Resources For Clinicians

Welcome clinicians! This resource page is specifically intended to provide you with beneficial information to help you help your clients reach their fullest potential.  At Partington Behavior Analysts, our mission is to promote effective and high-quality interventions for individuals with autism or other developmental disabilities. We do this by providing information to questions that clinicians frequently ask.  Below you will find links to resources to address a variety of topics.

Workload

  1. How do I develop an effective, assessment-based treatment plan while also saving time writing treatment plans and progress reports?
  2. How can I have others help with conducting assessments?
  3. How can I quickly conduct an initial treatment plan?

Assessment and Tracking of Skills

  1. How can I determine what skills to teach? Which skills are the most important to include in the treatment plan?
  2. What about assessing functional skills?

Developing an Effective Program- Elements of an Effective Program

  1. What are the elements of an effective program?
  2. What is Verbal Behavior? Why is VB so important?
  3. Should my school-aged client be in an inclusive program?
  4. How do I ensure clients have adequate imitation skills?

Developing Language Skills

  1. My client is nonverbal, how can I teach him to talk?
  2. My client has some words, how can I get him to use them?
  3. My client is older and has minimal language skills, what should I do?

Determining what to Teach

  1. What skills does my client need to learn?
  2. How can I determine what to teach my clients?
  3. My clients are older, what skills should they learn?
  4. What language skills do my clients need to learn?
  5. How do I ensure clients have adequate imitation skills?
  6. What about self-help/functional living skills?
  7. What skills do typical children have at various ages?

Working/Collaborating with Parents, Teacher, and Other Professionals

  1. How can I help parents of newly diagnosed children?
  2. What resources are available to help parents become good teachers?
  3. How do I help parents determine the best services for their child?
  4. What should I do when other professionals recommend non-evidence-based treatments or procedures?

Motivation the Student

  1. How can I get my clients to go along with my attempts to teach him skills?
  2. How can I find items and activities to motivate my clients?

Dealing with Behavior Problems

  1. How should I deal with my client’s disruptive behavior?
  2. How can I get my clients to listen to me and follow instructions?

 

 ANSWER KEY

Workload

  1. How do I develop an effective, assessment-based treatment plan while also saving time writing treatment plans and progress reports?

The WebABLLS (online version) and ABLLS-R (paper version) has 25 language and learning categories with over 500 skills. The WebABLLS has video examples of over 200 assessment tasks. Dr. James Partington created the ABLLS-R, the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills - Revised and WebABLLS to be used by educators, clinicians, and parents to facilitate the identification of skills necessary for learners to use in order to effectively communicate and learn from everyday experiences.

There are three assessment edit modes available with the WebABLLS — Text Mode, Grid Mode, and Cat Mode (short for category). Find the one that works best for you and your client, but be advised that no matter which mode you select, you’ll be able to measure progress and determine subsequent curricular priorities. Clinicians find this to be quite beneficial, as it is an effective, objective guide to ensure continual development and progress.

With a comprehensive review of 544 skills from 25 skill areas that include social interaction, self-help, language, motor skills, academic, and language, the WebABLLS is a vital tool for clinicians looking to supplement or verify their current approach.

The WebABLLS offers report functions which provide users a range of options regarding reporting documents that correlate directly with the learner’s assessment scores.

Whether you wish to share a custom report via WebABLLS or would like a physical copy printed from a PDF, WebABLLS provides intuitive options for users. Users can control permission settings and customize views to tailor-make reports for each client. Several reports can be downloaded to a CSV file, allowing further customization or conversion to an alternative format. The Print to PDF feature include options to include or omit Report Notes related to a Program Worksheet or Progress Report.

If you would like to reduce paperwork with your heavy workload, as most every clinician we know would, the online assessment with custom report generation along with program worksheets and progress reports found in the WebABLLS 2.0 is worth investigating.

  1. How can I have others help with conducting assessments?

The parents of your clients know a great deal about the skills of your clients.  Because the ABLLS-R is written in language for parents and teachers to be able to understand, parents have been very helpful in scoring the assessment. Although they may not be able to evaluate the extent of their child’s skills as accurately as you might do, they still can help you complete much of an ABLLS-R/WebABLLS assessment.  Even if they are just able to score all the items that their child definetly can and can’t do, they could easily complete about 75% of the assessment.

