6 Tips for Preparing for a Smooth Thanksgiving Celebration

Holidays can be challenging for everyone in the family. Your to-do lists get longer, your routines are switched around, and all the little stresses can be especially difficult for your child with autism. Here are a few tips to ease the difficulties related to Thanksgiving.

Tell. Prepare your child for who and what they will see at Thanksgiving. This may include creating a social story or showing photos of people your child does not know or see often.

Help. When possible, have your child help out. This may include prep activities such as helping with decorations or measuring ingredients for a recipe, but it could also include giving your child a job, such as answering the front door or setting the table.

Access. Be sure your child has access to foods he or she will eat and to a designated quiet space for breaks. It’s helpful if other guests or family members understand where this space is and its purpose.

Notify. Inform guests who aren’t familiar with your child or with autism about what to expect and how to best interact with your child.

Keep it fun. Add in a couple of activities during the day that you know your child really knows. This may include family games or traditions.

Schedule. Provide a schedule of the day’s events for your child so they will know what to expect. This can include a visual schedule or a written schedule.

Lastly, remind your child why you are thankful for them and enjoy your holiday!

Join us at the Long Island Behavior Analysis Conference with Keynotes Dr. Mark Sundberg and Dr. Patrick Friman: December 5, 2015

December 5th, 2014

We are so excited to be a part of this upcoming Long Island Behavior Analysis Conference! The conference will be held at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale, New York. Registration information can be found here.

With keynote speakers Mark Sundberg, PhD, BCBA-D and Patrick Friman, PhD, ABPP, this 2-day conference will be a great opportunity to hear about what is going on in the field of ABA. Sessions include “Teaching Language and Social Skills in a Child’s Natural Environment”, “The Role of Play in ABA Programs: Analysis, Assessment, and Intervention” and “That’s Not What I Recommended! Merging Treatment Integrity with Reality to Support Caregivers with Behavioral Recommendations in the Home.”

Come say hi! We will have a table at the conference, where we will be selling the VB-MAPP, Teaching Language to Children With Autism, ABA Curriculum for the Common Core: Kindergarten, and a number of our other favorite titles and products – all at discounted prices!

This conference is geared towards ABA professionals, with Type 2 CEU’s available. There is also an alternative track for parents interested in attending.

For more information, visit the ELIJA website here.

Pick of the Week: “I Feel Angry When…” – A Social Skills Game to Teach How to Express & Respond to Anger

I Feel Angry When… teaches children the important skills of learning how to express their anger in a nonthreatening way, and to respond in positive ways when they feel angry. This week, we’re giving you 15% off* your order of the I Feel Angry When… game by applying our promo code IFEEL at checkout!

With this game, kids learn how to use I-Messages – a verbal template that offers a way to communicate how you feel and what you want without offending others. This method, when combined with basic anger control strategies, gives children an opportunity to express their anger in a calm way without resorting to aggression.

As they respond to anger-provoking situations described on game cards, players learn how to use I-Messages to communicate their feelings. They also learn 12 anger control strategies that help them retain their composure in the moment anger erupts. Simple and straightforward, this game gives children the skills they need to keep their cool. The game comes with 2 Anger Control Spinners (one for ages 6–9 and one for 10–12), 1 I-Message Guide Cards, 200 Reward Chips, 54 Situation Cards, and 6 “Tell Me About It” Cards. This game is recommended for children ages 6 to 12.

Don’t forget to use promo code IFEEL at checkout this week to save 15%* on your set of I Feel Angry When…!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on November 25th, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Simplifying the Science: Addressing Vocal Stereotypy or “Scripting”

Many parents and teachers struggle with addressing vocal stereotypy or “scripting” in children with autism. Since stereotypy is frequently automatically reinforcing, (meaning that the behavior is maintained by the sensation produced by the behavior) it is especially difficult to address. While this type of behavior does occur in typically developing children (think of a young child singing the same song repeatedly for several weeks or a toddler repeating a newly learned sound) there is concern that this behavior persists in children with autism and other developmental disabilities in such a manner that it interferes with learning.

