• Understanding Chaining in ABA

    Imagine this: You’re in your office when your boss enters and rattles off 10 minutes worth of instructions. By the end of it, you would probably have trouble remembering the first thing you were supposed to do. Kids with autism have this same issue with multi-step directions. Some of them have trouble processing language and information, and it can be confusing when they’re told to do multiple things in a specific order. Your child’s autism therapist may use an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) technique called “chaining” to help your child master multi-step directions. 

    ABA Chaining Overview 

    Chaining helps ABA therapists and parents teach kids how to perform complex, multi-step tasks. Most tasks can be broken down into more basic components. For example, the directive to “Make your bed” can be broken down into specific directions about smoothing the fitted sheet, pulling the top sheet up, arranging the blankets, and fluffing up the pillows. Chaining is a way to link discrete tasks together to help kids complete the whole task. 

    Total Task Chaining 

    There are three main approaches to chaining. The first is total task chaining. The behavior analyst or parent walks the child through each step of the task, prompting as necessary. 

    Forward Chaining 

    Forward chaining has the child learn how to complete the first step of the task independently. Then, the parent or ABA therapist prompts the child for each subsequent task. Once the child can complete the first step independently, without being prompted, then he or she can work on completing the first two steps independently, and so on. 

    Backward Chaining 

    Backward chaining is the opposite of forward chaining. The child completes all of the steps with prompting, save for the last one. Depending on the skill being taught, backward chaining has a distinct advantage: It directly links the independent completion of a task to the immediate reward or reinforcement. Once the child can complete the last step independently, he or she can work on also completing the next-to-last step independently. 

    Highly trained and compassionate behavior analysts comprise the staff here at The Behavior Exchange. We utilize evidence-based ABA therapy to help children reach their full potential and to help families overcome autism-related challenges. Call 888-716-8084 to request an appointment with a behavior analyst near Plano. 

  • How Are the Signs of Autism Different in Girls?

    More boys are diagnosed with autism than girls. Although autism may simply occur more often in boys, researchers say that the disparity can also be attributed to cases of autism going undetected and undiagnosed in girls. And yet, researchers also know that the sooner the symptoms of autism are detected and early intervention has begun, the better the outcome will be. Parents of daughters may wish to take a minute to learn how autism can manifest differently in girls than boys. 

    Restricted Interests and Method of Play

    One of the hallmark characteristics of autism, at least in boys, is a focused interest in one narrow topic. Some boys can’t stop talking about train schedules or chemical reactions, for instance. When considering whether a girl might have autism, it’s important to bear in mind that girls tend to have more age-appropriate interests, such as playing with dolls. The key to detecting differences rests in how a girl plays. Girls might have their dolls do the same things and “say” the same words every time. They might sort doll clothes by color instead of playing with the doll’s hair. And they might exhibit very strong resistance to transitioning to another activity. 

    Social Pressures and Behaviors 

    For better or worse, girls are expected to adhere to certain social behaviors at a younger age than boys. Families may be more proactive in teaching and enforcing these social behaviors in girls than in boys, even though this tendency may not necessarily be deliberate. Because of this, girls with autism aren’t likely to display the same sort of social differences as boys with autism. Instead, girls tend to “camouflage” their behaviors to mimic those of the other girls around them. A close look, however, will still reveal some differences. Girls with autism might not be socially rejected by their peers, but they may not be accepted, either. Instead of playing with other girls, a girl with autism may simply play near them. 

    Every child is unique, and at The Behavior Exchange, every child receives a uniquely individualized autism therapy program. Our skilled behavior analysts in Plano work with children of varying ages and ability levels, taking a proactive and positive approach toward empowering families. Get in touch today by calling 888-716-8084. 

  • Using ABA to Encourage Your Child to Mand

    One important aspect of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is teaching children with autism to mand. “Mand” is just another word for a request. There are lots of little ways parents can incorporate ABA therapy into a child’s daily routine at home and in the community, and encouraging the child to mand is one of them. 

    Understanding the Importance of Manding  

    Manding is among the most powerful communication tools a child can learn. It gives the child a sense of control over the world. It also teaches the child that there is an alternative way to achieve an objective than to engage in undesirable behaviors. Children who master the art of manding can reduce problematic behaviors and learn how to navigate the world in a more self-sufficient way. 

    Finding the Right Time to Encourage Manding  

    There are many circumstances that are appropriate teaching moments for a child with autism. As an example, let’s say you give your child their favorite puzzle but hold on to the last piece. When they need the final piece of the puzzle, you can hold up the last remaining piece and encourage your child to mand.   

    Avoiding the Reinforcement of Improper Manding  

    Echolalia, or the repetition of words and phrases, can inadvertently cause parents to reinforce improper manding. As an example, let’s say that Jorge reaches for a cup of milk. His father asks, “Do you want milk?” Jorge repeats this sentence exactly and is given milk. This reinforces the idea that Jorge must ask “Do you want milk?” in order to get what he wants. If Jorge uses this question to request milk outside of the home, non-family members will probably say, “No, thank you,” instead of giving Jorge a drink. This can result in undesirable behaviors since Jorge will get frustrated that his improper mand didn’t work. 