The WebABLLS offers multi-level sharing permissions to collaborate with teachers and other professionals. We understand that it often takes a village of parents, clinicians, educators, and caretakers to help foster an individual’s independence. When everyone is on the same page, it makes a world of difference! If there are other professionals who work with your client (e.g., Speech and Language Pathologists) you can always ask for them to complete the vocal imitation section and the Syntax and Grammar sections of the ABLLS-R/WebABLLS.  Occupational Therapists can assist with the scoring of the Gross and Fine Motor sections.  By incorporating parents and professionals in the scoring process, you get an additional benefit of helping the client’s team to work together with you on the development and implementation of an effective, assessment-based treatment plan.

  1. How can I quickly conduct an initial treatment plan?

As a clinician, you are often expected by insurance companies to complete an assessment and develop a program plan in only a few hours. You know that completing a thorough assessment takes a considerable amount of time. So how do you get a program up and running in a limited amount of time? There are three useful strategies to get your initial program plan developed.

The first option is for clients who are nonverbal or have only minimal verbal skills. In the book Getting Started: Developing Critical Learning Skills for Children on the Autism Spectrum  there are six chapters that are reviewed to help get the learner under instructional control and to develop foundational skills (e.g., requesting, imitating vocalizations and motor actions, visual performance tasks, following instructions, etc). Each chapter gives detailed, parent and teacher friendly instructions on how to teach those specific skills. At the end of each chapter there are potential objectives that may be appropriate for the learner. Selecting some of those objectives will help you to quickly put together your initial program plan and provide parents and teachers with information on how to implement your plan.

The second option is to review the child’s skills in the Basic Language and Leaner Skills section of the ABLLS-R or WebABLLS. Because the lower numbered items in each section are usually mastered prior to higher numbered items, you can start by reviewing just the first 25% of each of these repertoires in each section (Visual Performance, Receptive Language, Imitation, etc.). If you find some skills that the learner is unable to perform, you can then pick one or two objectives from each of those sections. In this manner, you know that you are likely to pick targets that are developmentally appropriate for the learner. If the child has all the earlier skills in a particular repertoire, you can then check the next 25% of items. Continue this process until you have identified sufficient targets for you initial program plan. 

The third involves using the brief assessment found in the book Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities. In this book, The Behavioral Language Assessment Form, has 12 questions to rate some critical skills of the child. The answers to those questions will lead you to identify some starting objectives from several important skill areas.

Assessment and Tracking of Skills

  1. How can I determine what skills to teach? Which skills are the most important to include in the treatment plan?

The answer to that question depends upon the age and the skills of the learner. For younger children, it is important to teach them basic language and learner skills (such as imitation, paying attention to visual aspects of items, etc.), and self-help and motor skills. For older individuals, there is often a need to shift the focus to functional living skills. There are two assessments that can be used to identify skills to be taught to the learner: The Assessment of Basic Language and Learner Skills (ABLLS-R) and The Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS). By using either or both of these assessments, it is possible to select skills to be included in a comprehensive intervention program.

You can find out the individual skills that your young child needs to learn by using the ABLLS-R or WebABLLS, which is the online version of the assessment. Both versions are available in Spanish! This criterion-referenced assessment offers a review of 544 skills from 25 skill categories, among which are social interaction, self-help, academic, motor skills, and language. It measures skills that a typically developing 5 year old child has developed before he enters kindergarten. These skills prepare the child to be able to learn from his teachers and his everyday interactions with others. Task items progress from simpler to more complex tasks in order to ascertain an accurate understanding of where the individual lands in a given skill area. This allows parents to find specific goals and objectives that are individualized for their child, based on their skills.

The WebABLLS helps clinicians find what to teach using an analysis of the Skills Tracking Grid, that leads to identifying next steps. With this feature, clinicians can easily determine curricular priorities.

After the what has been decided, the clinician can access more than 200 video demonstrations related to particular tasks within WebABLLS. A Tool Kit with resources available for download, among which are language lists, normative data connected to research of typically-developing children, a reinforcer survey, and much more.

If you are a clinician, we encourage you to learn more about the practical impact the WebABLLS can have.

The Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS) is another criterion-referenced skills assessment tool, tracking system, and curriculum guide. The AFLS is identical in format to the ABLLS-R and is used for teaching children, adolescents, and adults with developmental disabilities the essential skills they need in order to achieve the most independent outcomes. The AFLS is the most versatile assessment system available and offers learners a pathway to independence. It is comprised of a Guide and 6 individual scoring protocols to cover Basic Skills, Home Skills, Community Participation Skills, School Skills, Vocational Skills and Independent Living Skills.

  1. What about assessing functional skills?

The Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS) is a criterion-referenced skills assessment tool, tracking system, and curriculum guide.  AFLS is used for teaching children, adolescents, and adults with developmental disabilities the essential skills they need in order to achieve the most independent outcomes. AFLS is the most versatile assessment system available and offers learners a pathway to independence. It is comprised of a Guide and 6 individual scoring protocols to cover Basic Skills, Home Skills, Community Participation Skills, School Skills, Vocational Skills and Independent Living Skills.

The AFLS offers professionals an affordable, criterion-referenced system that offers clinicians to engage their clients in functional skill acquisition. The AFLS gives users the functionality to track and monitor progress in intuitive ways. Clinicians who use the AFLS typically see a dramatic impact as they are able to maximize therapy time with their clients. We encourage those interested to learn more about the AFLS.

Developing an Effective Program- Elements of an Effective Program

  1. What are the elements of an effective program?
  • Identification & tracking of skills & skill deficits
  • Prioritized Objectives
  • Active engagement by a motivated learner
  • Many teaching trials each day
  • Varied learning environments
  • Parent participation

Additional details about each of these elements can be obtained from the book, Success on the Spectrum. This information will help you, your staff, and parents learn about the big picture of what is involved in an effective intervention, as well as many effective teaching strategies. 

  1. What is Verbal Behavior? Why is VB so important?

Individuals with an ASD diagnosis typically have language delays, so it is critical to help each child develop a wide range of language skills. In order to effectively communicate and socially interact with others, it is necessary for an individual to understand and use language skills. Specifically, an individual must be able to understand what others are saying and be able to express their desires and observations, as well as be able to talk about their experiences.  Speech and language pathologists refer to these skills as receptive and expressive language skills.

Some clinicians and educators who are trained in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) teaching methods incorporate a behavioral analysis of expressive language skills in their intervention strategy. This analysis was first introduced to the field of Behavior Analysis in 1957 by Dr. B.F. Skinner in his book “Verbal Behavior.” He indicated that there are several types of expressive language skills that one uses when communicating with others. He provided a functional analysis of these expressive language skills to demonstrate that when someone says a word that it can occur for several different reasons. 

For example, a person can simply imitate saying a word or words that someone else just said. This skill of vocally imitating (technical term is echoic) is clearly necessary for an individual to communicate by speaking. They may also say the word(s) to ask for or request something they want (mand), or to label things that they see or hear (tact). They may also say the word(s) in response to something that was said by another person (intraverbal). For instance, they may be asked “What is something you can read?,” or “Who sat next to you at lunch today?,” or requested to “Tell me what you did at the park.” It is important to note that just because a child can vocally imitate a word, it doesn’t mean that he can use that word to ask for things, name things or to respond to comments or questions.

The Verbal Behavior analysis serves as the foundation for teaching Verbal Behavior as part of an ABA program. Thus, when working with individuals who have deficits in their language to skills, it is necessary to determine which of these verbal skills the child has and to teach him the ones he doesn’t have. It is important to ensure that the child can use these types of expressive language skills in various situations. More detailed information can be found in the book Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities or you can watch a DVD of Dr. Partington presenting about this topic.

  1. Should my school-aged client be in an inclusive program?

The answer to this question depends upon many factors. The most important issue is to determine what the student will learn when in a classroom with typically-developing peers. There are certain benefits of being around other children who exhibit good language and social interactions. When the child is required to go along with the group, he will soon learn that the world doesn’t revolve around him. The student can see appropriate models of behavior in typical classrooms. Depending on the student, it might be necessary to put the student in an inclusive classroom for short periods of time.

There may be a few problems with an inclusive program. The activities in the typical classroom are designed to teach skills to the average student. The problem is that the student with delays needs to work on learning skills that the other children have already mastered. The child with a disability may have a difficult time learning the skills that are taught in a regular education classroom. Children need to be taught the skills! They don’t acquire skills just by being with others who already have mastered the skills.

