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.

Increasing Play with Unit Blocks – Free Download

Blocks PileSymbolic play refers to a child’s ability to use one object or action to represent a different object or action within imaginary play. The symbolic play skill that involves object substitution typically begins to emerge around 18 months. For example, you might observe a child using an empty box for a “hat” or an overturned bucket for a “drum.” Blocks are a mainstay in early childhood classrooms because the benefits are innumerable. Block play can help to facilitate cooperation, visuo-spatial skills, problem solving ability, social skills, and language development, and is a good predictor of future mathematical abilities.

One hallmark of the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder is a presence of “persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends.” Additionally, rigid thinking patterns may make symbolic play difficult for children with autism as they might view objects in a limited way that makes it difficult to pretend a block is something other than a block. Blocks on ShelfSince unit blocks are a huge component of early childhood classrooms everywhere one could imagine that exposure to them and some level of proficiency opens up huge social opportunities for learners with autism spectrum disorders with their mainstream peers in the classroom.

Some learners will require scaffolding in order to progress from the use of literal props within pretend play to object substitutions. Research suggests that systematic prompting is a common component of successful interventions used for teaching play.  Depending on the learner, various types of prompts will be used as you systematically move from most intrusive to least intrusive prompt levels. Sometimes, a learner begins to respond to natural cues before you have moved through each prompt level. However, for learners that require support froma visual prompt you can attach drawings of objects onto the blocks and then systematically fade them out. Once the learner begins to consistently use the blocks with the attached images you can use stimulus fading procedure to fade out the visual prompt. This can be done by photocopying the image and systematically changing the lightness until eventually the learner is presented with just the block.

Below you will find downloadable images in the shape of unit blocks to help you facilitate symbolic play with a learner who requires visual prompts. The images are to scale and just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all of the possibilities. It is important to teach various object substitutions for each block shape so that the skill is generalized. In a classroom where the curriculum is organized thematically, you could attach a few visuals to various blocks each time the theme changes to encourage symbolic play for the whole class.

Click here to download our Free Unit Blocks Template!

References

Cook, D. (1996). Mathematics sense making and role play in the nursery school. Early Childhood Development and Care, 121, 55-65.

Wolfgang, C., Stannard, L. & Jones, I. (2001). Block play performance among preschoolers as a predictor of later school achievement in mathematics. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 15(20): 173-180.

Smilansky, S., & Shefatya, L. (1990). Facilitating play: A medium for promoting cognitive, socioemotional and academic development in young children. Gaithersburg, MD: Psychosocial & Educational Publications.

Christakis, D.A., Zimmerman F.J., & Garrison M.M. (2007). Effect of block play on language acquisition and attention in toddlers: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 161(10):967-71.

Pepler, D.J., & Ross, H.S. (1981(. The effects of play on convergent and divergent problem solving. Child Development, 52(4): 1202-1210.

Lang, R., O’Reilly, M., Rispoli, M., Shogren, K., et al. (2009). Review of interventions to increase functional and symbolic play in children with autism. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 44(4), 481– 492.

Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2007). Applied behavior analysis, 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall.


Written by Stacy Asay, LMSW

Stacy is a licensed social worker, providing home and school based services to children and their families in the New York City area. With nearly 16 years of experience, her work with special needs children integrates a strengths-based, holistic approach to child and family augmented with the tools of Applied Behavior Analysis, a methodology that allows for reliable measurement, objective evaluation of behaviors, and the systematic teaching of language and learning skills.  This results in an individualized curriculum that equips children with the tools they need for learning and living while honoring their unique spirit.

Pick of the Week: Inference Card Decks – Learn to infer meanings through critical thinking and auditory comprehension

Oftentimes, people do not communicate a complete message; they assume their listeners are also interpreting important visual information. Help students learn how to determine the “true” meanings of messages and improve their critical thinking, auditory comprehension, and inferencing skills with our newly added inferencing card decks: Look, Listen & Infer and the Inferencing Big Deck. And this week only, take 15% off* your order of either or both of these inferencing decks, by using promo code INFER14 at check-out!

Look, Listen & Infer is a 56-card illustrated set that will teach students to infer the meaning of a message by both listening to a statement or question, and also looking at the picture for important visual cues. One side of each card shows a colorful illustration of the scene. The other side presents the scene and asks, “What should you do next?” followed by three possible answer choices, one of which is correct.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Inferencing Big Deck features 100 large 5″ x 7″ photo cards that contain a short story along with with six follow-up questions to help children improve their ability to correctly inference. The color-coded topic areas include: Associations (These items belong to…); Identify the Setting (Where is this?); Part to Whole (What is it?); Predicting (What happens next?); and What Happened?

Don’t forget – you can save 15%* this week on your order of Look, Listen & Infer and/or the Inferencing Big Deck by using code INFER14 at check-out online or over the phone!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EDT on October 21st, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Simplifying the Science: Using a MotivAider to Self-Monitor

Teaching independent on-task behavior can be quite challenging when working with any student, but particularly so with some students with autism. In a study published in 2010, researchers Dina Boccuzzi Legge, Ruth M. DeBar & Sheila R. Alber-Morgan implemented and evaluated one way of teaching student to self-monitor their on-task behavior using a MotivAider. (The MotivAider is a simple electronic device that vibrates at timed intervals to provide an individual with a private prompt to engage in a specific behavior. It can be programmed to vibrate on a fixed or variable schedule at different duration and intensity levels.)

