5 Ways to Practice Imitation with Your Child

Think back to a time you were trying to learn a new skill… whether that be how to complete a math problem, re-create a recipe or craft you saw on Pinterest, or navigate the depths of Microsoft excel. One of the first things we do is ask someone to show us or model the steps for us (or if you are me, search YouTube for videos demonstrating the steps)! Developing the skill to imitate others is crucial to our development, especially for children with ASD. That’s why we’ve provided you with 5 ways to practice imitation with your child! 

  1. Dancing
    Imitating dance moves in songs is such a great way to teach your child to imitate gross and fine motor movements. You can play the song and demonstrate the moves yourself or find some videos where the person singing will imitate them on screen.
    We use this technique in our school readiness program at NSPT- Blossom Prep School and found it helped preschoolers not only learn the moves to the songs but also how to behave and collaborate in a learning environment. These were just a few of the songs we used.

  1. Playtime
    One thing some kids with ASD struggle with is the ability to functionally play with toys or games. Stacking blocks, rolling a car down a ramp, rocking or feeding a baby doll, stringing beads, or rolling playdoh, children may have trouble understanding what these toys are used for. One way you can teach this skill is through… You guessed it- Imitation! By teaching a kiddos to play with a toys according to its function you can open the door to so many more social play and independent play skills.
    This is something that we cover extensively in Blossom Prep School, taking our kids from station to station and modeling play with various toys and pretend scenarios, like they would with their peers.
  2. Daily Routines and Activities
    You can also use imitation to teach your child to complete tasks such as brushing your teeth, self-feeding, or washing their hands. By modeling the steps and having them imitate you during natural routines and activities, you can strengthen imitation skills while simultaneously teaching your child to independently complete important daily living skills.
    Here are a few fun ways we like to incorporate this type of teaching into Blossom Prep School:

    • Imitating a peer or adult using utensils to eat snack
    • Imitating a peer or adult while cleaning up an activity or game
    • Imitating a peer or adult putting on shoes or other clothing items
  1. Arts and Crafts
    Similar to teaching children to functionally play with toys and games through imitation, you can also teach them to complete different arts and crafts projects. You can do this by modeling each step or modeling multiple steps at a time for children with more established imitation repertoires.
    Here are a few fun examples of crafts that work well with imitation that we have used in Blossom Prep School:

  1. Singing Songs & Saying Fun Phrases
    Another form of imitation that is important is vocal imitation. The ability to vocally imitate others is needed not only to be able to learn to say or pronounce certain words and phrases, but to learn how to engage in social conversation! One way to work on this skill is through having your child vocally imitate you saying funny words and phrases or singing songs. In Blossom Prep School we work on vocally imitation throughout the lesson, repeating funny phrases in songs or books or repeating the teacher in order to teach a vocal response to a question.

For more information on the importance of teaching imitation and observational learning you can listen to a podcast by ABA Inside Track on the topic.

NSPT offers services in the Chicagoland Area. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

5 Things To Consider Before Transitioning From ABA to Preschool

So, your child is doing well in ABA and you think that they’re ready to try out preschool. Luckily for you, when it comes to sending your child to school there are a lot of a lot of options! With these options, decisions that need to be made. Where does my child still need to improve? Where do they succeed? What does their ideal school look like?

The best place for your child to thrive is an environment that’s not restrictive. They should be in a classroom that supports them but also gives them some autonomy. But, just how autonomous should your child be? Depending on what your school district offers you may have a few classroom options. Some of those options will be more restrictive than others (the most restrictive being a self-contained special education classroom and the least being a blended classroom or general education classroom). The goal is ultimately to teach your child to be independent. In order to determine their best starting path toward that goal, here are a couple of things to consider.