  1. How do I ensure clients have adequate imitation skills?

Good imitation skills are necessary for a client to learn a wide variety of other new skills.  When attempting to teach many skills, parents and teachers regularly demonstrate how to do a particular task. If the child isn’t able to attend to a sequence of actions and replicate those actions, it will take a great deal of prompting to help them learn the new skill. However, if the client has developed extremely good imitation skills, the new skills will often be learned in a much shorter period of time. Additionally, the client with good imitation skills will often start to learn many skills merely by watching others perform the tasks. Both the Getting Started: Developing Critical Learning Skills for Children on the Autism Spectrum and Success on the Spectrum books have the Partington Imitation Skills Assessment (PISA) that measures over one hundred unique imitation skills.  It is a great way to both assess and arrange teaching to establish a well-generalized set of imitation skills.

Developing Language Skills

  1. My client is nonverbal, how can I teach him to talk?

If you are seeking resources related to teaching a nonverbal child speech, Dr. James Partington’s book, Getting Started: Developing Critical Learning Skills for Children on the Autism Spectrum is a step-by-step guide to further the development of children with minimal language skills. This book is written in non-technical language so that it is easy to quickly teach nonverbal children (or a children with minimal speech capabilities) skills that include imitating actions and vocalizations, learning to ask for desired items, initiating social interactions, and attending to his/her actions with objects.

Based on evidence-supported ABA/VB methodology, this book offers key information for anyone looking to understand where to start and how to teach initial skills to children with limited language abilities. Not only does this resource inform the reader as to what to do, but it also offers the rationale for teaching six critical learning skills which have been deemed by professionals as an important foundation for a child’s general development.

The six critical skills are as follows:

  • Initiate social interactions
  • Request items and activities (Mand)
  • Respond to spoken words
  • Imitate motor actions
  • Imitate sounds and words (Echoic)
  • Complete visual tasks

Troy, BCBA from Washington, had this to say: “This book, Getting Started is a must have for practitioners, teachers, parents, para educators, and anyone interesting in developing critical early learning skills for children with autism or other neurological disorders. I was a Para Educator, Special Education teacher and now I currently work as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and I recognize the challenge of developing critical early learning targets that are effective for children impacted with autism. I highly recommend this read for ANYONE in the field of helping children with autism grow. This book is written in such a way that illuminates technical concepts but can be understood by families, teachers, and the lay person interested in helping children develop key social interaction and early learning skills.”

  1. My client has some words, how can I get him to use them?

Updated in 2013, Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities, is a book written by Dr. James Partington and Dr. Mark Sundberg. As you can surmise from the book’s title, the book is intended to aid parents, educators, and professionals with teaching language to children with autism. What sets this book apart is that it presents an innovative language assessment and intervention program inspired by B.F. Skinner’s behavioral analysis of language, along with the wealth of research that exists to support Skinner’s analysis.

  1. My client is older and has minimal language skills, what should I do?

One of the most effective ways to develop language skills older student with minimal language skills is to focus on teaching him functional skills.  While working on the development of functional skills from the AFLS, the student will often start to learn language skills that are associated with those skills. The skills that the student needs to perform on a regular basis often results in daily repetition of both receptive and expressive language skills, making those language skills more likely to be acquired.

Determining what to Teach

  1. What skills does my client need to learn?

The answer to that question depends upon the age and the skills of the learner. For younger children, it is important to teach them basic language and learner skills (such as imitation, paying attention to visual aspects of items, etc.), and self-help and motor skills. For older individuals, there is often a need to shift the focus to functional living skills. There are two assessments that can be used to identify skills to be taught to the learner:  The Assessment of Basic Language and Learner Skills (ABLLS-R) and The Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS). By using either or both of these assessments, it is possible to select skills to be included in a comprehensive intervention program.

You can find out the individual skills that your young child needs to learn by using the ABLLS-R or WebABLLS, which is the online version of the assessment. Both versions are available in Spanish! This criterion-referenced assessment offers a review of 544 skills from 25 skill categories, among which are social interaction, self-help, academic, motor skills, and language. It measures skills that a typically developing 5 year old child has developed before he enters kindergarten. These skills prepare the child to be able to learn from his teachers and his everyday interactions with others. Task items progress from simpler to more complex tasks in order to ascertain an accurate understanding of where the individual lands in a given skill area. This allows clinicians to find specific goals and objectives that are individualized for the child, based on their skills.

