October 2020 archive

W-7 Meet Eva!

Come meet Eva! she is a graduate senior behavior clinician at the Husky ABA Clinic. She provides behavioral therapy services to clients, guiding parents through what is like to implement behavior programs, and training undergraduate and graduate clinicians. She also assists in developing the registered behavior technician (RBT) training modules for the clinic. Through the Husky ABA Clinic, Eva is getting hands-on experience in developing training materials and instructing clinicians. Eva enjoys these responsibilities. She is excited about these new experiences as they will build and enhance her professional skills for her future career aspirations.

What sparks Eva’s interest in applied behavior analysis (ABA) is her curiosity in wanting to know why we behave the way we do. When she was young, Eva particularly liked to observe and question the way people and animals behave. She started taking multiple psychology-related courses in college trying to find the answer. Until she slowly developed a passion for ABA as it helps her understanding of human behavior.

Eva is currently working toward gaining her certification and becoming a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA).  She is currently in the ABA master’s program at Saint Cloud State University. Eva hopes through working toward her master’s degree, she will gain knowledge in program development skills. Her goal is to create fun programs her clients will enjoy and learn essential life skills like communication, instruction following, and imitation.

As Christmas is approaching, Eva could not contain her excitement. She loves the holiday atmosphere. She loves to decorate her apartment and spending hours preparing for Christmas dinner. Most importantly, she enjoys spending time with people she loves.

Next week we will take a close look at a different type of reinforcement-based intervention, the token economy! For more resources on ABA for parents, teachers, and professionals click here. Make sure to like and share our Facebook posts

W6- Breaking down and Shaping Tasks


First, what is shaping you might ask? Shaping is an invaluable technique used in applied behavior analysis (ABA) to reinforce small steps that eventually lead to the desired skills such as verbal skills, imitation, and independent play. It is especially helpful for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Shaping breaks down tasks into smaller pieces that are easier for the child to manage and master the skills.

Shaping allows parents to celebrate small steps and through these positive approaches to change behavior. Even though the process of learning a skill will be typically slower with shaping technique. However, for many children, it has been quite successful.

There are a few steps when practicing shaping:

  • Identify a task you want the child to learn.
  • Select something the child enjoys playing with, eating, or providing attention.
  • Breaking the task down into small steps.
  • Once the child performs the small step, make sure to provide the reinforcer and special praise (behavior-specific praise)
  • After a couple times of successes, increase requirements gradually. In other words, adding the next small step.

Let us apply those steps with an example of sitting at the dinner table for 10 minutes.

  • You would like the child to sit at the dinner table for 10 minutes. (identify a task)
  • The child really likes goldfish crackers, so you decide to use it as a reinforcer. (select a reinforcer)
  • You know sitting at the table for 10 minutes is way too difficult for your child. You decide you would start with 30 seconds. (breaking down the task)
  • After you see your child sitting at the dinner table for 30 seconds you immediately provide a goldfish cracker and say “Mei, you did a great job sitting at the table” with a gentle pat on the shoulder. (provide selected reinforcer and behavior-specific praise)
  • Now the child can sit at the dinner table for 30 seconds a couple times. You decide to make it one minute next time. (increase the small requirement)

Parents might ask “what if the child does not do the very first step?” A board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) will tell you to make the first step even easier and smaller. Also, you can always help the child when the first step is too difficult.

For more ABA related topics and parenting skills in the coming weeks, check out our blog and Facebook page. For more resources on ABA, click here.

W5- Catching the Child in the “ACT”


In Week 3, we discussed the topic of behavior-specific praise. This week we are going to incorporate the strategy with the new technique: praising the alternative behavior.  Sometimes, parents want to simply change or get rid of behaviors that the child engages in. For example, arguing with siblings constantly, throwing a temper tantrum when told no, or not following instructions. When thinking of trying to stop a behavior, naturally we are more inclined to punish it. However, a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) will tell you to praise or reinforce alternative behavior instead.

Praising the alternative behavior is not as easy as it might sound. Simply recall the last time you praise your child when she was sitting quietly watching TV or playing nicely with siblings. You might ignore this until you are hearing them arguing then you might be inclined to yell at your child or even tell them to stop doing that. A phenomenon called negativity bias in which we have this natural instinct that forces us to notice more what is wrong in our environment because it has survival values. It makes noticing appropriate behaviors even more challenging.

To apply the technique of praising alternative behavior:

  • caregivers will need to find the behavior that they do not want first.
  • Next, find the positive behavior that can replace the behavior or identify what the opposite of the problem behavior is.
  • Now, it is time to catch the child in the “act” or being good.
  • As the child displays the positive behavior the caregivers want, behavior-specific praise will be provided.

For example, if you are trying to get rid of the behavior of the child arguing with the siblings (selecting the behavior you want to change). You would find times that the child is playing with siblings nicely ( the opposite of the problem behavior) and you could say “ Josh, it is so wonderful to see that you are playing with your sister so nicely” and give the child a gentle hug (delivering behavior-specific praise).

You might think why not just go ahead and punish the behavior? In applied behavior analysis (ABA), Punishment is always the last resort. Also, in this case, if you use punishment procedures, you only stop the problem behavior by using reprimands and not teaching the child what to do instead. Applying the technique of praising the alternative behavior will help the child to know what to do instead and by reinforcing the positive behavior, you will see more of it in the future.

For more information on the power of reinforcement check out this blog post and like our Facebook page for new content in the coming weeks.

W4- Meet Cheyenne!

Come meet Cheyenne! She is currently working towards her master’s degree in applied behavior analysis (ABA) program and working as a graduate clinician at the Husky ABA Clinic. Cheyenne assists with taking data on the individual progress her clients are making with a range of goals. In addition, she is also assisting with implementing interventions and parent training over telehealth for her clients. Cheyenne said that she started becoming interested in ABA when she was working as a staff member at a special needs summer camp. A friend of hers told her that they were looking into pursuing a degree in ABA. She changed her major after looking into the ABA program because she thought of her younger brother and how much he could have benefited from ABA interventions when he was a child and so can other children.

When Cheyenne is not pursuing her master’s degree in ABA, she is looking forward to Christmas. Without hesitation, Christmas is Cheyenne’s favorite holiday. Cheyenne loves everything from the decorating houses with Christmas lights to the peppermint mocha, and of course, spending time with family. Cheyenne is also a former drum major of her marching band in high school and she competed in the St. Louis Ram’s dome in 2011. One of her most vivid memories is seeing Nick Cannon when he was in the local area for America’s Got Talent auditions. For a deployment, she was able to visit Iraq and the amazing capital city of Kuwait.

By working at the Husky ABA Clinic, Cheyenne strives to gain new behavior-analytic skills and help her clients. She strives to enhance her skill sets with data collection and intervention implementation and development, while ultimately meeting her final goal of becoming a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA)!

Check out our blog next week to find out how to promote positive behavior by catching the child in the “act”!