Outlaw Fidget Spinners???

This week,  Linda Hodgdon, M.Ed., CCC-SLP shares her thoughts on the rising popularity of fidget spinners. This piece originally appeared on her blog at  www.usevisualstrategies.com


OK. . .so I got 5 fidget spinners for 5 grandchildren. Amazingly, there were 5 colors available so there would be no confusion over which spinner belonged to which child.

Then BAM. . .

School banned them!

No fidget spinners in school!

Well. . . .can you guess my immediate reaction?

Why not teach the students the correct way to use them? My logic says that would be a good goal. But obviously that school staff didn’t look at it with my logic.

Are fidget spinners a distraction or a learning tool?
I guess that depends on how you use them. It’s just like technology. Tech tools can be a huge helper for students or they can become an obsession for games and activities that cause students to hyper focus so they miss what’s important to pay attention to.

This is not just an autism thing. It’s also an ADHD thing. And a typically developing young child thing. Older kids, too. And don’t forget adults.

The internet has information
I’ve read a number of internet articles telling how wonderful fidget spinners are, but there seems to be more information about what’s bad.  Here are examples.

  1. A young child took the fidget spinner apart and accidentally swallowed pieces when he put them in his mouth. Surgery needed.
  2. Some adults are concerned because spinner parts may have mercury or lead. Health hazard.
  3. Teachers react to how disruptive spinners are in class.

But this complaint is most interesting
It’s written by young woman on the spectrum. She shares how students who need to stim in order to concentrate have endured years of training to have “Quiet Hands” or demonstrate other “normal” behaviors. Now, all of a sudden, a businessman writes about being able to concentrate better at staff meetings with a fidget toy. She concludes,

“Something that was considered entirely pathological and in dire need of correction when done by disabled people is now perfectly acceptable because it is being done by non-disabled people.”

Good point
Makes me think how some describe autism “behaviors” as meaningful and typical, but just occurring more frequently or intensely than those without autism might do.

One point worth considering
In defense of the teachers out there, I’m thinking of the “criteria” for a good fidget toy. I’ve listed them out in my speaking programs.  For example:

  • Small enough to fit in your hand or pocket
  • Doesn’t make noise
  • Not distracting to others
  • Doesn’t bounce
  • Has movement or texture or something that will engage the hand of the individual

Fidget spinners fall short for some of my criteria even though they rate very high on social interest.

Are there other options?
The problem with fads is that they go out as fast as they come in.  I’ll bet that by the time the new school year starts in the fall, fidget spinners will be lying in the bottom of a drawer somewhere and there will be a new fad for a new school year.


What is your experience with fidget spinners or other fidget toys?  I’d love to hear.  Just click below or comment on my Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/lindahodgdon.autism


About The Author

Linda Hodgdon, M.Ed., CCC-SLP is a Speech-Language Pathologist who is internationally known as a pioneer in developing the use of visual strategies to support communication for students with the communication, behavior or social skill challenges that are common in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

As an author, speaker and consultant, she has become well known world wide for her very practical information and strategies that guide communication partners to develop effective communication relationships with their children with autism.

With a focus on communication, Linda’s books and training programs are packed with “best-practices” and proven strategies for helping individuals from young children with autism through adults with Asperger’s participate more effectively in their life opportunities.

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Posted in ABA

COPING WITH CHANGE: ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Other “Issues”

This week, we’re pleased to present a piece from Dr. Eric Nach, Ph.D., M.Ed., A.S.D. Cert on supporting children through times of change. 

“Our children” are often identified as being “creatures of habit”, they tend to be highly regimented and rigid in their ways of thinking and acting. Virtually any type of change in environment and routine can become a massive dilemma for all children and teens, especially “our children” with “varied needs”.

Our children will have many new experiences to encounter as the school year winds down, summer vacation begins, and then the summer winds down and the school year begins again. Many parents experience either “selective forgetting” or feelings of “dread” as our children transition through these changes year after year.