  1. How can I determine what to teach my clients?

Once the ABLLS-R or WebABLLS assessment has been completed, it is important to choose specific objectives that will be helpful for your client on a daily basis. The ABLLS-R Guide provides suggestions as to how to select objectives for skills that the learner should be taught next. You can learn how to use the ABLLS-R by watching a DVD where Dr. Partington presents about this topic.

Depending upon the child’s language skills there are also several other books that can help with both determining what to teach and how to teach the targeted skills.  For a child with no or minimal language skills, a good resource is the book titled, Getting Started: Developing Critical Learning Skills for Children on the Autism Spectrum.  For individuals who can already ask for some items and name some items, the books Success on the Spectrum and Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disorders will be helpful.

  1. My clients are older, what skills should they learn?

Older learners can always benefit from learning the basic language and learner skills that are included in the ABLLS-R/WebABLLS assessment. However, some children will never be able to acquire some skills (e.g., being able to talk about their experiences when visiting their grandparents). Whether or not they are able to master all the skills of a typically developing 5 year old child as measured by the ABLLS-R, all individuals will benefit from learning to care for themselves in a wide range of situations at home, school, work and in the community. Therefore, it is important to review their functional living skills in the AFLS. The AFLS is used to assess a wide range of functional living skills. These skills are ones that if the learner can’t do by himself, somebody will either need to help him do it or do it for him. Thus, the more functional skills a person can perform, the greater level of opportunities and independence he will have at home, work, and in the community.

  1. What language skills do my clients need to learn?

In 1957, Dr. B.F. Skinner published a book “Verbal Behavior” that provided a behavioral analysis of expressive language skills. He indicated that there are several types of expressive language skills that one uses when communicating with others.  He provided a functional analysis of these expressive language skills to demonstrate that when someone says a word that it can occur for several different reasons.  For example, a person can simply imitate saying a word or words that someone else just said. This skill of vocally imitating (technical term is echoic) is clearly necessary for an individual to communicate by speaking.  However, the individual may say a word for other reasons.  They may also say the word(s) to ask for or request something they want (mand), or to label things that they see or hear (tact). They may also say the word(s) in response to something that was said by another person (intraverbal). For instance, they may be asked “What is something you can read?,” or “Who sat next to you at lunch today?,” or requested to “Tell me what you did at the park.” It is important to note that just because a child can vocally imitate a word, it doesn’t mean that he can use that word to ask for things, name things or to respond to others’ comments or questions.

Thus, when working with individuals who have deficits in their language to skills, it is necessary to determine which of these skills the child has and to teach him the ones he doesn’t have, to ensure that the child can use these types of expressive language skills in various situations. You can find out the individual skills that your young child needs to learn by using the ABLLS-R or WebABLLS, which is the online version of the assessment. Both versions are available in Spanish! This criterion-referenced assessment offers a review of 544 skills from 25 skill categories, among which are social interaction, self-help, academic, motor skills, and language. It measures skills that a typically developing 5 year old child has developed before he enters kindergarten. These skills prepare the child to be able to learn from his teachers and his everyday interactions with others. Task items progress from simpler to more complex tasks in order to ascertain an accurate understanding of where the individual lands in a given skill area. This allows parents to find specific goals and objectives that are individualized for their child, based on their skills.

Additional detailed information about developing language skills can be found in the book Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities or you can watch a DVD of Dr. James Partington presenting about this topic.

  1. How do I ensure clients have adequate imitation skills?

Good imitation skills are necessary for a student to learn a wide variety of other new skills.  When attempting to teach many skills, parents and teachers regularly demonstrate how to do a particular task. If the child isn’t able to attend to a sequence of actions and replicate those actions, it will take a great deal of prompting to help them learn the new skill. However, if the student has developed extremely good imitation skills, the new skills will often be learned in a much shorter period of time. Additionally, the student with good imitation skills will often start to learn many skills merely by watching others perform the tasks.  Both the Getting Started: Developing Critical Learning Skills for Children on the Autism Spectrum and Success on the Spectrum books have the Partington Imitation Skills Assessment (PISA) that measures over one hundred unique imitation skills.  It is a great way to both assess and arrange teaching to establish a well-generalized set of imitation skills.

