What is Happy Relaxed Engaged in ABA?

Reposted with permission from How To ABA

HRE is a more recent term in ABA that says a learner should be happy, relaxed, and engaged during ABA therapy. But what exactly does happy, relaxed, engaged mean? 

What is Happy, Relaxed, Engaged?

Dr. Gregory Hanley states in his paper, A Perspective on Today’s ABA, that individuals with autism learn better through joy. He says that we should have conversations with our learners about what they love and hate, and use that information to create a context in which they feel happy, relaxed, and engaged during their sessions. 

This helps them to feel safe and in control. So, our functional assessments need to incorporate practical control periods where students are happy, relaxed, and engaged. 

I recently Googled this term in order to give more information to some therapists I work with. And there’s really not a lot of content out there that expands on this terminology. We just assume that everybody knows what happy is, what relaxed is, and what engaged is. But that’s not always the case. So let’s break down those terms. 


So first of all, let’s look at “happy.” As ABA professionals, we need to get to a place where our student is really comfortable and prepared to learn. What does this look like? They’re content – they may be smiling or laughing – they are definitely not crying or trying to leave the situation. They desire to be in the moment. Period. That’s happy. But sometimes, people can be happy but they’re not always relaxed. 


What does “relaxed” look like? The individual is calm and not at all anxious. If you know the Zones of Regulation, they’re in the green zone. 

Now, let’s say you have a student that your therapist says is relaxed, but when he’s playing with something he gets really revved up. That’s not actually relaxed. We want the student to be calm, cool, and collected. No anxiety, no precursors to challenging behavior. That’s what relaxed means. 


Finally, what does “engaged” look like? Actual engagement means participation in activities. If there are toys around and the student is looking at them but not interacting with them (they may or may not be engaging in some stereotypy or self-stimulatory behavior), that is not engagement. True engagement means that your learner is actually interacting with the toys around them. This is also true for activities other than toys.  People can be engaged in any part of the environment around them.  Maybe they’re engaged with you or with the therapist. 

If a student is supposed to be on a movement break, but they’re just standing there doing nothing or engaging in stereotypy, that’s not engaged either. Watch and understand what true engagement looks like for your student and then have a conversation about it with your team so everyone can learn and adjust as needed.

Why is Happy, Relaxed, Engaged Important?

According to Dr. Hanley, when a learner is “happy, relaxed, and engaged,” you can show them that you hear them, see them, and are there for them. He says that a happy, relaxed, and engaged learner is less likely to engage in severe problem behavior, which will allow you to empower them and teach them more challenging skills.

We hope this gives you more insight into HRE.

Check out the How To ABA website for additional resources and free downloads.

About the Authors

Shayna Gaunt, MA, BCBA | With over 20 years in the field of ABA, Shayna is a master program developer. She has a unique knack for finding the practical application of ABA to real-life so that the interventions are doable and successful!

Shayna has been practicing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) since 1997. In 2005, after graduating with a Masters Degree in ABA from the University of Nevada Reno (UNR), she was one of the first in Ontario, Canada to obtain her BCBA. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Kid Mechanix, Inc. in Toronto, Canada, where she met Shira Karpel.

Shayna also has international experience, providing clinical expertise and training workshops to clients in Canada, United States, Costa Rica, England, Egypt and Qatar.

Because of her extensive training in a wide variety of interventions over the years, Shayna has a knack for developing unique, practical programs that teach across operants. She seriously thinks in data sheets!!!!

Shayna’s super-power is her ability to explain complex ABA principles in practical, relatable terms. She is a master program-developer and most of what you see in The Bx Resource is her ABA-mind put down on paper.  As a member of The Bx Resource, you get the privilege of learning from her and leveraging all that ABA knowledge for your own practice!

Shira Karpel, M.ED, BCBA | As a former teacher, Shira is passionate about spreading the benefits of ABA to more children.  She envisions a world where ABA is the go-to, accepted intervention in classrooms and homes everywhere!  She is the co-founder of How to ABA which was started to create a community where all BCBAs and ABA professionals can get support and resources so that clients can get the best treatment possible.

Shira has a Masters in Special Education and then went on to pursue her BCBA.  With extensive supervision and training (ahem, thanks Shayna!!), she has been working in the field of ABA since 2011.  Together with Shayna, they trained, and taught many therapists, clients, and parents and collected a massive bank of ABA programs and resources.  One day, the light bulb went off and Shira said, “We should be sharing all of this!” Hence, How to ABA was born!

Her passion is in creating positive, comprehensive learning environments for all students.  She loves that with her knowledge in ABA, she can now support teachers in their classrooms.  She is the Director of Behavioural Services at a private school in Toronto and is loving getting to make a difference in the lives of children and families daily. She is passionate about making the principles of ABA practical and doable and relevant to every child in any situation.

Posted in ABA

Review of Responsible and Responsive Parenting in Autism: Between Now and Dreams

Reviewed by David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D and William L. Heward, EdD, BCBA-D
Association for Science in Autism Treatment

This month’s ASAT feature comes to us from Executive Director David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D, Association for Science in Autism Treatment and William L. Heward, EdD, BCBA-D, Professor Emeritus, the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State University. To learn more about ASAT, please visit their website at www.asatonline.org. You can also sign up for ASAT’s free newsletter, Science in Autism Treatment, and like them on Facebook!

Parents of children with autism face many challenges beyond those directly associated with raising a child who may have a myriad of needs. They face a dizzying array of treatment options with interventions lacking any scientific basis, which are cleverly marketed and often eclipse those interventions enjoying scientific support. Access to qualified, compassionate providers may be difficult or delayed, particularly for children in rural communities, children of color, individuals who age out of the educational system, and families outside of the United States. Misconceptions and misinformation about autism and ways to help people with autism abound and those messages often distract and derail many parents from obtaining accurate information, support, and intervention. Parents who seek help for their children are often harshly criticized and labeled by some bloggers as lacking love or acceptance. Taken together, these realities can weigh heavily on parents who are just trying to help their children with autism develop independence and purpose, pursue their dreams, and live their best lives.

Fortunately, a new book provides a break from the vitriol, snake oil, and antagonism. Between Now and Dreams thoughtfully and artfully explains the complementary concepts of responsible and responsive parenting of children with autism. It provides a space for parents to reflect, to engage, and to look ahead.

