Resources For Parents

Welcome parents! We are here to help. This resource page is specifically intended to provide you with beneficial information to support you in helping your child. 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 parents frequently ask. Below you will find links to resources to address a variety of topics.

Recent Diagnosis Issues

  1. My child just received an autism diagnosis. Where do I start? What can I do to help my child?
  2. Does the diagnosis ever go away? Is there hope for my child?
  3. What can I do to help my child reach his potential?

Treatment Considerations

  1. What type of program has been shown to be effective in treating autism?
  2. Shouldn’t I try every treatment possible?
  3. Should I wait to start an educational program until all the medical issues have been resolved?
  4. What is ABA?
  5. Doesn’t ABA only work with young children?
  6. What is Verbal Behavior (VB)? Why is VB so important?
  7. What is an intensive intervention program and why is it so important?
  8. What is the best school placement for my child?
  9. Should I put my child in an inclusive program?

Determining what to Teach

  1. What skills does my child need to learn?
  2. How can I determine what to teach my child?
  3. What language skills does my child need to learn?
  4. What about self-help/functional living skills?
  5. What skills do typical children have at various ages?
  6. My child is older, what skills should he learn?

Learning How to Teach/ How to become your child’s best teacher

  1. I’m not trained as a teacher. How can I learn to help my child develop critical skills?
  2. How can I get my child to go along with my attempts to teach him skills?
  3. My child is nonverbal, how can I teach him to talk?
  4. My child has some words, how can I get him to use them?
  5. Can I assess my child’s skills and track their development?

Dealing with Behavior Problems

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

 

ANSWER KEY

Recent Diagnosis Issues

  1. My child just received an autism diagnosis. Where do I start? What can I do to help my child?

You undoubtedly have many concerns about what to do, who can help you and why your child is not learning at the same rate as other children. The main thing to realize is that the diagnosis indicates that the child is not developing skills at the same rate as typically developing children. You may never know why that is the case, but there are steps that you can take to help him try to catch up with his peers. The most important step involves identifying which skills you can teach him, starting today. You can do a great deal to help your child! Creating a plan to help your child succeed and develop is vital to both your child’s development and providing your entire family with an improved quality of life. We recommend familiarizing yourself with our dedicated resource written for parents of newly diagnosed children. You’ll find information related to physical and educational concerns along with other recommendations for formulating a plan of action.

  1. Does the diagnosis ever go away? Is there hope for my child?

Let’s start by answering this question by realizing that every child with an autism diagnosis is different. Some children who have received several years of early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) starting around two to three years of age have gone on to kindergarten as a regular education student and have gone on to lead typical lives. The intervention that has had such an effect involves 35 to 40 hours a week of strategic teaching (See research articles by Lovaas (1987) and Sallows & Graupner (2005)). However, it is important to realize that while all children will benefit from this level of intervention, more than half of the children diagnosed with autism will still require some level of special education services. Even if the services start when the child is a little older, good teaching can result in considerable improvement in the child’s development. So, there is hope for your child! For more information please see our resource about early intervention.

  1. What can I do to help my child reach his potential?

The best place to start is by educating yourself on methods to help your child learn new skills. The most important thing you can do is to establish a plan to teach your child critical skills. You will need to identify your child’s specific skills and skill deficits and then strategically identify the skills that he needs to be taught at this moment. Many people, including teachers, often make mistakes by selecting inappropriate skills to teach. Selecting the correct, developmentally-appropriate learning targets is crucial. The book Success on the Spectrum is written for parents to understand the process of selecting learning objectives and has a wealth of information on how to specifically teach critical skills. It also provides information on how to deal with a variety of behavioral concerns.

This is what Nina, a parent of an individual with ASD, had to say about Dr. James Partington and Success on the Spectrum: “Dr. James Partington is a champion of excellent teaching practices for individuals with Autism. His newest book, Success on the Spectrum, provides knowledge about best practices coupled with practical, vivid examples. It breaks down the teaching process to allow us to be the best educators possible in carrying out work that truly matters.”

There are two other resources that are also written for parents. Getting Started: Developing Critical Learning Skills for Children on the Autism Spectrum provides information about where to start teaching skills to a nonverbal child or a child with minimal verbal skills. Learning to Motivate, Motivating to Learn provides useful techniques to make learning fun so that the child is motivated to participate in learning activities.

Treatment Considerations

  1. What type of program has been shown to be effective in treating autism?

There are many different approaches to autism treatment. Before deciding on which approach to take, it is important to review the research of the outcomes of specific 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 promising, but haven’t been demonstrated to have the best outcomes. Please 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 normal life. (See research articles by Lovaas (1987), and Sallows & Graupner (2005)).

  1. Shouldn’t I try every treatment possible?

Because there are not any definitive reasons for why children on the autism spectrum are not developing in a typical manner, there are many potential types of interventions that might help the child. 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 trying many non-evidenced based interventions, it is best to devote time to implementing what has been proven to be effective (Howard, et. Al 2005).

  1. Should I wait to start an educational program until all the medical issues have been resolved?

Many parents attempt to try to solve potential medical issues to see if that will help their child before they begin an 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, you should not wait to start teaching skills. You can check for medical issues while working on learning at the same time!

  1. What is ABA?

Applied Behavior Analysis is a method of teaching based on the premise that speech, academics and life skills can be taught using scientific principles.