So what’s a parent to do to help their child transition through times of change? Here are some suggestions based on my decades of teaching, training, and counseling children, teens, young adults and their families with special needs

  1. Parents can and should use “modeling and role-playing” to help their child prepare for the ending or beginning of a new routine.
  2. Parents can spend time, along with siblings “training” their child how to create new routines and especially how to have some level of flexibility in these time of transitioning.
  3. Parents can develop a clear-cut timetable for the transition so their child will know what to expect and how they will still be able to have time to do preferred tasks. Even though little occurs perfectly, knowing what to expect will bring comfort to our children.
  4. Parents typically get best results by explaining Who, What, When, Where, and How factors play into the transitioning events and activities their child will experience. How this information is presented is just as important as when and where. During times of stress and turmoil is NOT the time to discuss potential changes, wait until our child and their environment are at peace to have these discussions.
  5. Parents need to have their child be part of the decision making process to establish better buy-in.
  6. Parents who create a “reward schedule” for a relatively smooth transition are most likely to see a less traumatic transition period.
  7. Parents who understand that it will take time and work for their children to get acclimated to a new routine and that they will likely experience some struggles as they go tend to be happiest. We are looking for “progress not perfection”.
  8. Parents who keep routine as times of change occur tend to be happiest. Parents who continue with light academics and various types of therapies that the child typically experiences throughout the school year tend to have a smoother time at transitioning and experience the least amount of regression of skills throughout the summer months. Social skills groups, camps, and activities where our children can experience successes lead to better social, academic, and behavioral development.

This piece originally appeared on the Support for Students Growth Center website and at www.nachacademy.com


About The Author

Dr. Eric Nach has nearly 25 years experience working with children with special needs and their families.

Dr. Nach is the CEO and primary facilitator of the “Support For The Autism Spectrum Group Inc.” dba “Support for Students Growth Center” located in Boca Raton, FL. At the “learning and counseling center” he and his team of professionals provide *Therapeutic Social Skills Groups, *Learning Strategies and Organizational Strategies Groups, *Behavior Modification Programs, *Individual and Family Coaching and Counseling, *Therapeutic Summer/Winter Camps and *Post-Transitioning Groups for people with special needs, including Autism Spectrum Disorders, Learning Disabilities, Communication Challenges, Behavioral Disorders and Varying Exceptionalities.

Dr Nach is in the final stages of publishing a book to assist parents, educators, administrators, and other professionals to be successful in educating, training and counseling children and adolescents with ASD’s as they navigate the secondary school maze.

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Tip Of The Week: Food Selectivity

In this month’s ASAT feature, Jill K Belchic-Schwartz PhD offers helpful hints for assessing and treating food selectivity. 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!

I am a behavior analyst working with a 6-year-old child with a very limited food repertoire. Do you have any assessment and treatment recommendations that can guide my efforts to address this area?

Food selectivity is a fairly common issue with children who have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Many children who have been diagnosed with an ASD have difficulties with rigidity and a need for sameness, and this holds true for their food preferences as well. This can be very distressing for parents and caregivers.

Prior to initiating a feeding intervention, it is important to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be perpetuating the child’s feeding difficulties. Common medical concerns include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and/or food allergies or intolerances. Any underlying medical issues should be treated prior to implementing a feeding program. Once any medical treatment is underway, you can begin to tackle the child’s food selectivity from a behavioral standpoint. If a multidisciplinary feeding clinic is nearby, encourage the parents of the child with whom you are working to consider scheduling an appointment for him/her to be evaluated.

When treating any child with food selectivity, the first step is to take a very detailed feeding history. Ask about the child’s first experiences with breast or bottle feeding, transitioning to baby food and how they handled the transition to more highly textured foods. Get a current detailed feeding diary. It is also very important to gather information about the setting in which the child eats. Does he sit at the kitchen table for all meals or is he allowed to graze throughout the day? Are mealtimes predictable and do they occur at regularly scheduled intervals and at the same time each day? Is the child “brand specific” and eat only a specific brand of food? Will the child eat only one flavor (e.g., strawberry/banana yogurt)? How is the food presented? How long is a typical meal? What are the child’s refusal behaviors? The more specific the information the better!