Prior to offering details about this book, the first reviewer would like to share some background. I first met Shahla Ala’i-Rosales and Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe thirty years ago at the University of North Texas (UNT) when I was a newly hired Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology. Shahla was a behavior analyst, researcher, and practitioner in early autism intervention; Peggy, the mother of a son with autism, held an administrative job at the University. With a few other UNT colleagues, we formed a small working group to support each other in our individual efforts as well as to develop a community in which future collective efforts could take root. My time at UNT was brief, but I am so pleased (and a tad jealous) to know that Shahla and Peggy continued to collaborate and form a long-term friendship and professional alliance. Their book, Responsible and Responsive Parenting in Autism: Between Now and Dreams is a timely, and much needed gift to the autism community. Ala’i-Rosales and Heinkel-Wolfe share a series of interrelated events – challenges, plans, setbacks, and victories, large and small – in the lives of real children and their families (including their own). These stories demonstrate the importance of recognizing and celebrating children’s capabilities while encouraging and nurturing their self-actualization, individuality, and independence.

The authors put forth that raising a child with autism with an abundance of joy, purpose, and serenity relies on three interconnected powers: learning, connecting, and loving. Although the authors state that these powers are interconnected and that they influence and strengthen each other, Ala’i-Rosales and Heinkel-Wolfe have used them to organize their book into three unique parts. Each part is composed of several chapters; each chapter opens with a thoughtful quote that sets the stage for the lessons and wisdom that follows.

Part One: The Power of Learning  

Between Now and Dreams opens with a section devoted to principles of learning and how those principles can guide parents’ efforts to help develop their child’s fullest potential. The authors stress the need for creating and implementing carefully planned, intensive, positive applied behavior analysis (ABA) interventions in the home to keep children learning and moving forward in their lives. The abundance of examples discussed throughout this section showcase the vast applications of the science of behavior. Parents who are new to the autism journey will gain comfort in learning about principles that can be readily incorporated into their daily lives and appreciate a shift away from resolving problems to one of promoting empowerment and skill building, both for themselves, as well as for their children.

This section also chronicles the journey of ABA from its early applications to autism treatment, and to what the discipline has become today. The authors provide a sensitive and honest discussion of the bumps along the way.

Part Two: The Power of Connecting

This section of Between Now and Dreams will be invaluable for caregivers who may struggle with feelings of isolation, associated with both raising a child with many needs and experiencing the loss or shift in other relationships and career pursuits that may have followed their child’s diagnosis. Ala’i-Rosales and Heinkel-Wolfe beautifully capture the pursuit of supportive relationships, including with those who offer expertise and experience, as well as with other parents on very similar journeys. How one seeks and nurtures these relationships, as well as opting out when needed, is described with the same compassion and generosity reflected throughout the book.

Part Three: The Power of Loving 

The third section of Between Now and Dreams ties together the two prior sections. On its surface, a reader may assume that the section might focus myopically on positive emotions. Instead, the authors are realistic and don’t sugarcoat the challenges parents of children with autism face. Loss, fear, and disappointment are discussed openly in the context of numerous experiences, observations, and epiphanies. We left this section feeling grateful to the authors for being so incredibly transparent and vulnerable, yet insightful and encouraging in guiding us to be more active and loving parents.

Responsible and Responsive Parenting in Autism: Between Now and Dreams is an important, eloquently written, and engaging book for parents of children with autism of any age and who fall anywhere on the spectrum. It does not provide a cookie cutter approach, but rather a compassionately delivered collection of useful and practical suggestions that parents can select and tailor to their own home and goals.

Aside from behavior analysts, this book is also a must-read for teachers, therapists, medical providers, and others who work with children with autism. The content is accessible to those who are new to ABA and autism intervention, yet impactful for professionals with extensive training and experience.

Citation for this article:

Celiberti, D., & Heward, W. L. (2023). Book Review: Between Now and Dreams. Science in Autism Treatment, 20(3).

About the Authors

David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D, is the Executive Director of ASAT and Past-President, a role he served from 2006 to 2012. He is the Editor of ASAT’s monthly publication, Science in Autism Treatment. He received his PhD in clinical psychology from Rutgers University in 1993 and his certification in behavior analysis in 2000. Dr. Celiberti has served on a number of advisory boards and special interest groups in the field of autism, applied behavior analysis (ABA), and early childhood education. He works in private practice and provides consultation to public and private schools and agencies in underserved areas. He has authored several articles in professional journals and presents frequently at regional, national, and international conferences. In prior positions, Dr. Celiberti taught courses related to ABA at both undergraduate and graduate levels, supervised individuals pursuing BCBA certifications, and conducted research in the areas of ABA, family intervention, and autism.

William L. Heward, Ed.D., BCBA-D, is Professor Emeritus in the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State University. He has taught at universities in Brazil, Japan, Portugal, and Singapore and lectured and given workshops in 23 other countries. A Past President and Fellow of the Association for Behavior Analysis International, Bill’s publications include co-authoring the books, Let’s Make a Contract: A Positive Way to Change Your Child’s Behavior (2022), Applied Behavior Analysis (3rd ed., 2020), and Exceptional Children: An Introduction to Special Education (12th ed., 2022). Awards recognizing Dr. Heward’s contributions to education and behavior analysis include the Fred S. Keller Behavioral Education Award from the American Psychological Association’s Division 25, the Ellen P. Reese Award for Communication of Behavioral Concepts from the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, and the Distinguished Psychology Department Alumnus Award from Western Michigan University.

5 Ways to Support Your BCBAs

By Ashleigh Evans, MS, BCBA

Board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) are instrumental in the development and oversight of ABA services. Working in the ABA field can be incredibly rewarding, but also isolating and exhausting. One recent study found that 72% of ABA professionals experience moderate to high levels of burnout. Burnout can have serious implications for the individual, their clients, and the organization as a whole. One of the leading risk factors for burnout is a lack of support. By supporting your BCBAs, you can greatly reduce the risk of burnout in your organization. Let’s review 5 ways you can support your BCBAs.

1.   Provide Access to Stimuli, Technology, and Assessments

BCBAs need many things to be successful in the workplace. Data collection software and other forms of technology can greatly improve efficiency, streamline administrative tasks, and increase job satisfaction. Similarly, providing access to teaching stimuli can make a BCBA’s job much easier, allowing them to spend less time creating stimuli and more time doing what matters most–caring for their learners.

2.   Seek Feedback

Supervisors and employers regularly provide their employees with feedback on their performance. However, it’s important to remember that employers should also seek feedback from their employees, including their BCBAs. Feedback should always go both ways.

