Getting A Good Start to Summer...

Here are some reminders and tips from Lori that will help out with your summer schedule:


1. Keep your children on a schedule and use the same type of schedule system that the clinic or

the school has been using (such as a picture schedule). 


2. Use the verbal behavior cards that the Behavior Techs are using in the clinic or at your home

and on your travels. You can ask your BCBA about getting a copy of the cards for your use!


3. Set up or have your Behavior Tech help you set up play and task stations in your house.


4. Travel with several preferred tasks. (There is a reason why restaurants have crayons!!)


5. Share these tips with other caregivers, camps, and grandparents. Consistency is key!

"I don't wanna..."

Why can transitions be so difficult for children with autism? Parents and teachers often have a hard time getting our children with autism to transition from their preferred activity to the activity we want them to do.  For instance, your child might be playing in the sink with bubbles and now you need them to get dressed. Transitions from preferred activities to your agenda can result in problem behaviors. Your child might protest the request by refusing, falling to the floor, or other tantrum-like behavior.  

We know that giving cues that a transition is coming (“We are going to clean up when the timer dings”) and reinforcing the transition (“If you clean your puzzle up, then we will listen to your favorite song while we get dressed”) can help, but sometimes that doesn’t seem to be enough! They might protest even though you gave them cues to predict that the transition is coming up or have reinforced the transition.

Why is that?

It has to do with the density and magnitude of the reinforcement.  In activities that your child prefers, they often are reinforced without outside help. For example, watching their favorite video on the iPad is so rewarding that they independently choose to continue the activity. Other activities may require more outside reinforcement because the activity itself isn’t rewarding enough to engage your child or make him want to choose it over a preferred activity. Washing dishes may not be a reinforcing activity on its own, however with outside help (mom singing a fun song, playing in dish soap bubbles, positive feedback throughout the activity, a reward for completing the chore, etc.) it can become engaging. Increasing how reinforcing an activity is can minimize your child’s resistance to transitioning to it. The best way to keep them engaged in your agenda is to provide direct access to reinforcement which means pairing the child’s preferred activity with the activity you want them to engage in to allow for continuous reinforcement. For example, allowing the child to watch the iPad video while washing the dishes.

If transitions are difficult for you at home, please contact your BCPS staff!

When Stims & Behavior Get In the Way

This post was originally sent out to parents in February in our newsletter. We are shining a light on our awesome parents and the hard work they are doing at home to continue progress that is happening in therapy. Keep up the hard (but important) work you do for your loved ones! 

Dear Mom or Dad or others that love me and take care of me,

Sometimes I want things and sometimes I want to get away from things, just like everyone else!

When you spend time taking care of me you may notice that sometimes I “stim” when I want to entertain myself. When I want something or want to get away from something but I can’t tell you with my words I have to find a way to tell you another way. Sometimes this means I have behaviors that are unexpected.

In ABA therapy, I’m learning new skills and replacement behaviors so I can request and reject things with words and acceptable communication. Being able to use words will make such a big difference at home and at school! I can even learn to wait for short amounts of time! This is great because there two things that sometimes get in the way of learning new things: my “stims” and my different communication behavior. I am excited to share and practice these new skills with you because the more I practice my new skills the better I will get at choosing these instead of my old ways that aren’t the best ways. 

Let's do this together!

Intro to Verbal Operants

This post is an excerpt of an informational session that Jason Cone, MA-LPA provided for some of our awesome ABA parents in May 2017. It's got some great information that breaks down verbal operants and familiarizes you with some of the language you'll see in your child's program. Enjoy!

Last month we talked about the basics of the Verbal Behavior Approach and in particular, mands (requests). As your children have ever expanding verbal behavior, it is vital to know and learn the other components of communication, or what we call Verbal Operants.

There are four basic Verbal Operants and they are listed below:

  1. Mand: Asking for reinforcers or information. Asking for “Mommy” because a child wants his mommy
  2. Tact: Naming or identifying objects, actions, events, etc. Saying “Mommy” because a child sees his Mommy
  3. Echoic: Repeating what is heard. Saying “Mommy” after someone else says “Mommy”
  4. Intraverbal: Answering questions or having conversations where the speaker’s words are controlled by other words. Saying “Mommy” because someone else says “Daddy and...”

Each of these are vital components to language development and it is important for your children to learn how to use the word ‘mommy’ in all of these contexts. If you do not know how this is being done in your child’s program, ask your therapist to tell you!

Sincerely, Jason

Facial Expressions & Emotions

Hey parents! This blog post comes courtesy of Lori Stuart's write up for parents regarding goals that address facial expressions and emotions:

Some children with autism display a limited amount of facial expressions and struggle to label their emotions in words. There can be several reasons for this. For instance, some children with autism don’t display happy facial expressions because their immediate surroundings do not initially hold reinforcing properties that suite a child with autism. Feeling relief or happiness typically comes from controlling your environment in some extent. This is quite difficult if you do not have social communication skills.

Teaching about facial expressions and emotions can have many separate steps. For instance, early in programs you will see your child labeling facial expressions and matching and sorting facial expression pictures. This builds familiarity with facial expressions.

Next, you can anticipate a goal for your child to be aware of cues in contexts or situations that arouse different feeling states. What cues demonstrate that someone feels happy? excited? frustrated? As your child gains fluency in these building blocks, you can anticipate goals that help your child express their own feelings. For example, if a therapist contrives a situation to have your child do something funny ('show me how you quack like a duck!'), they might label their feeling as silly and prompt them to say “I’m feeling silly!”

Right now, what can you do? If you see your child in a certain situation that would arouse an emotion, you can help them by providing the language that expresses their emotion. Kids who are learning functional communication skills are soaking in the information we provide-- you can use everyday interactions to give your child the words he/she really wants. For instance, if they hit their head on the table, say “Ouch, that hurts!” rather than “Are you okay?” (By the way, if you keep saying “Are you okay?” there is a good chance that at some point that will be what they will say when they get hurt.) If you see their sibling or friend grab a toy, say, “I’m mad!” When you are laughing, label your own emotion as “Daddy feels silly!”

This is deep, I know!