ABA is based on the 20th-century work of B.F. Skinner. In 1938, Skinner published The Behavior of Organisms, which described the process of learning through the consequences of behavior. Later applications of his approach to education and socially significant behavior led to what we now call Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

ABA rewards, or reinforces, appropriate behaviors and responses because children are less likely to continue those behaviors that are not rewarded. Over time, reinforcement is reduced so that the child can learn without constant rewards.

Research shows that children with autism respond to ABA intervention Lovaas (1987) Sallows & Graupner (2005)). Skills are disassembled into their smallest components, so that the children learn to master simple skills, then build toward more complicated skills.

Skinner’s 1957 book, Verbal Behavior, focused on the functional analysis of verbal behavior, and led to significant research by Applied Behavior Analysts, including Dr. Jim Partington. This research can be found in the journal, The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, and serves as the foundation for teaching Verbal Behavior as part of an ABA program.

Applied Verbal Behavior is ABA with a focus on Verbal Behavior, and the application of ABA in teaching verbal behavior.

  1. Doesn’t ABA only work with young children?

Many people mistakenly believe that ABA teaching methodology is only useful for young children. They may have a limited view of this methodology simply because they’ve only seen it being used with young children. They may have seen a child sitting at a table with a therapist working on learning skills. However, the teaching methods are actually very effective in teaching a wide range of skills to individuals of all ages and all levels of intellectual functioning. These teaching methods can be used to teach skills at any location in the home, school, or community (e.g., at the park, in stores, work settings, etc.). In essence, ABA is an effective method to teach anyone skills.

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

Verbal Behavior is a theory from B.F. Skinner, which uses the principles of ABA to teach communication. Children learn that their words can let them gain access to items they need or want. Verbal Behavior is made up of 4 operants (word types) including: mands (requests), tacts (labels), echoics (echoed or repeated sounds or words) and intraverbals (back and forth communication).

Verbal Behavior is an intervention for children to learn 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 (receptive skills), be able to express their desires and observations, as well as be able to talk about their experiences (expressive skills).

Skinner’s 1957 book, Verbal Behavior, regarding the functional analysis of verbal behavior, has led to significant research by Applied Behavior Analysts, including Dr. James Partington. This research can be found in the journal, The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, and serves as the foundation for teaching Verbal Behavior as part of an ABA program.

  1. What is an intensive intervention program and why is it so important?

When given an autism spectrum diagnosis, many families are often referred to a speech and language pathologist and an occupational therapist. Although these professionals can be of assistance, they usually do not provide more than an hour or two of intervention per week. The research clearly indicates that effective treatment requires as much as 35 to 40 hours a week of direct teaching of skills. It is important to have the child being taught new skills in an intensive intervention program.

  1. What is the best school placement for my child?

There usually is not one best school placement for most children. The main issue for parents to consider is 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 your child. Therefore, you need to consider what he needs to learn, who has the teaching skills to teach new skills to your child, and if the circumstances of the classroom allow the teacher to be effective in teaching those skills to your 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. Should I put my child 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.

Determining what to Teach

  1. What skills does my child 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 parents to find specific goals and objectives that are individualized for their child, based on their skills.

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. How can I determine what to teach my child?

Once the ABLLS-R or WebABLLS assessment has been completed, it is important to choose specific objectives that will be helpful for your child 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 a parent 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. What language skills does my child 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. 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. James Partington presenting about this topic.

  1. What about self-help/functional living 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.

  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

  1. My child is older, what skills should he 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.

Learning How to Teach/ How to become your child’s best teacher

  1. I’m not trained as a teacher, how can I learn to help my child develop critical skills?

Every parent becomes a teacher when they have a child. Even typically developing children are taught many skills by their parents. However, teaching skills to children with developmental delays is often a little more challenging experience. Thus, learning how to motivate the child and how to teach specific skills to the child may require some assistance. The first step is to realize that teaching is not just the job of a special education teacher or a behavior therapist. It is important that parents learn some teaching skills. 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 you’d 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 you might enjoy watching.

 

  1. How can I get my child 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. Relevant for parents looking to navigate new waters, the book is written using non-technical language, making it a useful book for parents looking 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. My child 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 parents are able to teach their nonverbal child (or a child 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

Nina, a parent from Canada, had this to say about Getting Started: “I read Getting Started from start to finish and I couldn't put it down. The best part of the book were the little stories of the children with ASD, their learning styles, and solutions on how to provide the best therapy. I related to so many of these stories as if the child I was reading about was my own. I also loved the fact that the book is an easy read and well documented. I am a big fan of Dr. James Partington's work and have used all of his great research and programs in my son's daily therapy. We started when he was four and at eleven he has gained so many skills. I highly recommend this book to teachers, therapists and parents. You won't be disappointed.”

  1. My child 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. Can I, as a parent, assess my child’s skills and track their development?

Yes, parents and caregivers are encouraged to assess their own child. Dr. Partington has engineered the WebABLLS and ABLLS-R to be used by parents who do not necessarily have formal training. We have found the intuitiveness of the assessment is one of the most talked about benefits when speaking with parents of children with autism.

Dealing with Behavior Problems

  1. How should I deal with my child’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 child can have the most success possible.

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

Once you have the basic skills for good teaching, such as ensuring the child is attending, presenting clear instructions, reinforcing the correct responses and just making learning fun; your child 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.

 

Reach Out To Us

If you have additional questions or would like guidance regarding a particular topic, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Be sure to browse our Expert Blog for Parents and Caregivers for supplemental information.

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