Pick of the Week: Wh- Question ConversaCards

Encourage discussion and critical thinking in students with these decks of Wh- Question ConversaCards. This week, you can also save 15%* on your order of any or all of these sets. Just use promo code WHCARDS when you check out online or over the phone!

Covering 6 different topics – Where Does It Go, What Happened, What Comes Next, What Do You Do With It, What Do You Need, and What Do You Like – each set comes with 54 cards and a Resource Guide containing helpful strategies and suggestions for prompts. Learning to respond to “what” and “where” questions is the foundation of conversation and expressive language. These flashcards can be used to teach sequencing, storytelling and logical thinking for a wide range of ability levels!

Don’t forget to use our promo code WHCARDS to take 15% off* when you order your set(s) of Wh- Question ConversaCards this week!

*Offer is valid through February 16, 2016. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code WHCARDS at check-out! Call our customer service team at (800) 853-1057 with inquiries.

Pick of the Week: Rainbow Sorting Crayons

These charming giant crayons contain 48 different manipulatives sorted by color that can be used to teach patterns, counting, colors, and more. This week, we’re also letting you save 15% on  your set of the Rainbow Sorting Crayons – just apply our promo code CRAYONS when you check out online!

There are 8 cardboard crayon-shaped tubes with plastic lids. Use the manipulatives for teaching patterning, counting, color identification, 2-D to 3-D matching, and language development to young learners. The best part is that the crayons serve as built-in storage so cleanup is a cinch!

Don’t forget to use our promo code CRAYONS at check-out this week to save 15% on your set of the Rainbow Sorting Crayons.

*Offer is valid for one-time use through February 9, 2016 at 11:59pm EST. Promotion does not apply to past purchases. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code CRAYONS at check-out. Call our friendly customer service team at (800) 853-1057 with any inquiries.

Tip of the Week: Build Desirable Behaviors

One of my favorite textbooks about ABA is Focus on Behavior Analysis in Education: Achievements, Challenges, and Opportunities. And one of my favorite chapters in that book is called “Building Behaviors versus Suppressing Behaviors,” which focuses on school-wide positive behavior change This is an often-overlooked key concept in behavior analysis that can have a huge impact on the school environment. Furthermore, when we think of ABA, we often think about individual interventions, but the principles of ABA can be highly effective when applied to large environments, such as an entire school.

The chapter references several studies about school-wide behavior change and offers evidence-based practices for achieving such change. It also outlines social behaviors that should be taught, such as how to apologize or how to make a request, then discusses strategies for rewarding the desirable behaviors. I appreciate that it focuses on getting students involved in making such changes.

Teaching these desirable behaviors can often feel challenging with the additional stresses of a special education classroom. One curriculum I have found effective in addressing this problem is Skillstreaming. I often use Skillstreaming in Early Childhood with young learners, and love that it clearly defines desirable behaviors, such as how to listen or how to offer help (see image below), but provides those definitions in simple terms with visual prompts that help our young learners. It also incorporates positive reinforcement for learners who are engaging in those desirable behaviors.

Listening Skill

In summary, there is lots of evidence out there that focusing on what kids should be rather than what they should not be doing is beneficial for the learner and the general culture of the classroom. Providing clearly defined desirable behavior and building instruction in those behaviors throughout the day is essential. And that instruction may need to be more frequent and more detailed for our learners with developmental disabilities.

References

Heron, T. E., Neef, N. A., Peterson, S. M., Sainato, D. M., Cartledge, G., Gardner, R., … & Dardig, J. C. (2005). Focus on behavior analysis in education: Achievements, challenges, and opportunities. Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.

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. Sam is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College.

Pick of the Week: Save 15% on ALL of our Emotions Flashcards!

Emotions language cards are great tools for teaching language and facial expressions in a variety of contexts to young learners. Promote discussion about a range of emotions, why people may feel a certain way, and possible responses to these feelings with our collection of emotions flash cards.

This week, you can also save 15% on any of these Emotions flashcards sets. Just enter our promo code EMOTIONS when you check out online.

>>> View our entire sale here. <<<

*Offer is valid for one-time use through February 2, 2016 at 11:59pm EST. Promotion does not apply to past purchases. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code EMOTIONS at check-out. Call our friendly customer service team at (800) 853-1057 with any inquiries.

Tip of the Week: Keeping Up With the Science

A major tenet of Applied Behavior Analysis is that it is evidence-based. For decades, our field has conducted research about behaviors we can observe in the environment, and worked to create positive behavior change. But keeping up with research or determining what is actually evidence-based can be quite challenging.