In 2007, William H. Ahearn, Kathy M. Clark, Rebecca P.F. McDonald and Bo In Chung published a study in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis entitled Assessing and Treating Vocal Stereotypy in Children with Autism.” The study defined vocal stereotypy as “any instance of noncontextual or nonfunctional speech and included singing, babbling, repetitive grunts, squeals, and phrases unrelated to the present situation.” It focused on four learners (two boys and two girls) who had autism and were referred for the study because their vocal stereotypy interfered with their ability to learn. The children ranged in age from 3-11. Three of them used speech to communicate while one used PECS.

The study describes potential interventions from previous research before introducing its goal of interrupting the vocal response then redirecting. This is called RIRD – Response Interruption/Redirection. In RIRD, when the child made an inappropriate vocalization, the teacher blocked them by interrupting immediately, then redirecting them to another behavior. The redirection involved prompts for vocal behavior such as saying “Where do you live?” or “Say ‘red.’” When a child made an appropriate vocalization, it was always followed by a teacher comment.

RIRD produced substantially lower rates of stereotypy for all four of the children and an increase in appropriate vocalizations for three of the children. One thing that is striking about these results is that “sessions were 5 min in duration, and two to three sessions were conducted 3 days per week.” This is a degree of time commitment that is replicable in the home or school environments.

If your child or student is presenting with stereotypy that interferes with learning, it is valuable to look at this study, as well as similar studies by Cassella, Sidener, Sidener, & Progar (2011) and Athens, Vollmer, Sloman, & Pipkin (2008). Consult with a BCBA or ABA provider for assistance in implementing the intervention.

Tip of the Week: Communicating with Paraprofessionals to Support Your Learner

Many students with autism and other developmental disabilities have an IEP that mandates a 1:1 paraprofessional (called an instructional assistant or teaching assistant in some states, but referred to as paraprofessional for the purposes of this article). Recently, I had the opportunity to provide a workshop to a large group of paraprofessionals in New York City. I was surprised to hear how some felt disconnected from the families of their students, especially considering how deep their relationships are with their students.

My conversations during that workshop caused me to reflect upon my own experience as a classroom teacher. Fortunately, I always had wonderful paraprofessionals who were essential to making the classroom run smoothly and helping our students achieve success, but I recognize now that they often were working with less information and less contact with the families than the teachers were. As a parent/guardian, you can help bridge that gap.

  • Communicate directly with the teacher and the paraprofessional. If you have critical information about your child, don’t assume that the teacher will share it with the paraprofessional. This can be important for big issues, such as allergies or new medicines, as well as smaller issues, such as an impending vacation or a sleepless night.
  • Share important goals with the paraprofessional. In many schools, the paraprofessional may never have seen your child’s IEP, though they frequently see your child for more time during each day. The paraprofessional also will usually see your child at times when the teacher will not, such as lunch and/or recess. If there are specific concerns about social skills, the paraprofessional likely has more opportunities for implementing social skills interventions than the teacher.
  • When you go to parent teacher conferences, ask both the teacher and the paraprofessional about your child’s performance in school. Because the paraprofessional sees the student in more environments, they may have more specific observations about transitions, special classes such as gym or art, and social interactions outside of the classroom.
  • Sometimes a student responds better to the paraprofessional than the teacher. If they do, find out why. The paraprofessional may be doing things that you and/or the teacher can replicate to help your child’s learning outcomes.
  • Show your appreciation for the paraprofessional. The job of a paraprofessional is very challenging: no preps, the need to adjust to each teacher’s style throughout the day, and the fact that they often end up managing any behavioral challenges during the day. A note of thanks can go a long way. And if you are the type of parent who gives small gifts or handmade items to teachers, don’t leave the paraprofessional out!