  1. 6. What about self-help/functional living skills?

In addition to just learning how to do things for themselves on a daily basis, learning self-help skills provides a great opportunity to develop many language skills and other skills necessary to be a competent learner (e.g., sustained focused attention, persistence in working to complete a task, etc.)

The Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS) is a criterion-referenced skills assessment tool, tracking system, and curriculum guide.  AFLS is used for teaching children, adolescents, and adults with developmental disabilities the essential skills they need in order to achieve the most independent outcomes. AFLS is the most versatile assessment system available and offers learners a pathway to independence. It is comprised of a Guide and 6 individual scoring protocols to cover Basic Skills, Home Skills, Community Participation Skills, School Skills, Vocational Skills and Independent Living Skills.

  1. What skills do typical children have at various ages?

We have research data on the developmental patterns of specific language and learning skills of typically developing children as measured by WebABLLS/ABLLS-R. The skills tracking grids for specific age level can be found at this link: https://partingtonbehavioranalysts.com/pages/normative-data

Working/Collaborating with Parents, Teacher, and Other Professionals

  1. How can I help parents of newly diagnosed children?

Parents of newly diagnosed children will undoubtedly have many concerns about what to do, who they can turn to for help and why their child is not learning at the same rate as other children. They need to understand that the diagnosis indicates that their child is not developing skills at the same rate as typically developing children. They may never know why that is the case, but there are steps that they can take to help him try to catch up with his peers. The most important step involves identifying which skills they can teach him starting today. They need to know that there is a great deal they can do to help their child! Being involved in the plan to help their child succeed and develop is vital to both their child’s development and providing their entire family with an improved quality of life. We recommend providing them a link to our dedicated resource written for parents of newly diagnosed children. They’ll find information related to physical and educational concerns along with other recommendations for formulating a plan of action.  You may also want to give them a link to our blogs for parents!

  1. What resources are available to help parents become good teachers?

We all know that it is much easier to teach a student when you have the collaboration of the parents. Parents are the child’s first teachers in their life after all! It is important that parents learn some valuable teaching skills to assist in the education process. There are several resources to help parents learn to be effective teachers. The book, Success on the Spectrum will help parents learn about the big picture of what is involved in effective intervention, as well as many effective teaching strategies. Because children on the autism spectrum are often difficult to motivate to participate in learning activities, Learning to Motivate, Motivating to Learn is another important resource for parents.  Both of these books are written in language that parents can understand and have examples of dealing with common problems encountered when attempting to teach skills to children.

If the parents would rather learn by watching Dr. Partington lecture on topics, such as how to teach language skills and how to assess basic language and learner skills, there are a few DVDs regarding teaching language and assessing skills that they might enjoy watching.

  1. How do I help parents determine the best services for their child?

There usually is not one best school placement for most children. The main issue for parents is to consider where their child will be able to learn as many critical skills as quickly as possible. Because the child usually has delays in language, social interaction, self-help, and academic skills, one needs to assess the child’s skills in each of those areas and determine what skills he should work on acquiring. Once it is known what he should be learning, it is then necessary to consider if the teacher has the skills to teach him what he needs to learn. It is important to determine if the teacher’s classroom environment will allow the teacher to effectively teach the child those skills. Sometimes there are simply too many children, or children with significant behavioral issues that will prevent the teacher from actually being able to teach the child. Therefore, they will need to consider what he needs to learn, who has the teaching skills to teach new skills to the child, and if the circumstances of the classroom allow the teacher to be effective in teaching those skills to the child.  For additional information, please see Chapter 14, Critical Elements of an Effective Educational Program in the book Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities.

  1. What should I do when other professionals recommend non-evidence-based treatments or procedures?

You need to inform them that there are many different approaches to autism treatment. Before deciding on which approach to take, it is important to review the research regarding the outcomes of the interventions. Before being persuaded by people with great heart-warming stories about their intervention methods, ask to see their data. Too many times parents are encouraged to begin interventions that sound good, but haven’t been demonstrated to have the best outcomes.  Please encourage them to ask to see outcome data!

The most effective, evidence-based treatment for individuals on the Autism Spectrum is based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).  This approach utilizes specific teaching strategies to develop new skills. When intensively provided to children at a very early age, it has been demonstrated to result in some children being able to lead a typical life. (See research articles by Lovaas (1987), and  Sallows & Graupner (2005)).

