Pick of the Week: Wooden Animal Nesting Blocks

Explore the animal kingdom and develop spatial motor skills with these delightful and durable Wooden Animal Nesting Blocks! From a tiny sea horse to a great big elephant, discover charming animals from four animal habitats.

This week only, you can save 15%* on the Wooden Animal Nesting Blocks with promo code WANB15 at check-out!

With all 8 blocks stacked, they tower almost 3 feet tall. These Wooden Animal Nesting Blocks are great for practicing patterns and sequencing skills in very young learners. Don’t forget to use mention or apply promo code WANB15 at check-out to redeem your savings this week!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on July 7th, 2015. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at checkout!

Tip of the Week: Improving Behavior for the Whole Class

Often, we focus on how to improve the behavior of an individual, but there are many times in which teachers must figure out a way to improve the behavior of the entire class. In ABA, we might implement a group contingency, a strategy in which reinforcement for the whole group is based upon the behavior of one or more people within the group meeting a performance criterion (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007).

Group contingencies can be especially beneficial for teachers because it may not always be possible to implement a contingency for an individual or there may be several students who need improvement with the same behavior. It’s also a useful strategy for individuals who respond well to peer influence. Furthermore, there are several studies that demonstrate the group contingencies can increase positive social interactions within a group.

Let’s look at examples of each type of contingency. In the first type, a dependent group contingency, reinforcement for all members of the group depends on the behavior of a single person within the group or a small group of people within the group. For example, you might say, “If Joseph remains in his seat for all of math, we will have five extra minutes of recess today.” This can be highly motivating for Joseph, because his peers will respond well to him if he earns them access to five more minutes of recess (leading some to call it the “hero procedure” because the individual is viewed so positively upon earning the reward.) It’s clear that if you have a student who is not motivated by social reinforcement from peers, this type of contingency would backfire. However, there is plenty of research that shows it’s benefits. (Allen, Gottselig, & Boylan, 1982; Gresham, 1983; Kerr & Nelson, 2002)

In the second type, an independent group contingency, criterion for accessing reinforcement is presented to everyone, but only the individuals who meet criterion earn the reinforcer. For example, you might say “If you remain in your seat for all of math class, you will earn five extra minutes of recess today.” In this contingency, every student who reaches criterion accesses the extra recess time, but those students who left their seat do not earn the extra five minutes. Another example might be, “Each person who turns in all homework earns two bonus points on their spelling test.” In this set up, the entire class is working towards a common goal, but the individuals who achieve the goal earn reinforcement no matter how their peers perform.

In the third type, an interdependent group contingency, reinforcement for all members of the group depends on the behavior of each member of the group meeting a performance criterion. Mayer, Sulzer-Azaroff, & Wallace put it very well when they wrote “Independent group contingencies involve treating the members of a group as if they were a single behaving entity. The behavior of the group is reinforced contingent on the collective achievement of its members” (2014). In many classrooms there some type of independent group contingency in place, such as earning behavior points per class period or keeping your name on the green light (with yellow and red lights indicating problematic behaviors.) It’s quite simple to add an interdependent group contingency to these systems already in place. For example, you might say, “If all students names are still on the green light at the end of math, everyone earns an extra five minutes of recess.” There is evidence that interdependent group contingencies promote cooperation within groups (Poplin & Skinner, 2003; Salend & Sonnenschein, 1989).

Group contingencies are an excellent tool for classroom teachers, as well as anyone else working to manage a group of individuals.

FURTHER READING

Allen, Gottselig, & Boylan. (1982). A practical mechanism for using free time as a reinforcer in the classroom. Education and Treatment of Children, 5(4), 347-353.

Cooper, Heron, & Heward. (2007). Applied Behavior Analysis – 2nd edition. Englewood Cliffs; NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Gresham, F.M. (1983). Use of a home-based dependent group contingency system in controlling destructive behavior: A case study. School Psychology Review, 12(2), 195-199.

Kerr, M.M. & Nelson, C.M. (2002). Strategies for addressing behavior problems in the classroom (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Mayer, Sulzer-Azaroff, & Wallace. (2014). Behavior Analysis for Lasting Change (3rd ed.). Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY: Sloan Publishing.