Just as ABA clinicians are continuously growing and improving, so should employers and organizations as a whole. While you may not be able to please every staff member all the time, seeking feedback from your team shows that you value their input and are motivated to improve the working conditions of your organization. Encourage open and honest feedback, but also create a system for anonymous feedback, as your staff may feel more comfortable providing feedback anonymously.

3.   Encourage a Healthy Work-Life Balance

While your BCBAs have dedicated so much of their lives to this field, their life revolves around more than solely work. Ensure your BCBAs have a healthy work-life balance. You can do this by establishing working hours and encouraging boundary setting outside of those hours. For example, if your BCBA’s work day ends at 5 pm, they should not feel obligated to answer client or staff phone calls after this time. A healthy work-life balance also includes taking time off. Encourage and honor your staff’s requests for time off.

4.   Provide Opportunities for Continuing Education

Continuing education is a requirement of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) for biennial recertification. The field of behavior analysis is vast and is constantly evolving. Ensuring your BCBAs have access to high-quality CEUs to expand their knowledge, keep up with the literature, and grow as clinicians will benefit your BCBAs, their learners, and your organization. It will also show them that you value their professional and personal growth.

5.   Set Realistic, Data-Driven Expectations

When setting workplace expectations (i.e., billable hours), ensure they are realistic and manageable. Furthermore, determine what is needed to help your BCBAs achieve these expectations and ensure you are providing support in those areas.

ABA professionals know the importance of following the data when making treatment decisions. This should extend into business practices as well. When establishing and modifying expectations, let the data lead the way. Let’s use billable hours as an example. Imagine you need to establish a billable hours expectation for your BCBAs. Using a behavior analytic approach, you would first identify the baseline number of hours that your BCBAs are currently achieving. If they have been successful at 20 hours/week, but you want them to hit 25 hours/week, approach this as you would with a client. Reinforce systematic approximations toward your end goal! You could first increase the expectation to 21 hours/week, then gradually increase the expectation as your BCBAs are successful.

Supporting your BCBAs using the above recommendations may significantly improve your BCBAs’ job satisfaction, improve client outcomes, and ultimately benefit your practice.


Camille Plantiveau, Katerina Dounavi & Javier Virués-Ortega (2018) High levels of burnout among early-career board-certified behavior analysts with low collegial support in the work environment, European Journal of Behavior Analysis, 19:2, 195-207, DOI: 10.1080/15021149.2018.1438339

Slowiak, J. M., & DeLongchamp, A. C. (2021). Self-Care Strategies and Job-Crafting Practices Among Behavior Analysts: Do They Predict Perceptions of Work-Life Balance, Work Engagement, and Burnout?. Behavior analysis in practice, 15(2), 414–432. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40617-021-00570-y

About the Author

Ashleigh Evans, MS, is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She has been practicing in the behavior analysis field for over 13 years and opened her own independent practice in early 2022. Her experience has been vast across different age groups, diagnoses, and needs. She is passionate about improving the field through education, reformative action, and better supervisory practices, leading her to create content and resources for families and ABA professionals which can be found on her website, www.evansbehavioralservices.com/.

How To Implement ABA In The Classroom

By Heather Hoeft, B.S., M.Ed., LBS1 | Reposted with permission from The Autism Helper

Many of us know the advantages to ABA (applied behavior analysis) and what it can do for not only people with Autism, but in changing any human behavior. ABA was not started because of Autistic individuals. ABA is the science of human behavior that uses techniques and strategies to change behavior. Using techniques that are aligned with ABA can be used within any classroom; special education, general education, with resource teachers, in outplacement schoolings, with related services, and so much more. ABA can be used for students and staff alike, and in this post, I will give some strategies on how!

What are the ABA Techniques?

The techniques that I am referring to are reinforcement, differential reinforcement, functional communication, prompting, modeling, discrete trial training, natural environment teaching, shaping, and chaining. All of these can be implemented within a classroom setting in some capacity. But how? I have lived how hard it can be to have many learners on individualized education programs as well as different reinforcement systems, related service schedules, mainstream minutes, etc. It is possible, but it isn’t easy, that I wouldn’t lie about. I have provided some examples below:

  • Reinforcement: There are many different types of reinforcement schedules within ABA. Although implementing them within the classroom per learner may be difficult, reinforcement schedules are possible. Using a token economy or task strips per learner will increase the likelihood of the targeted behavior within the classroom. It is also possible to use learner specific reinforcement within the classroom. This means that we can use M&Ms for Johnny and fidget spinners for Sally. Each learner still has their own set of reinforcers, and each learner should be on their own reinforcement system throughout the school day.
  • Functional communication: this should be a focus in all classrooms, whether a learner is using an AAC device, Picture exchange communication system, or using vocal language. Functional communication should be practiced with all learners throughout the day and is a skill that ;learners need to practice. Having communication skills within a repertoire specific to a learner will help decrease maladaptive behaviors and will make difficult behaviors more manageable to shape.
  • DTT: running DTT sessions can happen throughout center rotations and during other blocks of time throughout the school day appropriate for each learner. The educational team can meet and decide how many DTT table sessions per hour is appropriate per learner, as well as where they should be run and during what times of day they will be implemented. I take advantage of my related service team members and work together to create rotation scheduled throughout the whole week in order to maximize 1:1 time with each student in the class.
  • NET: In naturalistic teaching, the child sets the pace for learning in their daily routines. Naturalistic teaching capitalizes on a child’s natural interests, needs, and abilities. These strategies are incorporated in the moment throughout the school day instead of using a dedicated time period for treatment. Teachers using this strategy offer feedback and coaching for target behaviors as they happen so that they can minimize interference with learning. A type of naturalistic teaching specifically used to improve communication skills is incidental teaching. In incidental teaching, the environment is set up to encourage students to use communication skills to ask for what they want. Similarly, the natural language paradigm method involves arranging an environment to increase the chances for the student to use language.
  • Chaining: when teaching functional routines, choose what type of chaining procedure would be the best per routine and per learner (backwards chaining, forward chaining, whole chain). Mapping a plan out in the beginning per learner and per routine will make training staff much quicker and the learner will progress and gain the skills when the appropriate chaining procedure is in place.

What may be impossible in a classroom?