One way that some organizations and schools address this is by having a “journal club” of sorts. An article is selected each month, staff read it, and then everyone comes together to discuss it. This is a great way to get people talking about evidence-based procedures, help introduce people to new concepts, and create an environment that relies on science rather than anecdotal information.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Poll your participants. What topics might they be interested in? What dates and times work best for them? What is something they want to learn more about? You can use this information to get off on the right foot.
  • Sweeten the meeting. Make it fun with snacks or themes. It’s amazing how free food can draw people in.
  • Create questions for consideration. When you hand out the article, provide five or six questions for participants to consider as they read. This will help guide their reading and your conversation when you meet.
  • Make it applied. Think about how the information in the article can be used in your own setting. Have people discuss what it would look like if they tried out the interventions themselves.

Finally, take a look at Reading Groups: A Practical Means of Enhancing Professional Knowledge Among Human Service Practitioners by Parsons & Reid. This article demonstrates the utility of such groups, as well as important variables for implementing them successfully.

Good luck, and happy reading!

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. Sam is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College.

Pick of the Week: Save 30% on “A Work in Progress” Companion Booklets & DVDs!

Building on the popular guide and curriculum A Work In Progress, this companion series of booklets and DVDs synthesizes information on various teaching strategies with demonstrations of actual sessions with students on video. The Work in Progress Companion Series aims to blend a natural, child-friendly approach to teaching while remaining determinedly systematic. This series offers viewers the unique opportunity to see these approaches implemented in actual teaching environments.

This week, we’re offering the entire Set of 6 Work in Progress Companion Booklets & DVDs for only $99.00 (a $150 value)! Or get one (1) Companion Set for $24.95 only $17.50!  Just use our promo code AWIPSET at check-out to redeem these great savings. View our entire sale here.

AWIP_Companion_Booklets_and_DVDs

Parents and teachers will find this series to be a helpful companion and extension to A Work in Progress. All author proceeds from the Work in Progress Companion Series will go directly to the Autism Partnership Family Foundation which was developed to provide services to families with limited resources, fund research that will investigate new strategies and programs that truly make a difference in the lives of children and families, and disseminate information about evidence-based treatment and provide resources for training parents and professionals.

Volume 1: “Cool” versus “Not Cool” teaches students foundational as well as advanced social skills in the difference between behaviors that are socially appropriate (i.e. cool) and those that are inappropriate (i.e. not cool). In later stages, they go on to actually practice the appropriate form of the behavior and receive feedback on their efforts. Research confirms the clinical experience that “Cool” versus “Not Cool” is effective in teaching social skills and enabling students to monitor their own behavior.

Volume 2: Learning How to Learn teaches and demonstrates programs that researchers have found helpful in teaching students how to learn.

Volume 3: Teaching Interactions offers a conversation-style of teaching which adds the all important element of leading students to understand rationales for why they might want to change their behavior and learn new skills. This booklet and DVD teaches students how to develop understanding and insight that help form their internal motivation.

Volume 4: Token Economy provides step-by-step instructions on how to ensure there is a strong connection between the target behavior and the reward that follows. Token economies have a number of advantages and can be very flexible in adapting to the age of the student, the types of rewards used, and the skills and behavioral targets you are seeking to improve.

Volume 5: Developing Reinforcers shows parents and teachers how to be creative in developing new sources of reinforcement, which is especially useful for students who have limited interests.

Volume 6: Bullying & ASD – The Perfect Storm focuses on the tools needed to help children with autism combat bullying. Students with ASD are particularly at risk because of their behavior issues and their vulnerability. This volume provides practical suggestions that help prevent the devastation of bullying.

Buy one (1) volume for only $17.50* this week using promo code AWIPSET at check-out! View our entire sale here!

*Offer is valid for one-time use only through January 26, 2015. Promotion does not apply to past purchases. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code AWIPSET at check-out!

 

“Underwater Basket Weaving Therapy for Autism: Don’t Laugh! It Could Happen…” by David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D & Denise Lorelli, MS

This month’s featured article from the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT) is by Executive Director David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D and Denise Lorelli, MS on the abundance of so-called “therapies” available for children with autism, why some fall trap to these “therapies,” and how to assess what therapy is right, and most importantly, effective in the long run. To learn more about ASAT, please visit their website at www.asatonline.org. You can also sign up for ASAT’s free newsletter, Science in Autism Treatment, and like them on Facebook!