Popkin, J. & Skinner, C. (2003). Enhancing academic performance in a classroom serving students with serious emotional disturbance: Interdependent group contingencies with randomly selected components. School Psychology Review, 32(2), 282-296.

Salend, S.J., & Sonnenschein, P. (1989). Validating the effectiveness of a cooperative learning strategy through direct observation. Journal of School Psychology, 27, 47-58.

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.

Photo courtesy of Books and Blogs by Cindy Andrews

Pick of the Week: More What’s Wrong? ColorCards – Develop skills in problem-solving, storytelling, and more!

Help students develop skills in observation, deduction, problem solving, anticipation, storytelling, insight, and more with the More What’s Wrong? ColorCards. This set of 36 photographic cards shows a range of activities and situations with incorrect, unusual, or unexpected elements to identify and discuss, and even induce a few chuckles! Save 15%* this week on the More What’s Wrong? ColorCards by applying promo code WHATSWRONG at check-out!

The open-ended nature of the problems posed also enables different levels of application ranging from single identification of what’s wrong to understanding and explaining how to fix the situation and the potential consequences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An instruction booklet with possible discussion points and ways to structure a session is also included, with pages that identify which cards show mistakes with clothes, wrong objects, wrong methods, or impossible/unlikely events. Don’t forget – you can take 15%* off your order of the More What’s Wrong? ColorCards by using promo code WHATSWRONG at check-out this week!

Registration Open for the Ethics in Professional Practice Conference 2015

Presented by the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies and the Van Loan School at Endicott College, MA, the 3rd Annual Ethics in Professional Practice Conference will be held on Friday, August 7, 2015. Register for your spot now for a great opportunity to hear leaders in the fields of Psychology, Business, Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis. Speakers include R. Wayne Fuqua, PhD, BCBA-D, Michael F. Dorsey, PhD, BCBA-D and Mary Jane Weiss, PhD, BCBA-D.

Ethics in Professional Practice Conference 2015

For more information, visit the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies event page.

Tips on Effective Self-Management with ABA Techniques by Daniel Sundberg

Most of us at some point or another have struggled with time management. Whether it is finding more time to spend with your children, or just finding the time to exercise, time management can be a major challenge. But the benefits are potentially huge. When I first started graduate school I had trouble scheduling classes, work, research, exercise, and social activities. Fortunately, I was introduced to some effective techniques, derived from the principles of applied behavior analysis, designed to help people systematically manage their own behavior, known as self-management (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007). The self-management process at its core is about taking data on your own behavior and setting up systems to manage your own performance. Individuals have used self-management to address a wide variety of challenges, from reducing smoking and managing spending, to better utilizing their billable hours and managing medication use. Additionally, self-management techniques have been used by individuals with a wide range of developmental and cognitive abilities (Cooper et al., 2007), and have been shown to be effective in increasing an array of positive behavioral skills in individuals with autism (Lee, Simpson, & Shogren, 2007).

While I find a specific tool like the Self Management Planner useful in coordinating my own efforts at self-management, the components of a good self-management program can be incorporated into many different types of tools or systems. These components are very similar to those that you may see in effective applied behavior analysis or performance management programs (Baer, Wolf, & Risley, 1968; Daniels & Bailey, 2014). At its most basic level this process involves specifically identifying important goals and related behaviors, measuring progress, determining how to affect those behaviors and reach your goals, and evaluating and modifying your program as necessary (Cooper et al., 2007). While Cooper et al. (2007) present a wide range of self-management tactics, here are a few specific suggestions for making your self-management program more effective:

