W3- How to Praise Your Child Effectively

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Last week, we reviewed the difference between positive reinforcement and bribery. This week we are going to discuss how to effectively praise your child. How do we define praise? Praise is when you express approval for an action your child does. This can include saying “great!” “good job” “excellent!”  Anytime you say these words and other positive words, you might notice your child feels better and valued. We all liked to be praised by others; it makes us feel good!

You might be asking yourself, what is new? I know how to praise my child. Behavior certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) often recommend parents, teachers, and staff to use frequent behavior-specific praise. Behavior-specific praise involves four essential steps:

  • First, you will need to define or select the specific behavior the child is doing appropriately.
  • Second, you need to praise with excitement.
  • Third, you state the exact behavior that the child did.
  • Last, you can provide a non-verbal action (high-fives, hug, a gentle pat on the shoulder) your child.

Behavior-specific praise is effective in changing your child’s actions, which may include, completing everyday tasks (self-care skills, chores, homework). Behavior-specific praise is especially beneficial for kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Behavior-specific praise is a powerful strategy to help your child to make the connections of what they did and your encouraging and affirming comments.

For example, say your child set the dinner table as soon as the parent asked.

To follow our steps:

  • You select a behavior: setting the table.
  • Second, you might say enthusiastically “Dave, great job!” maybe with hand gestures. (praise with excitement)
  • Third, you would finish the praise statement with “you set the dinner table just like I asked.” (stating the behavior).
  • finally, you can pat your child on the shoulder gently. (providing a non-verbal action)

When using behavior-specific praise, remember your praise should follow the selected behavior immediately and quickly. For example, if you stated “Sally, great job helping me with wiping down the table last week.” Also, if the task is very difficult for the child, try to start with acknowledging and praising small steps that lead to the behavior that you would like to see. Such as praising the child for picking up the socks on the bedroom floor as cleaning the entire room might be too difficult for now.

Behavior-specific praise is one of the tools that we use in applied behavior analysis (ABA) when our goals are to increase appropriate behaviors. We will get to know other useful tools based on the principles of ABA in the coming weeks.

Next week, we will meet with our awesome student clinicians working in the Husky ABA clinic. See you on Friday! As always, like us on Facebook for the newest clinic updates and weekly blog posts.

W2- Am I Bribing My Child by Using Positive Reinforcement?

Have you ever witnessed a situation where a parent and child are at the candy aisle, the child starts crying and yells “I want candy, I want candy, you never buy me candy.” The parent yells “no, you are eating too much junk food lately.” The child cries louder and drops to the ground. Shoppers at the supermarket start to pass their judgmental looks. The parent gives up and yells “okay. stop crying, I will buy you the candy.” The child stops crying and receives candy.

Maybe your child’s board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) has suggested you do something similar to this: before going into the supermarket, then you can tell the child “ if you will not cry or yell the whole time when we are in there, I will buy you candy after we are done shopping” The child behaves. The parent praises the child for what a wonderful job they have done and buys the child candy.

As a parent or someone new to applied behavior analysis (ABA) you might think, I am constantly bribing my kid! There has to be a better way. As a parent or caregiver of a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you might think positive reinforcement and bribery are the same because they both offer rewards to a child. It is important to know the difference between reinforcement and bribery because bribery tends to lead to more disruptive behaviors and reinforcement will help parents to see more desired behaviors.

Let us look at the definitions for reinforcement and bribery:

Reinforcement: The action of strengthening or encouraging a pattern of behavior typically by reward or encouragement.

Bribery: The offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions.

Timing is what distinguishes reinforcement from bribery. For example, together a BCBA and parent plan out a reinforcement plan before disruptive behavior happens. Parents may state the rule to the child, “Remember if you [blank], you can earn [blank]. However, bribery is reactive and often you might resort to this when challenging behaviors occur at the moment and sometimes a situation feels out of control.

As you can see, bribery usually happens during behavior in order to get a behavior to stop at that moment. It seems to work in the situation. It is a short-term effect, and unavoidably, it will not decrease challenging behaviors. The above example illustrates, reinforcement should be planned, and reinforcer should be delivered following the desired behavior. Therefore, desire behaviors will occur more often in the future.

I hope after reading this, you have a better understanding of the difference between reinforcement and bribery. Timing is the key. Reinforcement is proactive and planned out by the caregivers while bribery tends to be reactive.