I don’t like to say that anything is impossible. It may be difficult to implement with fidelity which can be discouraging and of course a disadvantage. Of  course, the school setting has its own standards and skills assessments in which teachers much target to teach their students. Student goals may also last longer. From my experience in both an ABA clinical setting, a therapeutic day school setting, and a public-school setting, educational staff write goals that are broken down into benchmarks that typically last for one year. In an ABA setting, those benchmarks may be written as their own goal with specific targets listed underneath and they are meant to be taught quickly and move on to the next skill or subset of skills. Shaping behavior and running DTT centers may also be difficult. An increase in support staff and adult to student ratios would be key to be able to run these techniques within a classroom. All settings have their disadvantages, so I would recommend talking with administration and the educational team of each learner on what is a priority and what can be implemented per learner with fidelity and integrity.

The Autism Helper is here to help

Not only does The Autism Helper have resources available for many skills and units that can be implemented within a classroom, there is also a VB-MAPP assessment kit and an ABLLS-R assessment kit. Many of our wonderful bloggers have shared information on how to use these, and both of these assessments are my typical “go tos” when reviewing progress of my learners and looking to see where to go next with them.

About the Author

Heather Hoeft is special education teacher in the preschool setting. Heather shares strategies and ideas from her self-contained classroom. Her classroom utilizes Applied Behavior Analysis instructional methods of discrete trial training, pivotal response training, and teaching functional routines. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood from Northern Illinois University and Masters in Special Education from Concordia University.

Originally posted on The Autism Helper on January 18, 2023.

Posted in ABA

Top 3 Tips for Teaching Receptive and Expressive Language to Kids with Speech Delays

By Dr. Anton Shcherbakov, BCBA

There are many reasons that kids can experience a delay in speech development. Sometimes it’s because of a neurodevelopment disorder, such as autism or intellectual disability. Other kids may have an oral-motor coordination or hearing problem. Regardless of the cause, there are some simple strategies that can help kids communicate more. Please note, this information is not intended as a replacement for intervention by a trained professional. If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language development, your first step should be talking with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment.

Receptive vs. Expressive Language

Language skills can broadly be divided into receptive and expressive abilities.

Put simply, receptive language is the ability to recognize and understand words spoken by others. Receptive language abilities can be tested by giving a child a simple instruction such as “stand up,” “clap your hands,” or “come here.” The child does not have to respond verbally to demonstrate receptive language ability.

Expressive language is the ability to use words, gestures, and writing to communicate with others. It can also include the use of an augmentative communication device. Expressive language may be tested by asking a child, “What do you want?” or “What’s this?”.  There is frequently a discrepancy between what a child can understand receptively and what they can express. For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the expressive language repertoire can often grow more slowly than receptive language.

Top Three Tips for Increasing Language Skills

  • Start with Simple 1-Step Directions

We almost always start with teaching receptive language before expressive language. Why is that? It is usually easier for children, especially those with speech delays, to start by understanding the vocalizations of others. Producing vocalizations (or gestures) requires significantly more motor coordination. Fortunately, it is pretty easy to start teaching receptive language. In fact, your child may already understand some basic directions already! Some of the first words that most children understand are things like their name and simple directions like “look” and “come here.” You can add to this growing language base by teaching simple directions such as, ”give me,” “clap,” or “wave.”

  • Teach Words for What They Like

Once a child can follow a few simple 1-step directions, you can begin teaching them to understand the names of objects.  Start with objects they like because those are the easiest to learn. Gather 3 of their favorite objects and put them on a table. Then say, “Give me the ball.”  If they pick the right object, give a lot of praise (high fives, tickles, etc.). If they make a mistake, give them a gentle prompt by pointing to the object or picking it up and saying “this is the ball!”, and try again. Keep practicing, but keep each practice session short for early learners, just 5-10 minutes at a time. As the child’s vocabulary expands, you can start using pictures in place of physical objects. Why is that? Objects take up a lot of space and it can be hard to gather all the things you want them to learn about (e.g., lions and trees). Having pictures is also less distracting than having the real toy or food item in front of them.

  • Teach Requesting Skills

Once a child is able to reliably understand at least 5-10 words receptively, you can begin teaching some expressive language skills. The best way to start is by teaching them to ask for what they want! This is a built-in motivator for speaking. Hold some desired objects like toys and food just slightly out of reach. Prompt the child to name the object with an approximation of the word. For example, “ba” for ball or “ma” for mango. Keep practicing and refining the word so it gets more and more clear over time. Once the child is able to reliably ask for what they want, you can start having them label objects or pictures by holding it up to them and saying “What’s this?”. Provide prompts as needed and don’t forget to praise lavishly. Learning should be fun!

Last but not least, try to be patient! All children learn at a different pace and may need some help and practice to start talking more. Make sure to involve your child’s doctor in the conversation and seek professional help as needed.

About the Author

Dr. Anton Shcherbakov is a licensed psychologist and board certified behavior analyst. He has co-authored peer-reviewed research on topics that include depression and suicide prevention. He is also a nationally recognized expert and frequent presenter at national conferences on the treatment of anxiety, ADHD, autism spectrum, OCD, and related conditions. He previously taught at the Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology.

Dr. Shcherbakov is the co-founder of ThinkPsych, a company committed to making fun and evidence-based toys for social emotional learning. In addition to his work at ThinkPsych, he provides psychotherapy to children, adolescents, and adults at The Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia. In his free time, he enjoys traveling with his family, cooking meals with too many ingredients, and watching the latest Netflix documentary series.

Posted in ABA

A Review of Autism’s Declaration of Independence: Navigating Autism in the Age of Uncertainty

Reviewed by Marcia Questel, MSEd, BCBA and David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D, Association for Science in Autism Treatment

This month’s ASAT feature comes to us from Marcia Questel, BCBA, Content Editor, and Executive Director David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D, Association for Science in Autism Treatment. To learn more about ASAT, please visit their website at www.asatonline.org. You can also sign up for ASAT’s free newsletter, Science in Autism Treatment, and like them on Facebook!

The autism community has many fine advocates for individuals with autism and their families and Gary Mayerson is one of the finest. Prior to sharing a review of the contents of the book, we wanted to provide a bit of background for our readers. Just weeks before Autism’s Declaration of Independence: Navigating Autism in the Age of Uncertainty was published; the world was devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than delay the distribution of the book, Mr. Mayerson expanded its contents to address systems turned upside down and new challenges facing our community. So, beyond the high quality of the original content, these efforts shine through pages of COVID-19 dedicated content, aimed at assisting families with pandemic-related questions and concerns. At the same time, Mr. Mayerson was working behind the scenes to ensure that basic legal safeguards were not compromised. Along with helping the families he served to navigate service provisions through the pandemic, he was able to publish this informative book containing crucial information about individual and family rights with rich application before and during the pandemic, and thereafter.