Because there are really not any definitive reasons for why children on the autism spectrum are not developing in a normal manner, there are many potential types of interventions that might help the child. Many parents attempt to try to solve potential medical issues to see if that will help before they begin educational intervention. They often hope that if they can find the right pill or other medical treatment, the diagnosis may go away. Clearly, there are biological factors that may be involved and any obvious medical conditions should be addressed. However, time passes by very quickly and you should not wait to start teaching skills. Many people try a wide range of interventions in hopes that they will stumble upon THE ONE THING that will help their child (applying essential oils, feeding them a certain diet, various types of physical, auditory, and other types of sensory stimulation). Unfortunately, many of the interventions have not been effective. We know that good intensive behaviorally-based teaching is effective. So, rather than wasting time on many interventions, it is best to devote time to implementing what has been proven to be effective (Howard, et. Al 2005).

Motivation the Student

  1. How can I get my clients to go along with my attempts to teach him skills?

It’s not a revolutionary thing to say that it’s dramatically easier to teach children when they are motivated to learn. Dr. James Partington and Scott Partington’s book, Learning to Motivate, Motivating to Learn, allows parents, educators, and professionals to get access to effective motivation-based strategies used to influence a child to participate in learning activities. The book is written using non-technical language, making it a useful book for supplemental ideas and strategies for everyday learning. The book presents evidence-based techniques in an easy to follow manner.

Dino, a parent of a child with ASD and the owner of Autism Recovery Network (ARN) in Hong Kong, had this to say in his testimonial of the Partingtons’ book: “...This book serves as an invaluable teaching tool for parents, educators, and instructors alike and emphasizes the relationship between the teacher and the child as a basis for maximizing interactions and learning opportunities. What makes this book stand out is Dr. Partington’s ability to outline powerful, evidence-based techniques in a comprehensive manner that leaves readers with a clear understanding of each concept and many examples to illustrate their practical application.  Reading this book will leave you more motivated than ever before to get to work and teach valuable skills to your children!"

  1. How can I find items and activities to motivate my clients?

One of the main ways to identify a child’s reinforcers involves watching what he does when he is left alone!  When nobody is activily engaged with the child, he will often find ways to entertain himself. Watch what he does and you will find which sources of stimulation he seems to do most often.  Does he like changes in visual stimulation? Perhaps you can then try to find similar, but different forms of visual stimulation that you can see if he likes. The same goes for auditory stimulation. Perhaps you will get some ideas on novel combinations of sources of stimulation that can be incorporated into fun activites that can be provided as a reinforcer.

Another way to identify potential reinforcers is reinforcer sampling. It is best to simply play with the child and try a wide range of items and activities and see what he seems to enjoy at that moment. Therapists often like to find items to give to the child to reinforce a behavior. However, it is important to consider that you want the actions of people to be reinforcing as well. Rather than just giving a child a toy, see if you can make that toy be more fun because of your involvement with that item!

A great amount of detailed information about this topic can be found in the books Getting Started: Developing Critical Learning Skills for Children on the Autism Spectrum, Success on the Spectrum, and Learning to Motivate, Motivating to Learn.

Dealing with Behavior Problems

  1. How should I deal with my client’s disruptive behavior?

Behaviors can definitely get in the way of successful learning. With our book, Success on the Spectrum, we have identified many major behavior concerns with detailed examples on how to reinforce the positive behaviors while working on decreasing the negative behaviors. A few examples of the behavior concerns are: getting the child to walk nicely, changes in routine, meal time issues, climbing, etc. It is important to understand the problem behavior and the motivation behind it. Success on the Spectrum gives advice on how to understand and work on behaviors so that your student can have the most success possible.

  1. How can I get my clients to listen to me and follow instructions?

Once you have the basic skills for good teaching, such as ensuring the student is attending, presenting clear instructions, reinforcing the correct responses and just making learning fun; your student will listen and follow instructions! We recommend reading ‘The Basics of Good Teaching’ outlined in the Success on the Spectrum book. This book gives detailed instructions on how to make learning fun and productive.

 

Contact Partington Behavior Analysts

Do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions or would like additional information. Be sure to check out our Expert Blog for Clinicians which addresses strategies for teaching new skills among other topics.

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