Underwater Basket Weaving Therapy for Autism: Don’t Laugh! It Could Happen…
by David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D and Denise Lorelli, MS

Yes, sadly it can happen. With 400+ purported treatments for autism, there is no shortage of such whose name begins with an activity, substance, or favorite pastime and ends in the word “therapy.” A cursory internet search would reveal such “therapies” as music therapy, art therapy, play therapy, sand therapy, dolphin therapy, horseback riding therapy, bleach therapy, vitamin therapy, chelation therapy, and helminth worm therapy joining the list of the more established habilitative therapies such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language therapy (this is by no means an exhaustive list of the array of “therapies” that are marketed to consumers). Touted therapies can involve all sorts of things. I recall sitting on a panel at Nova University in the late ‘90s with another provider boasting the benefits of llamas and lizards as well.

What concerns us are the assumptions – made by consumers and providers alike – that promoted “therapies” have legitimate therapeutic value, when, in fact, there is often little-to-no scientific evidence to support them. Some might rightfully say that many of these touted methods are “quackery” without such evidence. The focus on such unproven methods or “therapies” may result in financial hardship and caregiver exhaustion, further exacerbating the stress levels of participating families. What is most alarming is that these “therapies” may be detrimental because they may separate individuals with autism from interventions that have a demonstrated efficacy, thus delaying the time of introduction of effective therapy.

This concern is echoed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In their guidelines focusing on the management of autism spectrum disorders, they state: “Unfortunately, families are often exposed to unsubstantiated, pseudoscientific theories and related clinical practices that are, at best, ineffective and, at worst, compete with validated treatments or lead to physical, emotional, or financial harm. Time, effort, and financial re-sources expended on ineffective therapies can create an additional burden on families” (p. 1174).

If a child diagnosed with cancer were prescribed chemotherapy, there is a reasonable expectation that chemotherapy would treat or ameliorate the child’s cancer. Parents of individuals with autism have that hope as well when their children are provided with various therapies. While this hope is understandable, it is often placed in a “therapy” for which there is an absence of any legitimate therapeutic value. We hope the following will help both providers and consumers become more careful in how they discuss, present, and participate in various “therapies.”

SOME FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS REGARDING “THERAPIES”

1. Anything ending in the word “therapy” must have therapeutic value. The word “therapy” is a powerful word and clearly overused; therefore, it would be helpful to begin with a definition. Let’s take a moment and think about this definition:

Merriam-Webster
Therapy: noun \ˈther-ə-pē\ “a remedy, treatment, cure, healing, method of healing, or remedial treatment.”

When a “therapy” provider or proponent uses the word “therapy,” he/she is really saying: “Come to me…I will improve/treat/cure your child’s autism.” The onus is on the provider/proponent to be able to document that the “therapy” has therapeutic value, in that it treats autism in observable and measurable ways or builds valuable skills that replace core deficits.

2. Providers of said “therapy” are actually therapists. It is not unreasonable for a parent or consumer to assume that the providers of particular “therapies” are bona fide therapists. It is also reasonable for a parent to believe that someone referring to him/herself as a therapist will indeed help the child. However, simply put, if an experience is not a therapy, then the provider is not a therapist. He or she may be benevolent and caring, but not a therapist.

Some disciplines are well established and have codified certification or licensed requirements, ethical codes, and practice guidelines (e.g., psychology, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy). Consumers would know this, as “therapy” providers will hold licenses or certifications. Notwithstanding, consumers can look to see if the provider has the credentials to carry out a particular therapy, and these credentials can be independently verified (please see http://www.bacb.com/index.php?page=100155 as an example). A chief distinction is that licenses are mandatory and certifications are voluntary. In the case of licensure, state governments legislate and regulate the practice of that discipline. It cannot be over-stated that just because a discipline has certified or licensed providers it does not necessarily mean that those providers offer a therapy that works for individuals with autism. This segues into the third assumption.

3. All “therapies,” by definition, follow an established protocol grounded in research and collectively defined best practices. Let’s revisit our chemotherapy example. Chemotherapy protocols have a basis in published research in medical journals and are similarly applied across oncologists. In other words, two different oncologists are likely to follow similar protocols and precise treatments with a patient that presents with similar symptoms and blood work findings. This is not the case with many autism treatments. Most therapies lack scientific support altogether and are often carried out in widely disparate ways across providers often lacking “treatment integrity.”

4. If “XYZ therapy” is beneficial for a particular condition, it would benefit individuals with autism as well. Sadly, this kind of overgeneralization has been observed and parents of children with autism are often misled. Suppose underwater basket weaving was demonstrated through published research to improve lung capacity. Touting the benefits of this as a treatment for autism would clearly be a stretch. Therapeutic value in autism must focus on ameliorating core symptoms and deficits associated with autism such as social challenges, improving communication skills, and reducing or eliminating the behavioral challenges associated with autism.