Part 1 – Knowing Your Child’s Rights and How to Apply Them

Mr. Mayerson released a field guide for parents in 2004 titled How to Compromise with Your School District Without Compromising Your Child. He introduces this new 2020 book with how an “age of uncertainty” has developed since then, and he explains the issues being faced by individuals with autism and their families today. Part 1 is comprised of chapters that address a vast array of topics, many of which have become more salient given the current pandemic. Prior to highlighting several of these chapters, we wanted to provide readers with a list of topics to help them assess if this resource addresses their needs as well as which chapter may bear relevance to their current circumstances:

  • Chapter 1: The autism diagnosis and its impact on the family
  • Chapter 2: What does the right to a “free and appropriate” education mean for my child?
  • Chapter 3: Generalization
  • Chapter 4: Managing your child’s right to be educated in the “least restrictive environment”
  • Chapter 5: How can parents obtain independent evaluations at school district expense
  • Chapter 6: How parents can manage and shape the IEP process
  • Chapter 7: Considering claims against school districts – What relief is available?
  • Chapter 8: When all else fails – Filing for an impartial hearing (due process)
  • Chapter 9: Managing safety considerations
  • Chapter 10: Dealing with suspensions and other disciplinary proceedings
  • Chapter 11: The threat of criminal charges
  • Chapter 12: When a residential placement may be warranted
  • Chapter 13: Preparing for the transition to adulthood – The main event
  • Chapter 14: Confronting bullying and discrimination in the workspace
  • Chapter 15: Guardianship, special needs trusts, and powers of attorney
  • Chapter 16: The advent of telehealth instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Chapter 17: The road ahead – Institutionalizing high expectations and discontent

Although it is beyond the scope of this brief review to discuss each of the chapters, here is a sample of highlights. Note that there is so much more to find within this book, but these were selected to simply introduce readers to what they can expect.

Chapter 2: What does the right to a “free appropriate” public education mean for my child? 

In this chapter, Mr. Mayerson (2020) explains the history of the development of a student’s right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Beyond how the laws developed, he defines what FAPE truly means and how schools must adhere to it. Importantly, this chapter provides and explains the educational laws by name, providing families with clarity and arming them with knowledge.

Chapter 4: Managing your child’s right to be educated in the “least restrictive environment” 

This vital chapter highlights the need for students to be truly included in the educational opportunities offered in their school districts. Yet, there is an important balance that districts must strike between placing students in least restrictive environments and still providing all of the educational supports that they need for success. It begins with a mother’s personal story about inclusion and ends with important questions for parents to consider about inclusive placements. Between these, Mr. Mayerson (2020) describes laws pertaining to inclusion in depth, and his experiences advocating for least restrictive environments for students with autism.

Chapter 8: When all else fails – Filing for an impartial hearing (due process) 

This chapter describes many issues related to filing for an impartial hearing for your child’s educational needs. Sections include “Litigating a Case Against the District’s ‘Teacher of the Year,’” “Do Parents Always Need to Hire Counsel to File for Due Process?”, “Preserving and Invoking your Child’s ‘Pendency’ Entitlements,” “Settlement Considerations,” and several others. This chapter thoroughly explains varying situations which may lead a caregiver to filing for an impartial hearing. It provides guidance for parents going through these challenging situations. Readers should take note of the many footnotes found within this chapter that provide even further clarity.

Chapter 9: Managing Safety Considerations 

When parents of children with special needs share their priorities, they most often describe safety concerns. This vital chapter delves deep into issues related to elopement, fire and lockdown drills, COVID-19 related risks, unexplained injuries, police encounters, medications, allergies, bullying, and sexual abuse. Mr. Mayerson (2020) provides accounts of his experiences, and that of others, and shares practical advice that parents can take to help keep their children safe – as well as how to respond when they discover that their children have been in an unsafe situation.

Chapter 16: The advent of telehealth instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic 

While this chapter was written towards the beginning of the pandemic, there is useful advice within it for parents today, especially considering that the pandemic is not over.While many school districts have opened their doors to in-person instruction, there are still others using hybrid and remote options. Furthermore, many districts are compelled to quickly return to online or hybrid instruction with spikes in community transmission, school-based outbreaks, or as circumstances require. Mr. Mayerson (2020) dedicated this chapter to helping families navigate their rights and ensuring that their experiences are well-documented throughout the pandemic, to help secure service provisions for their children.

As you can appreciate from the table of contents shared above as well as the select chapter summaries, the scope of the content presented is vast. Anecdotes of Mr. Mayerson’s personal experiences, as well as those of families, brought many of the points to life and the author made many deep dives into specificity when warranted. There are many well placed sample letters that parents can use as models of both tone and substance offered throughout Part 1.

Part 2 – Advice From the Experts

In Part 2 of Autism’s Declaration of Independence: Navigating Autism in the Age of Uncertainty, Mayerson (2020) showcases “Advice from the Experts” and a brief summary of each of these sections is included below.

Appendix A: Teaching generalization for a more independent and enriched life. 

In this section, authored by Dr. Amy Davis-Lackey, the important topic of generalization is addressed, and a helpful overview of key concepts is provided as carryover and flexible application of skills is paramount. Perhaps one of the most important points relates to the suggestion of a road map related to each target so that generalization efforts can be planned systematically and strategically. We would like to highlight for our readers that generalization is a priority for many providers who use discrete trial instruction. For these providers, the road map suggested by Dr. Davis-Lackey is often built right into the item list and mastery is not celebrated until key generalization indicators are met.

Appendix B: Observing and assessing mainstream, inclusion, and special education classrooms – What I look for 

Dr. David Salsberg describes many placement options available for students with autism that are provided by their school districts. He notes that while these placements look different from school to school, it is vital for practitioners to be aware of what they offer. He advises about what he “looks for” in these placements, noting that neuropsychologists must be well-equipped to advise their clients. Besides knowing about potential placements that are appropriate for their clients, they are also responsible for understanding “the applicable rights and laws (p. 175).” Dr. Salsberg explains with fervor how crucial it is that neuropsychologists guide families, saying that “Conducting an evaluation but then making generic recommendations such as ‘contact your local district to initiate an IEP meeting’ would be like going for a checkup and your doctor saying ‘it looks like you have an infection and you need some medicine, but go to your pharmacy and ask what they think and how to get it (p. 175).’” He goes on through this section to discuss various placements (general education classes, inclusion classes, self-contained classes, specialized schools, and private special education schools) and what they offer, as well as what to consider when weighing these options.