There are a variety of techniques available that can be helpful in expanding a child’s food repertoire. However, in order to identify the most appropriate treatment, you must first understand the etiology of the selectivity. For instance, is the child’s food selectivity due to a frank refusal to try all new foods or is it due to a failure to progress to more advanced food textures? The food refusal behavior may look the same (e.g., screaming, hitting, spitting out food, etc.), but the treatment would be quite different based on this information.

Once you are satisfied with your assessment, treatment can begin. Try to stick to a daily predictable schedule of meals and snacks and eliminate grazing/snacking in between meals. Hunger can be a powerful motivator! It is also important to limit the child’s access to liquids in between meals, as some children prefer to drink rather than eat. Set a 15-20 minute time limit for meals. When introducing new foods for the first time, it is usually helpful to start with a “formerly preferred food,” that is, a food that the child used to eat or a food that is similar in taste/texture to something he currently eats.

When presenting the “new” food to the child, start with a very small bite of the new food (e.g., sometimes as small as a pencil point) so as not to overwhelm the child and to ensure a greater likelihood of success. Some feeding therapists use the child’s preferred food as a “reward” for eating the “non-preferred” food, while others use toys/activities as a reward for tasting the new food. What works for one child may not necessarily work for another. Therefore, in order to find the most salient motivators, several different options will likely need to be explored. Additionally, reward systems may need to be changed periodically in order to maintain their effectiveness.

When introducing new foods to a child, it is often easier to start with naturally occurring pureed or smooth foods first (e.g., yogurt, applesauce). The reasoning behind this suggestion is that once the child accepts a bite of pureed food into his mouth, swallowing it is almost guaranteed. With a piece of chopped food, the child may accept the bite into his mouth, but chewing and swallowing may not necessarily occur, and the child may expel the food. For instance, suppose you are introducing fruits and/or vegetables to a child who eats only carbohydrates. The child is more likely to demonstrate success with a one-fourth teaspoon of applesauce than he or she would with a bite of an actual apple. Once the child is accepting a ¼ teaspoon of applesauce consistently (e.g., nine out of ten opportunities), you can begin to increase the bite size to ½ teaspoon. Moving along in a systematic and stepwise fashion ensures a greater likelihood of success. Additional foods can be introduced in a similar fashion once the child is eating a reasonable volume of the new food.

Food selectivity is just one example of feeding problems that may be experienced by children on the autism spectrum. These difficulties often pose a significant challenge to parents, as nourishing our children is expected to be one of the easier, and more enjoyable, tasks of parenthood. Help is available for parents experiencing this challenge, and behavior analysts are a great resource for assessing and treating these disorders because of their specific skill sets in understanding behavior and motivation. For more detailed information, a great resource is, “Treating Eating Problems of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental Disabilities” by Keith E. Williams and Richard M. Foxx.

References

Williams, K. E. & Foxx, R. M. (2007). Treating Eating Problems of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental Disabilities. New York, New York: Pro-Ed Inc.

Please use the following format to cite this article:

Belchic-Schwartz, J. (2011). Clinical corner: Food selectivity. Science in Autism Treatment, 8(3), 11-12.


About The Author

Jill K. Belchic-Schwartz, PhD is a Licensed Psychologist who received her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Rutgers University in 1995. Dr. Belchic completed her pre-doctoral internship in pediatric psychology at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), where she remained on staff­ for seven years. While at CHOP, she co-directed the Regional Autism Center and was a Program Manager in The Feeding and Swallowing Center. Dr. Belchic’s specialty areas include early assessment of developmental diff­erences, including language delay and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). She also provides psychoeducational assessments for children/adolescents who are struggling in school. She provides community-based consultation and treatment for kids with a variety of psychosocial issues. Dr. Belchic has been in private practice since 2004 and is a partner in Childhood Solutions, PC.

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Posted in ABA

From Basic Vocabulary to Building Sentences in Autism Education: Using Picture Cards

This week, we have helpful tips and specific uses for the Stages Language Builder Picture Cards from creator Angela Nelson. 

The most popular use of the Language Builder Picture Card Series is to build vocabulary. The realistic and current photos help students to learn the name of various nouns, occupations, and emotions. In the beginning, this task can be very repetitive and basic, focusing only on learning single-word responses. When a child with autism begins to gain expressive language skills, parents and educators are thrilled to watch these new words emerge.