  • Define your goals and the related behaviors. Creating a goal is a very important part of this process, as specific goals have been repeatedly shown to be more effective than vague goals (Locke & Latham, 2013). By identifying what you ultimately want to accomplish in the future it becomes much easier to identify things you can do today to get you there. Here are some specific tips for setting your goals:
    • Set a long term goal in terms of an accomplishment, not an activity (e.g. “save $5,000 for a vacation” rather than “spend less money”).
    • Make these long-term goal challenging yet attainable.
    • Set many short term goals, and direct these towards behaviors and results.
    • Make these short-term goals realistic – err on the side of making them too easy.
    • Make both short-term and long-term goals as specific as you possibly can.
    • Use your short-term and long-term goals to identify day to day behaviors that will allow you to reach your goal.
    • When you are selecting the goals that you want to focus on, pick only a few at any given time. It is reasonable to focus on around 4-6 goals at a time, too many and it becomes easy to lose focus – if everything’s a priority, nothing’s a priority.
  • Identify measures. Tracking and measuring your progress is critical, and a large part of that involves clearly defining how you will measure the goals and behaviors you identified. For example, if you want to reach a set of parent training goals will you measure it in time spent working on that goal, milestones accomplished, appraisal from a clinical supervisor, or some other means? The more objective and countable, the better.
  • Change the behavior of interest. There are a number of ways to try and change your behavior. Often times, simply measuring behavior can produce change. If that is not enough, enlist the help of a friend to help you set and track your goals, keep you accountable, and deliver consequences. You can use Facebook or some other social media tool to make a public commitment and regularly post on how you are progressing. Paid programs such as Stickk can help you to track and measure your progress towards a goal. It is also possible to rearrange your environment in a way that makes the desired behavior more likely, B.F. Skinner wrote extensively on this in this in Enjoy Old Age: A Program of Self-Management (Skinner & Vaughan, 1983).
  • Track and measure. Record data on your progress every day, or at least several times per week. Frequently tracking your performance will also serve as a regular source of feedback, which can by itself change behavior.
  • Evaluate and modify your program. Taking frequent data will also allow you to make much more informed decisions about the effectiveness of your program. When recording your data spend some time evaluating your self-management program. Determine whether the goals you have set are realistic, you have enough time in your week to accomplish what you want, your environment is set up to help or hinder your progress, etc. This step is a lot easier to do if you are frequently taking data. If you are not making the progress you want (or aren’t even able to track your progress!) that means something needs to change. Reflect on what has been done thus far and consider other changes you could make that will lead to greater success.

Here are a few other points that are not specifically part of the self-management process, but may help you in your efforts:

  • Before you go to bed, make a list of the things you need to do tomorrow. Keep that list next to your bed, so you can jot down a task you think of in bed, rather than fixating on it.
  • Consider whether there are tasks that you do better at different times in the day. For example, I find that I do my heavy mental activities best in the morning, and try not to schedule anything too mentally demanding during the post-lunch lull.
  • Honestly appraise how well you respond to prompts and lists. For some, having a to-do list can control a lot of behavior, for others it is not nearly so effective. If you find that you don’t respond well to to-do lists, no amount of listing and planning is going to change your behavior. You may find that you need to recruit a friend to help in your program.
  • Schedule in some breaks. Most of us cannot tackle tasks back to back to back all day at the energy level needed. Even if it is 10 or 15 minutes, plan in some time during the day to take a quick break. You may find that this has the effect of making your time on task much more effective.
  • Avoid multi-tasking with important activities at all costs. The act of shifting your focus from one activity to another can take up more time than you expect, and eliminate any perceived efficiency from doing two things at once.

Self-management is no easy task, but the benefits can make the effort well worth it, not just for you, but for those you work with as well.

WRITTEN BY DANIEL SUNDBERG

Daniel Sundberg is the founder of Self Management Solutions, an organization that operates on the idea of helping people better manage their time. Towards this end, he created the Self Management Planner, which is based on an earlier edition created by Mark Sundberg in the 1970s. Daniel is currently a PhD candidate and continues his work helping individuals and organizations better themselves.

Pick of the Week: Reading Comprehension Cubes

Make reading discussions fun with Reading Comprehension Cubes! These foam cubes with comprehension questions on each side are great for promoting conversations, peer learning, and active reading. This week only, you can take 15%* off your order of Reading Comprehension Cubes with promo code READCUBES at check-out!

To use the Reading Comprehension Cubes, students answer the questions before reading with the red cubes, during reading with the blue cubes, and after reading with the green cubes. Your set includes 2 of each cube and an Activity Guide. Each of the 6 cubes measures 1½ inches.

