Teaching Your Child To Be More Independent

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Read Time: 5 minutes

Teaching activities of daily living are one of my favorite areas to teach as a behavior analyst. With each daily living skill I teach, I am able to provide each learner with a skill that they will be able to perform for the rest of their lives. We are able to teach a range of daily living skills from riding a bike, to getting dressed, to learning how to dial a caregivers phone number to making food for themselves.

As behavior analyst, we individualize our teaching procedures for each of our learners. We will talk about the three primary ways we teach a long list of steps like teaching activities of daily living. 

Selecting a teaching technique varies greatly by the learner. It is important to consider the following: 

  1. How many steps does the learner already know?

  2. Will the child need to access to reinforcement quickly (i.e. a break, praise, etc)?

  3. How strong are the child’s motor skills (as this will influence how much prompting will be required)?

The first technique is forward chaining. In forward chaining, we teach each learner to complete the very first step of the task and help them through the rest of the steps in the task. Once the first step has been acquired, the second step is taught. When the second step is acquired, the third step is taught and so on. For example, when teaching a child to comb their hair, the first step would be to teach him/her to pick up the hair brush and prompt through the rest of the steps. Once the child has acquired picking up the hair brush on their own, we would then require the learner to pick up the brush (step 1) and place the brush on their head (step 2) and so on until we are able to require them to complete the entire task. 

The second technique is backward chaining. In backward chaining we only require the learner to complete the final step of the task. Similar to forward chaining the learner is taught one step at a time and then required to complete the acquired step and the previous step in the routine. When teaching shoe tying, the learner would be helped through the entire task and then required to complete the last step (i.e. pulling the loops to complete the tie). Once this final step is mastered, the learner would be required to make the loops and also pull the loops to complete the tie. The same sequence would continue until the learner knows all of the steps.

The final technique used is called total task chaining. In this technique the learner is taught the entire task receiving assistance as needed. This technique is great to use if the learner already knows some of the steps and may only need a little assistance. When teaching to make a PB and J sandwich, the learner may know how to gather the ingredients to make the sandwich but may need assistance with spreading the peanut butter and jelly and putting the ingredients away. In this example, the person assisting would refrain from prompting the learner in the areas they know and assist in the steps the learner has not yet acquired. 

Our learner in this video, learned to complete his shoe tying task using forward chaining in which we taught the first steps of the chain and continued to add on to the task as he acquired the steps. In a very short period of time, our lovely guy was asking for the rest of the steps to complete the task on his own! We are so proud of him! You may also be able to hear his brother providing him with positive reinforcement by cheering him on!

Graphed through Central Reach

Graphed through Central Reach

Behavior: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

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Read Time: 5 Minutes

As described by Cooper, Heron and Heward (2007), behavior is anything an organism does and their effect on their environment. The saying goes “If a dead man can do it, then it is not behavior.”

As adults, we engage in different types of behaviors for different outcomes:

  • If I call my doctor’s office →  they will schedule my appointment

  • If I pay someone to take a test for me →  I don’t have to study

  • If I get a massage → it will make me feel relaxed

  • If I continue to call my ex-boyfriend → he will eventually pick up

Kids do the same thing:

  • If I ask for a cookie nicely → I will get the cookie

  • If I scream →  I won’t have to do my homework

  • If I spin quickly →  my head feels funny

  • If I scream for my mom when she’s on the phone → she will hang up

What do these scenarios have in common? A behavior usually has 3 things in common: an antecedent (something that happens before the behavior), the behavior itself, and the consequence (what happens after the behavior).

Why do these behaviors occur? Adult or child, usually our behavior occurs for one or combined reasons. The first reason is to get access to attention. This may be positive or negative attention but in the end we classify it all as attention. A child who constantly yells “mom” while she’s on the phone has learned that by calling her name, she will provide the attention he/she desires. The second reason that could be behind a behavior is to escape from a task. In the example above, the child has learned that by screaming, he/she will eventually get out of doing their homework. The third reason a behavior may occur is to gain access to items. We often see this example on the playground. A child may learn that if they push another child, the child will give them their turn or toy. The last reason a behavior may occur is because it simply feels good. My favorite example is of myself! Whenever I begin to get nervous, I begin to twirl my curls with my fingers because it feels calming to me.