Next week, we will discuss the type of praise that will change behavior since they are not all created equal! Be sure to keep an eye out for the newest blog post next Friday! Please like us and share our posts on Facebook. You can also explore our blog for more ABA related information.

W1-What Is Happening in the Next Ten Weeks?

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Yes! Our weekly posts are back, and we plan to have a new post every Friday for the next ten weeks! This semester we will be focusing on how professionals (board-certified behavior analysts; BCBAs) in applied behavior analysis (ABA) use reinforcers and implement reinforcement-based interventions. We will review the type of praise that will change behavior, how to respond to “Nos” and the concerns of giving too much praise, and other tips, suggestions, and recommendations! If you are a parent with a child or at risk for Autism or behavioral challenges, these strategies will certainly come in handy when interacting with your child.

In our weekly posts, we also want to keep you updated on what is happening at the Husky ABA Clinic. This semester we are providing telehealth services to local families impacted by autism. If your family or someone you know could benefit from behavioral services, please contact Odessa Luna, Ph.D., BCBA-D (P: (320)308-4167|E: odluna@stcloudstate.edu) We will also introduce our incredible, new junior and senior graduate clinicians working in the Husky ABA Clinic.

Next week, we will begin our reinforcement series by discussing reinforcers and bribery. You may think providing reinforcers means you are bribing your child. Spoiler alert! This may not be what is happening! In our next post, we will define and discuss the differences between reinforcers and bribery. You do not want to miss what is coming up!

If you would like to know the topics for the coming weeks, please like us on Facebook. You can also explore our blog.

 

Guide to Functions

We have finally gone over all of the functions! This flow chart will help break down each of the functions and how to respond to them. Check out any of our other blogs to see each of the methods in more detail!

Who Writes the Blog?

Meet Meghan and Zoe!

They have been running the Husky ABA clinic Facebook and blog. They both have positions as Graduate Assistants at St. Cloud State and have been working hard on keeping everything for the clinic organized and helping develop materials for our undergraduate clinicians.

Meghan and Zoe both come from South Dakota State University, where they both Majored in Psychology. Meghan also has minors in Sociology and Philosophy and Zoe has minors in Human Development and Family Studies and Mental Health Services.

Meghan became interested in ABA through working as a paraprofessional at a special education cooperative during her summer and winter breaks from college. She would work closely with the Behavior Analysts at these programs to help them implement their treatment programs and found it interesting to see how certain behavior plans affected each student.

Zoe originally became interested in ABA through a behavior modification course she took at SDSU. After taking this course Zoe started to do behavioral research for the professor of the class and got a job at the South Dakota Development Center in Redfield, SD where she learned a lot about how important behavior plans can be. Through this work Zoe found ABA to be very interesting and practical and decided that she wanted to learn more about it.

Meghan and Zoe have been friends since freshmen year of undergrad and a fun fact about them is that they took a 15-hour road trip to Red River Gorge in Kentucky to go rock climbing together. They spent a week there hiking, climbing, and camping, even though it was snowing for a few days!

Sensory Behaviors

We have gone over escape, attention, and tangible maintained behaviors, now we will introduce you to the last function that is a little more complex. This last one is sensory maintained behaviors. These are the behaviors that are automatically maintained, so the child doesn’t need a response from you to be reinforced.

Some behaviors that may occur to gain sensory stimulation are hair twirling, hand waving, and scratching. These behaviors are not done for any reason other than that it feels good to the client, so it can be difficult to address them and to find ways to decrease the behaviors. These behaviors are also not always harmful and might not need to be stopped all of the time, but if they are getting in the way of the students daily life or education they may need to be addressed.

One way to decrease these behaviors is to provide your child with access to sensory toys and other items that are stimulating. Giving your child breaks or ways to access these items can help lower the chances that they will engage in their unwanted sensory behaviors. Some examples of objects that can replace sensory behaviors are play doh and beads. The goal of doing this is to replace the inappropriate behaviors with more appropriate ones.

In our clinic we keep an array of sensory toys on hand for our clients can use.

Meet Beth!

Meet Beth! She is an undergraduate clinician here at the Husky ABA Clinic. She is currently working towards a major in Psychology here at SCSU and is minoring in Community Psychology. She plans to get her master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis after graduating, and she says her love for this field came a few weeks after taking her first ABA class.

