Posts Tagged ‘Autism’

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.

W3- How to Praise Your Child Effectively

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?


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: 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.