ABA and Aspergers: The Three Step Plan You Can Use

The main use of ABA for individuals on the autism spectrum is to decrease challenging behaviors and increase appropriate skills.

Little girl hiding behind her hands - copyspace

Here are the three steps for utilizing ABA to decrease challenging behaviors and increase appropriate skills:

Step 1: Assessment

The first step in decreasing problem behavior is to conduct a functional behavior assessment, which determines the function of challenging behavior.

Appropriate skills including academic, language, and daily living skills are assessed in a similar way. The founding father of ABA, B.F. Skinner, wrote the book Verbal Behavior in 1957. In the book, language is analyzed based on the function. Assessments like the Verbal Behavior-Milestones and Assessment Program (VB-MAPP; Sundberg, 2008) are utilized to assess the persons’ language skills, as well as other appropriate skills like academic and daily living skills.

Other assessments utilized in ABA are the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills-Revised (ABBLS-R; Partington, 2006) and the Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS; Partington & Mueller, 2013).

Step 2: Developing a Plan and Treatment Goals

23 Truths I learned From Social Skills Training

When I was diagnosed with Aspergers, my parents enrolled me in 48 hours a week of social skills and coping mechanism training. That was 10 years ago. These are 23 friendly suggestions I still find to be true and carry with me today.

Alix Generous

Alix Generous

My 23 Truths

  1. Never follow advice that you intend to carry out by hurting another living being.
  2. Find what you love and pursue it even if it means working twice as hard in other areas of your life in order to do so. It can be one thing or it can be many. Obsessions and interests can lead to successful careers. Additionally, if you’re interested in a task you’ll do better at it.
  3. Following blind happiness is a better decision than choosing certain unhappiness, as long as you apply appropriate practical skills and common sense (which can be learned in a Google search). No matter where you are and what situation you may be in, this isn’t your parent’s, boss, or teacher’s life, it’s your own. With the accumulation of knowledge and self discovery you can make choices that will shape the life you want. If you want to be a scientist, do what you need to in order to make that happen. That path is not exactly linear, you might have to do things differently than others, but that doesn’t make it bad or wrong to pursue. I had an incredible amount of difficulty socially when I started college in Charleston, SC. It was the weirdest feeling because I had wonderful friends there as well as great education and academic support. It never made sense why I was unhappy there but the moment I moved up to Boston 2 years ago, the unhappiness slipped away. Against the advice of my family, I drove to Boston, found an apartment, and an internship in one weekend, and met the love of my life. This move was all based on the feeling that Boston was the place I needed to be. I fit in well because I could talk to people about quantum physics and current issues, and have people eagerly teach me more than I could possibly understand, rather than think I’m weird.
  4. If one way doesn’t work, don’t linger on the frustration of a broken road. Find a better way.
  5. Study with people who are smarter than you and sit next to the nicest person in class.
  6. A great idea implemented in an effective way will always trump prestige and superficial qualities that seem out of reach for those on the spectrum. Your mind is an asset, and if you use it properly without shame or pride, you can change the world.
  7. The best way to figure out whether someone is manipulating you or helping you is to ask yourself: Do they want something from me? People can only manipulate you if you have something they want. Special educators sometimes neglect the needs of high-functioning autism in order to retain disability funds.
  8. Finding who you are is a continuous journey, not a specific event that happens. It frustrates me how adolescence is deemed a time of searching for identity, because it implies that becoming an adult means you know every aspect of who you are. That’s a bunch of Bologna. I’ve met people of all ages who vary in behavioral patterns and world views. Accept, understand, and utilize your strengths as they are at this moment, and use a growth mindset to improve yourself.
  9. The easiest way to interact with someone who thinks and feel differently then you do is to ask them questions.
  10. In a debate, argument, or conflict, always validate the opposing persons view before stating your own view.
  11. When in doubt, Google. When googling, question the reliability and truth of everything. Look at the people who make claims, and ask yourself if they have a sufficient amount of knowledge to make such a claim. The more proactive you are in your education, the less you have to rely on others for answers. You can find all laws, licenses, addresses, and criminal records within a simple click. This is something you should do in regards to everyone involved in providing accommodations for you such as counselors, doctors, and tutors.
  12. Social media is not a substitute for in person interaction. Social skills like table manners or looking someone in the eye when you shake their hand are invaluable.
  13. Don’t take advice from hypocrites. For example, don’t take relationship and marriage advice from someone whose had 3 marriages end in divorce.
  14. Vaccines do not cause autism. This study was published by a scientist who was jaded by his funding sources, and falsified his data in order to get published. The journal that published his research revoked the paper, and denounced its validity after learning the truth of his research methods.
  15. Firm and non-flexible opinions stunt intellectual growth and stifle your own truth. Research all sides of one issue before deciding for yourself.
  16. Make choices that bring you closer to your goals, not based simply on what you feel. Mastering this habit will help you overcome lethargy, anhedonia, and other symptoms of depression and social anxiety associated with Aspergers.
  17. People are just people. No matter what it may seem, the most seemingly superficial or flawless of individuals have imperfections and insecurities. The success of a person is determined by how they deal with their imperfections and insecurities, not the existence of them. Everyone has their weaknesses, some people are just better at hiding it than others.
  18. The energy you put in will be returned to you. Say positive things to yourself and surround yourself with positive people even if you don’t feel it, because it will make your surroundings positive and supportive to who you are. You might have to boot out some psycho family members or close friends if they are creating more negative emotions than positive, but trust me it’s worth it. Be brave, set those boundaries so you and others can be inspired to improve.
  19. The easiest way to affect an individual’s first impression of you is with make up, hair, clothes,and body posture. Changing facial expression, tone, and word choice take a lot more work. Hair and makeup never came naturally to me and I didn’t start learning how to use them until I went to college. Pinterest has lots of simple tutorials. Because of sensory issues, I only wear makeup for special events.
  20. People are not divided into two categories of “weird” and “normal”. Everyone exists on a spectrum.
  21. Go out of your way to figure out what aspects of yourself you can improve on, and which ones you can’t. Love every part of yourself either way.
  22. There is never any need to be mean. Being nice does not equate to being a pushover and you can always present constructive criticism in a respectful manner.
  23. Keep firm boundaries in the work place. Your personal and private life are better left separate. If you don’t believe me, try bringing up your aunt’s kidney stone as a casual conversation and tell me how it goes.