  1. Is 1:1 support required to participate in activities?
    Is 1:1 support needed in order to participate in most activities? In Blossom Prep School, we pair all of the kids that participate with 1:1 Behavior Therapists that help to prompt them through the different activities and routines as well as take data on independent successes. With this model, we are able to teach kids how to participate while also systematically fading out the support so that they can be as independent as possible in a classroom setting. We use that data to determine when a child is ready for traditional classroom environment.
  2. Does your child generalize skills?
    Is your child able to generalize the skills that they have learned in a 1:1 setting? The two biggest skills that impact them is the classroom would be the ability to generalize following directions as well as imitation skills. One thing we work on in Blossom Prep School is the ability to follow generalized directions as well as imitation skills through dancing to different songs, lining up with our friends, turning the page of the book, participating in calendar time, raising their hand to participate, and completing various play or listener activities. We work with the supervising BCBA to make sure we know what skills have been mastered in a 1:1 setting so that we can immediately begin to work on them in a more natural setting.
  3. Can your child function on Generalized Conditioned Reinforcer (GCR)?
    A GCR is the fancy term for a secondary reinforcer such as a high five, social praise, or maybe even a token board system. In a 1:1 setting or the preschool readiness group it is a little easier to control reinforcers such as access to certain toys, games, videos, or edible reinforcers, but in a blended or general education classroom it is a little harder. It is important that your child can complete multiple activities for more natural social praise reinforcers or with delayed reinforcement that they can received after participating in several responses rather than accessing their reinforcer after each response. In the Blossom Prep School program, we work to fade tangible reinforcers and pair more generalized reinforcers such as praise from the teacher and peers or using the completion of a task as a reinforcer in itself.
  4. Does your child have any barrier to learning?
    Behavior Intervention Plans are something that are pretty commonly used in ABA programs. Most of the time, these plans are targeting behaviors that interfere with the ability to learn! So, when evaluating if your child is ready for a less restrictive classroom environment, it is also important to evaluate their ability to learn in a group format! Other barriers include severity of problem behavior, toilet training, self-help skills, prompt dependency, reinforcer effectiveness and motivation, and hyperactivity. There are several assessment measures BCBAs can use to help inform you of the barrier to learning as well as if those barriers pose a concern for transitioning into a group learning format.
  5. Can your child follow routines and schedules?
    One of the last things to consider is your child’s ability to follow common classroom routines and schedules. In any classroom if is expected that your child is at least able to follow some classroom routines with or without supports. We target this skill in Blossom Prep School by using repeated practice to practice specific routines such as lining up and transitioning from centers, snack time, using the bathroom, and circle time. We use strategies such as visual activity schedules and fading prompts to allow for independence.

As mentioned in the points above, At North Shore Pediatric Therapy we have a school readiness program called Blossom Prep School that can be offered as part of an ABA treatment plan to work on these very important skills. If any or all of these concerns seem like they relate to your child, do not hesitate to reach out to our main line to discuss your options for enrolling in Blossom Prep School today!

 

NSPT offers services in the Chicagoland Area. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Increasing & Decreasing Behavior With ABA

How to Choose the Best ABA Provider for Your Child

Beginning ABA therapy services can be overwhelming and confusing. Below are a few things to consider when choosing an ABA provider to ensure you are finding the best fit for you and your child! Blog-ABA-Search-Main-Landscape

Scope of Practice

  • This is a term that simply means that healthcare professionals should ethically only treat populations and use procedures/processes in which they have specific education and training.
  • For example, if a BCBA has only worked with the pediatric population, it would be outside their scope of practice to treat adults.
  • Especially for children with intense behaviors, children who are older in age, larger in stature, etc., it is important to ask if the ABA therapy practice has BCBAs who have experience treating in these areas to ensure safety and maximum progress.

Location of Services

  • Some ABA therapy companies only offer in-home or in-clinic services exclusively. Other places, like NSPT, offer ABA services in homes, clinics, schools, etc.
  • It is important to consider where your child might need support and choose an ABA company that is able to offer services where therapy will be most appropriate, beneficial, and consistent.

Insurance Coverage

  • ABA therapy is recommended 10-40 hours per week, based on BCBA recommendations. This range of hours is what has been proven to be most effective for progress.
  • Because of the large number of hours, therapy can be very costly if paid for out of pocket.
  • When calling ABA therapy providers, be sure to let them know which insurance you have (at NSPT we will check benefits and provide a summary explanation as a courtesy to all of our families). Families are then able to determine if it is going to be financially feasible to begin services with the provider.