Why do these behaviors continue to occur? These behaviors continue to occur if they result in the same desired outcomes. For example, if the mom no longer acknowledges the screaming child when she’s on the phone, he/she will attempt other behaviors to gain her attention. If a child no longer gets his way from pushing his peers, this behavior will decrease.

Our following blog will review how to teach appropriate behaviors while working on decreasing undesired behaviors!  

Resources:
Cooper J.O, Heron T.E, Heward W.L. Applied behavior analysis (2nd ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson; 2007.

How to use ABA techniques to conquer your 2019 goals

As the saying goes: New Year, New Me! But how many of these goals do we actually meet when the year comes to an end? Most of the time, we don’t even remember what our goals were for the previous year! This article will review how to use ABA to conquer your new 2019 goals. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) studies behaviors and the environmental variables that contribute to these behaviors continuing to occur or not occurring at all. Follow these steps to ensure that you are able to reach your 2019 goals using ABA techniques:

  1. Setting clear and objective (measurable) goals: describing in detail what we wish to accomplish and what constitutes meeting this definition. An example could be “I will go to the gym 3x a week”.

  2. Take data on your behavior: As behavior analyst, we LOVE analyzing data to see why behaviors are/are not occurring. This application when completing it on oneself is called self-management: the personal application of behavior change tactics that produces a desired change in behavior (Cooper, Heron, Heward, 2007). By taking data on the behaviors outlined as your goals, you can determine if these goals are being met and why/why not this system is/is not working.

  3. Review your data! If your designed plan is not working, begin to review what variables may be contributing to not reaching these goals. If the goal is to workout 3x a week but the gym is 30 minutes away with traffic, the response effort to attend the gym and sit in traffic may be too high and thus inhibit the motivation to complete the workout. You can find another closer gym or try completing at home workouts instead.

  4. Make antecedent and consequent manipulations: Changing the environment to facilitate behaviors occurring at higher frequencies is called antecedent manipulations. An example of this could be to set out your workout clothes the night before to decrease the hassle of getting ready early in the morning. Consequent manipulations are also extremely important! Create a reward system for yourself if having a system like this in place increases your behavior. An example could be: If the contingency is to to work out 3x/week for a month then you can allow yourself to get a new piece of gym equipment or a new pair of sneakers. This technique is also called the Premack Principle or “Grandma’s Rule”: If a contingency is met then a reward is received.

These techniques can be used in all scenarios of either increasing or decreasing behaviors. As discussed above, it is extremely important to take data and review measurable goals to determine what is/is not working and meet your 2019 goals!  


References:

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

What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?

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What is Applied Behavior Analysis? Applied behavior analysis is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior (Baer, Wolf & Risley, 1968; Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1991).             

 


ABA methods are used to support persons with autism in at least six ways:

  1. to increase behaviors (eg reinforcement procedures increase on-task behavior, or social interactions);

  2. to teach new skills (eg, systematic instruction and reinforcement procedures teach functional life skills, communication skills, or social skills);

  3. to maintain behaviors (eg, teaching self control and self-monitoring procedures to maintain and generalize job-related social skills);

  4. to generalize or to transfer behavior from one situation or response to another (eg, from completing assignments in the resource room to performing as well in the mainstream classroom);

  5. to restrict or narrow conditions under which interfering behaviors occur (eg, modifying the learning environment); and

  6. to reduce interfering behaviors (eg, self injury or stereotypy).

Source: Center for Autism and Related Disorders


Is Applied Behavior Analysis ONLY for children with Autism? Absolutely not! ABA is a science that when implemented correctly is beneficial for all children and adults with or without a diagnosis. Recent research continues to be developed in the areas of health and fitness, organization behavior management, substance abuse and addiction and education.  

Who provides Applied Behavior Analysis services? Services can be provided by a Board Certified Behavior Behavior Analyst-Doctoral (BCBA-D) or a Board Certified Behavior Behavior Analyst (BCBA) : a doctoral or master’s level clinician who has passed the Behavior Analyst Certification Board Exam. Services can also be provided by a Board Certified assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) who is a bachelor’s level clinician often accruing their hours to become a BCBA overseen by a BCBA. A registered behavior technician (RBT) can also provide services while being overseen by a BCBA. Individuals at the RBT level have also passed a certification exam by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. For more information regarding credentialing requirements, see https://www.bacb.com/.

