conducted toilet training in the home and was completed with two children with autism.

As mentioned in previous blog posts, the best interventions usually are multi-pronged approaches. This is no different. While there are multiple steps involved, it’s important to recognize that one of these children was fully toilet trained in 4 days, and the other in 11 days. Both children maintained toilet training skills when researchers checked in at 2 weeks, 6 months, and 3 years. Setting aside a few days or a couple of weeks to complete this intensive protocol may be intimidating at first, but achieving similar results as the two children in the study has a huge impact on the life of your child and the entire family.

Prior to starting the intervention, they received medical consent and clearance from the children’s attending developmental pediatricians. They then performed a preference assessment (the RAISD) to determine reinforcers. The study then states that “The families were asked to restrict the children’s access to these reinforcers for a minimum of 3 days prior to implementing the intensive training treatment protocol.”

The intensive toilet training program had 5 components:

Increased fluids: In consultation with a pediatrician, the study states that “parents were instructed to increase the children’s access to fluids for 3 days prior to implementing the training.” This increase in fluid intake continued until 6:00 PM on the first day of training.

Toilet scheduled sitting: Since the protocol was completed in the privacy of the children’s homes, the children were able to remain undressed from the waist down while being toilet trained. The children were continuously seated on the toilet, then able to leave the toilet for voiding in the toilet, or for brief “stretching” breaks. As they achieved higher frequency of appropriate voiding in the toilet, the amount of time spent on the toilet decreased and the amount of time escaping the toilet increased. (The schedule for fading out time seated on the toilet is detailed in Table 1 of the study.) Also, while seated on the toilet, the child was able to play with preferred items, but not the most preferred items.

Reinforcement for continent voids: According to the study, “If the child successfully voided while on a scheduled sit, they were provided immediate reinforcement (primary edible reinforcement and planned escape to a preferred activity). If the child self-initiated a void while on a break, he was provided immediate reinforcement and a new break time was begun after the self-initiated break.”

Redirection for accidents: When accidents occur, a neutral verbal redirection was provided, such as “We go pee on the toilet” and then the child was physically redirected back to the toilet. Once they were on the toilet, a scheduled sit was begun.

Chair scheduled sitting: Once the child began to experience success with voiding on the toilet, a chair was placed next to the toilet. During scheduled sits, the child would sit on the chair. If he began to void on the chair, the study states that he “was provided with the least intrusive, minimal, physical prompt. When he independently moved from the chair to the toilet to void three consecutive times, the chair was systematically moved away from the toilet in 2-feet increments.”

The study goes into further detail on each of these five components, as well as how to generalize the skill and how parents were trained in the protocol. The study made modifications to the Azrin & Foxx study to make it easier to apply in the home setting for parents, and it removed any form of punishment.

While this is a comprehensive toilet training program that requires a high level of time and attention from the parents, it is set up to help parents achieve results in a relatively short period of time.

The study states, “Parents of incontinent children with developmental disabilities report higher personal stress and distress likely related to the toileting problems presented by their children than parents of toilet trained children with developmental disabilities. It could be deduced then that continence training not only increases associated hygiene factors and access to activities and placements, but also increases the quality of life for the parents by reducing stress and subsequently for other family members such as siblings as corollary recipients of the distress” (Macias et al., 2006).

The potential to improve the quality of life for both your child with autism and your entire family is worth the challenge of implementing this protocol.

WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-12 in NYC. Working in education for ten years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam has developed strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals.

Pilot Study Finds that Parent-led Early Intervention Can Reduce Autism Symptoms in Babies

Autism symptoms can display in babies as young as 6 months old. A new pilot study at the UC Davis MIND Institute found that parents could reduce symptoms of autism in babies under 12 months by using intervention treatments in the home as detailed in the Early Denver Start Model.

As reported in a recent Huffington Post article, the study involved parents and their babies between 7 and 15 months of age in a 12 week-long treatment conducted by parents in home-like environments. The treatment was based on the Early Denver Start Model and revolved around parent-child interactions, such as bathing, feeding, playing, and reading. Four comparison groups were also included: Those who were at a higher risk for autism because of an affected sibling; those who were at low risk; those who had developed autism by age 3; and those with early symptoms who received treatment at a later age.

At the start of the study, all babies displayed early signs of autism, such as low interest in interactions and repetitive behaviors, which increased by around 9 months. However, by 18 to 36 months of age, the children in the treatment group produced lower autism severity scores than the comparison groups who did not go through the treatment.

The Huffington Post article “Pilot Intervention Eliminates Autism Symptoms In Babies” highlights the importance of early intervention in autism treatment. While this research is highly preliminary, the findings show that therapy and early intervention are key factors in treating infants and children with early signs of autism, and possibly in reducing them altogether. This study offers hope for parents and professionals in helping their children succeed with more tools and resources for the earliest stages of autism.

Read more about the pilot study on Huffington Post here.

Pick of the Week: “The Asperkid’s Secret Book of Social Rules” – A teen’s guide to not-so-obvious social codes

It’s not easy for any teen or tween to fit in, but it can be especially tough for Asperkids. Jennifer O’Toole knows this first-hand, and has written a book she only wishes she had when she was a teen with Asperger Syndrome.

This week only, save 15%* on The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules by entering promo code ASPERKID at check out!

In The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules, O’Toole doesn’t offer advice on what Asperkids should not do, but on what they should do with witty and wise insights into baffling social codes. With helpful tips, practice scenarios, checklists, and quizzes, Asperkids will learn how to:

  • Thank people, apologize, and offer compliments
  • Build and maintain genuine friendships and how to deal with bullying
  • Actively listen and have a meaningful conversation
  • Step back and see the “big picture” instead of focusing on the details
  • Make a correction and let go of the need to be right

With over 30 social rules and logical explanations, this illustrated handbook offers information that tweens and teens can truly digest. And having been there herself, the author shares her experience and points out the potential pitfalls with humor and sensitivity.

