The main use of ABA for individuals on the autism spectrum is to decrease challenging behaviors and increase appropriate skills.
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).
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
____ ____ 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.
___ ___ 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.
Technology and exercise? I know what you are thinking, how can I use a fitness product like a smart watch or fitness bracelet to get my child to exercise? Do I need to or am I financially able to purchase a fitness product like that? What if they don’t like it or use it and I’ve already spent the money buying it. Is there setup of the product or is it ready for use?
Technology can be overwhelming but can also be very useful. The amount of fitness products out there is tremendous, but they each serve a purpose and a specific fit for someone. Today’s discussion will be on technology use during exercise but it will take a different perspective than you think.
Video Game Systems
Video game systems can be a contributing factor to our kids becoming less active. It is difficult for kids to move away from technology altogether so why not make it work for us? Video game systems have games available for purchase that are fitness/exercise oriented in which the person becomes the game controller.
For example, the Wii game system has: Just Dance 2016, EA Sports Active 2, and EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp. Similar game systems like the Xbox have the following games: Xbox Fitness, Nike Kinect Training, or Playfit. Lastly, the PlayStation has games like: Move Fitness, Zumba Fitness, and Sports Champions. These games use the person’s movement as a way to control the game. So, by dancing and moving you can get your kiddos to burn some calories while having fun.
The complexities of High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome may present themselves in behaviors that may be either excessive for specific situations or lacking.
Strategies developed to target such behaviors are often included in packages known as behavior intervention plans (BIP), behavior support plans (BSP), behavior management plans (BMP), positive behavior support plans (PBSP), and several others.
The primary purpose of a behavior plan is to outline and describe strategies that prevent problem behaviors, teach new behaviors that replace problematic behaviors and attempt to remove consequences that maintain or strengthen undesirable behaviors. The plans are usually developed for use in school settings, home and community settings, and sometimes employment settings.
The primary components of a plan are:
1. Identifying Information
The basics behind the behavior intervention plan, including the individual’s information, the stakeholders, time introduced and the settings in which the plan is to be implemented.
2. Description of Behaviors
This operational definition should be a specific description of the behaviors targeted for reduction or increase. They should be both observable and measurable.
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:
“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.
“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.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is frequently misunderstood, and that’s especially true in the case of women. The stereotypical person many people think of on the autism spectrum may be a Rain Man character who is male, anti-social, and gifted with numbers, but the population is actually very diverse. Many women with autism go their whole lives believing something is wrong with them because people have misunderstood their traits.
In addition, autism is less likely to be identified in women because they don’t always match the stereotype and often work hard to conceal their traits. “‘She can’t have ASD because she makes eye contact, she has a friend, she is caring’… there are many gender stereotypes that lead women with ASD to not be diagnosed or misdiagnosed,” Tasha Oswald, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and founder and director of Open Doors Therapy, tells Bustle.
“Girls often present with milder forms of social troubles than their male peers, due to teachers’ biases and assessments that the girls are more socially adept than boys,” Christine Scott-Hudson, MA MFT ATR, licensed psychotherapist and owner of Create Your Life Studio, tells Bustle. “Girls in general are also socialized not to disappoint or offend their teachers or peers, and so girls on the autism spectrum may intentionally keep behaviors, responses, and feelings to themselves in order to remain pleasing.”
Here are some signs of autism that may be particularly applicable to women, but can be missed, according to experts.
Note: The signs below refer to just one form of autism — what was previously called “Asperger syndrome, or Asperger’s”. Transition to adulthood specialist Cady Stanton, M.S. says that even though the term “Asperger’s” no longer exists, it’s a term many people are familiar with. According to Autism Speaks, it now falls under the umbrella term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5), as of 2013. Typical to strong verbal language skills and intellectual ability differentiate it from other forms of autism.
1. Difficulty With Social Situations
“Just like males with ASD, women with ASD struggle socially, but like a double-edged sword, that struggle is both worsened and helped by the higher societal expectations placed on women to be socially aware and adhere to etiquette,” says Oswald. In other words, it’s not that women have different social symptoms than men; they just may be more likely to mask them.
“Difficulty catching on to others’ intentions, reading social cues, and understanding the unwritten rules of our society are core social challenges present in those with ASD,” Oswald says.
2. Being a Target of Bullies
Many girls are the target of bullies in school, but this may be particularly harsh for those on the autism spectrum.
So, how is Autism diagnosed? Until recently, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), including Aspergers Syndrome, have been understood as a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders—characterized by social impairments, difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.
Changes in definition have been proposed and accepted by different organizations and groups in the United States and other parts of the world. The changes have been discussed in other posts; meanwhile, I will address how autism is diagnosed.
At the present time, a single test to diagnose autism does not exist. We do know that a biological or single genetic marker has not been identified, thus, autism cannot be diagnosed with a blood test or imaging studies. It is rather a diagnosis that is primarily identified by behavioral and developmental differences.