Tips for a Visit to the Eye Doctor

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Going to visit a "doctor" of any type, can result in a series of behaviors even for us as adults. Today's blog will review tips on how to best prepare your child for a visit to the eye doctor.

  1. Prepare your child for what they will encounter: Showing your child what they are likely to experience before the visit will assist your child in becoming more familiar with the visit (i.e. showing pictures of the doctor's office, the doctor, the tools they may use, etc.). Some offices now have virtual tours so they can view exactly what they will see on the visit!
  2. Practice what the doctor will ask of them: The doctor may ask your child to cover one eye and then ask to cover the other. As a parent, we can show our child what this looks like (modeling) and then have the child practice while providing positive feedback.
  3. Practice labeling items/compare and contrast: Usually, the doctor will ask that the child label items, letters or numbers. They will also ask the child to compare and contrast when looking through the lens. Using the steps in #2, we can practice doing so with these items. If your child cannot label things such as numbers and letters, inform the doctor as they have various tools to help! 
  4. Relax: Sometimes as parents, we are more worried about our child's reaction than they are. Remember to not scare the child by saying everything that can go wrong but by explaining to them why it's important to visit the eye doctor and how fun it will be!

Thanks to Dr. Knighton at Bright Eyes Kids and Dr. Laura Vizzari at Vision Source for your suggestions!

Our Company Values

We Are a Value-Driven Organization…

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At AMA Behavioral Consulting, LLC, we pride ourselves in providing the most effective services driven by our core values.

Our organization believes that each family has the right to receive most effective services and deserves to be a part of the behavior analytic process each step of the way. Our values summarize the purpose of our existence.

Integrity

We will always adhere to our moral and ethical principles in every aspect of our service and business.

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Commitment to Our Families

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We are committed to serving our families. We are a team and we will work on what what will help bring our clients to their full potential.

Excellence and Innovation

We will always strive for ways in which we can refine and improve the way we work. We know that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well.

 

We listen, we care, we communicate, we serve

Everything we do, we do with the families best interest in mind. Communication is key to success when working with our families and we believe that it is an essential component in the services we provide. We truly care about the families we serve.

Career Choice: Behavior Analyst

Background:

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Since I was little, I always told my mom growing up that I knew I wanted to help people everyday in my life. The question we all have when picking a career choice is what could I possibly love to do everyday that I can continue doing it for the rest of my life. Fortunately, my choice came a little easy for me! While attending the University of South Florida, a new minor had just opened up: Intro to Applied Behavior Analysis instructed by none other than Ms. Victoria Fogel. As soon as I took the first course, I KNEW I had made the right choice. The more I learned, the more I fell in love with the field. I had the wonderful opportunity to begin my career while working at the Florida Autism Center of Excellence as a teacher's assistant, where I quickly learned that no child is the same and they are all special in their own ways. From there, I transitioned to a clinic where I had the opportunity to transition from a Registered Behavior Technician to a Clinical Coordinator overseeing the clinic. Here, I continued to develop the love for my field, strengthen my skill sets with the population I worked with and was able to train parents and some of the most wonderful staff I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  

Random facts about me: I love Christmas and especially the GRINCH! I love to dance salsa and can eat Cold Stone for every meal of the day. 

Why did I choose ABA?

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Applied Behavior Analysis is the application of the principles of learning and motivation from Behavior Analysis, and the procedures and technology derived from those principles, to the solution of problems of social significance. Through years of research and development, behavior analysts have created a science that is replicable not only by those with the degree in Behavior Analysis but teachers, caregivers and anyone who wishes to implement its highly researched techniques. I have witnessed first-hand by working with amazing individuals diagnosed with developmental disabilities, the power that my field has. I have witnessed milestones that may be considered minute for a typically developing child but enormous for the kiddos I have worked with. Some of my favorite milestones include: teaching a child to use the Picture Exchange Communication System not only to request using sentences but to label events around him, teaching a child to get dressed using a task analysis, having a conversation with a child that it is "ok" to  be different and that autism does not make him "less", helping countless families achieve potty training successes and being able to mainstream a child who previously didn't know how to communicate using words! 

My Mission:

My mission at AMA Behavioral Consulting, LLC is to provide each learner with evidence-based, high quality behavior therapy services to reach their full potential. I wish to create a company that serves as a resource of information about our field and our practices and that is ethical in each step of the process. I truly value what my field can accomplish and I cannot wait to share my work with others who wish to share these amazing experiences with me! 

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