ABA therapy requires consistent communication and collaboration between provider and family, so above all, it is vital you find a provider who you are comfortable talking, sharing, and brainstorming with!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, and Hinsdale! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

A Day in the Life of a BCBA – Who We Are and What We Do

Many parents often ask- What is a BCBA? And what exactly do you do every day? BCBA

Well, A Board Certified Behavior Analyst, or a BCBA, as defined by the BACB, is an individual who has received a doctoral or graduate degree, completed coursework in Behavior Analysis, and has completed countless hours of supervised practical experience, and lastly, has passed the BCBA examination.

Our job consists of creating, individualizing, maintaining, evaluating, and supervising your child’s ABA program and your team of behavior therapists. And to answer your next question; no, we do not only work with children who have Autism. We specialize in behavior management.

A BCBA spends his or her day working to maximize your child’s potential:

  • Face-to-face time: Your BCBA may arrange to come to your home or clinic visit to see your child in action. This time allows your BCBA face-to-face time with your child in order to make direct and objective treatment decisions based on observation and data in order to ensure your child’s success.
  • Supervision: Your BCBA will also observe the behavior therapist, provide constructive feedback, model programs and interventions, and answer questions. A well trained behavior therapist is quick, confident and motivated. It is the BCBA’s job to make sure that the behavior therapist remains supported.
  • Behind the Scenes: Your BCBA spends countless hours researching behavior analytic literature in order to stay up-to-date on effective programs, procedures, and practices. ABA is a science and involves many different technologies and principles.
  • Individualizing: Your child’s program is their own. The BCBA spends a lot of time working to ensure that goals and skills are tailored to how your child learns and what your child needs to grow. Whether your child needs help with communication, potty-training, etc; all programs are specific to your child.
  • Communicating: The BCBA also communicates with your child’s treatment team when applicable. We love to work together with your Speech Language Pathologist, Occupational Therapist, Pediatrician, Psychologist and YOU to ensure that we are aware of everything there is to know about your child, including progress the child is making in every area of their life and any difficulties your child may be having.
  • Parent Training: The BCBA works to help you and wants to ensure that we are providing a very thorough picture of your child’s strengths and weaknesses and how you can help your child when not in therapy. We provide parent training/parent coaching, and work to help you become and remain experts of your child’s ABA program.

When your BCBA is not with your child, do not fret; your BCBA is in constant contact with your therapy team, has access to treatment data, and team notes, and is always aware of what is happening in your child’s therapy. Your BCBA is also available to answer any clinical questions or concerns you have about your child’s ABA program via email and phone.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, and Hinsdale. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

5 Benefits of Working with a BCBA for Your Child with Autism

Knowing what kind of services and how to navigate the ABA world can be hard, confusing and Blog-BCBA-Main-Landscapeexhausting. When looking at an ABA program, you will always want a Board Certified Behavior Analyst on your team.

Here are 5 benefits to working with a BCBA and a team approach:

  1.  A BCBA has passed an exam that ensures he or she knows how to change behavior (both increase skills and decrease behavior) according to the principles of behavior – evidence based approach.
  1.  Working with a team typically results in creating a large and strong support system for the child, parents, and the entire family.
  1.  Working with a team helps to promote generalization of skills across people.
  1.  Working with a team allows a child to receive several hours (20-30) of therapy a week with 3-4 different therapists, which helps keep sessions fun, new, and entertaining.
  1.  Working with a team allows for different ideas to make progress across different skills and targets, especially when a child gets “stuck” on a target.

Things to keep in mind when using a team: all team members should be addressing behaviors the same way as well as teaching new skills the same way. Communication between team members is key for success. Lastly, therapists are different but implementation should be the same!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

What is the Function of My Child’s Behavior?