Labeling Sentences

After a child has mastered numerous single-word labels for the picture cards, the next critical step is to build these one-word answers into more complete and functional Labeling Sentences.

Building sentences will start simply. As a first step, you may just ask the child to use the article along with the word. For example, move toward an answer of “an apple” or “a car.” The next step would be to work toward “It is an apple,” or “It is a car.”

As you expand your student’s communication skills to include full sentences, you will no doubt need to use prompts in the beginning. The most common method is verbal modeling. But it is important to fade the verbal prompt as soon as possible. To help your student answer in full sentences without need for a verbal prompt, you can move to a visual cue prompt.

Written cue cards are a great method to remind your student to use full sentences. For example, if you show your student a picture of a car, and ask “What is it?” your student is likely to just answer “car.” To prompt your student to use the article “a” with the word car, you can start by putting a cue card in front of the picture with the word “a” on it. Have your student touch each card (the “a” card and then the picture card) as they say the words “a car.” The next step would be to add cue cards for “It is a car.” When your student starts to grasp the concept of speaking multi-word sentences, you can begin to fade the visual cue card prompts.

Requesting Sentences

Another important type of sentence that your child will need to learn to use is a Requesting Sentence. When your child learns to use communication to make requests and get their needs met, it will reduce the child’s frustration, which will in turn reduce the frequency of tantrums and outbursts.

Sort through the picture cards for which your child knows the labels. Find pictures of items that your child likes and that you have available to give to them. Food items are often the most successful to start with. For example: Cheese, Raisins, Juice, Popcorn, and Apple. Stick a magnet to the back of each picture and place the pictures on the refrigerator. Write the word “I” on one index card and the word “want” on another and place those on the refrigerator also. When you know your child wants a specific food (as most parents often do), pull the corresponding picture down into the “I want” sentence. Use the visual cues as a prompt to help your child remember to use the full sentence to request their desired food. As always, you should fade the prompts as your student begins to master this full sentence activity.

A Note on Using Cue Cards to Prompt

You may think: Why am I using written words to prompt my child? He isn’t speaking well, so why should I assume he can read?
The cards are not meant for your child to read. They are merely place markers. It makes as much sense to use the words as anything else. However, you could also use something as simple and nondescript such as blocks or blank cards for your child to touch as they say the words. The idea is to give your child a physical reminder to speak the extra words. In fact there are schools of thought suggesting that if you tie spoken words to physical activity that it creates more neural pathways for the words to attach to. Regardless, you can choose to use the word cards, or to use a more neutral object. Decide what works best for your child.

Additional Activities to Develop Sentence Skills

Labeling and Requesting are the most basic of all full sentence activities, and provide a basis for your student to understand that communication requires more than single word utterances. The following list of activities offers just a few examples of the many lessons you can use to help build full sentences and a more complete system of communication with your child.

Adjectives

You can use picture cards to discuss adjectives or descriptive words. Some adjectives are clear from the pictures, such as “the apple is round” or “the frog is green.” Other adjectives draw more on a child’s real-world experience, like “the bunny is soft” or “the banana is sweet.” To teach adjectives, you can start with a receptive task. Place cards in front of your child and ask them to “find something green” or “point to something that is round.” This receptive language activity will allow your student to hear some of the adjectives you use, before trying to come up with their own descriptive words when you start to build sentences with them.

To transition this activity to expressive language, you can hold up a picture and ask your student, “What color is the frog?” You will need to prompt your student at first either verbally or using a cue card method as described above.

Wh-questions

Picture cards provide a great opportunity to practice “Wh” questions. You can show your student a picture and ask him or her to answer questions such as “What color is the frog?” “Where would you find a plate?” “When do you use a pillow?” “Why do you use soap?”

To start, some of these questions will fall easily out of the Adjectives lessons you have already practiced, such as “What color is it?” Other questions will provide a new challenge for your student.

Tell Me About

Use pictures with which your student is already familiar. The best pictures will be the ones you have practiced extensively on the Adjectives and Wh-Questions. Show your student a picture and ask him or her to tell you about the item in the picture.

