Employee Spotlight: Verna Birch

This month’s Employee Spotlight highlights one of Spectrum’s amazing Clinical Assistants, Verna Birch!

Verna has always had a strong passion to help others and maximize the individual potential of her clients. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of California, Irvine. She has experience working in the medical and human services fields. She has worked as a Registered Behavior Technician since 2015.

She began her career providing one-on-one direct services to children on the spectrum in home, community and clinic settings in San Diego, California. Her family relocated to Virginia in 2017, where she continues her work as an RBT with Spectrum Autism Services. She is a military spouse and has vast experience working with and serving the military community. 

She cherishes each of her clients and their families and constantly seeks to make a meaningful, positive difference in their lives. Currently Verna is pursuing her Masters degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis.

We are grateful for Verna each day for her continual effort and impact on her clients! Thank you for all that you do!

Using Visual Aids for Your Child with ASD

Providing visual supports can be an effective strategy for easing the anxiety that may be caused by daily activities and changes in routine for your loved one with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Children with ASD may not always grasp social expectations or fully comprehend spoken directions. Visual cues give children with ASD a visible calendar of events and a visible action to pair with a direction. Visuals can help parents better communicate and can often minimize frustrations of both the parent and child.

Labels & One Step Directions

The keyring with cards below is a great example of a portable visual that can be used to provide a variety of simple directions or choices. Providing an image that describes an action can help your child better understand the parent’s expectation of them. It also acts as a differentiated method of teaching your child seeing as verbal directions are not always comprehended.

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Posting visuals with adhesive around the home is a great way to label items. It can also be done to assist your child in learning names for items.

A “Stop” sign on the front door and other exit areas can also assist your child with better understanding their parameters. Make sure to always praise your child when they demonstrate that they have listened to these boundaries.

You can also use the “Stop” visual when leaving a playground or ending another activity. This way, once the action is initially taught, it can be applied to other activities and the action will be better understood when transferred to different environments.

First –> Then Visuals

To better help your child understand a sequence of events, for instance, eating lunch before play time, you can create a “First-Then” card. These cards demonstrate at least two visuals with an event that happens first, and then the event that follows.

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This is a great idea if your child struggles with motivation to complete a specific task, like eating. It also helps your child begin learning multi-step directions. When presenting the visual to your child, provide simple directions of “first you will eat lunch, then we will go to the playground.”

In order for this process and visual to be successful, it is important to provide the more rewarding activity following the first, less desirable task. It is important to also always follow through with the cards, or else your child may not trust that it will happen the next time.

Multi-Step Visuals

This visual provides a sequence of steps when performing an activity. This assists children with understanding the order of events, and reminding them to perform each individual task. We often create these for a multi-step task like potty time.

This potty chart was created by one of our RBTs for a Spectrum Autism Services client.

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Daily Calendar

Oftentimes children with ASD experience anxiety about what activities are to come during the day. A great way to combat this emotional upheaval is through a visual daily calendar of events.  

In our command center created for a client (showed above), our RBT included a daily schedule, the time at which that activity would begin, screen time reinforcement, a behavior modification tracking system, and cute little holders for additional tools. By generating an organizational system that works for your child, they can feel better prepared to approach their day.

Creating a command center is a great idea, but you can also begin with a smaller task of making a simple daily calendar.

Visuals calendars are a great way to begin implementing routines, rules, and order of events.

We hope you find this helpful! If you have any additional comments or questions, feel free to ask below!

February 18th Employee Spotlight: Kristen Martin

Kristen Martin, B.S, RBT

This week we want to celebrate an amazing person who Spectrum feels privileged to call an employee!

Kristen’s career serving individuals with Autism began when her former foster son was diagnosed with Autism in 2013. Her passion was ignited and spurred a career in education.

During her undergraduate studies she served as an in-school tutor for children with cognitive and learning disabilities utilizing social and emotional interventions to improve classroom behavior.

In January 2018, Kristen moved from the school environment to in-home services working as an RBT. Kristen earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Liberty University and has completed graduate coursework in School Counseling at NYU as well as Education Policy at American University.

Kristen’s specialties include early intervention, verbal behavior, educational advocacy, social skills training, and community awareness. She is currently enrolled at Pennsylvania State University working towards a Master’s in Education in Applied Behavior Analysis.

Thank you for all that you do for your kiddos and fellow employees, Kristen!

The Importance of Pairing

Pairing is an ongoing process during which behavior technicians familiarize themselves with your child and discover what he or she enjoys. Just as you or I would not want to follow instructions from a stranger, your child is not likely to respond to demands placed by a technician without a positive relationship first being established.

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The First Month of ABA Therapy

Behavior technicians will be collecting baseline data for problem behaviors, language, skills, and most importantly– pairing!

The Pairing Process

The process of pairing is important because it allows the technician to become associated with fun activities and highlight preferred items. In this way, your child will be motivated to build a relationship with the technician. This relationship will be the foundation for building “instructional control.” Instructional control simply means that when the technician instructs your child to do something, he or she will do it. Pairing also helps the technician learn about your child’s preferences and gives the worker an idea of what may motivate your child when work tasks begin.

It Looks Like Playing– Is this Useful?

Playing with your child is exactly what pairing should look like! Technicians should be engaging with your child and letting him or her direct the play entirely for the first few sessions. This helps teach your child that the technician is fun and allows the presence of the technician to become reinforcing. Building the relationship between your child and the technician as a fun person (with fun stuff!) before the technician will be able to successfully place demands.

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How You Can Tell That Pairing is Working

Pairing is working when your child looks forward to his or her technician coming to your home. While the technician is there, the child enjoys and seeks out engagement with him or her. When they have to leave, the child may become disappointed or ask when he or she will return.

One of the goals of pairing is that your child engages in more “coming toward” behaviors with the technician, rather than “running away” behaviors.

Does Pairing End After the First Month of Therapy?

Nope, pairing is a continual process! Behavior technicians will continue to pair with your child at the beginning of session and during breaks. Continued pairing helps maintain the relationship your child has with his or her technician and strengthen the instructional control the technician has established.

We hope you find this information on ABA therapy and pairing insightful. Feel free to comment with any additional questions!