ABAI Conference in Paris Next Week

As some of you know, we are getting very excited about to going to the Association for Behaviour Analysis International Conference (https://www.abainternational.org/welcome.aspx) later this month (14th and 15th November 2017). We’re really looking forward to it, but we thought you might be interested to hear what we will be doing while we are there. There won’t be much downtime – we have registered to attend some workshops, starting at 7am on day one. As well as specific topic workshops there are lectures, paper presentations and small group discussions to keep us busy!

Wondering what the workshops are about?

We are all scheduled to go to different workshops so we can absorb as much information about as many topics as possible. These are the official titles for each workshop, with some sounding more complicated than others!

  • Using a Reinforcement based Treatment Package to Increase Food Acceptance
  • Using Play-Based Discrete Trials to Teach Infants, Toddlers, and Pre-schoolers With Autism and Developmental Disabilities
  • The Acquisition of Behavioural Cusps as the Basics to Develop Language
  • Using Motivational Interviewing Techniques to Alter Motivating Operations and Increase Parent Engagement in ABA Therapy
  • Speech Science for the Behaviour Analyst: Behavioural Tricks to Remediate Speech Errors
  • Incorporating Mindfulness Strategies in Behavioural Parent Training for Caregivers of Children with Autism and Developmental Disabilities
  • ·Recent Research on Teaching Children With a Diagnosis of Autism
  • Integration of Automatic and Social Reinforcement Interventions in Applied Settings: A Framework for Addressing Dual Diagnosis

So that brings us to lunchtime on day 1 !

After lunch there are a huge number of conferences to choose from, covering a wide variety of topics, people presenting journal articles, panel discussions and poster presentations of recent research.

After a good nights sleep, on day two, we kick off at 8am (an extra hour in bed!) The day follows the same structure of the afternoon for the first day. There will be many conferences, papers being presented, and panel discussions. If you are interested, you can see all of the information here https://www.abainternational.org/events/program-details/event-detail.aspx?intConvId=49&by=Day&date=11/14/2017#divMastrTopBanner0

We can’t wait to come back and tell you all about everything we have learnt! I’m off to buy a new note pad!

It's our birthday!

What a year it has been… Since opening our doors in 2016 we have worked with a growing number of children, parents, nurseries and schools to help young people with Autism reach their potential.

We have worked hard this year to spread the word about our services but also to increase awareness and educate about the importance of early intervention.  We have even written our first editorial piece in the Sussex edition of ABC Parenting Magazine.  Pick up your free copy or check out our article (on page 77) here…

http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=be8268a3-fdfa-4252-9598-a515d5663fac

Early Action for Autism is also developing a strong following on social media and this has been a great way for us to share our news and thoughts. You can find us here…

https://www.facebook.com/earlyactionforautism/

https://twitter.com/early4autism

https://www.linkedin.com/in/early-action-for-autism-b63407152/

A key issue in our thoughts recently has been how we continue to be surprised (and somewhat disheartened) by the how long the diagnosis process can take - up to four years - and during this time, many parents are left feeling confused and unsupported.  Not many people are aware that there are networks of support available and that you can begin helping your child even before diagnosis.

It was for this reason that we decided to host an Open Morning at our centre recently where we were available to share: our experiences; information about Early Action for Autism; and important support links to anyone who needed help.  If you missed out on coming to see us, please contact us and we would be happy to share the links or arrange for a suitable time for you to visit.

We have met many families in the very early stages of diagnosis and, throughout the past year, we have been approached by clients from various places throughout Sussex, Surrey and Kent.  In fact, we are currently looking for tutors to help deliver our quality service to our fast-growing client base.  Previous experience would be beneficial although not essential.  If you think you have the skills required to become a therapist and would like to join the team, please contact us.

Finally, we would like to say a huge THANK YOU! to everyone who has supported us over the past year and we look forward to helping more families in the future.

Fireworks night is approaching!

Fireworks night is coming round again – it’s a time of year that can be great for some children, and very difficult for others.