I send all my love and support to all of you reading this post.
-Alix

Does My Child Have Asperger Syndrome?

Informal Childhood Developmental Checklist

Our son has Asperger Syndrome. To get the diagnosis didn’t come easy and the path to that diagnosis was rocky to say the least. That was over 12 years ago and still, the following checklist we received from our school district is the best heads-up to having Aspergers Syndrome that I’ve seen to date. It cuts to the chase. Though only meant as a ‘checklist’ remember this is not an official document and only mean’t to flag a strong suspicion of Aspergers Syndrome. A doctor or trained therapist would need to make that call, however; if you are looking for a guideline of sorts….it doesn’t get much better or black and white than the form below. It was spot on for us describing our son Sam. We’ve also put it in a downloadable format at the bottom. May it lead you towards illumination! -Jennifer Allen/Aspergers101

Samuel Allen/Aspergers101 Spokesperson

Informal Childhood Developmental Checklist

Social Interactions

Yes      No

____    ____       The child prefers to play alone.

____    ____           The child is rarely invited by others to play in the neighborhood or to participate in activities outside of school.

____    ____           The child’s social interactions and responses are immature, not keeping with his/her age or his/her cognitive abilities in other areas.

____   ____            The child has difficulty interacting in group settings.

____   ____            The child does not play with other children as expected: he/she may not appear interested in their games, or may not know how to join in.

____   ____            The child appears to be vulnerable to teasing, bullying and being taken advantage of by others.

Behavioral Observations

Yes      No

___      ___            The child has difficulty understanding the effect his/her behavior has on others.

___     ____            The child has a significant amount of difficulty taking the perspective of another person, even when it is explained to them.