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: Social Skills Games to Teach What’s “Just Right”

People communicate using not only words, but also tone of voice and body language. Many children, however, fail to notice these relatively subtle social cues in self-expression and personal space. This week, we’re featuring two of our newest social skills games, Too Much, Too Little, Just Right and Too Close, Too Far, Just Right to help you teach your learners what is “just right” in social situations. Use our promo code JUSTRIGHT to save 15%* on your sets!

Too Much, Too Little, Just Right teaches children to pay attention to tone of voice, observe body language, and note how these cues affect the message. Children assume two roles during game play: Messenger and Listener. They learn by observing others and by getting immediate feedback about their own expressive abilities. They learn to adjust volume, expression, gestures, and other physical cues in order to communicate effectively and achieve greater self-control, thus developing more appropriate and satisfying social relationships.

Ideal for 2 to 8 players, this game can be easily used with larger groups or classrooms as well. Because it focuses on social interaction rather than on a game board, the game can be played virtually anywhere. Clearly focused and easy-to-use, Too Much, Too Little, Just Right is an outstanding tool for those working with children who have autism spectrum disorders. The game includes: 45 Too Much/Too Little/Just Right Cards, 90 Message Cards, 64 Action Cards, 50 Response Cards, 100 Reward Chips, and 1 Feedback Express-O-Meter. Recommended for children ages 5-12 years.

Too Close, Too Far, Just Right teaches what’s “too close,” “too far,” or “just right” in social situations. Children take turns performing social scenarios described on the Role Play Cards, and then the instructor or group of students decides whether their proximity to each other is appropriate for the particular situation. The objective is to understand the concept the personal space. Focused and engaging, this game is a gentle way to help students with autism and ADHD grasp the idea of appropriate proximity and physical boundaries and thereby improve their relationships. The game includes 65 Role Play Cards, 24 color-coded Feedback Cards, 3 “Where do I stand?” Cards, 1 Footprint Mat, and 1 booklet with instructions, game preparations and play, and variations on game play with a large group or class. Recommended for children ages 5 and up.

Don’t forget to save 15%* on your order of Too Much, Too Little, Just Right or Too Close, Too Far, Just Right this week by using promo code JUSTRIGHT when you check out online or over the phone with us!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EDT on November 4th, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Tips for Costumes & Trick-or-Treating for Kids on the Spectrum: Getting Ready for Halloween

October means it’s time for trips to pumpkin patches, ghastly goblin decorations, and candy corns galore. So what better time than now to share this wonderful guest article about getting ready for Halloween by BCBA Claudia Mármol.  Claudia shares with us a few tips on how to make dressing up and trick-or-treating as seamless as possible for a child on the spectrum.

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Wouldn’t it be fun to have your child dress up in their favorite TV character or have them pick up their costume for this Halloween? Most parents would answer “Yes” to the above question, as we all dream of having our child walk down the streets and go trick-or-treating. Thus, as much as children enjoy this holiday, so do adults. However, we have to keep in mind that children with autism and related disorders have sensitivity to certain stimuli such as textures, colors, smells, loud noises, and such that make wearing a typical Halloween costume difficult.

Below, you will find some helpful tips to keep in mind before we try to make our child wear all sorts of costumes, masks, make-up, wigs, and the like:

  • Try to avoid masks or anything on their heads: Since children dislike certain textures, their costume should not include anything that will disturb their head and/or skin (such as masks, make-up and/or excessive facial paint, big hats). These also become uncomfortable to carry, fade after a few hours, and can even be a little scary for our little ones, so avoid them as much as possible.
  • Make it comfortable: Whether your child will be trick-or-treating or not, make sure that the length of the costume (both legs and arms) is not too long for him/her as to impede their ability to walk and run with their friends. Also, keep in mind the material of the costume and the weather (i.e., avoid materials that will make your child sweat). I would suggest having a cotton costume and having a back-up plan, such as a Halloween-inspired shirt in case your child does not want to remain in his/her costume
  • Try it on before it’s that special day: In order to avoid a meltdown on Halloween night, have your child wear his/her costume around the house so that he/she gets used to wearing it and feels comfortable in it. Also choose shoes that your child can comfortably walk in to ensure that he/she will be okay during trick-or-treating.
  • Choose something FUN for them: Have your child take part in this special holiday by having them choose what they want to dress up as, but always keeping in mind the above stated. Here are some additional ideas and all-time favorites for Halloween:
    • Favorite TV/Movie Characters, such as Disney characters and super heroes.
    • Halloween favorites, such as witches, ghosts, wizards, and monsters.
    • Others: Animals and insects, such as cats, ladybugs, bees, dogs, and spiders are all simple yet fit the occasion!

