Discovering the Magic of ABA.
It is big commitment, it takes time, but the payoff can be huge. Analysts are equipped with a giant toolbox of strategies that can be applied to anything – time management, improvements in sports, companies’ operations, training animals, parenting a typically developing child, or parenting kids with developmental disorders, like autism. A good analyst will equip you with the best tools & strategies for your child, that will give you the best pay off for your time.
We take this toolbox and pull out the tools that are going to work best for your child, the caregivers, and the resources available. We then customize a plan to capitalize on what your child can do well, what they like, and how we can use their strengths to assist with their deficits. No two treatment plans are the same.
So, what’s in this toolbox?
There are several simple tactics that BCBAs use to help children with Autism learn and flourish. Here are some of our favorites:
- Behavior Specific Praise. Catch your child doing good behaviors and call them out. This can be as simple as sitting for a few minutes and saying, “I like how you’re sitting.” You can praise anything: “Thank you for answering me kindly.”; “Good eye contact!”; “You’re using gentle hands!”. You can never call out too many good behaviors, especially in the beginning when they’re young. This lets the kid know that they are following the rules or what is expected of them. Praise is reinforcing the good behavior to the child, and then they will do more good behaviors on a regular basis, not just the behavior being praised. This can also prevent problematic behaviors by providing attention more intermittently.
- Token Boards help with motivation and are a great positive reinforcement tool to increase behaviors that we want. Sometimes praise is not enough, especially when learning a new skill, which can be challenging and frustrating. Token boards allow kids to choose a reward and work towards it. Kids can visualize what they are working towards and see the progress they have made towards their reward. This builds motivational momentum and encourages the desired behavior.
- First/Then statements increase motivation for a less preferred activity by following it with a preferred activity. These can help set rules and expectations, but also work as a two-step schedule. It’s helpful for when kids don’t know what’s happening next. It also lets them know that something fun is following the thing they don’t like. “First ____ (problematic activity), then _____ (fun thing!).” It might take some time, but typically the child will want to get the problem activity over with, so they can move on to the fun thing.
- Pairing is the action of combining a fun item/activity with an activity that is not as fun. So, that means using a cool paint soap in the bath if a kiddo hates bath time, providing a small toy during a long car ride, or listening to their favorite song when we change a diaper. This will simply make the not-fun activity more fun by associating it with something fun.
- Choice. Most kids have very few things they have control over in their life – their schedule, their clothes, where they go, and what they do. Having a kid make simple choices can help give them a sense of control in their environment. Allowing them to choose things that are inconsequential to us, can mean the world to a kid. This can look like a choice between two different weather-appropriate outfits, a water bottle or a sippy cup, or allowing them to choose where their seat is at the dinner table. There are many opportunities for choice throughout the day, and allowing a kid to exert that control in a healthy way is good for setting up problem-solving skills later in life. Choice boards are used to help visualize all the possibilities, to give the child time to think about a decision before choosing, and encourage communication and independent decision making.
- Schedules & Checklists. It seems simple enough but schedules and checklists can help children out a lot. A schedule is a receptive communication tool that aids in a child’s understanding of their environment. Schedules can help to announce changes in a daily routine and ease transitions. Schedules help kids know what will happen and in what order. It gives the child something consistent to rely on, reducing anxiety about the future. Checklists help with the sequencing of events; kids are able to visually see what they have accomplished and what they have left to do. Schedules and checklists set expectations for what is coming next and show what must occur before a certain event.
- Visual Timers make the abstract concept of time more concrete; kids can literally see time pass. Timers can help kids complete a task they don’t want to by letting them know there is only so much time left, providing a countdown until the less preferred task is over with. They also work great to signal a break is coming, or that is over and it is time to begin again. Timers can help smooth transitions between stressful events.
These are just some of our favorite tools. Each child is different and will respond differently to different tools. Being equipped with the right tools will have huge payoffs in development. It’s important to remember that your child is still a child, and a lot of what they are going through is still similar to a typically developing child. The tools analysts provide can give you comfort knowing that you are doing your best as a caregiver to assist the child you are supporting.