Appendix C: Using assessments and evaluations to develop a reasonable calculated and appropriately ambitious IEP 

Dr. Jennifer Oratio, Ph.D. describes the differences between evaluations conducted by school professionals and a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation in this section. She dives deep into the various types of tests that are administered in these evaluations, explaining what they measure in quantitative terms and what they mean for the child in qualitative terms. Parents and professionals must have a deep understanding of these measurements so that they can work to create the most “appropriately ambitious IEP” that they can. Dr. Oratio describes intelligence measurements, such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fifth Edition ® (WISC-V®), the Test of Nonverbal Intelligence, Fourth Edition™ (TONI-4 ™), as well as important measurements of language ability, visual-spatial and visual-motor skills, memory, executive functioning, academic achievement tests, and assessments of social/emotional/behavioral skills. She provides detail regarding the assessments used in each of these domains. She goes on to discuss adaptive skills assessments and autism-specific assessments. Beyond describing these crucial measures of skills and deficits and describing how they impact the success of the child, Dr. Oratio explains how to share these evaluations with school professionals, and most importantly how to ensure that they are considered through the development of the IEP with the school district.

Appendix D: Evaluating speech and language needs with the right assessment tools. 

In this section, authored by Dr. Steven Blaustein, CCC-SLP, a description of the essential components of a speech report is offered. As reflected throughout this book, the content is comprehensive yet accessible and the blueprint provided can raise the bar for both providers and parents alike. In fact, the content can be applied to other disciplines such as occupational therapy to maximize the utility, relevance, and benefit of written reports.

Appendix E: Bullying tips for parents: Q & A with Michael Dreiblatt of Non-Profit STAND up to Bullying 

In this final section of the book, Michael Dreiblatt shares a wealth of advice for parents who are concerned about bullying in their child’s school. He shares tips for bystanders who are witnesses to bullying, advises parents about clear warning signs that their child may be being bullied at school, provides instructions for school staff who wish to have a policy that protects against bullying, and more. This section is for anyone who is related to, or is working with, students (who need proactive support to prevent bullying), a victim of bullying, or even a person who is behaving like a bully.

This entire book sheds tremendous light on issues related to autism, and the laws that are in place to protect the rights of individuals. While it is overflowing with practical and immediately useful advice, it is not overwhelming or verbose. Mr. Mayerson (2020) makes great use of every page, which has led to the creation of a condensed book filled with issues of great importance to individuals and families, along with steps that they can take to protect their rights amid a wide variety of situations and conditions. We highly recommend this book for parents and providers alike.


Mayerson, G. (2020). Autism’s declaration of independence: Navigating autism in the age of uncertainty. Different Roads to Learning.

Mayerson, G (2004). How to compromise with your school district without compromising your child: A field guide for getting effective services for children with special needs. DRL Books.

Citation for this article

Questel, M., & Celiberti, D. (2021). Review of Autism’s declaration of independence: Navigating autism in the age of uncertainty. Science in Autism Treatment, 18(10).

About the Authors

Marcia Questel is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with a master’s degree in special education (concentration – autism) and graduate certificate in applied behavior analysis. She has been working with invidivuals with autism for over 20 years. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in developmental psychology with a focus on developmental disorders, where her passion for researching executive functioning (EF) and Theory of Mind (ToM) began. Marcia works in private practice, providing consultation to families and faculty. She is the Content Editor for Science in Autism Treatment and the Externship Co-Coordinator for the Association for Science in Autism Treatment. She is researching access and effectiveness of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also creates supportive content for parents and professionals, including free workshops available on the ABAskills YouTube page. In Yale’s Affect Regulation and Cognition lab, she is researching emotions and relationships among teenagers and their parents. Marcia also enjoys research that explores the relationship between EF and emotion regulation.

David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D, is the Executive Director of ASAT and Past-President, a role he served from 2006 to 2012. He is the Editor of ASAT’s monthly publication, Science in Autism Treatment. He received his PhD in clinical psychology from Rutgers University in 1993 and his certification in behavior analysis in 2000. Dr. Celiberti has served on a number of advisory boards and special interest groups in the field of autism, applied behavior analysis (ABA), and early childhood education. He works in private practice and provides consultation to public and private schools and agencies in underserved areas. He has authored several articles in professional journals and presents frequently at regional, national, and international conferences. In prior positions, Dr. Celiberti taught courses related to ABA at both undergraduate and graduate levels, supervised individuals pursuing BCBA certifications, and conducted research in the areas of ABA, family intervention, and autism.

Posted in ABA

Show Me Something New! How to Introduce New Reinforcers

By Dana Reinecke, PhD, BCBA-D

Resistance to change and preference for sameness are core features of autism.  It can be natural to avoid new things, especially if change is overwhelming. While this may be more comfortable for the individual in the short term, there are long-term consequences, including  difficulty in contacting new reinforcers and reduced access to learning opportunities.  Over time, the individual may lose out on potentially pleasant and exciting experiences, even becoming bored and unmotivated by the things they previously really enjoyed.

How can we help with this situation? 

We can start by looking at how frequently new experiences are offered to the individual.  If they are pretty resistant to new things and have demonstrated that in the past, their loved ones, staff, and teachers may have taken a step back and started to avoid even offering new experiences, toys, activities, food, people, or settings. While we would not want to deliberately upset someone, we can work towards making opportunities for exposure to new things available in a gentle, supportive way.

Plan New Things

For some, exposure to new things can be made more tolerable by letting them know what is going to happen ahead of time, and explaining what the expectations will be.  For example, “Tomorrow we are going to put on a new movie when you finish your homework.  You can watch it if you want, or you can play with your toys.  It’s totally up to you!”  Or, a picture of a new movie might be added to the person’s activity schedule and the same message reviewed with them using fewer words.

Some families might choose to establish a “try new things” day every week.  The whole family can get in on it, to provide encouragement and modeling.  For example, Mom, Dad, and child might each pick one new food to try every Saturday.  Or, everyone in the family can decide on something new that they want to learn before some milestone occurs.  For example, each family member could plan to learn about one new animal or dinosaur before an upcoming holiday. 

