Tag Archives: aba

The Flirt

5 Dec

This is an actual conversation I had with one of my pre-teen clients this week….

Me: Okay, let’s do this problem *points to math problem*

Flirt: *grabs my finger and examines it*

Me: Ummmmm….Why did you touch my finger?

Flirt: Oh! Uh……. Well…. because you’re so young and beautiful.

Me: What??? That doesn’t make any sense.

Flirt: I told you! You’re so young and beautiful!


What video he was scripting from, I have no idea. But it was still worth a smile ūüôā

I’ve been robbed…

14 Nov

After almost 5 years with 2 of my clients….Their family has abruptly left the company I work for.

I have been robbed of my chance to say goodbye.

In 2008 I first met the little guys.¬† Since starting with them I have worked with them at least 4 days a week. 4 days a week for the past 4 1/2 years. I have gone to school with these boys every year. The family and I even joked about picking a local college for them to attend so that I could continue shadowing the boys. I spent more time with them than my own family. They became my little brothers. In fact, the whole family became like family to me. I grew close with the mom, and watched the siblings grow up over the past 4 1/2 years.¬† I was told I was “part of the family”.

I’ll skip all the details, but somewhere along the way…and I really don’t know where, things went sour last week. And in an instant, I went from “part of the family” to hardly more than a stranger; an enemy even.
And in a moment, I was robbed of my chance to say goodbye to the little boys I love as if they were my own brothers.
The finality of this relationship is a pill I’m not ready to swallow. But not having the chance to see them one more time, and let them know I won’t be seeing them anymore but how much I will miss them…. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to swallow that.

After almost 5 years together…. I have been so robbed.

Happy Halloween

31 Oct

Happy Halloween!

I’ll be spending this Halloween with 2 teenage clients. I noticed online there are a few public social stories about trick or treating. But I didn’t see anything for kids too old to trick or treat, or those who prefer to stay home and pass out candy. So I made one. It’s short and simple. Feel free to use it or share on your site. Just make sure to link back to me.










20 Oct

Let me set the scene…
2 adults, each fiercely gripping an arm of a little boy who is flailing around on a stranger’s grassy front lawn. The kid, laying there; kicking, crying, writhing. The two women each using all their might to wrestle this power-house of a little boy off the ground. Meanwhile, two bright blue shoes lay in the middle of the street.

To me….this is an obvious scenario. Clearly this child has some special needs- hence the public meltdown on a neighbor’s front lawn; hence 2 adults pulling and straining and fighting and pleading and begging him to please get up.

But to the owner of the house…apparently not an obvious scenario. Instead, his look of horror and disgust said it all… His first thought was not that something must be wrong here. There must be some bigger issues at play here. No, his first thought was “What are these people doing on my lawn!”. As he pulled into his drive way, he raised his hands and shot a look of irritation, aggravation, and anger.

He must have missed it.¬† All the clues were there, though… How did he not see it? How did he not notice?

He didn’t notice the struggle on my face.

He didn’t notice the pain in the boy’s eyes.

He didn’t notice the fight we were putting up just to move this boy an inch.

He didn’t notice the frustration in our bodies.

He didn’t notice the tension.

He didn’t notice the desperation.

He didn’t notice the strength it took.

He didn’t notice the battle.

He didn’t notice the toil.


No, he didn’t notice any of that.¬† How did he not notice?

Person First Language

2 Sep

“Autistic person”…or “person with Autism”?

Many¬†people and parents have strong opinions on this topic. The idea is that calling someone “autistic” is looking at their diagnosis, instead of them as a person. Whereas, saying “person with autism” is looking at the person first, and diagnosis second.

Many autistic people write about their dislike of person-first language. They assert that person-first language suggests you can separate them from the autism, which they believe you can’t. Autism is a part of them, and not a shameful or terrible part that needs to be separated. They are proud of who they are and don’t want their autism carrying a negative connotation.

Other people with Autism are passionate about their preference for person-first language. They don’t want to be defined by, or reduced to, their diagnosis. They feel calling someone “autistic” is dehumanizing the person. People are more than their diagnosis. They prefer people to look at the person, not the disability.

Personally, I vacillate between the two phrases. My own family isn’t particularly emphatic about one or the other, so I find that I interchange them. I have worked with families that use person first language, so when I’m around them, I do too. I have also worked with other families that don’t, so when I’m around them, I don’t either. But overall, my experience has been that people I’m around don’t really care either way.

