Fifteen years ago, as a psychology student at a university in the Philadelphia area, I answered an advertisement to participate in a home therapy program for a young child diagnosed with autism. Having just completed coursework in early childhood development and applied behavior analysis, I was eager to gain some first-hand experience that put my education to use.
During my first day at the child's home, I felt a number of emotions. At first, I was excited because of the degree to which I thought my schooling had prepared me for a real life experience. Then, I was concerned because I wasn't sure I had the practical tools necessary to be successful. Overall, I became nervous about how effective I could be at helping make a difference in this child's life. As it turned out, I was in for some serious on-the-job training.
Fortunately, I learned two lessons early on in my experience. First, I learned that the key to success when working with children is to have fun. Second, I learned that I was not without support. The child's parents were very involved. I had other team members available to lean on for strategies and ideas, and our team had the support of a clinician from the UCLA clinic.
In the years that followed, I had the great pleasure of getting to know numerous other children, and the parents, peers, consultants, teachers, and related professionals supporting them. Working in collaboration with all of these individuals to achieve common goals became as much of a passion for me as providing 1:1 instruction itself.
In this field, learning takes place everyday, not only for the children we work with, but for the parents and professionals working together to support them. It is important to take advantage of the ideas and experiences of those around us, and I'm excited to see that Meeting Point provides just such an opportunity for parents and professionals.
Programs for children with autism utilizing the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis typically require a minimum of 6-12 months of one-to-one in-home teaching in order to teach the child the prerequisite skills they need to partake in a group setting.
Token reinforcement systems are useful classroom and therapy tools to increase appropriate behaviors. In such a system, a token (e.g., penny, sticker, etc.) is given following appropriate behavior, and after a predetermined number of tokens are collected, they can be traded in for a back-up reinforcer (e.g., candy, toy, interactive activity, etc.).
Many children with autism have difficulty with transitions and may be resistant to change. Abrupt changes or unfamiliar events can be particularly difficult. Even a minor deviation from the daily routine may pose a challenge. While few people really enjoy an unexpected turn of events, one goal of behavioral intervention is to help children learn to anticipate and accept transitions and changes more readily.
Albert was playing Simon Says with instructors. During his turn as Simon, he suddenly said, "Simon says, 'Give me a point!'" (on his token board).
The names of all children in this newsletter have been changed in respect for family confidentiality.
Hide Behind the Table! Turn the table on its side with the legs toward you. Hide until the child stands up to find you and then either roar or act scared.
Stayin' Alive! Break out your best John Travolta Disco imitation.