Pair Reinforcers

Exposure to new things can also be eased by pairing the new item or activity with something (or someone) that is already reinforcing.  A favorite aunt or uncle who brings over and plays with a new toy with great enthusiasm may draw in a child’s attention and willingness to engage more quickly than if the toy is just handed to the child or left for them to discover.  Similarly, an older child might be more willing to try a new interest like playing a sport or learning a craft if something else that is pleasurable is also happening, like a favorite snack, music, or friend to do the new activity with.

In a similar way, new activities can be combined with old favorites.  For some children who are very attached to particular characters, it can be helpful to introduce their beloved characters into new activities.  For example, a child who loves Elmo from Sesame Street is more likely to be interested in a new activity like coloring if the coloring books include Elmo pictures.  We can also get creative with mixing interests from different places.  An individual who really loves trains might begin to develop interests in geography by learning about train routes through different states.  The conversation can gradually be guided from trains to the places where the trains run, to eventually interesting facts about those places.

Be Patient

Exposure to new items and activities does not need to include any requirements to engage with the new items and activities.  It may take several exposures before an individual is even willing to look at or start to engage with something new.  This is okay and it’s preferable to let interest and willingness occur naturally, even if slowly.  Trying to force engagement will likely only make the new activity or item aversive and something to be avoided, which is definitely not what we want to do.  Patience is key, along with a willingness to continue to increase exposure to new items and activities.  Not every new thing will wind up being a favorite or even enjoyed, but over time some likely will become preferred.  More important, newness and change will become more tolerable, opening the person up to worlds of possibility. 

About the Author

Dana Reinecke, Ph.D., BCBA-D is a New York State Licensed Psychologist and Licensed Behavior Analyst (LBA).   Dana is an Assistant Program Director in the Applied Behavior Analysis department at Capella University, overseeing the PhD in Behavior Analysis program and mentoring doctoral learners.  She is also co-owner of SupervisorABA, an online platform for BACB supervision curriculum and documentation.  Dana has provided training and consultation to school districts, private schools, agencies, and families for individuals with disabilities. She has published her research in peer-reviewed journals, written chapters in published books, and co-edited books on ABA and autism.  Current areas of research include use of technology to support students with and without disabilities, self-management training of college students with disabilities, and online teaching strategies for effective college and graduate education.  Dana is a Past President of the New York State Association for Behavior Analysis (NYSABA).

Posted in ABA

Do’s and Don’ts of Fidgets

This week, Different Roads is proud to share some tips from Nancy Hammill and Understood on the dos and don’ts of fidgets, both in the classroom and at home!

Fidgets, like squeeze balls and key chains, are self-regulation tools that promote movement and tactile input. They can be great for kids who struggle with attention, focus and sensory processing.

But in my many years as a teacher and parent, I’ve often seen them misused. When I see a child throw a squeeze ball across the room or obsess over making shapes out of Silly Putty, I know something’s gone wrong.

The problem is we often hand fidgets to kids without any direction, thinking they’ll magically know how to use them. Then when they play with them—rather than use them as a tool—we get angry.

That’s why it’s important to teach kids how to use fidgets. Here’s what I suggest.

How to Use Fidgets

First, explain to your child that a fidget is one strategy in her “tool kit” to help her improve focus on a task. When used correctly in the right situation, fidgets can help her be a better listener, sustain attention on her work, and even calm down or slow down her body and mind.

Basically, a fidget is a tool to help her focus—not a toy.

Second, work with your child to identify specific times she might need a fidget. For example, she might need it when she’s doing homework or needs to sit still in a movie theater.

Third, set up clear rules for how to use fidgets in your home, and communicate them to your child. If you’re unsure where to start, here are my “non-negotiables”:

  • Rule #1: Be mindful. Before you grab a fidget, think about whether you need it. If you don’t know, review rule #2.
  • Rule #2: You can only use a fidget to help with focus and attention or to calm down. Otherwise it will be taken away.
  • Rule #3: Don’t use a fidget if it distracts others or interferes with the work others are doing. If the fidget does distract others or interfere with their work, use a different fidget or strategy.
  • Rule #4: Every time you’re done with a fidget, put it back where it belongs. (In our house, we keep fidgets in a designated basket.)

If you want to try a fidget with your child, there are many options to choose from. Experiment to find what works best for your child. But I recommend that you don’t get a fidget that has a cute face or that looks like a toy. Your child needs to remember that fidgets are tools.

When you’re ready, you can set up a fidget basket (or other spot), print the rules, and put the rules in a place where your child can easily see and review them.


Nancy Hammill is the 2016 National Learning Disabilities Educator of the Year, awarded by Understood founding partner the Learning Disabilities Association of America. She has 20 years of experience as a classroom teacher, literacy specialist and learning therapist.

About Understood: The professionals who advise parents on Understood are all experts in their fields. They include educators, learning and attention specialists, physicians, psychologists, lawyers and more. They share a commitment to children with learning and attention issues.

Posted on March 30, 2017 by Different Roads to Learning

Posted in ABA

Cultural Competency in ABA Practice

By Maithri Sivaraman, BCBA

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) on their website lists credentialed behavior analysts from 99 countries spanning across 6 continents. Behavior analysts and consumers of behavior analysis are now establishing footprints across the globe. Each of these countries comes with its own set of cultural practices and norms. Leon Megginson, author of Small Business Management said, “it is not the strongest, or the most intelligent who survives, but the one most responsive to change.” Considering the high rates of global migration and the international dissemination that our field desires, practitioners find themselves serving an increasingly diverse population. A recent article in Behavior Analysis in Practice by Andrea Dennison and colleagues highlights the variations in cultural norms, caregiver and practitioner linguistic competencies that a culturally competent ABA therapist must consider when designing a home program.

What are the barriers?

The Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board requires that behavior analysts consider the role of culture in service delivery (BACB code 1.05c), involve clients and families in treatment process (BACB code 4.02), and individualize the treatment plan to meet client needs (BACB code 4.03). Yet the BACB Fourth Edition Task List and the upcoming Fifth Edition Task List which define the scope of practice of a credentialed behavior analyst do not make much mention of culture – which means that training programs do not typically include cultural competence. Dennison and colleagues (2019) identified several barriers in ABA treatment for culturally and linguistically diverse families and highlighted ways to overcome them.

Do we hold stereotypes?

With the influence of the media or the people around us, we tend to categorize people into social groups and create a simplified conception of the group based on some assumptions – we create stereotypes and hold prejudices. Implicit biases held by a practitioner towards certain cultural sub-groups may result in a subtle, yet observable bias towards the client, and adversely impact treatment outcomes. Dennison et al (2019) suggest that a practitioner’s “self-reflection and introspection regarding cultural attitudes and practices towards clients” may be a first step towards undoing these biases.