____   ____            The student has overwhelmingly limited interests in things such as video games, superheroes, cartoon characters.

Using Topic Cards to Develop Social Skills in ASD Youth

Topic cards are similar to scripts in that they can help students engage in a variety of topics, beyond their own interests. They are different in that they include just a few words that describe a topic that launch a student or group students in a particular direction. 

Using Choice to Increase Academic Success

A teacher had created a special lunch group to help a student at the middle school level engage in appropriate teen conversations. She had one main interest and it would dominate every conversation. Her interest was in princesses and everything having to do with them. For most young teen girls, princesses were not much of an interesting topic for them.

Strategies for Solving Math Word Problems

Depending on the grade level of your student or child, a math word problem may involve simple addition to complex rate problems, and everything in between. This week’s blog will explore as many different resources as possible to support word problems in a comprehensive way.

mathwp6

We will begin with several instructional strategies that are relevant for any content area:

  1. Chunking
  2. Graphic Organizers
  3. Steps of the Process
  4. Visual Guides
  5. Models of Correct Work
  6. Video Modeling
  7. Incorporate Interests
  8. Technology
  9. Pneumonic Devices
  10. Preview Learning

The first website that I offer is http://www.brightstorm.com/math/. This site has video demonstrations of just about every type of math problem in algebra, geometry, algebra 2, trigonometry, precalculus and calculus. You can also enter your own problem and get a solution. For $4.99 a month, you can get an interactive online tool that will show you the steps to solving any math problem you enter.

Example: Word Problems Using Systems of Equations

Preventing Meltdowns: Part two

There is nothing amusing about “the meltdown”. It is reflective of a complete loss of control of the person with an autism spectrum disorder. It is often loud, risky at times, frustrating, and exhausting.

Here is a video that explains meltdowns from the perspective of someone living with autism.  Feel free to share with others, as it is available through youtube.

 Ask an Autistic: What is a meltdown?

One might say that the loss of control overtakes the child. They need their teacher or parent to recognize this and help them to regain control, as they are unable to do so on their own. A child with autism in the middle of the meltdown desperately needs help to regain composure.

Moreover, it becomes critical to learn to recognize when the meltdown is imminent.

In this way, you can both work to prevent a meltdown. The individual with an autism spectrum disorder needs to learn how to recognize the feelings of escalation and then actualize strategies to de-escalate before the crisis ensues.

LRfeelingschartThat is why a “feelings chart” or “emotion rating scale” can be such an important strategy.

Notice the left column of this particular feelings chart. It should be reviewed when calm to help identify the internal and external indicators that emotions are changing. The right hand column is just as, if not more important, in that it helps to identify calming strategies for that particular individual.

It is best to intervene early in the escalation process to increase the likelihood of a successful solution to the situation.

We are not “giving in to” or “reinforcing” negative behavior when providing one of these calming strategies, but rather throwing a lifeline to someone that is unraveling neurologically for many possible reasons.

by Lisa Rogers

Are You a Visual Thinker? Understanding the Difference between Visual and Auditory Input

Tools to Decrease Neurological Stress

How do we decrease neurological stress?  The following is an excerpt from my recent book titled “Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers: Practical Ideas for Students with ASDs and Other Special Educational Needs”

Visual processing

A research team funded by the National Institutes of Health found that, in people with autism, brain areas normally associated with visual tasks also appear to be active during language-related tasks. This provides evidence to explain a bias towards visual thinking that is common in those with autism.

Try this little activity: the following statement is about neurological processing.

“Visual’s a strength, auditory ain’t.”

As you say this, make goggles with your hands to cover your eyes. Then try saying it again while cupping your hands to make ear muffs over your ears. This little exercise will help your brain to remember a key statement about the preference for those with ASD for visual versus auditory learning. This understanding is the first step for taking a different course of action when responding to the behavior of those struggling with neurological stress.