BECKENHAM AUTISM FRIENDLY FIREWORKS SHOW

If children like to be out in the field to watch the fireworks, but don’t like the loud noises (as I didn’t as a child, I’d hide behind my parents for the whole show) then, we have found a quiet, autism friendly fireworks show in Beckenham on Saturday November 4th 2017. There is a smaller, quieter show at 6PM in Beckenham Park, before the main show at 7:45. https://beckenhamfireworks.com/

GLOW WILD AT WAKEHURST PLACE

If fireworks just don’t suit the family, then how about “Glow Wild” at Wakehurst Place, just down the road from us? You can walk through the Gardens and Woodlands after dark, lit by lanterns – no whizz pops or bangs. It runs from November 30th 2017 until December 17th 2017 on Thursdays to Sundays. The only days left with availability are Thursdays – so book tickets soon if you are interested. The staff at Wakehurst Place are very accommodating, and allow people with Special Educational Needs in free of charge, so it might be Worth phoning them before you pay for tickets. https://www.kew.org/wakehurst/whats-on/glow-wild-winter-lantern-festival

EARLY ACTION FOR AUTISM IDEAS

Alternatively, if you would rather stay inside in the warm, you could have some home-made, indoor fireworks. For this you will need:

·         An old film canister (or similar sized pot and lid)

·         Glitter

·         A shower curtain or something to protect your carpet

·         Alka-Seltzer tablet

·         Water

Put some glitter in the bottom of the film cannister. Pop a tablet in, and a few drops of water. Put the lid on, sit back and wait for the lid to pop off and the “fireworks” to follow

Or you could make a lemonade fountain. For this you would need:

·         A bottle of lemonade

·         Salt

·         Glitter and food colouring (optional)

·         A shower curtain or tray to keep your carpet clean

Remove the label from the lemonade. Add the food colouring and glitter if you choose to. Pour in some salt, stand back and watch the fountain come up and out of the bottle.

Also, have a look at our fireworks Pintrest board for some warm, inside, possibly less messy fireworks activities. https://www.pinterest.co.uk/earlyactionf/firework/

More misconceptions, myths and criticisms explained

These next few blogs will hopefully separate the fact from the fiction of ABA. ABA continues to be misunderstood by so many people – we are really passionate about providing an accurate picture of ABA and dispelling these myths. For us, it is deeply frustrating, but for families it may stop them connecting with services that can actually help. We hope that by us, and other ABA providers writing blogs, providing training and video examples of what ABA looks like now we can, over time erase these myths.  Ok, so, more 2 criticisms for you.

THERE ARE LOTS OF THERAPIES OUT THERE AND NO THERAPY IS BETTER THAN ANOTHER.

FICTION.

The internet may churn out a huge selection of therapies, services and advice pages for helping someone with autism. For anyone starting their search this is incredibly overwhelming. So, where do you start? You want help, it to be effective, to be valuable to your child and family, to support you in the tough times, to teach you how to manage the tough times. That’s a long list, but to sum it up – you want it to work, so it has to be proven to work. This is where ABA is at the top of that huge list. ABA is the only scientifically proven form of therapy for autism. The scientific evidence backing the use of ABA therapy for individuals with autism is overwhelming. Applied Behaviour Analysis is an evidence-based practice and effectiveness of ABA practices are well documented in peer reviewed scientific journals.

THE FIELD OF ABA IS UNREGULATED.

FICTION.

Unfortunately, until very recently, the field of ABA had been unregulated in much of the world, meaning that technically anyone could claim to be an ABA practitioner. But, thankfully, this has changed. The Behaviour Analyst Certification Board (BACB) oversees the field of ABA (https://www.bacb.com). They set standards, document best practice and ethical guidelines that registered practitioners must adhere to. They have introduced 4 formal qualifications and accreditations. Starting with RBT (Registered Behaviour Technician), BCaBA (Board Certified assistant Behaviour Analyst – Clare’s qualification), BCBA (Board Certified Behaviour Analyst – Leila and Heather’s qualification) and BCBA –D (Board Certified Behaviour Analyst-Doctoral) with the latter being the highest accreditation.  If you are looking into ABA providers please check for these credentials. This can be done on the BACB website using the link above.

