Everyday Learning Opportunities: At the Library

With the change in seasons, utilizing our local libraries can provide enjoyable activities out of our home for our little ones.

Many libraries offer weekly story-times. Some even offer sensory friendly story times specifically for kids with ASD. Visit your local library’s website to see if this is available in your area. If not, it can always be beneficial to ask your librarians about beginning one!

These story-times are an excellent opportunity to generalize your child’s skills and have them practice learning in a group setting.  

Learning opportunities provided may include:

  • Playing with musical toys, which can teach valuable imitation and group responding skills.
  • Preschool songs/nursery rhymes, which promotes following one-step instructions and imitation.
  • Group reading helps practice sitting quietly and listening.

It also helps your child to attend during sing-a-long songs if they are familiar with them from hearing them at home, so brush up on your Twinkle Twinkle and London Bridge!

Also, don’t forget to capitalize on the presence of same-age peers! Simply being around children your child’s age can help them become more comfortable in social settings.

Grandparents Day

Grandparents can play a major role in caring for their grandchildren. This often rings true for our loved ones with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Words cannot easily express the gratitude a mother or father feels when a grandparent lovingly swoops in to assist with our daily lives. From the mundane days to the chaotic, we appreciate your love and support!

So on this Grandparents day, we salute all of the loving Grandmothers and Grandfathers for loving our children, for loving us, and for simply just being present in our lives!

Grand Opening Extravaganza

What a wonderful last few weeks we have had at Spectrum Autism Services! We are so grateful for the Stafford community for welcoming us with open arms and for supporting the opening of our clinic!

In addition to providing one on one ABA therapy, our clinic, located at 35 Walpole St #204 in Stafford, Virginia, also offers both Full Day and Half Day Programs for children ages 2-5.

Our Board Certified Behavior Analysts, Registered Behavior Therapists, and certified teachers will develop individualized programs for your little one with ASD.

Functions of Behavior

“Why did he do that?”

We hear parents ask this question often regarding behavior functions. When assessed, reasons for the behavior become more apparent. This newfound understanding can assist in creating a systematic and personalized behavior therapy plan for your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

1. Social Attention

A person may engage in a specific type of behavior in order to gain social attention. For example, a child might engage in a behavior to get other people to look at them, laugh at them, play with them, hug them or scold them.

While it may seem strange that a person would engage in a behavior to deliberately have someone scold them, it can occur for because some people it is better to obtain “bad” attention than no attention at all (Cooper, Heron and Heward, 2007).

2. Tangibles or Activities

Some behaviors occur so the person can obtain a tangible item or gain access to a desired activity. For example, someone might scream and shout until their parents buy them a new toy (tangible item) or bring them to the zoo (activity).

3. Escape or Avoidance

Not all behaviors occur so the person can “obtain” something; many behaviors occur because the person wants to get away from something or avoid something altogether (Miltenberger, 2008).

For example, a child might engage in aggressive behavior so his teachers stop running academic tasks with him or another child might engage in self-injury to avoid having to go outside to play with classmates.

4. Sensory Stimulation

The function of some behaviors does not rely on anything external to the person and instead are internally pleasing in some way – they are “self-stimulating” (O’Neill, Horner, Albin, Sprague, Storey, and Newton, 1997).

They function only to give the person some form of internal sensation that is pleasing or to remove and internal sensation that is displeasing (e.g. pain).

For example, a child might rock back and forth because it is enjoyable for them while another child might rub their knee to soothe the pain after accidentally banging it on the corner of the table. In both cases, these children do not engage in either behavior to obtain any attention, any tangible items or to escape any demands placed on them.

Tools For Discovering the Functions of a Behavior- ABC Data

The observer records a descriptive account of the behaviors of interest including what happens before, during and after behaviors are performed.

A- Antecedent

What occurs in the environment immediately before the behavior of interest?

B- Behavior

What the behavior of interest looks like.

Examples of what to record: What the behavior of interest looks like (e.g hitting, kicking, throwing, ripping paper, eating rocks etc) frequency and duration when applicable.

C- Consequence

What occurs in the environment immediately after the behavior of interest? This is the part of the ABC’s that causes the behavior to happen again and again.

Examples of what to record: Who delivered the consequence, what items they were allowed access to pre- and post-consequence, what work they stopped doing as a result of the behavior.


The image above displays the ABCs of functions of behavior but in a helpful chart format.

A tried and true example of the ABCs of functions of behavior in action is the screaming kid in the grocery store. A child in a shopping cart enters the checkout line and sees the shelf full of candy (antecedent), they begin to cry because they want a candy bar (behavior), the parent wants them to stop crying so they buy them the candy bar (consequence). In the child’s mind, they cried once and got the candy bar, most likely they will cry next grocery trip since the behavior worked in the past. Before long, it becomes a perpetual loop of crying and buying. 

