Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

Fall 2009

Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

Helping a Child Means Helping a Family Story by Nicole B. Murillo, PhD, Assistant Clinical Director, Lovaas Institute – Los Angeles

Nicole B. Murillo, PhD
Assistant Clinical Director
Lovaas Institute – Los Angeles

I remember vividly sitting in Dr. Lovaas' class as a sophomore psychology student at UCLA twelve years ago. I looked forward to the stories he told in class – and every story was a real-life example, most often about his family. I remember him talking about being in love with his wife and how love was a powerful reinforcer or how he quickly shaped his own children's positive behavior by creating a token system to earn a new bike.

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In This Issue

Holiday Activities

Many holiday traditions have become a rite of passage for young children. But many of the most festive of holiday activities can be unfamiliar and overwhelming for a child with autism. As the holiday season approaches, you may want to help prepare your child to have a positive experience with some of the more common holiday activities.

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Common Behavioral Treatment Mistakes

Behavioral treatment involves complex decisions regarding both what to teach and how to teach. When a child demonstrates difficulty learning a skill, a good treatment team often considers other ways to teach the same skill or other skills to teach first. The team should also consider whether their treatment is being properly implemented.

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Q & A: Tying Shoes

If you have a question and/or would like to participate in our next newsletter/discussion group. Go to our blog

A hallmark of applied behavior analysis programs is the ability to conduct a task analysis, breaking down complex skills into a set of simpler behaviors. Emphasis is first placed on teaching these simpler behaviors. Teaching includes a variety of prompts to keep a child successful. Then, by gradually combining the simpler behaviors together, a child learns the complex skill.

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Special Features

The transfer from labeling to requesting became quite clear one day when two-year-old Alisa walked over to her mother, handed her a diaper and wipes, lay down on the floor, and announced, "It's poo."
- California

My son Dave (almost five with minimal speech - mostly echolalic) was sitting in the car with me in the parking lot of Wal-Mart while waiting on his mom. When sprinkles from a rain shower started hitting the windshield, he was looking out the window very intently and contently. He then said, "Hey God" very matter of factly, not like the first part of a question, but more like it was a greeting. I smiled and looked with him out the window. A few more rain sprinkles then started coming down in a steady pace, and again Dave said, "Hey God." I looked out the window and repeated the same thing he said as I often do when I don't understand (it just lets him know I heard him). He smiled and sat looking out the window a few more seconds and then he started singing this line from one of his favorite songs ... "Our God is an Awesome God, He reigns from Heaven above." Only I'm sure to him it was, "...He rains from Heaven above." Then it all made sense, (and it is just as theologically correct I might add). Talk about literal!
- Virginia

The names of all children in this newsletter have been changed in respect for family confidentiality.


Motor Cycle Racer! Put the child on your lap, facing away from you, for a motorcycle ride. Use your fists as handlebars and rev up. Go around curves by leaning the child left or right with all important motorcycle sounds. Then crash!

Media Player! Work with the computer on, and Microsoft Media Player turned on. Set it to a song or punch line that the child likes to hear, and click start to play it while the child watches the light show.

Happy New Year! Blow and shake New Years Eve noise makers.

Tower Disaster! Set up a tower ten feet away and let the child run at it.

I've Got a Secret! Tell the child, "I have a secret," and when they listen up close, blow quiet raspberries to the ear.