Don’t forget to save 15%* on The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules this week by using our promo code ASPERKID at checkout!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EDT on September 16th, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

How to Manage and Reduce Classroom Tantrums—A Response to a Teacher’s Question

Sometimes we get questions from school teachers and parents about managing problem behaviors. Our BCBA Sam Blanco recently received a question from a school teacher in Alabama about her tantruming student in the classroom. We thought this was a perfect opportunity to share Sam’s response to her question as it may often apply to other parents and teachers. Read on below for the question and Sam’s response!

Tantrum Question

Addressing difficult behaviors in the classroom environment presents some unique challenges. It’s also challenging to provide accurate advice without directly observing the behavior. Instead, here are a few questions to consider and potential resources.

  • What does the tantrum look like when it begins? Is he screaming? Crying? Throwing items? Banging his desk? Try to define the behavior so it is observable and measurable. If it’s observable, then everyone who interacts with the child will agree with exactly what behavior requires intervention. If it’s measurable, you will be able to easily note progress. An observable and measurable definition of a tantrum could be “Screams and cries for 10-12 minutes” or it could be “Stomps his feet on the ground 20-30 times.”
  • What is typically happening directly before a tantrum takes place? What typically happens directly before it escalates? Can you change something about what happens directly beforehand that might impact his behavior?
  • What is different about the environment on days/class periods in which he does not tantrum? Is it something you can replicate on other days/class periods?
  • You should conduct a functional assessment to clearly determine the reason for the behavior. It may be for attention, but you may discover there is a different cause. It is best to perform a formal functional analysis, but if that is not possible, you may consider using the Functional Analysis Screening Tool (FAST). To get the best results from this, you should have more than one person fill it out, and, if possible, one person who observes the behavior but is unfamiliar with the child. Compare results to see if you are in agreement, then make a behavior intervention plan based on the function of the behavior. For more information about the FAST and its reliability compared to a formal functional assessment, you should refer to the study by Iwata, Deleon, & Roscoe (2013).
  • Frequently, tantrums in classrooms start when a demand has been placed. This may be because they are attempting to escape the demand, but it may also be because the demand is a signal that attention may become available (Repp & Karsh, 1994). If you determine that it is, in fact, for attention, are there things you can do to provide high quality attention prior to the tantrum? Perhaps you find that he usually works for about three minutes before he starts to tantrum. You can then provide high quality attention for successfully working for three minutes and label his appropriate behaviors. Over time, you systematically increase the number of minutes he works before accessing that high quality attention. The goal is to provide him with plenty of opportunities for success before he begins to tantrum.
  • A strong classroom token economy may be more successful than “good ignoring coupons.” For example, when I was a classroom teacher, I used paperclips for the tokens. Each student had a bag on the chalkboard with his/her name on it and they earned paperclips throughout the day for a variety of positive behaviors. At the end of the day, we counted paperclips and students could choose to save them or spend them on one of the items on a student-created menu of choices. The paperclips worked because they weren’t designed for a specific behavior. In the instance you described, the boy is put in a position where he has no chance to earn a coupon. However, if the language is changed so that when other students earn for ignoring, you say, “You’re earning a coupon/paperclip/token for sitting quietly at your desk,” the boy now has a decision to continue his inappropriate choices, or work to earn the same coupon the other kids are earning. He may still choose to tantrum, but at least now he has options!
  • The Lovaas Institute blog has a great post about addressing challenging behaviors in the classroom. You can view that here.

Hopefully this information has helped! And good luck as you plan your intervention!


WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-12 in NYC. Working in education for ten years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam has developed strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals.

How a Special Needs Mother Does It On a Typical Day

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Nicole Zeitzer Johnson and her family. (NY Times)

How do so many special needs parents do it? We were incredibly moved and inspired by the story of one special needs mother, who explained a typical day with her 7-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter who suffers from FoxG1, a rare genetic neurological condition associated with seizure attacks and impaired development.

This article reminded us of the bravery and commitment of all the parents in our community, and how positivity is really the best way to “do it all.”

How Nicole Zeitzer Johnson, Communications
Director and Special Needs Parent, Does It

Pick of the Week: Audible Time Timers – For Smooth Transitions Back to School

Transitions back to school can be difficult after a summer of changed routines. When it’s time to go back to school and reset day-to-day routines, a visual timer can make all the difference in timekeeping and easing the stress of structuring activities for your child or student. This week only, we’re taking 15%* off your order of the 3-inch, 8-inch, and 12-inch Audible Time Timers to help you help your learner with their transitions. Just enter promo code TIMETIMER at checkout to redeem your savings!

Recommended by Autism and ADHD experts, the Time Timer is entirely intuitive to use. This visual timer is great at solving time perception problems at all ages and ability levels, and is perfect for easy portability and in one-on-one and group settings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A graphic clock-face gives the child visual understanding of time elapsing. This is ideal for timed activities and for getting ready. When the colored portion elapses, time is up. There is also an optional audible component that you can turn on so that the timer BEEPS when time is up. All Time Timers run on battery-operated quartz movement, and can be free standing or hung on a wall.

Don’t forget to save 15%* on your purchase of the 3-inch, 8-inch, and/or 12-inch Audible Time Timers this week only by using promo code TIMETIMER at checkout!

Read “Time Timer: Time to Build Independence,” an exclusive article by a parent about how she used the Time Timer to help her son challenge himself to get through a timed activity.

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EDT on September 9th, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!