As parents know their children better than anyone else, they are usually the first to suspect their child is following a different developmental trajectory.
Autism has its roots in very early development—many parents would report that they saw differences shortly after birth—however, signs of Autism are usually apparent between the first and second birthdays.
Although sensory differences are very real and must be recognized as such, narratives can help to deal with these differences. For instance, there was a high school student that was having significant difficulty with the hallway transition from class to class. Not only was there the loud bell that signals the transition, but then it was followed by a crowded hallway and noisy teenagers talking in groups.
One way to address this might be to allow an early release from class to avoid much of this hallway chaos. Another option is to provide a narrative that helps deal with this difficult transition.
The following is an example of such a narrative:
Passing Period at High School
My name is ___________. I am a student at _________ High School.
In High School, there are different periods. A bell rings at the end of each period.
When the bell rings, the students walk in the hall to go to their next class.
Sometimes, the students make a lot of noise as they walk down the hallway. This might hurt my ears.
That is O.K. The passing period lasts only for a few minutes. Soon, the halls will be quiet again.
I remember that I can just wear my headphones & listen to music during the passing period.
Then, I will get to walk to my next class where it is nice and quiet.
I can do this!
Staff noticed that the student would repeat the story to himself while walking down the hall. A narrative can validate feelings, provide a solution and even offer comfort during a stressful time.
The following is another example of a narrative addressing sensory issues. This time, the narrative was written for a student that wanted to hug her classmates frequently and deeply to get that deep pressure feeling.
Our son has Aspergers Syndrome. However, getting the diagnosis didn’t come easy and the path to that diagnosis was rocky to say the least. That was over 10 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.
The following is only meant as a ‘checklist’. Remember, this is not an official document, and is only meant to act as a flag for a strong suspicion of Aspergers Syndrome, a doctor or trained therapist would need to make the official diagnosis.
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
Jewelry Designed to Impart how it “Feels” to have Autism
One of the highlights when Sam and I speak at autism conferences is the reaction to a simple painting he had created depicting how it ‘feels’ to have autism. His interpretation offers a great insight and a relate-ability satisfying most neurotypical minds. As a result to the overwhelming positive feedback…we incorporated Sam’s painting into our logo and now have made it into jewelry to wear!
Make no mistake, this is a fundraiser. 100% of all proceeds will directly fuel the cost to provide Aspergers101 as an ongoing free resource and it’s outreach! You can read more about our work at the end of the blog but the focus of this blog is on you and our most uncommon path of raising a child with Autism/Asperger Syndrome.
The Path Less Traveled
The Autism Charm was created out of experience. Both mine and Sam’s journey, though unique to us, is shared by everyone who has a child diagnosed with Autism or Asperger Syndrome. It’s a path less traveled. Early on, a parent finds themselves a bit of an Indiana Jones forging their way through the bramble and uncertainty of EVERYTHING…but you forge on. Years of working together seems each grade advancement was a huge accomphlishment and for a moment, a plateau to rest until onward and upward yet again. You know the path. It was on this isolated journey I met a friend who had, up until that time, also forged it with her son…alone. We formed a most valuable, immediate friendship that felt like an exclusive club! There were others out there and that felt good.
The Parents Bond of Autism
It was from this newly formed friendship that I realized our paths should not be forged alone. If anything, being down the path a bit my family and I then decided to reach out to help others just starting out. Knowledge was power and there is nothing more powerful than a mothers bond of a child with autism…we know each others struggles! Do you find yourself immediately drawn to another parent whose child is on the spectrum? An empathy and fierce loyalty is instant! To remind me of this bond and that I am not alone as I feel, my friend gave me a bracelet that I’ve worn out! It has a symbol of autism that though only she and I wore, that was a daily reminder that I can get through this….there are others!
The Autism Charm Design
So now we, Aspergers101, have taken the logo Samuel designed and made it into a charm bracelet or necklace! We hope you wear it with pride and know that you are never alone in your struggles. Of course, it is through my families faith in God that offers us peace but good to be reminded that others tread the brambled path of Autism. I’ll repost Sam’s description of his design:
“I painted this abstract picture to show neurotypicals what it feels like to have Aspergers Syndrome. At the time, I was enrolled in Art Appreciation I at Northeast Lakeview College. One day after class, I was at home and suddenly felt like painting, so I got some brushes, a canvas, and some acrylic paint and began to paint while envisioning the picture and its message in my mind. The black and white background represents how aspies tend to see the world in a black-and-white perspective and that we tend to act monotonous. The colors inside the head represent how our minds are bursting with extraordinary ideas. The white lines above the head represent how when we try to say what’s on our minds, it tends to get distorted by our social awkwardness.” by: Samuel Allen
We hope you like and share The Autism Charm bracelet and/or necklace!
You can learn more about Aspergers101 and it’s work here: About Us