Have a question for us? Or have heard something different, please, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

Misconceptions, Myths and Criticisms of ABA

Hopefully last week our blog was an intriguing introduction to ABA and you started your own internet search to find out more. If you did then fantastic! But I guess you may have come across a mass of misconceptions, mixed views on the ethics of “changing” children and forums describing how therapists make children sit at tables for hours. In the next series of blogs I want to explain the main misconceptions, how the science of ABA has changed over the years and what is fact and fiction about ABA.

ABA is when a child sits at a table and is asked lots of different questions really quickly

FICTION

What may be being described here is discrete trial training (DTT). This is indeed is a teaching technique that is sometimes used within ABA programmes however this is one of many techniques and it is not implemented for all children and has specific uses. Let’s talk about the sitting at the table – yes at some points as children progress through therapy they may be asked to sit at table. This is an important skill to learn, however this is not, and should not be the only place therapy takes place. ABA is not restricted to one environment. During early intervention programmes therapy is skilfully woven into fun, creative motivating play session, which is completed anywhere (within reason!) the child is motivated to play and engage. An ABA programme will take advantage of naturally occurring learning opportunities, meaning that therapists will provide teaching in the setting when the skill will naturally occur; the playroom, garden, bathroom as well as at the shops and in the park.

ABA therapy is a new treatment for autism 

FICTON

Some people fear that ABA is a new form of treatment for children with autism and that it is not a tried and tested methodology. This is not true. The foundations of the principles of ABA can be traced as far back as the late 1950’s and early 1960’s with research on animal behaviour. B.F. Skinner, who spurred the development of what is now known as behaviour analysis, never intended it to be a science of animal behaviour. He proposed “that the techniques of behaviour analysis should be extended to explain and change the behaviour of people in everyday arenas such as education, work, clinical problems, and social behaviour.”  In 1970, Ivar Lovaas expanded upon Skinner’s work and applied it to children with autism.

As well as being a highly effective treatment for autism, ABA principles can be applied to a huge variety of everyday socially important problems such as treating obsessive compulsive behaviours, quitting smoking, increasing healthy lifestyles and managing phobias.

ABA is a science, and as with all sciences, they progress and their ‘best’ practice changes as new research is conducted and knowledge increases. In this respect ABA is no different to any other science. The frustrating part for us is that critics will continue to rely on dragging up outdated, no longer used procedures to criticise ABA – you may have seen the programme on BBC2 recently “Aspergers and Me”.

So here are the first two misconceptions, I hope they have answered some of the questions you had. If not please drop us an email and we would love to try again!  Over the next few weeks I will carry on myth busting, but in the meantime if you have a burning question about something you have read, seen or been told about ABA then please get in contact.

What is ABA?

After studying ABA for many years, I’ll try to give you a quick, simple answer.

ABA stands for Applied Behaviour Analysis. In a nutshell, it is the way we understand behaviour in the context of the environment. It explains why behaviours happen when they do. Those behaviours that happen “out of the blue” or “for no reason at all” – ABA helps us understand exactly why these do happen, and understand that there is a reason, and they are not “without warning”.

So, what is behaviour? -  This is everything a person does .

What is “the environment?” - The physical and social events surrounding a person that might alter the way they behave.

Does that answer the question? Not really?

A slightly longer answer then. ABA is based on the science of learning and behaviour. It has general “rules” about how behaviour works, and how and when learning takes place. ABA applies these “rules” to increase desired behaviours (like communication) and reduce occurrences of undesired behaviours (like tantrums). ABA uses these “rules” to reduce behaviours that interfere with learning, or behaviours that may be harmful.