As a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) who continues to work with the pediatric population, I have often heard parents or loved one’s say, “I have no idea why he/she does this” or “It just happens out of nowhere,” when describing a specific behavior their child engages in. Blog-Behavior-Functions-Main-Landscape

Unfortunately, I can tell you that all behavior does in fact have a function, whether that behavior is an undesirable behavior or an appropriate behavior. More importantly, identifying that behavior function is an important part of effective behavior change.

In the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), behavior can be defined as having one of these four functions:

  1. Attention: This function is a means of gaining attention from another person or people and can take many forms. It can be provided by eye contact, a facial expression, telling someone “no,” laughter, or specific comments about a behavior. It is important to note that telling a child, “No,” “Stop,” or “I’m ignoring you,” after engaging in an inappropriate behavior is still in fact attending to the behavior despite the content of the words.
  2. Access to tangibles: This function is maintained by gaining access to a specific item or activity. Access to these preferred items may be for a leisure purpose (e.g. playing with a toy, going to the park, etc.) or a functional purpose (e.g. accessing a toothbrush to brush your teeth).
  3. Automatic: This function is maintained by automatic reinforcement in that the behavior in itself provides the reinforcement. Some examples of these behaviors may be thumb sucking or nail biting. If a child enjoys the oral sensation that is produced from these behaviors, you may see an increase in that behavior.
  4. Escape or Avoidance: This function is to escape or avoid an unwanted event or activity. Often behaviors of non-compliance may post-pone or even terminate the completion of an unwanted task, putting your hands over your ears may terminate the sound of a non-preferred noise, or scratching your skin may terminate the pain of an itch.

It is important to note that all individuals engage in behavior despite physical or intellectual capabilities. As previously mentioned, that behavior does in fact have a function, and it is through the relationship between the behavior and its environment (people, places, things) to which that function is identified.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Resource:

Cooper, J. O., Heron, T.E., & Heward, W. L. (2007). Applied behavior analysis (2nd ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Applying ABA at Home

Does your child struggle with stereotypical or problem behaviors in your home? Are youBlogABAHome-Main-Landscape exhausted from constant redirection and monitoring? Do you need a change? Can parents utilize the basic principles of ABA at home with their kids? Yes! Here are some quick tips and tricks to help behavior management in your home by applying ABA.

Give Behavior Specific Praise

Always praise appropriate behaviors! Providing this type of positive reinforcement for good behavior will not only increase your child’s motivation but will also allow you to see more of those behaviors in the future. Throwing in a specific praise statement gives the child feedback on the exact behavior you want to see increased. For example, saying “Nice job!” is good, but saying, “Nice job packing your back pack!” is even better and you’re likely to see them packing their backpack the next day.

Offer Choices

Whenever possible offer your child choices. This can range from choosing when they take their bath to what shirt they wear for school and everything in between. Offering choices allows your child to be part of the decision making process, making transitions or undesired activities less of a hassle. The more choices, the better.

Provide Clear Expectations & Follow Through

Set clear, concise expectations for your child and follow through with them! Stating expectations before engaging in a specific activity gives the child a set of rules to follow. As a parent you’re able to refer back to these expectations as reminders throughout the activity. Once you set an expectation it should be followed no matter what (this is key!). Remember to provide attention and praise for followed expectations.

Don’t Prompt Too Soon

When your child is engaging in any daily living skills (tooth brushing, setting the table, tying shoes, etc.) allow them to perform the task independently before you assist them. This teaches independence and problem solving. If your child is struggling after 3-5 seconds of attempting, then provide prompting to help them complete the skill. We don’t want to see inappropriate prompt dependency.

Provide directive statements as opposed to questions

Make sure you’re communicating directions clearly. Instead of providing a question, give a directive statement that your child needs to follow. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we’re asking questions instead of directive statements. When asking a question, it gives the child the opportunity to respond with their choice; however, providing a statement only has one appropriate outcome. Changing, “are you ready for dinner?” to “it’s time for dinner” is a quick fix.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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Managing Time With ABA Therapy

Research has shown that children with autism who receive 20-40 or more hours a week of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services make significantly more progress and have improved long-term outcomes. In short, the more ABA a child can receive, the better. To a parent whose child is newly diagnosed, this many hours can seem very overwhelming. Obviously parents want to do what is best for their child, so they want to get as many therapy hours as possible, but how do you balance a therapy schedule and typical daily activities? Below are some tips on how to make sure you have a balance between your child’s ABA therapy schedule and your daily routine.