Here are other tips to ease the difficulties related to Halloween:

  • Practice the trick-or-treating route in advance: In the days leading up to Halloween, walk with your child around your neighborhood and note his/her reaction. If your child feels scared with some decorations that include excessive lighting, have strobes or scary monsters, ghosts, and witches, then you will know to avoid these houses on Halloween.
  • Consider alternatives: If your child is not the one to walk around and may not like the Halloween decorations, then you may want to join with other parents so that you can host a Halloween party that is autism-friendly. If you don’t want to host a party, then consider attending a mall, local children museums, or any child friendly location that will have a themed activity.
  • It’s okay to stay home: If you think your child will not enjoy the Halloween festivities of going trick-or-treating and dressing up as something, then stay home. You can have your own Halloween fun by watching a movie, creating Halloween-inspired foods together, as well as arts and crafts that will get your child involved (stay tuned for our other post on Halloween Arts & Crafts).

Thus, Halloween should be a fun holiday for all of us! But do know that it can be a scary time for some children, so keep in mind all of the tips discussed above and be aware that comfort is key for your child’s happiness.


WRITTEN BY CLAUDIA MARMOL, BCBA

Claudia Mármol is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and the founder of Heal the World Behavioral Services, a private ABA center that provides quality ABA therapy to children diagnosed with autism and related disorders in South Florida. Since 2007, Claudia has worked with numerous children of various ethnicities, backgrounds, and related disorders as well as typical children exhibiting problem behaviors in clinical settings, family homes, and schools. Claudia specializes in the development, implementation, and supervision of Verbal Behavior Programs in both English and Spanish.

Registration Open for Bridge Kids of NY’s Specialized Social Groups – Winter Session

If you’re in NYC, you must check out these Specialized Social Groups offered by the wonderful folks at Bridge Kids of NY. With a team of professionals who strive to improve the quality of everyday living for children and families, BKNY presents several fun and interactive social groups to support children in their social, communication, and behavioral growth. Below are two groups in which you can now enroll your child for the upcoming winter session:

Bridge Kids Social Circle
This fun and interactive group meets on Tuesdays or Thursdays, and is a 50-minute social skills group for children ages 2–5 years who experience difficulty in socializing with peers. Through play and group activities a qualified therapeutic team will focus on key social behaviors such as:

  • Eye-Contact
  • Taking Turns/Sharing
  • Understanding Personal Boundaries
  • Utilizing Appropriate Social Language
  • Initiating and Maintaining Social Interactions

Bridge Kids Happy Eaters Group
This group meets on Tuesdays or Thursdays, and is designed for our little ones who are “picky eaters”. If your child often refuses new foods, presents with a limited range of accepted foods, and/or engages in problematic behavior surrounding mealtimes, these skilled therapists can help! This group focuses on:

  • Creating Positive Mealtime
  • Experiences
  • Introducing New and Nutritious Foods
  • Healthy Exploration of Food
  • Simple Food Preparation
  • Supporting a Healthy Mind and Tummy

Register your child now in these specialized social groups for the upcoming winter session. Both groups meet for 10 sessions each at 4:00 PM on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

Pick of the Week: Token Towers – Reinforcing just got more fun!

We can never get enough reinforcement tools, especially for group settings. Help students meet behavioral or academic goals with these interactive Token Towers. And this week only, you can save 15%* on your set of the Token Towers, by using promo code TOKENTWR at check out.