Are we aware of cultural norms?

Practitioners often find themselves in a variety of contexts and situations with varying contingencies. Each culture comes with its own set of learned behaviors, beliefs, and norms. Dennison and colleagues add that some cultures might prefer a warm, informal discussion with a service provider prior to a formal meeting to discuss goals. A violation of this might seem off-putting to the client, and conversely, such an expectation for an informal discussion might catch the analyst unaware. In some cultures even a simple handshake for greeting might be offensive. They recommend that practitioners monitor clients for signs of discomfort or displeasure during the course of the treatment to identify whether a cultural norm has been violated.

What to do when a practitioner doesn’t speak the home language of the client?

A language mismatch between the practitioner’s language and the home language of the client might lead to information loss. A client might not be able to completely express their priorities in terms of the services they need. Dennison urges practitioners to make every attempt to invite a bilingual practitioner or interpreter either in-person or online, to future family meetings. Providing the family with access to ABA textbooks written in their home language might be a good way to introduce ABA terminology and lead to better acceptability of services delivered. The authors caution against using loosely translated words; online tools might not be ideal for activities that require precise definitions.

Cultural analysis

“A cultural analysis involves an individual analysis of the cultural factors affecting an individual’s environment and the resulting contingency,” the authors add. A re-assessment of priorities in goals might be warranted, and a cultural analysis might inform what behaviors are identified as the primary targets for intervention. Dennison refers to the importance of social etiquette and the value placed on conflict avoidance in Latin cultures as an example. Measuring social validity might give the analyst information about whether the family sees the behavior change as meaningful.

Empathy grows as we learn

Try not to stigmatize immigrant families as “uncaring” for not seeking services earlier. Several socioeconomic stressors such as lack of housing and transportation availability likely play a role in their decision. The authors urge practitioners to empathize with these families and add that attempts to empathize can be made even if the practitioner and family do not share a common home language.

Finally, the lack of diversity in research with the omission of demographic details such as language and ethnicity of participants in scientific publications overlooks the critical value of such information. This calls for a shift in the field towards intentionally inclusive subject recruitment and the reporting of such information.

A culturally competent behavior analyst is not one who knows everything there is to know about every culture. This would be impossible. It is someone who can acknowledge that patterns of cultural difference may be present, and are then able to view a situation from a different cultural perspective than one’s own. Maintaining a curiosity about each client’s culture, and having an open dialogue with them about their background, ethnicity, and belief system can result in a positive outcome for the client and the analyst.

“If we are going to live with our deepest differences then we must learn about one another.”  ― Deborah J. Levine


Dennison, A., Lund, E., Brodhead, M., Mejia, L., Armenta, A., & Leal, J. (2019). Delivering Home-Supported Applied Behavior Analysis Therapies to Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Families. Behavior Analysis in Practice, OnlineFirst, 1-12.

About The Author

Maithri Sivaraman is a BCBA with a Masters in Psychology from the University of Madras and holds a Graduate Certificate in ABA from the University of North Texas. She is currently a doctoral student in Psychology at Ghent University, Belgium. Prior to this position, Maithri provided behavior analytic services to children with autism and other developmental disabilities in Chennai, India. She is the recipient of a dissemination grant from the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB) to train caregivers in function-based assessments and intervention for problem behavior in India. She has presented papers at international conferences, published articles in peer-reviewed journals and has authored a column for the ‘Autism Network’, India’s quarterly autism journal. She is the International Dissemination Coordinator of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT) and a member of the Distinguished Scholars Group of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies.

Previously published on Different Roads to Learning on November 14, 2019.

Posted in ABA

Supporting Your Child with Visual Timers

By Ashleigh Evans, MS, BCBA

Time is a challenging concept for children to grasp. It is even more difficult for concrete thinkers, as many neurodiverse children are. Children with autism tend to understand concrete concepts better than abstract ones, like time. Visual timers and other supports can help bridge the gap, giving children a better understanding of time. 

What is a visual timer?

Visual timers allow you to observe the passage of time through visual cues. There are different types of visual timers. The type you choose will depend on a number of factors, such as your child’s preference and your intended use of the timer.

Here are a few options

The Time Timer demonstrates the passage of time with a colored disk that fades away as time passes. With this timer, your child can easily observe the color closing in as the time passes.

Time Timers are great for longer activities, as you can set them for up to one hour.

Sand timers are another great option to demonstrate the passage of time. Each sand timer has a different duration. They come in durations of 1 minute, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, and 10 minutes. Simply flip it over and watch the sand flow down. When the minutes are up, the sand will be entirely at the bottom.

The Time Tracker is a unique and customizable visual timer. The green, yellow, and red sections light up to serve as warnings for the amount of time left for an activity. You can program the time each section lights up, making it customizable to your needs.

How can visual timers be used at home?

Visual timers are great for helping with transitions, whether big or small.

Here are a few ideas for using visual timers with your child at home

  • To show the remaining time in an activity. Transitioning away from a favorite activity like screen time or playing outside can cause distress for many children. A visual timer can make these transitions easier by providing a visual cue before the activity is over.

  • To help your child wait for an upcoming activity. Waiting is not easy. For children with a limited understanding of time, being told to wait may feel the same as being told “no.” To help your child understand what “wait” means, set your visual timer to allow them to observe the amount of time they need to wait.

  • For morning and bedtime routines. A Time Timer with a dry-erase board can be beneficial to help your child work through morning, bedtime, or any other routines. Set the timer for each task and check each off as you go through the routine.

  • To teach your child how long to engage in an activity. If your child tends to rush through activities they should be spending more time on, set a visual timer to help them identify how long to spend in that activity. Brushing teeth, for example, is a daily task that many children tend to rush through. A visual timer is a great way to help them learn how long to spend brushing.

Review the visual timer with your child and set expectations before using it. This will help things run more smoothly when you begin using it. Don’t worry if it doesn’t click right away. It may take time for your child to understand how the visual relates to the activity. With consistency, your child should be able to understand the concept of time better.

About the Author

Ashleigh Evans, MS, is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She has been practicing in the behavior analysis field for over 13 years and opened her own independent practice in early 2022. Her experience has been vast across different age groups, diagnoses, and needs. She is passionate about improving the field through education, reformative action, and better supervisory practices, leading her to create content and resources for families and ABA professionals which can be found on her website, www.evansbehavioralservices.com/.

Posted in ABA