Balancing the time commitment of ABA therapy:

  • If you child is seen in a clinic setting, use the time they are in therapy to yourTime Management and ABA Therapy advantage. Take this time to run errands, catch up on email, etc. Same with home sessions. If you child is receiving therapy in your home you can catch up on household chores.
  • Ask your child’s program supervisor for suggestions on how you can carry over certain skills at home. If your child is working on things like eye contact or requesting his wants and needs, these are things that you can do at home to help. The more your child can practice targeted skills, the quicker he will master these skills.
  • Find a parent support group so you can connect with families who are in a similar situation. It is important to have a good support network as they can provide support and give suggestions on dealing with the day-to-day challenges of having a child with autism.
  • Be sure to make time for fun activities/outings with your child during times they are not in therapy.
  • Utilize respite services for some kid-free time away from home. A respite worker can come and play with your child at home while you enjoy a date night or spend some time with friends.

It is important to remember, that while the more hours a child can get the better, it is also possible for children to still make progress with fewer hours. Sometimes 20 hours a week just isn’t possible, especially for a school-aged child. As long as your child is getting consistent ABA therapy you will still see gains. It is also possible to add hours during times when your child is not in school such as winter and summer breaks.

Click here to read more on the importance of parent involvement in ABA.

NSPT offers ABA Therapy services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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The Importance of Parent Involvement in ABA Therapy

Applied behavior analysis therapy (ABA) is a well-known, scientifically proven intervention for increasing functional skills in children with autism or developmental delays. While children can make great gains with ABA therapy, the children who make the most gains are the ones who have parents who are actively involved in their child’s therapy. Being actively involved doesn’t mean you need to observe every session and/or attempt to run your own sessions at home. However, what you can do is to carry over the skills your child is learning in therapy and then practice them during your child’s everyday routine. For example, if the therapist tells you they are working on increasing your child’s receptive identification skills, at home you can look through picture books with your child and have them point to various pictures in the book.

The Importance of Parental Involvement in ABA Therapy:

Children are with their therapist for only a small portion of each day, so the more they can practice thethe importance of parental involvement in ABA therapy skills they are learning, the sooner you will begin to see progress.  Conversely, if you do not carry over what your child is doing in therapy, it will most likely take them longer to meet their goals. It can also be counter-productive if you are doing something completely different than what is happening in therapy. For example, if a child is working on a certain method of communication in therapy, but the parents/caregivers do not make the child communicate this way at home, the child is going to get very confused and consequently will not learn to effectively communicate in a functional manner.

For suggestions on what type of activities you can be working on at home with your child, ask the behavior analyst on your child’s team. They can give you suggestions based on your child’s specific needs and goals.

Below is a list of some general activities that you can do with your child at home:

  • Have your child request preferred items and activities using their current mode of communication (vocal, signs, PECS, etc.). Keep their favorite items in sight but out of reach so they need to ask someone to get it for them. Or have preferred items in clear plastic bins that are not easy to open. So in addition to requesting the item, they can request “help” or “open.”
  • When your child requests something, have them make eye contact with you before you give them the item.
  • Look through picture books and ask your child to point to various pictures.
  • Ask your child to follow simple commands (e.g., clap, jump, find your nose, touch your toes).
  • Sing songs that have motions with them (i.e., Wheels on the Bus song). While singing do the different motions and prompt your child to imitate your motions.
  • Play a variety of developmentally appropriate games with your child to expand the variety of toys they find reinforcing.

Make the activities fun for your child. They are already probably receiving therapy multiple days a week, so you don’t want this to seem like work. If it seems like work, they will be more resistant to engage with you. Also follow your child’s lead and try to create “teachable moments” based off what they are currently interested in.

NSPT offers ABA Therapy services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!