By assessing your child’s behaviors based on this technique, you may be able to more accurately understand your child’s behavior and develop a plan that you can implement in your home.

Learning Opportunities at the Park

Leaving the house with a child who has Autism Spectrum Disorder can be difficult, but we promise, it is worth the countless learning opportunities these outings provide.  New places and people are excellent ways to ensure your child is generalizing all of the amazing new skills you are teaching him from making eye contact to asking another child to join him in play.  

Things to note:

  • Stand in front of your child when he or she is swinging.  This way they can associate you with the fun sensation of being pushed back and forth!
  • Work on language and social skills while simultaneously performing gross motor activities. This builds critical connections between different regions of the brain.
  • Encourage your child to play with many different items at the park.  Make sure you prompt him to move on if his play becomes repetitive in nature (ex: going up the same ladder and down the same slide over and over).

While at the park:

1. Get in your child’s attention spotlight as often as possible (face-to-face within 3-4 feet)

2. Have fun (goofy faces, sing songs, big smiles, play movement games).

3. Imitate his vocalizations and actions.  Trust us children love to see that you are interested in what they are doing. Initially you may need to be careful to bring two of certain items such as balls, toy trucks, etc.  Some children will shut down if they feel like you are taking their toy.

4.  Follow the ONE-UP RULE. If your child is nonverbal label items and actions with one word (e.g. “push,” “swing”) If he is reliably using one word to make requests and communicate table items and actions with two words (“go fast” “kick ball”).

These strategies can increase engagement between you and your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We hope you have found them useful.

Feel free to comment with any additional strategies below!

Understanding the VB-MAPP Used in Behavioral Therapy

The VB-MAPP, which stands for The Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program, is an assessment we use with early learners. It provides Behavioral Therapists a criterion-referenced tool to approaching skill tracking, behavior, language/learning barriers, and the child’s abilities.

In the explanations below, we will take you through the three different types of assessments included in the VBMAPP and describe how they can be used to identify your child’s strengths and areas of need, and how they can be used to guide individualized treatment.

A sample of Milestones Master Scoring Form:

The Milestones Master Scoring Form (above) is a visual representation of results from the first assessment that takes place when completing the VB-MAPP. There are 170 milestones tested that a neuro-typical child will meet before entering kindergarten. In this assessment the milestones are balanced across 3 chronological periods of typical development (0-18 months; 18-30 months; and 30-48 months). The milestones are quantifiable and measurable and can be used to document baseline skills and skill acquisition. The milestones include 16 main areas such as mand, tact, intraverbal, listener, visual perceptual, play, social, and early academic skills. One of the 16 areas, the echoic, includes the Early Echoic Skills Assessment (EESA) developed by Dr. Barbara Esch, SLP-CCC, BCBA-D

As shown, we color code the chart and use a new color each time skills are assessed. In this case, green, pink and orange are the three colors used in order of three separate assessments. Upon filling in the green after the first assessment, it conveys where the child’s therapy should focus considering his deficits. It also shows relative strengths that can be used to guide us in providing the best form of interventions. Upon doing a reassessment, we use a new color to see if gaps are filled in. This shows where growth has been made and where we need to continue to focus intervention efforts.

The Barriers Scoring Form, exampled above, allows therapists and parents a better understanding of the barriers to learning their child faces. When a child with ASD wakes up and begins each day, we want to better understand what hinders him or her from having a successful day.

Behavior, instructional control, inability to request items, and conversational skills are just a few of the categories listed. We like to explain this assessment as imagining an obstacle course, the flatter the course the easier it is for your child to navigate his or her day. The level of difficulty a child has in a category is colored along the Y axis of the chart. Each category and difficulty level are filled in by color code as well upon reassessment. There are 24 language and learning barriers scored that may be preventing a child from making progress in school or at home.

The Transition Scoring Form has 18 different areas that can assist a parent and IEP team in determining placement and ensuring a smooth transition into a school setting with appropriate accommodations. This form is the opposite of barriers because in this one we ideally want to a child to have all of the skills filled in before entering a classroom. This assessment assists in analyzing if the child can learn in a group environment, perform independent work, learn from their natural environment, retaining new skills, eat independently, go potty solo etc. We consider this chart to represent specific tools the kiddo has, and provides a visual of all the tools we want them to have in their tool belt before sending them to school to learn in a group environment.

The VB-MAPP Guide book has an analysis of the results from each of these areas along with suggestions on how to establish intervention priorities.

We hope you found this breakdown of the VB-MAPP helpful. Feel free to comment with any questions!

The Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Awareness is key.

 

If you aren’t sure about the signs of Autism in children, you can watch our video from our Youtube channel above. We hope you find this informative.

The M-CHAT mentioned towards the end of our video stands for The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers. It is a psychological questionnaire that evaluates risk for autism spectrum disorder in children ages 16–30 months.

To take the questionnaire, visit M-CHAT.org