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Enter Our Reflection Raffle to Win a Function Wheels Kit or a MotivAider!

How has Different Roads played a part in your students’ learning? Tell us how Different Roads to Learning has helped your students succeed, and you will be entered for a chance to win either a Function Wheels Kit or a MotivAider!

Click on the image below to enter:

Reflection Raffle Facebook Graphic

Pick of the Week: NEW! Super Sorting Pie

Teach early number skills, colors, shapes, and sorting skills with this fruity Super Sorting Pie! The pie also comes with sorting cards that can be placed in the bottom of the pan to provide visual cues for students. This week, save 15% on your order of the Super Sorting Pie and start sorting! Use our promo code PIE15 at check-out to redeem these savings.

The top crust also becomes a nifty bowl to conveniently hold the fruit counters. Students can also practice fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination with the included tweezers.

The set comes with 60 counters (7 fruits in 5 different colors), 1 plastic pie plate with a cover & removable divider, 3 double-sided sorting cards, 2 jumbo tweezers, and an Activity Guide for suggested lessons. The Super Sorting Pie measures 8¾ inches in diameter.

Take 15%* off your order of the Super Sorting Pie this week with discount code PIE15 at check-out!

*Offer is valid for one-time use only through January 19, 2016 at 11:59pm EST. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code PIE15 at check-out! Contact our friendly staff at (800) 853-1057 with any inquiries.

Tip of the Week: The Importance of Identifying the Function of a Behavior

As a BCBA, I am often asked to address problematic behaviors. One of the most common errors I see in addressing such behaviors is that the adults working with child have not identified the function (or purpose) of the problematic behavior. Decades of research have shown that there are only four functions for any behavior: attention, escape/avoidance, access to a tangible, and automatic reinforcement (or something that just feels good internally, but cannot be observed by outsiders).

The function of the behavior is whatever happens immediately after the behavior, and increases the likelihood that the behavior will occur again in the future. Here are a few examples of the functions, based on the same behavior:

  1. The therapist tells Lisa it’s time to practice tying shoes. Lisa starts biting her own hand. The therapist look shocked and calls in Lisa’s mother, who rubs her back lightly while Lisa ties her shoes then gives her a lot of verbal praise. This is likely an example of a behavior that functions for attention, because the mother comes in and provides both verbal and physical attention while she ties her shoes. Or it could be an example of a behavior that functions for escape or avoidance, since Lisa did not have to tie her shoes immediately once she began biting her hand.
  2. The therapist tells Lisa it’s time to practice tying shoes. Lisa starts biting her own hand. The therapist gently pushes Lisa’s hand down and then introduces a new task. This is an example of a behavior that functions as escape because Lisa does not have to tie her shoes once she begins biting her hand.
  3. The therapist tells Lisa it’s time to practice tying shoes. Lisa starts biting her own hand. The therapist says, “Oh, don’t stress, we’ll take a sensory break,” and gives Lisa a ball to squeeze. This is an example of a behavior maintained by tangible reinforcement. When Lisa began biting her hand she was immediately given access to a preferred item.

You’ll notice that I left out the automatic reinforcement. This is intentional because often, with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, people assume that a behavior is automatically reinforced instead of exploring these three potential functions described above. One way to recognize if a behavior is automatically reinforced is to note if the behavior happens when the child is alone and/or when no demands have been placed on the child. If it’s only happening around other people or when demands are placed, then it is highly unlikely that the behavior is automatically reinforced. For now, we’ll save automatic reinforcement for another blog post.

Identifying which of these functions is maintaining a problem behavior is essential to putting in an effective intervention. But how do you go about doing this?

The first thing you should do is assess! You can do an informal assessment, such as using the Functional Assessment Screening Tool (FAST) which is comprised of 16 questions that can help you quickly determine the function. If this does not provide conclusive results, you can have a BCBA do a formal functional assessment. Once you have identified the function of the behavior, you can change the environment so that not only does the child no longer receive that reinforcement for a problematic behavior, but there are appropriate replacement behaviors they can engage in to access that reinforcement. For more on that, you can look back at the Importance of Replacement Behaviors.

It may be difficult at first to think in terms of “function of behavior,” rather than assigning a reason for the behavior that is based on the child’s diagnosis or based on something happening internally inside the child’s brain that we can’t see (such as, “she’s just frustrated so she’s biting her hand,” or “she doesn’t know how to control herself”). However, once you try it out and experience some success with addressing the true function of behavior, you’ll likely see the beauty of a simple explanation for why we behave.

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. Sam is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College.