ABA can be used to increase communication skills, social skills, academics. It can be used to increase the variety of someone’s diet. To toilet train a child, teach them to accept going to the dentist or the hairdressers. It can be used to decrease problem behaviours which may limit where you go, what you can do and how you do things.

ABA is evidence based

This means there is loads of evidence to show that it is effective and useful when it comes to teaching behaviours.

Have you heard of antecedents and consequences?

ABA looks at what happens directly before a behaviour – the antecedent, and the consequence – what happens after the behaviour.

The antecedent helps us to understand the function of the behaviour – did the behaviour occur to gain access to something? To avoid something? Because something fun stopped?

As for consequences, have you heard of positive reinforcement? It’s a reward. If a behaviour is followed by a reward, the behaviour is more likely to be repeated. These rewards are an essential part of ABA – they bring about the meaningful behaviour changes we need.

Will ABA benefit my child?

Is your child having difficulty learning? Having difficulty communicating? Tantruming? Displaying aggression?

Then yes, ABA is likely to be useful. Obviously I can’t say how long it will take and exactly what will happen as everyone is different, but it’s highly likely to be effective.

What do I do if I’m not sure if it’s right for my child?

Ring us, email is, pop in to talk to us. If you decide it’s not for you, we can help you find something that you think may be more to your liking. But I don’t think you’ll need to. Because ABA is evidence based, unlike to many other therapies. Did I say I’ve studied ABA for years? I like it. It works.

Parent training is the key to success….

Welcome to our first blog, bear with as we learn how this works! We look forward to posting information on the latest research, autism support services, things we have been up to at the centre and lots of interesting links and articles.

We are excited that our first post is about an area we have great success in and we want to expand - parent training! We are really passionate about ABA not being a secret that is kept behind the doors of a centre. We want to empower you as the parent to implement strategies at home – that way, your child will experience a consistent approach so they will learn skills quicker and it will give you the understanding of how to respond to those daily challenges.  We also want ABA to be as accessible as possible and we understand that sadly the cost of therapy is a huge consideration. By training parents we can give you the day to day tools you need in order to teach, support and understand your child.

This all sounds great, but how do we do this?

Well, just as we teach flexibility to our children we are flexible too. We run parent training in a way that suits you and your family. We run ‘hands on’ parent training during therapy sessions. This means you join us for sessions so we can demonstrate techniques and support you in doing the same. This method has been of particular success when learning how to reduce and manage problem behaviours. It gives us plenty of time to explain strategies, support you during the difficulties moments and share the success of strategies working.

What if I can’t bring my child for regular sessions?

No problem – we are excited to launch two types of intensive parent training clinics. All training takes place at our centre in Haywards Heath – here we train up to three family members so you don’t have to go home and spend time explaining what to do to everyone else. A dedicated behaviour analyst will complete a comprehensive evaluation of your child’s skills and needs covering areas such as:

  • Teaching communication
  • Expanding your child’s diet
  • Increasing your child’s social skills
  • Reducing levels of problem behaviour
  • Increasing your child’s independence with daily living skills
  • Other areas of need, such as toilet training, following instructions from family members

Over the course of the 5-day clinic we demonstrate skills, explain the theory behind the strategies and support you to apply the skills yourself. Targets are clearly detailed and any resources you need to start programmes are made up ready for you to take away. You will leave the course with new ideas and the confidence that you can manage and help your child to develop and grow.

What happens after the clinic has finished?

We provide 2 follow up meetings where we can check in with your child’s progress, move targets on, discuss and solve any problems that may have arisen and you can ask any questions you have. 

I have heard that other therapists can help too?

We are very lucky to have a highly experienced (and ABA trained!) OT as well as fantastic Speech and Language Therapist who has plenty of experience with providing therapy to children on ABA programmes. Both therapists are available to provide an assessment during the clinic if you would like.

5 days seems to long…

Don’t worry. We also have the option of a shorter clinic, which focuses on just one area at a time, for example, communication.

Sounds interesting but I would like more information

Please give us a call or email us, and we can answer any questions you may have. We’re here to help.