The first things that your student should be able to tell you about the pictures are the responses that they learned in Adjectives and Wh-Questions. The difference with this drill is that you student has to generate the content themselves rather than respond to your question. When you ask your student “What color is it?” they know color is the relevant detail. In the Tell Me About lesson, students have to decide for themselves that color is a relevant thing to tell you about the picture.

You can start with scripted responses, using the picture to cue your student. Then you can progress to more creative responses that might not be so obvious from the picture. For example, show your student a picture of a duck. Ask your student, “Can you tell me about a duck?” By looking at the picture, your student can get some basic answers. “A Duck has feathers.” “A duck has webbed feet.” “A duck has a bill.” As your student becomes more familiar with this activity, you may progress to things about a duck that are not readily apparent from the picture. “A duck can swim.’ “A duck says ‘quack quack,’” “A duck lays eggs.”

The Tell Me About Lesson also gives you the opportunity to increase the length of your student’s verbal activity. Start by requiring the student to tell you only one detail about the picture. Then move up to two, or three or more details. Of course, if you ask your student to tell you three things about the picture, you may have difficulty if they haven’t mastered counting skills. Here’s a trick: hand your student three blocks and have them toss a block into a bucket with every detail they tell you. This is a great way to help your student count their answers, and it makes it fun for them!

Storytelling

The next step in this language building series is Storytelling. Again, this activity builds on the previous lessons. Show your student a familiar picture card and ask your student to “Tell you a story” about the picture. The first elements of the story will likely be familiar from the Tell Me About lesson. For example:

“Tell me a story about a duck.”
“There was a duck, it had webbed feet, feathers, and a bill. The duck went for a swim in the pond, then it laid some eggs and said ‘quack quack’”

As your student’s language skills grow, so will the creativity of the stories!

Generalization

The setting in which you begin to teach language skills is very structured and formal. However these new skills will become more valuable as they generalize across time and setting, and with various communication partners. To help promote generalization, you can start by moving your therapy session to different places – starting even with different rooms in the house.

Next, it is important that the skills your child has learned in the formal therapy session be practiced throughout other aspects of the child’s life, such as during family time and at school. Make sure to bring the cardsto dinner, to the store, to school, etc. Whenever you communicate with your child, require the same full sentences that are expected during therapy. Stop and take the time to use the prompt cards if necessary.

Finally, keep good records and good communication channels open with all of the other professionals and family members in your child’s life. You can send a notebook back and forth to school, or perhaps start an electronic communication log to make sure teachers are requiring the same sentences, using the same words, and bringing in the same prompts as you are at home and in therapy. Consistency is a major key to building and generalizing successful language skills to help your child interact with the world around them.

Posted in ABA

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10 Things To Know Before You Leave Home

 

This week, Dana Reinecke, PhD, BCBA-D gives us ten important things to keep in mind if you are helping a young person transition to living on their own.

