Tip of the Week: Consider Response Effort in Your Intervention

Several previous posts have discussed how important it is to have a multi-pronged approach to behavior interventions, including definitions for how caregivers will respond to undesirable behavior, the replacement behavior, and reinforcement. One thing I have not shared is considering response effort when choosing a replacement behavior.

Response effort describes how easy or difficult it is to engage in a behavior. For example, I frequently check my e-mail on my phone. Occasionally, I get an e-mail that requires a lengthy reply. The response effort for typing on the tiny touchpad is much greater than sitting down at my laptop and using the keyboard, so I wait until I can go to my computer to reply to that e-mail. Typing on the keyboard requires less response effort.

In general, when we make choices about how to behave, whether we are aware of it or not, we choose the behavior that gets the best results with the least response effort. But if a low response effort achieves poor results, we’re probably not going to engage in that behavior. Let’s look at an example of choosing a higher response effort. Let’s say I live down the street from a hair salon, and I go there once but hate my hair cut. I’ll engage in the higher response effort to drive 30 minutes to a salon that gives me a great cut. I want the lowest response effort, but not if it achieves poor results.

So how does this apply to interventions in your environment? When you’re choosing a replacement behavior, you should try to make it require less response effort than the undesirable behavior. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Every time you teach a math lesson, your learner breaks his pencil and throws it across the room. You’ve identified that the behavior of breaking the pencil functions as escape, meaning that in the past, when he broke his pencil, his consequence was a break, a walk to “calm down,” or a trip to see the dean. You’ve provided a replacement behavior of holding up a stop sign that stays on his desk. When he holds up the stop sign, he is provided with a break. Holding up the stop sign requires much less response effort than breaking a pencil.
  • You are the director of a center for learners with autism. Many of your students are being toilet trained during the day. It is important that the providers working with the students wear gloves during the toilet training process. The gloves are on the wall when you enter the bathroom, but you’ve noticed that several providers are still not wearing gloves. One provider tells you that if she forgets to grab the gloves as she’s coming in and the child is already in the stall, it’s too difficult to backtrack and keep an eye on the child. You decrease the response effort by placing a box of gloves inside each stall in the bathroom.

Decreasing the response effort for the desired behavior while simultaneously increasing the response effort for the undesirable behavior can produce even better results. There have been several studies related to increasing response effort for self-injurious behavior such as hand-biting while providing replacement behaviors with a lower response effort.

As you’re developing behavior intervention plans or thinking of ways to improve your teaching environment, you should think through the possibilities of using response effort to encourage appropriate behaviors.


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.

Special Education Students Learn How to Share and Prepare for Thanksgiving

(SGVN/Staff photo by Leo Jarzomb/SWCITY)

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, we thought we would share this wonderful report we came across on learning how to prepare for Thanksgiving festivities at Dexter Middle School in Whittier, CA. With weeks of preparation for their annual tradition, sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders in this school’s special education program learn about manners, responsibility, budgeting at the grocery store, and treating others with respect, especially at the dinner table.

How are you preparing for Thanksgiving with your special student this year? What’s your annual tradition?

Click to read: Thanksgiving comes early for Dexter Middle students

Download our 2014 Holiday Gift Guide today! Find the perfect gift for your special child

Around the holidays, parents often get calls from grandparents, friends and relatives asking for gift ideas for children with special needs. Our 2014 Holiday Gift Guide will make it a bit easier for everyone to find something special for the special child in their life. Our trusted consultant Sam Blanco, MSEd, BCBA has put together some of her favorites that are sure to bring delight. From our Different Roads family to yours, we wish you all the joy and happiness of the season.

Holiday Gift Guide

DOWNLOAD OUR 2014 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE NOW!  

AND we’re slashing the prices of the toys and games in our Holiday Gift Guide, so be sure to apply or mention our promo code GIFT14 to save 15%* on these featured products!

 

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.

Pick of the Week: Speaker’s Box – Expand expressive vocabulary & language

Ideal for auditory and visual learners, Speaker’s Box helps strengthen oral language skills in whole-class or small-group settings, as well as in one-on-one instruction. This week only, take 15% off* your order of Speaker’s Box by using promo code SPEAKER at checkout.

With Speaker’s Box, students reach into the box, choose a color-coded prompt card, and then start chatting. There are four color-coded categories included:

  • What’s Happening Here?/What Comes Next? has the students talk about what is going on in the picture or what might happen next.
  • Step by Step has students look at the picture and correlating question on the back to give detailed directions on how to do something.
  • Would You Rather? presents questions that students answer with a personal statement based on the first thing that comes to mind.
  • Things You Like Best also asks students questions about their preferences and to explain why.

This is a great teaching tool that fosters receptive and expressive language, peer interaction, perspective-taking, and more. The set includes eighty-six 2.5-inch square write & wipe-cards (14 are blank for customization) in a nifty storage box. This game is recommended for children ages 6 and up.

Don’t forget to use our promo code SPEAKER this week to save 15%* on your set of Speaker’s Box.

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

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!