I feel that the separation of the person and the diagnosis perpetuates the stigma that it’s “bad” or “wrong”; Almost as though Autism is something so terrible or tragic that¬†it needs to be estranged, rather than seen as part of the person. (Now, I am not necessarily saying¬† “Autism is simply a beautiful, wonderful gift we should embrace!!!” But, I certainly don’t think it helps to overly vilify the diagnosis.) We use descriptors all the time in everyday life; “blonde girl”, “tall guy”, “fast driver”, “loud teacher”, “shy kid”, etc, etc, etc.¬†¬†And, in using those descriptors, we all realize those things do not define the person. They are just a way to quickly describe or categorize.¬†No one would suggest¬†that calling me a “brunette” is confining me, or reducing me, to a hair color. Everyone knows I am still a whole person, and pointing out my hair color is¬†just looking at one part of me…not denying all my other qualities. So I think it’s the same with “autistic”. It’s used to describe something about a person, not to negate their wholeness as a human being.

With that said, I understand people are going to have strong opinions on both sides of the fence. And, that’s okay. Because I don’t feel extremely zealous one way or the other, I can pretty easily adjust my language based on my audience at any given time.¬† And interestingly enough, from my research online, it seems most autistic people actually prefer to be called “autistic” and rebuff person first language.

I’d love to know where you stand on this issue.

Here are some excellent blogs on this issue:






Reinforcement: Timing is everything

27 Aug

Research shows that “an imposed¬†delay [in the delivery of reinforcement] will typically render a reinforcer less effective. The more time between the criterion meeting response, and the delivery of the reinforcer, the weaker that reinforcement relation will be.” -Iser DeLeon, PhD BCBA.

What does this mean in plain english?

When reinforcing a behavior, especially at first, it should be immediate. The longer the delay, the less effective the reinforcement. Recall that “reinforcement” is not the same as reward. In order to be a reinforcer, the item/activity/etc. has to increase the future frequency of the behavior. (Read more about reinforcement in my post here).

So when attempting to reinforce a target behavior, the sooner the better. Have the item readily available. If it’s an activity or outing a person is earning, get ready to get up and go as soon as the target behavior occurs. The longer the delay, the weaker the contingency. The child does not associate the reinforcer with the target behavior if the reinforcement is delayed too significantly. Thus, if the child does not associate the target behavior with the attempted reinforcer, they are less likely to repeat that behavior in the future.

A classic example:

Let’s say a child really loves bike rides. Riding his or her bike functions as a reinforcer. But bike rides are an activity; not something you can quickly hand a child, like a piece of candy. If you want to make doing the dishes the target behavior, reinforced by a bike ride, here are some things you’d want to consider:

  • Have the child already in the appropriate shoes, clothing, etc.
  • Have the bike already¬†easily accessible when you go out to the yard
  • Once the last dish is cleaned, immediately take the kid outside, help them get on the bike and go!

If after the last dish was completed you had to help the kid put on socks and shoes, then get the bike out of the garage, then help with the helmet, etc….5 or 10 minutes might pass before the child actually gets on the bike! So the child would not necessarily associate doing the dishes with earning¬† a bike ride. Additionally, any behavior that occurs between the dish washing and the bike ride may actually be the behavior you end up reinforcing. If the child finishes the dishes, and then during putting on their shoes has a major tantrum, and then they still get the bike ride…you have would have then unwittingly reinforced the tantrum, not the dish washing behavior.

Conclusion: faster is better. The less time between the target behavior and the reinforcement, the less chance you have of mistakenly reinforcing a different behavior. And, the stronger the relationship becomes between the target behavior and the reinforcer.

In hot water over hot sauce

19 Aug

Yahoo! News reported on a teacher who used hot sauce on crayons to deter her autistic student from eating them.

“Lillian Gomez was fired from her job at Sunrise Elementary School in Kissimmee, Fla., in February after school officials found out that Gomez had allegedly put jumbo-sized Crayons in a cup and soaked them for days in hot sauce before moving them to a bag that was labeled with the student’s name.”

The presiding judge ruled in favor of Gomez, and recommended her job be reinstated. (For the full story, click here.)