Beth says that working in the clinic has been very beneficial because it gave her knowledge of ABA that she would not have been able to get from classes alone. One of Beth’s favorite experiences from the clinic was when she was able to help a client transition smoothly. This client would struggle with going from preferred to non-preferred activities, so seeing her go from play time to work without hesitation was very exciting.

Beth wants everyone to know that she is very dedicated to the clinic and her clients. Adjusting to not seeing everyone each week had been hard for her, but she know that this is what she wants to do and is very excited to see where all of this experience takes her in the future.

Stopping Tangible Behaviors

Now that we know what behaviors related to tangibles are and how to prevent them lets talk about how to stop them when they start to occur. One of the most important things to remember is that if you give the child the item they are begging for you will just make it more likely that these behaviors will continue to occur.

The first method that can be used to stop these behaviors is to give the child the item that they want after they start behaving appropriately. An example of this would be letting a child have their toy after they ask for it correctly. If the toy they want is being use by another child or is somewhere that they cannot reach you should not let them have their toy until they ask nicely if they can play with it.

The second method is to stay strong with telling a child no or ignoring their inappropriate behavior. For example, if the child starts crying when they can’t have their toy because it’s bedtime, don’t give in and let them have their toy. This will just teach them that they can cry to get their toy after you say no. Make sure you are sticking to what you originally told them and not giving in.

Here at the Husky ABA Clinic we have lots of fun toys to play with, but we always want to use our strategies we’ve shared with you over the last few weeks to make sure our clients know when and how they can get access to play time.

How do our Students Learn?

As we talked about a few weeks ago, things are very different in our clinic now that we cannot meet in person. One of our biggest changes are the tasks our undergraduate students are given and how we teach them the basics of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). We mentioned in our last post that they were being given articles to read and podcasts to listen to, but we have started using a new method of teaching with them since our last update. This new method of teaching is called: Portable Operant Research and Teaching Lab, or PORTL.

The graduate students working with the clinic are using the PORTL method to conduct weekly trainings for the undergraduate students. During these PORTL lessons, our student clinicians use household items (e.g., a cup, spoon, pen, or loose change) to practice a variety of clinically essential skills and better understand behavioral principles. With these items, the undergraduates can receive lessons on basic behavioral principles, taught through hands on trainings. The best part? All the PORTL lessons have been modified by our graduate student partners so every lesson can be conducted live on Zoom, giving our students meaningful learning opportunities without having to leave their home. The students meet once a week and go through three to five lessons with a graduate student. Our undergraduate clinicians can ask questions and receive feedback on skills they are learning, such as: picking a target behavior, providing reinforcement, providing clear and concise instructions to learners, and even practice what it is like to be a learner in an ABA program.

Transitioning to telehealth and teleteaching is still a big adjustment for the undergraduate clinicians used to working with children in our clinic, but many enjoy having the opportunity to learn new skills under the guidance of our graduate student partners. Our team at the Husky ABA Clinic are all still getting comfortable with learning over Zoom, but our team is enjoying doing everything we can to continue to learn more about the field of ABA and improve our skills in any way that we can! We are proud and excited to find creative and accessible ways to provide services to our clients and meaningful opportunities for growth to our student partners.

Check out the PORTL website for more information: https://behaviorexplorer.com

Preventing Tangible Behaviors

Last week we introduced you to behaviors that can occur when a child wants access to a toy or activity, this week we will give you ideas on how to prevent these behaviors. It may be difficult to stop these behaviors correctly because many of them can go away if you give the child what they want, but we want to make sure the child doesn’t learn to cry every time they don’t get their way.

The first method that you can use to lower the chances of these behaviors happening is to give the child reminders on how they can appropriately ask for items that he or she wants. If you notice that your child is starting to grab for items or get upset that they don’t have access to a certain toy you can say something like “if you want to play with that toy you can ask someone to get it for you” or “You can ask your friend for a turn if you want the toy.” These reminders will help them understand what they need to be doing to gain access to the items they like.

Another method is to give your child choices of items that they want and give them a chance to earn them. Don’t just give the child toys because they are engaging in unwanted behavior and you want it to stop, let them have their fun items when they are doing what they should be. You can ask the child before a task what they want to be playing with after, and then follow through and have them complete the task to get their toy.

Check out our blog next week to find out how you can stop the behaviors when they start to occur!

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