The ultimate goal for any young adult is to leave home and live an independent life. For individuals with autism, independence may be more difficult to achieve, due to the impact of the disability on most areas of functioning. Regardless of disability, however, it’s important to aim for independence across as many areas as possible, because supports and services change and are often reduced at the time of transition to adulthood (Friedman, Warfield, & Parish, 2013). Most research currently suggests that long-term outcomes are better for those individuals who were diagnosed more recently, possibly due to earlier and more effective interventions (Billstedt, Gillberg, & Gillberg, 2005). This finding should encourage more effort than ever to facilitate independence, because it shows that it is possible, and indeed more likely, with good and early intervention.
What skills are important for transitioning to a more independent adult life? Here are 10 suggestions, and the reasons why.
First, the obvious:
10. Food, eating, and meals
Clearly, we all need to eat to survive, and we need to eat at least a relatively healthy diet most of the time to avoid health issues in the future. Knowing how to make a PB&J sandwich isn’t enough, though – we need to be able to plan meals, shop for the food that we need, have it available when we need it, and make and consume food on a reasonable and healthy schedule.
9. Laundry
Social convention requires neat and clean clothing in most situations (unless you’re at the end of an intense exercise session, or maybe cleaning out an attic). Knowing how to use the washer and dryer aren’t enough. We also need to be able to anticipate when we need to do laundry so that we don’t run out of clean clothes, and we should be able to fold and put clothing away so that it stays neat and presentable. Being able to iron clothing is a good bonus skill.
8. Money management
Being independent means being in charge of your money. Money skills include not just counting, adding, and subtracting, but making change, figuring out tips, and managing at least a simple budget. Other important money skills are using an ATM, writing checks, paying bills on time, and using (and paying off!) a credit card.
7. Cleaning up
A neat, clean home is socially appropriate and also better for one’s health. In addition to knowing how to use a vacuum, how to dust, wash dishes, empty the garbage containers, and organize storage, we should be aware of when these tasks have to be done. Safety around cleaning supplies is also a very important skill.
6. Transportation
Getting to the places that we want and need to go to is an important life skill for independence. For some, this may involve driving, which also includes managing and paying for a car, maintenance of the car, and insurance. For some, public transportation is an option, which involves safety skills as well as knowing the procedures of how to pay, access schedules, and so on. Transportation for people with disabilities is also available in many areas, and requires knowledge of how to access and other procedures.
5. Schedule management
Without schedule management skills, we would miss most of our appointments and commitments, and have difficulty completing projects or meeting our goals. There are many different ways that schedules can be managed, including paper calendars and to-do lists, apps for scheduling and reminders, and timers, alarm clocks, and digital assistants. We need to know what type of schedule management is needed in any given situation, how to access or create systems, and how to use systems over time.
Perhaps less obvious, but just as important:
4. Doctors and dentists
Hopefully this won’t come up too often, but we all get sick now and then, and need a medical professional to help us. Just as important, we should also receive routine health care to prevent illnesses. This skill set can be very complex, and include varied levels of skills, such as finding the right professional, making and keeping and appointment, tolerating any necessary procedures, and following up on advice or prescriptions.
3. Friends
Friendships change and evolve over time, and the friendships of adulthood require different skill sets from those of childhood. Friendship in adulthood may also be complex, and involve many different layers, up to and including romantic relationships and intimacy. The necessary skills for friendships include some very concrete skills like making phone calls, texting, and reciprocating invitations. Less concrete, but still important, skills include tolerating different viewpoints, expressing interest and concern about others, and negotiating plans.
2. Leisure time
Anyone who doesn’t have something enjoyable to do when the demands of everyday life are lifted, such as at the end of a work day, or on a weekend, or even on a family vacation, may wind up engaging in less than acceptable ways of keeping busy. Having age-appropriate, socially-acceptable leisure skills can go a long way towards keeping us out of trouble. Although leisure skills might seem less important to focus teaching resources on than some of the other skill areas here, it can’t be stressed enough that everyone needs something enjoyable to do and to look forward to doing, to be safe, productive, and happy.
1. Getting help
Finally, we all need the crucial skill of being able to get help when we need it. This involves identifying when help is needed, what type of help is needed, how to get it, and then seeking it out. There are multiple opportunities in everyone’s day to seek help – whether by doing an internet search to get information, calling a professional or friend for advice, or asking for assistance in a store or other public place. Having the ability to get help as a core skill can also help to make up for any deficits in the other areas needed for independence.
This is by far not an exhaustive list of areas to address for independence when planning on leaving home, but all of these areas are critical and should be considered well before they are needed. A balanced educational program will hopefully prioritize each of these areas and ensure that functioning is as independent as possible, for a successful outcome!


About The Author

Dana Reinecke is a doctoral level Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) and a New York State Licensed Behavior Analyst (LBA).   Dana is an Assistant Professor and Department Chair of the Department of Special Education and Literacy at Long Island University Post.  Dana provides training and consultation to school districts, private schools, agencies, and families for individuals with disabilities.  She has presented original research and workshops on the treatment of autism and applications of ABA at regional, national, and international conferences.  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 actively involved in the New York State Association for Behavior Analysis (NYSABA), and is currently serving as President (2017-2018).

Posted in ABA

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Posted in ABA