Don’t forget – use our promo code READCUBES at check-out to save 15%* on Reading Comprehension Cubes this week only!

Simplifying the Science: Teaching Hand-Raising to Children with Autism

There are many concerns that come up when considering moving a child with autism to a general education setting. One is that the child with autism may not initiate interactions, which makes it less likely they’ll raise their hand to either ask or answer questions. Hand-raising is an important social behavior in the classroom setting as it facilitates learning as well as teacher-understanding of a child’s comprehension of the current topic. In the general education setting, there is much more group instruction than in the special education setting, which makes hand-raising all the more important. A study by Charania, LeBlanc, Sabanathan, Ktaech, Carr, & Gunby (2010) focuses on this skill, stating “Failure to raise a hand when one could answer means a missed opportunity for reinforcement or error correction, whereas raising a hand when one has no subsequent response to provide could be embarrassing or disruptive to ongoing instruction.”

The participants in the study were three boys with autism, ages 8, 9, and 10 who were preparing to transition from a center-based program to a general education setting and had substantial verbal repertoires as assessed by the VB-MAPP. The researchers recognized that often the boys would know the correct answer to a question posed by the teacher during a group activity, but would not raise their hands to respond. They addressed this by building three successive skills. The goal was to teach the boys to raise their hand when they did know the answer, and keep their hands down when they did not know the answer.

In the first task, the boys were placed together for group instruction. Each child was given an opaque bag with a different item in it. The instructor would ask “Who has the [item]?” The boy with that item would raise his hand. Once this skill was mastered, the second task was introduced. In this task, the instructor would tell one boy a “secret” word, while whispering a greeting to the other two boys. The instructor would then ask “Who knows the secret word?” The boy who heard the secret word would raise his hand. Finally, after mastering the second task, the final task would be introduced. Here, the task involved providing verbal responses to factual questions, such as “What animal has a tail and four legs?”

This successive teaching of skills is important to the acquisition of the target skill. In the first task, there was an auditory and a visual stimulus provided to elicit the target response of hand raising (the question and the object in the bag). In the second task, the visual stimulus was replaced with another auditory stimulus, making it two auditory stimuli (the question and the whispered secret word). Finally, the last task consisted of the auditory stimulus, the question itself. The final task emulated the stimulus that would naturally occur in the classroom to elicit hand-raising.

The authors note in their discussion that “The results suggest the importance of conducting both hand-up and hands-down learning trials to establish discriminated responding, rather than simply reinforcing hand raises on every question (i.e., excessive hand raising during hands-down trials might be just as problematic as a complete lack of hand raising).” The method of successive conditional discrimination can be useful for teaching both children who do not raise their hands when they should or who raise their hands when they shouldn’t. All three boys learned how to raise hands appropriately for each of the three tasks. And while there are many more skills related to hand-raising that the three participants would need to learn, the skills taught in this study are essential to promoting success in the general education environment.

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: NEW! Save 20% on the AFLS Vocational and Independent Living Skills Protocols

Fresh off the press, the final protocols in the Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS) series are now available: Vocational Skills and Independent Living Skills. Now through June 16th, receive 20% off any quantity of these new Protocols. No promo code necessary.

The Vocational Skills Assessment Protocol provides caregivers and professionals with information to teach essential skills to learners who are preparing to enter the workforce or those who are already working but want to further develop skills for a wide variety of settings. This assessment covers skills related to obtaining employment, searching for job openings, creating resumes, completing applications, and preparing for interviews. This protocol also includes a wide range of basic work-related skills such as job safety, payroll, financial issues, and interacting with supervisors and co-workers. It also includes a review of skills required in specific types of jobs in a variety of settings. With this assessment, practitioners can help evaluate vocational skills for individuals with various types and levels of disability. Click here for a quick preview!

The Independent Living Skills Protocol provides caregivers and professionals with information to teach essential skills to learners who are being prepared for independent living. The assessment covers critical skills critical such as organizing possessions, cleaning and cooking, as well as money management skills related to financial planning, banking, paying bills, using debit and credit cards, and shopping. This protocol also incorporates skills about the assertion of personal rights, awareness of the motivation of others, and managing relationships with others in various settings. Click here for a preview!