It’s an interesting story, and the comments from the general public were what really fascinated me. I found a mixture of outrage and support. But, the overwhelming majority defended the teacher and judge. Here are some of the comments on the article:

  • If this was her most creative plan of action she is in the wrong occupation. At the very least consult with the parents first. I am appalled at this teacher and at this judge-SouthernGirl
  • This is sickening!- Mary M
  • I can honestly and truthfully, whole-heartedly say…I hope those of you who think this is a good idea, choke on your words.- Kels
  • My nephew is autistic. If I found out someone did something like this to him, for my sister, I’d go postal on that person!!- Starfirelite79
  • As someone with an autistic relative I think this idea is brilliant.- Nicole
  • Honestly, if my kids were eating crayons, I’d rather them taste something a little spicy rather than ingest a bunch of colored wax.-Moon Pies and Blue Skies
  • It wasn’t punitive at all it was preventative. There is a huge difference between using hot sauce to prevent a choking incident and doing it to punish a child.-AndyShep
  • My son is Autistic and I see nothing wrong with what she did.-71
  • Sounds like she was trying to get the kid to ….. STOP EATING CRAYONS. What the heck is wrong with that??- Boobania
  • So damn if you do damn if you don’t. let the kid eat the crayons get fired, do what she did get fired.-Caliguy
  • I think she did the right thing – because it¬†prevented the child from swallowing colored wax-RandaR
  • Its just hot sauce folks, people are acting like she put rat poison on the crayons.-Jerilyah

I know, at first glance¬†it sounds outrageous and abusive and insane…A teacher putting hot-sauce on crayons…for an autistic kid!?!?!?! But in looking at the whole picture, one can see that she was attempting to make the crayon eating behavior aversive and thereby less reinforcing. She was trying to decrease a maladaptive behavior by making it unpleasant. I don’t think¬†it was an¬†evil or cruel act. I think where she went wrong was not first gaining consent from the parents, school board, etc. She is responsible to follow all ethical¬†guidelines and codes of conduct. But I absolutely think she was trying to do the right thing, and I believe she had the child’s best interest in mind.

Where do you stand on this issue?


18 Aug

Reinforcement is a key component, if not the biggest key, to behavior change procedures.  But, reinforcement is often misunderstood. Everyone has the potential to impact behavior, either knowingly or unknowingly. And, parents have an especially influential role.

First, in order to be a “reinforcer”, the item or activity has to increase the future frequency of the behavior it immediately follows. Next, there are two types of reinforcement: Positive and Negative. No, that does not equate to “good and bad”. Don’t let the terms fool you.

Positive Reinforcement is an added consequence of behavior that increases the future frequency of that behavior. (Adding something to strengthen the behavior)

  • Giving a teen $10 for every A earned on his or her report card. (You add the money in order to increase future frequency of earning As.)

Negative Reinforcement is the removal or avoidance of something that increases the future frequency of that behavior. (Removing something to strengthen the behavior)

  • Scratching your arm when it’s itching. (The scratching behavior¬†removes the itch, thereby making you more likely to scratch future itches)

Some more common examples of Negative Reinforcement that many parents encounter:

  1. A child is given a plate of veggies. The child screams and cries, refusing to eat the vegetables. So the parent removes the plate, and the child does not have to eat them.

In this case, the child’s behavior (screaming) was negatively reinforced (via the removal of the vegetables), thereby increasing¬†the future likelihood of screaming when given vegetables.

2.¬†A child asks for a toy at the toy store. The parent says no, and the child begins tantruming.¬† The parent, tired of the¬†child’s meltdown,¬†gives in and buys the toy.

In this example, the parent’s behavior (buying the toy) was negatively reinforced (The aversive stimulus, the tantrum, stopped). Now, the parent may be more likely to buy the child what they ask for¬†in the future, in order to avoid or escape the tantum.

****Here’s where it gets tricky…in the above example, there is multiple reinforcing events occuring. The child is positively reinforced for screaming (they scream, they get the toy) , while the parent is negatively reinforced for giving the toy (they give the toy, the screaming stops).

I know, it’s confusing. Plus, we are so engrained with other connotations for the words positive and negative. But just remember that positive is adding something, negative is taking something away. And in order to be reinforcement, it MUST increase the future frequency of the behavior. A “reward” is NOT the same as a reinforcer.

For more information on this topic, please visit the links below:




*All pictures found on Google Images, diagram created by me

The student becomes the teacher

16 Aug

Earlier this week I got distracted and off task during session with one of my clients. He promptly turned to me and quipped:

‚ÄúBack to business.‚ÄĚ

Admittedly, I‚Äôve used that phrase with him a few times¬†before, usually when transitioning from a break back to work.¬†So, I couldn‚Äôt help but laugh at his remark. He called me out! And, rightfully so.¬† ūüôā

%d bloggers like this: