Intensive ABA Services
By Skye Pardini
Lovaas Institute – New Jersey
Generalization is a word frequently mentioned in applied behavior analysis, yet many people under-estimate the importance of it. Generalization programming takes all the skills a child has learned and systematically transfers them to more natural environments. We can teach valuable skills using the principles of applied behavior analysis, but we must make certain a child is using those skills in his or her daily life.
When a child initially learns a new skill, that mastery is a big accomplishment! However, our instructors are often preparing for another layer of teaching. It's time to facilitate generalization. We may attempt to have the child respond to different people or in different environments, when different stimuli or different words are used. Generalization often requires creativity.. For example, if a child has learned to receptively and expressively identify actions when looking at pictures, we could facilitate generalization of the skill while at the park. Can the child identify when the instructor "catches the ball?" Can the child follow the instruction to "run to the tree?"
The challenge in behavioral treatment is to continue to systematically teach and incorporate new skills. Skills need to be developed using novel materials and experiences. Skills need to become multi-dimensional. For example, a child should not only recognize "catching" in a photograph, he needs to see it, do it, talk about it, and imitate it. For some children, each skill may need to initially be taught separately, but every attempt should be made to combine these skills together during generalization to create situations similar to those he will encounter throughout his life.
Below is an example of how one activity, catching fireflies, can be used to incorporate a wide variety of skills: receptive instructions, non-verbal imitation, prepositions, pronouns, categories, colors, receptive/expressive labels, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, people recognition, sequencing, conversation, story-time, book questions, "Wh" questions, opposites... and so much more!
Now bring your beautiful fireflies inside...
This is just one example of a fun activity that ties together many skills. Everything we do is a chance for learning. It is important that we remember this for our children, and the children with whom we are so lucky to work. When we begin teaching a skill, we should already be thinking of ways to generalize that skill. The "concept" of "blue" when it only means a blue crayon doesn't get us very far in the real world. Blue is an attribute that can be associated with a block, a car, a train, a dog, candy, a sticker, a shirt, your eyes, the sky... It can be used in requesting, when answering questions, and when following directions. Our classroom often includes a small desk, inside the house. Remember that it should not remain there indefinitely. Use the entire accessible environment; it makes learning and teaching fun. Who knows... you might just learn something new yourself!
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The names of all children in this newsletter have been changed in respect for family confidentiality.
Whistle Praise! Try to praise with a whistle in your mouth, which forces you to simulate talking with a whistle (or blow-out noisemaker, sound vibrator, guitar amplifier or microphone).
Tell Me What to Do! Model an instruction to do something silly, and then comply with the child's instruction when they say it. For example, give the instruction, "say, 'walk like a duck.'" When the child says so, start crouching on the floor and waddle around while quacking like a duck. Try other silly actions, like falling down or imitating "Barney."
Emotional Clown! Act out silly, exaggerated emotions like sad — with a real sappy "boo hoo hoo" and drip water on your face for tears (all very fake) or happy - with a silly happy song and dance.
Lost in the Hood! Wear a hooded sweatshirt with a drawstring and make your head disappear as you tighten the string. Ask the child to help to get you out.
I'm Pouring! Hold a spring water bottle above the child's head - tilt ever so slightly in an anticipatory way - drop droplet. Fair play, however, is allowing them to get you. But they are usually less reserved about the amount they drop!