Set goals using the colored ring and insert tokens as reinforcement for appropriate behaviors or correct responses. The hard plastic chips with smiley faces make a fun noise as they drop into the containers, which is almost as fun as watching the tokens pile up!

This kit includes four Token Towers (red, yellow, green, and blue) and 140 tokens (35 for each tower). Each Token Tower has target goal levels of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and can hold a maximum of 35 tokens. The towers measure 6 ½” tall with tokens measuring 1 ½” in diameter. Recommended for children ages 3 and up.

Don’t forget! We’re featuring this newly added set of Token Towers as our Pick of the Week, so be sure to use promo code TOKENTWR to take 15% off* your order.

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on October 28th, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Guest Article: Tackling Tantrums by Bridge Kids of New York

For parents, it can be difficult and frustrating to help their children through tantrums. We’re pleased to share with you a second guest post by Bridge Kids of New York (BKNY), who shares with us a few (humorous) words of advice on tackling tantrums.

T-A-N-T-R-U-M-S
by Bridge Kids of New York

Young girl indoors cryingHere at BKNY, parents reach out to us for support in a variety of areas. Not surprisingly, one of the most popular reasons we hear from parents is for support in managing tantrums! Why is this not surprising? Well, it’s not surprising because very few of us will make it through life without ever throwing a tantrum! We’ve all been there, right? Whether you were 5 or 35, you’ve most likely engaged in a tantrum. For our little ones, who are still learning about rules, expectations, effective behavior, and self-control, it makes sense that we will periodically see a tantrumit’s often part of the learning process. So, for all of our parents out there who are tackling tantrums, here are a few words of advice for you:

Take a deep breath
Analyze why the tantrum is occurring and Avoid reinforcing it
Neutral tone and affect
Tune out the bystanders
Remember the big picture
Understand that this is a learning moment for your child
Make objective decisions rather than emotional ones
Stop beating yourself up

Take a deep breath.
Tantrums can be stressful for everyone involved! As a parent, it may be emotionally difficult, frustrating, or potentially embarrassing to work through a massive tantrum with your child–these are common emotions! But here’s the thing: when your child is mid-tantrum and about as far away from calm as possible, that’s when it’s the most important for us to be calm. After all, someone has to be! Whatever emotions you feel in these moments are perfectly valid—acknowledge themthen take a deep breath and try to release them. One of the most important things you can do for your child during a tantrum is to remain calm

Analyze why the tantrum is occurring and Avoid reinforcing it.
All behavior occurs for a reason. Whether or not you fully understand your child’s tantrum, rest assured that there is a function behind it. In order to handle it appropriately and use proactive measures in the future, we need to analyze what is going on. We need you to become a tantrum detective! Think about what happened right before your child’s tantrum (i.e. the antecedent). Were you talking on the phone instead of paying attention to her? Did he have to share a favorite toy with another child? Did you ask him to do something challenging? Looking at what happened right before will probably give you some information about why the tantrum is happening. Thinking about (and potentially reconsidering) how you typically respond in these situations may also help. Once you determine why the tantrum is occurring, the next step is to not give into it. So, if your child is tantrumming in the middle of the grocery store because you said “no” to the box of over-processed chocolate cereal, you want to make sure that you do not give in and buy the cereal. If you cave during a tantrum, you will likely reinforce that behavior and see it again in the future. So do your best to stay strong!

Neutral tone and affect.
We’re all human and it’s natural to lose our cool from time to time under stressful circumstances. Tantrums can get the best of you sometimes! In these moments, try to remind yourself to use a neutral tone and affect. Let your face and your voice send the message that you are unphased by the tantrum (even if you don’t totally feel that way on the inside!). Channel your inner actor (we’re in NYC after all!) and put on your game face!


Tune out the bystanders.