In this study, the researchers worked with a fifth grader with autism, a sixth grader with autism, and a fifth grader with cerebral palsy. They taught the boys to wear the MotivAider (calling it a pager) and note a + or a – to indicate their behavior each time the MotivAider vibrated. The behaviors they monitored were all related to being on-task: “eyes on my work,” “in my seat,” and “doing work.” Once each boy consistently rated his behavior upon feeling the vibration, the researchers implemented the intervention.

The MotivAider’s were initially set to vibrate every two minutes. Each time the MotivAider vibrated, the student would mark a + or a for each of the behaviors on a sheet he had on his desk. Prior to the intervention, the average percentages of time each boy was on-task ranged from 26% to 77%. Upon implementation of the intervention, “all three students showed an immediate and substantial increase of on-task behavior ranging consistently from 80% to 100%.

The researchers also included a plan for fading out the use of the MotivAider‘s, changing from a fixed schedule of every two minutes, to an increasing variable schedule. The fading schedules varied for each student. For example, for one student, the fading schedule started with a variable schedule of a vibration about every four minutes, then moved to about every six minutes, then to about every eight minutes, and then to about every ten minutes. The MotivAider was then removed completely.

After the intervention was complete, researchers collected data once a week for three weeks to see if the intervention was maintained. During all three maintenance probes, “all students continued to demonstrate 80%-100% on-task behavior.”

We’ve talked about how to use MotivAider‘s in the past, but I particularly love this intervention because it is feasible for teachers to implement in the classroom, promotes independence in learners with autism, and allows teachers to focus on other issues. Take a look at the study here to get a fuller description of how to implement such an intervention with your students.

For more information about the MotivAider, click here.


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.

Best Cities for People with Disabilities

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Overland Park, KS is the number one city for people with disabilities, according to a new ranking from WalletHub. (Overland Park CVB / Disability Scoop)

Here’s an interesting finding. For people with disabilities, what city is “best” to live in? According to consumer finance website WalletHub, it looks like Overland Park in Kansas is the nation’s best city for people with disabilities to call home. Each of the 150 ranked cities was analyzed based on 23 factors, from cost of living to effectiveness of the state Medicaid program.

Where does your city rank?

 

Ranking Names Best Cities For People With Disabilities

Pick of the Week: Clue Cards – 5 Fun Games to Improve Social Communication

Clue Cards aims to help students who are struggling with interpreting social situations, reading facial expressions, noticing body language, and understanding idioms and other metaphorical forms of speech. This week, you can save 15%* on your set of Clue Cards by entering or mentioning promo code CLUE15 at check out!

Therapists, teachers and parents can uses the cards and games included in this set to help students perceive and understand the details of social presentation. Because the cards are flexible and adaptable, they can be used with both younger and older children, with mild or sever socio-emotional difficulties. There are instructions for 5 different games along with 100 reward chips, targeted for players ages 6-16.

Below are the 5 different games included in Clue Cards:

  • Get a Clue: Players find “clues” in social situations and make inferences based on those clues (using the 15 Social Situation Cards).
  • Faces and Feelings: Link expressions with associated emotions (using the 20 red Feeling Cards, 20 blue Faces Cards).
  • Body Language: Matching photos and captions, children explore body language for clues about thoughts and feelings (using the 24 turquoise Photo Cards, 24 pink Caption Cards).
  • The 5 W’s: Analyze 10 social scenes by asking “who-what-where-when-why” questions (using the 10 Social Scene Cards, 1 Spinner).
  • In Other Words: Learn the idioms and proverbs that often pop up in social conversation (using the 30 green Idiom Cards, 30 light green Idiom Definition Cards, 26 purple Proverb Cards, 26 light purple Proverb Definition Cards).

Don’t forget to redeem your 15% savings* on Clue Cards this week by using promo code CLUE15 when you check out online or over the phone with us!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EDT on October 14th, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

How to Assess and Address Pants-Wetting Behavior—A Response to a Teacher’s Question

Sometimes we get specific questions from teachers and parents about managing problem behaviors that are quite common. In these cases, we think it can be helpful to share the question and response, so that others in similar situations might benefit from the suggestions offered. Bed and pants-wetting can be an enormously challenging issue both at home and at school, so when we received the following question from a teacher in Australia about her student, we thought it was a great opportunity to offer some suggestions and strategies on how to address the behavior.

PantsWettingQA

This is definitely a difficult behavior to address. It’s also challenging to provide accurate advice without directly observing the behavior, instead here are a few questions to consider and potential resources.