This week only, take 20% off either or both the Vocational Skills and Independent Living Skills Assessment Protocols. No promo code necessary.

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on June 16th, 2015.

Pick of the Week: “Language Development Lessons for Early Childhood” Workbook

Strengthen listening and speaking skills in your learner with this workbook by speech-language pathologist Jean Gilliam DeGaetano that contains 80 pages of reproducible Student and Instructor Worksheets. The worksheets cover 3 basic techniques – Yes or No Answers, Choosing Between Two Answers, and Completing Sentences. This week only, you can save 15%* on Language Development Lessons for Early Childhood by using our promo code LANG15 at check out!

The lessons in this workbook feature various scenarios along with corresponding questions that ask the listener to answer yes or no, choose between two answers, and complete descriptive statements read aloud by the instructor. All three techniques in this book are great for stimulating receptive and expressive language in young children.

Take 15%* off your order of Language Development Lessons for Early Childhood by applying promo code LANG15 at check out this week only!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on June 9th, 2015. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Tip of the Week: Avoid Common Ethical Missteps in the Home Environment as a Behavior Analyst

(Beaumont Health System)

Fortunately, we have the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) as a resource. You can see the BACB’s Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts here. While this code does not take effect until January 2016, it’s important to note that many states have adopted ABA Licensure, which provides for oversight of behavior analysts and implementation of this code, or the specific ethical code that state has adopted.

Keep all identifying information confidential. First, all records should be kept in a locked filing cabinet, (not in a binder inside a tote bag or in the trunk of your car.) Furthermore, while it may be tempting at times, no photos or videos of students should be kept on cellphones or computers, or shared on social media accounts. And while you may have funny stories or great improvements you want to share with friends or loved ones, you should not share, the names, ages, or other identifying information of your students.

Only accept cases for which you have the necessary training and experience. This one can be tricky, especially if you are in a location in which there are few behavior analysts or you’ve been recommended to a parent and they are pushing for you to work with their child. However, it is very important that you follow this guideline. For example, if a child is engaging in self-injurious behavior (SIB) and you’ve never intervened with SIB, you should not take the case. Instead, you should make a referral to a behavior analyst who has the appropriate training and experience. If you are the only behavior analyst available, you should seek out the appropriate training and seek guidance from someone who does have the appropriate experience. This is more possible today with the advent and ease of video-chatting.

Don’t accept gifts or give gifts. As described below, it’s better to express this rule to parents at the beginning of your relationship, rather than when they’re handing you a gift certificate to your favorite coffee shop. While parents want to show appreciation and care for you, gift giving on either end blurs the line between professional relationship and friendship. Which brings us to our next point…

Maintain a professional relationship. This can be challenging when you’re working in the home environment, especially when you’re working in the home daily for one, two, or more years. But it’s important that you relate to the family as a professional with an expertise in behavior analysis. This means that you should not be joining the family for meals, birthday parties, or other events. It also means that information about your private life should not be provided (such as who you’re dating, any personal problems, etc.) and you are not a counselor/therapist for personal problems in the life of the family.

Provide effective treatment. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be quite easy to begin using a treatment that was recommended by another professional, only to discover that there is no scientific evidence proving its effectiveness. If you ever have a question about whether or not an autism-treatment is evidence-based, you should take a look at the Association for Science in Autism Treatment. You should also look at the research regarding interventions for specific behaviors in resources such as Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, or Behavior Analysis in Practice.

Set expectations from the very beginning of your relationship. Some of these missteps can be more difficult if you don’t provide information about what you are allowed or not allowed to do. A simple contract can be given to parents or caregivers at the beginning of the teaching relationship. In their book Ethics for Behavior Analysts: 2nd Expanded Edition, Bailey & Burch provide an excellent sample contract that can be modified for your use. (It’s worth noting that this book is a must-have for any behavior analyst. It contains explanations for each ethical guideline and case studies in an easy-to-read style.) Making it clear that you have professional guidelines to follow from the outset of your relationship is the most effective step you can take towards maintaining an ethical, professional relationship for the duration.

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.