Let’s be honest, a tantrum that occurs in your home feels very different than a tantrum that occurs in public. When you are out in the community, there may be additional safety concerns (e.g. running into the street), worries about disturbing others (e.g. crying in a restaurant or movie theater), and, perhaps the most challenging of all, those darn judgmental bystanders! You know the ones we’re talking about. Those people who either can’t relate to what you and your child are going through, or the ones who pretend like they can’t relate because, after all, their children NEVER, EVER, EVER had tantrums (read: sarcasm). Then, there are also the people who get involved, thinking they’re helping you, but are actually making the situation worse. You know these people toothe sweet older lady who tells your child that Mommy will buy him a candy bar if he stops cryingyou’ve met her, right? Unfortunately, you cannot always control what other people will say, do, or think. But, fortunately, you can control what YOU will say, do, and think! In these moments, do your best to turn OFF your listening ears and do what you know is right for your child.

Remember the big picture.
Okay, so here were are in the middle of a huge tantrum. Could you make that tantrum stop in a matter of minutes or even seconds? Yes, in many cases you probably could. All you have to do is give in. If your child is tantrumming because you told her you would not buy that candy bar in the checkout line, you could probably put a quick end to it by just caving and giving her the candy. And that option can be pretty tempting sometimes! This is where we urge you to remember the big picture and think long-term. The goal is not to stop that particular tantrum in that particular momentthe goal is to reduce those tantrums from happening in the long-run. We want to decrease the behavior that interferes with your child’s success and increase the behavior that supports itthat’s not going to happen by giving in. Caving in the middle of a tantrum may stop it in the moment, but ultimately it will teach your child that throwing a tantrum is an effective way to get what he wants. So the next time he wants something, he’s likely to resort to that behavior again. As you can imagine, this may easily turn into a cycle of increasing tantrums. Although it’s easier said than done, try to remember the big pictureyou’ll thank yourself later!

Understand that this is a learning moment for your child.
Every moment of every day is a learning moment. This applies to all of us, by the way, not only our children! Believe it or not, your child is actually learning during those tantrums. He is learning all kinds of things, in fact! Your child is learning whether or not Mommy really means the things she says. She’s learning whether or not you are consistent. He’s learning about rules and limits, or lack thereof. She’s learning what behaviors are going to be effective and what behaviors are not. He’s learning how to respond to undesired situations, like not getting what he wants. The list could go on and on! So remember this when your child is having a tantrum and focus on teaching the things you actually WANT to teach! Furthermore, remember that learning is hard sometimes. It’s okay for your child to struggle a little bit in the learning processyou (and we!) are there to be his teachers.

Make objective decisions rather than emotional ones.
We’ll start this one by acknowledging that it can sometimes feel nearly impossible to be objective during a massive tantrum, especially when in public. To the best of your ability, set your emotions aside and try not to take it personally. Your child’s tantrum is happening for a reason and that reason is most likely not about trying to hurt your feelings. So, take a moment to have a mini out-of-body experience, away from your emotions, and try to look at the situation as an outsider. Remember, you want to analyze what is really happeningunfortunately, those pesky emotions can really cloud your judgment. Try to let your choices and reactions be based on facts rather than on feelings.

Stop beating yourself up!
You are not a bad parent. Your child is not a bad kid. You are not the only parent whose child has tantrums (despite those ridiculous people who make you feel like you are!) In fact, your child’s tantrum may actually be the result of you being a good parent and setting limits. You do not have to be perfect every second of every day. You can make mistakes and so can your child. It’s okay. This is a part of the process. Chin up, thumbs up, you got this!

Note: If your child engages in behavior that is dangerous to himself or others, we suggest that you consult an appropriate medical professional as well a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) immediately. Safety should always be the first priority. Feel free to reach out to our behavior team and/or attend one of our Tackling Tantrums workshops for more information on understanding and changing behavior!


WRITTEN BY BRIDGE KIDS OF NEW YORK, LLC

Bridge Kids of New York, LLC is a multidisciplinary team of professionals who strive to improve the quality of everyday living for the children and families they serve, providing each family with progressive services that merge evidence-based practices with play-based and social instruction. To find out more, contact them here or email info@bridgekidsny.com.