  • First and foremost, this is a behavior in which you should consult with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst for assistance. You can find BCBAs in your area by going to this webpage: http://www.bacb.com/?page=100155. If possible, reach out to more than one to find the BCBA who is the best fit for you and your learner.
  • Second, you should conduct a functional assessment to clearly determine the reason for the behavior. It may be for attention, but you may discover there is a different cause. It is best to perform a formal functional analysis, but if that is not possible, you may consider using the Functional Assessment Screening Tool (FAST). To get the best results from this, you should have more than one person fill it out, and, if possible, one person who observes the behavior but is unfamiliar with the child. Compare results to see if you are in agreement, then make a behavior intervention plan based on the function of the behavior. For more information about the FAST and its reliability compared to a formal functional assessment, you should refer to the study by Iwata, Deleon, & Roscoe (2013).
  • If indeed the behavior is for attention, consider how to provide minimal attention for pants-wetting. You mention that he receives high-level attention right now. What qualifies as high-level for him? Is it eye contact? Physical touch? Proximity? There are ways to remove each of these types of attention while also making sure you address the behavior hygienically.
  • While your son is continent, some of the strategies that are used in toilet training may prove helpful in intervening with this behavior. Take a look at this article by Kroeger & Sorenson-Burnworth (2009), which “reviews the current literature addressing toilet training individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities.” It may provide potential solutions that you have not attempted.

I hope this information is helpful! And good luck as you plan and implement your intervention.


WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-12 in NYC. Working in education for ten years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam has developed strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. Sam is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College.

+steps Program Cultivates Social and Executive Planning Skills in Students with Autism

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We’ve always believed in the importance of nurturing independence in our students. When we came across this article in the Lowell Sun, we found it a great opportunity to share how one school district is cultivating its autism curriculum to help their students towards achieving independence.

+steps (read: Positive Steps) is a program within the North Middlesex Regional School District in Pepperell, MA that helps over 600 students with autism and other developmental disabilities develop social and executive planning skills with various activities of daily living, from going out to local supermarkets to learn how to shop, to preparing meals for assisted living residents, and to creating podcasts to improve on public speaking skills.

Read the full article here

When Kids Are Just Kids: Avoiding Over-Pathologizing Behaviors of Children with Autism

A diagnosis of autism can be very challenging for a child and for his/her family. But one of the most difficult aspects of autism is that it is not clear cut what behaviors are related to autism, and what behaviors are related to just being a kid. Every child tantrums sometimes. Every child talks back sometimes. Every child engages in dangerous behavior sometimes.

When I look back on my own childhood, I think of several behaviors I exhibited: in third grade I cut my own hair while my teacher’s back was turned, in fourth grade I got mad at my brother and threw an alarm clock at him, and in seventh grade I loved Agatha Christie books so much that I frequently refused to go outside and sat in my room reading by myself for hours on end. If I had autism, any one of these behaviors may have been pathologized instead of being considered as just a part of growing up.

So how do you parse through all the behaviors your learner is exhibiting and figure out which ones you should actually be worried about? Here are a few questions to ask yourself in determining behaviors to address:

  • First and foremost, is the behavior dangerous?
  • Secondly, how often and for how long does your learner engage in the behavior
  • How different is this behavior from the learner’s same-age peers? For example, does your three year old cry for a couple minutes when told that she can’t have her favorite toy, or does she cry for two hours and refuse to engage with any other toys for the rest of the day?
  • How is this behavior interfering with the learner’s ability to learn?
  • How is this behavior interfering with the learner’s ability to engage with peers and family members?
  • Is the behavior related to a skill? For example, pacing the room and flapping your arms is typically not related to a skill, but building Lego models can be related to a skill. If it is related to a skill, think about ways to provide opportunities for expanding that skill.

The answers to these questions should be able to inform the decisions that you make in intervening with behaviors. And we should remember that above all else, kids with autism are still just kids.

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, she 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.

Online Briefs & Learning Modules for Evidence-Based Treatment Strategies

The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders holds an impressive wealth of information and resources for evidence-based practices for children with autism. We wanted to share their website as a resource to both parents and providers, since evidence-based strategies are so important in devising a home or school-based program for students with ASD. Specifically, we found the online learning and training modules by the NPDC on ASD to be extremely useful and – even better – accessible to anyone online.

For the following evidence-based practices (EBP), the NPDC on ASD has developed briefs with the following components:

  • Overview of the practice
  • Step-by-step instructions for implementation
  • Checklist to document the degree of implementation
  • References that support the efficacy of the practice

Each brief package comes in downloadable PDF formats for easy saving and printing. Some practices also come with downloadable data collection sheets and supplemental materials for teachers to use.

EBP Briefs 1

Additional resources provided by the NPDC on ASD include Learning Modules to accommodate children in early intervention (birth to 3 years).  The 10 Learning Modules touch upon:

  1. Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
  2. Functional Communication Training (FCT)
  3. Naturalistic Intervention
  4. Parent-Implemented Intervention
  5. Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
  6. Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
  7. Prompting
  8. Reinforcement
  9. Structured Work Systems
  10. Time Delay

Each module includes a pre-assessment, objectives, an overview of the evidence-based practice, detailed information about the use of the EBP, step-by-step instructions for implementing the practice, case studies, a summary, a post-assessment, frequently asked questions, and references at the end.

EBP Briefs 2

For more information on the NPDC, visit their website at www.autismpdc.fpg.unc.edu