Decreasing Neurological Stress

by: Lisa Rogers

How do we decrease neurological stress?  The following is an excerpt from my recent book titled Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers: Practical Ideas for Students with ASDs and Other Special Educational Needs.
A research team funded by the National Institutes of Health (2006) found that, in people with autism, brain areas normally associated with visual tasks also appear to be active during language-related tasks, providing evidence to explain a bias towards visual thinking that is common in autism.beliefs, aspie
Although grammatically incorrect, the following statement is about neurological processing. Visual’s a strength, auditory ain’t. As you say this, make goggles and cover your eyes with your hands. Then, cup your hands and make ear muffs over your ears. This will help your brain to remember an essential understanding that is the foundation for taking a different course of action when responding to the behavior of those struggling with neurological stress.
To process information auditorily means to capture transient information, the spoken word, interpret its meaning and find the most appropriate response within the vast catalog of possibilities in the brain. That requires a great deal of work for any brain, but often becomes a daunting task for individuals with ASDs. If someone gave you a list of 20 grocery items to buy verbally, you would probably be able to remember the first six or seven and forget the others. To decrease your stress about keeping all 20 items in your brain and increase the likelihood that you will successfully purchase the entire list, you would probably want to write them down.  Furthermore, you feel a sense of accomplishment as you check off each item.

Acknowledging Autism

Over the years one question is always asked at the end of every autism workshop Sam and I have been privileged to present. To paraphrase, it goes like this:

The Question:

“Sam this question is for you. We just found out our teenage son has (this part she whispers) Autism. I am unsure whether to tell him, his siblings or anyone else for that matter. What are your thoughts…should we tell?”

Since the question is directed at Sam…all eyes are on him waiting his response. For this reference, the woman asking the question is a composite of all the mothers who’ve asked this of Sam more times than I can count. She stands with tears in her eyes and is truly grappling with the recent diagnosis of Autism yet has hope after hearing Sam talk about growing up on the spectrum. She relates, she hurts and she hopes. So answering this common question takes thought. Samuels response is why I am writing this post. It comes straight from the heart of a young man who understands what autism ‘feels’ like. He is able to offer an insight, perhaps, into her own sons inner workings, workings that the parent has yet to grasp.

So when Sam, on his own, offered up his opinion it seemed appropriate to share with you now as it always seems to sooth the inquiring Moms fears.

The Response:

“Why would you not tell your son of his diagnosis? Believe me, he knows he is wired differently. He already knows he is not like his peers and probably feels like an outcast. It might even be a relief to know he has autism as there will finally be an explanation for most everything he is experiencing such as frustration, social loss and even physical pain. At the very least, he (and you) can begin to face the challenges through treatment(s). The diagnosis of autism isn’t a death sentence. It’s a road map of the brain. Understand the brain and map out a direction. Don’t think of Autism as a weight…think of it as a pair of wings in which to fly. ”

Inevitably, the Mom appears relieved and hugs Sam as if to thank him for permission to let the word, Autism, come into their lives. I know because we started from the same place.

Developing Social Skills

The topics discussed in this blog are often inspired by questions from readers.  This week’s topic of developing social skills is in response to such a question from a parent.

social skills

As you develop social skills, it would be helpful to identify the specific skill[s] that you and your child feels would be most beneficial.  For instance, do they struggle in initiating conversations?

If so, then two strategies might be helpful that you can work on at home.

First, conversation starters or scripts might provide the support necessary to engage in this difficult social skill.  More information can be found in a publication title:  Life Journey Through Autism:  An Educator’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome which is available as a free download at the following website:  http://researchautism.org/

A companion strategy is video modeling.

Depending on the specific skills that you want to develop, you can either make, find or purchase videos that teach how to do that specific skill. I have found some quality videos on YouTube or TeacherTube.  Another resource for purchase is available through Model Me Kids at http://www.modelmekids.com/.

In trying to provide information about programs that are evidence-based, I would like to share the following from the attached article titled:

Evidence-Based Social Skills Training for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders: The UCLA PEERS Program