    Individual and group parent training classes are available at The Behavior Exchange to help families learn how they can better support the progress of children with autism. When you attend our classes, you’ll learn how to turn every interaction with your child into a therapeutic one. Call our ABA school in Plano at (888) 716-8084 to find out about our upcoming schedule of classes. 

  • Teaching Kids with Autism to Recognize Emotions

    One of the potential symptoms of autism is difficulty recognizing the emotional cues of others. This can make social situations tricky for children with autism, and it creates difficulties with friendships. Talk to your child’s ABA therapist about how you can help your child make progress with emotion recognition.  

    One common strategy involves the use of picture cards. The child is shown one picture at a time depicting a face with a certain emotion. The therapist or parent can help the child learn the cues that indicate what the facial expression means. Beyond learning the differences between smiles and frowns, a child can learn that a furrowed brow means confusion, that one lifted eyebrow is a questioning look, and that biting the lower lip indicates nervousness. But picture cards with just facial expressions might not provide a complete explanation for the child. It’s also helpful to match emotions to pictures of common scenarios, such as the happy face of a boy at a birthday party. 

    The Behavior Exchange is a warm and welcoming autism treatment center in Plano that offers social skills groups to help kids with challenges like recognizing emotions. Call (888) 716-8084 to sign up your child! 

  • Autism Rates Are Increasing. Do You Know the Signs?

    Autism rates have been on an upward trend in recent years, as evidenced by the periodic reports issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that more children are developing autism, but rather that parents, teachers, and caregivers are getting better at recognizing the symptoms of autism. This is a good thing because it means more children are getting the early intervention they need to reach their full potential. 

    Take a moment to remind yourself of the potential signs of autism, which include developmental issues like speech delays and learning challenges. Avoidance of eye contact, atypical play behaviors, repetition of words and phrases, and an insistence on following a predictable routine are other possible signs. Some children with autism may resist physical contact (like hugs), prefer to play alone, and demonstrate an apparent lack of awareness about safety issues. 

    If you’re concerned about your child’s development, contact The Behavior Exchange today at (888) 716-8084. Our board-certified behavior analysts look forward to meeting you and your child. 

  • How Do ABA Therapists Set Goals?

    ABA therapy is an evidence-based method of replacing undesirable behaviors with desired behaviors. An important part of developing an autism treatment plan is goal-setting. First, the ABA therapist conducts a thorough assessment of the child’s strengths and deficits. This assessment is used to determine which specific skills the child needs to learn. In light of the child’s age, level of functioning, needs of the family, and any other relevant factors, the therapist lists the skills according to priority. The therapist will also consider how many hours of ABA therapy per week the child can receive when deciding which skills to teach first.

    Although every child has unique needs, ABA therapists often prioritize the skills that empower the child to communicate. The skills that the child will need to be a successful student are also typically prioritized.

    ABA therapists are available near Plano to help your child improve his or her capabilities and enjoy a higher quality of life. Call The Behavior Exchange at (888) 716-8084 to request a consultation.

  • A Look at the Benefits of Early Intervention ABA Therapy

    Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a collection of techniques that behavior analysts can use to help children with autism overcome their challenges. ABA therapy is sequential, versatile, and backed by decades of scientific research. As effective as ABA therapy is, the best outcomes are seen when children begin therapy as early in life as possible. This is a significant reason why it’s important for parents to learn how to recognize the potential signs of autism and seek an evaluation. 

    Early intervention supports the acquisition of communication skills. 

    Many children with autism experience delays or regression of language and speech acquisition. Others begin talking at a developmental stage that is on target for their age group but have difficulty with the appropriate use of speech to accomplish goals. Yet, the functional use of language is imperative for a child’s success in school. A child who begins school without having basic communication skills will struggle to keep up academically and socially and may be more likely to experience behavioral problems. With early intervention using ABA therapy, children have the opportunity to catch up to their target speech and language milestones. 

    Early intervention supports school readiness.  

    School readiness is so important for children. It means different things at different age groups, but it’s typically used in reference to the kindergarten age group. At this age, a child who is ready for school is one who: 

    • Can follow rules and routines 
    • Can follow multi-step directions 
    • Can reasonably self-regulate emotions 
    • Can have appropriate social interactions 
    • Can listen to adults and peers 
    • Can talk with adults and peers 
    • Can understand stories and identify letters 

    These are just a few aspects of kindergarten readiness, and many of them are tasks that a child with autism may struggle with. During early intervention ABA therapy sessions, children can acquire these crucial skills so that they can enter kindergarten as self-confident learners who are prepared to thrive. 

    Here at The Behavior Exchange, we believe every child deserves the opportunity to reach his or her full potential, and to lead a happy and productive life despite challenges. Our ABA therapists in Plano encourage you to explore our Early Start Program (B.E.E.S.), which is an early childhood enrichment and school readiness program. Find out more by calling (888) 716-8084. 

  • Royals Sign First Baseball Player Diagnosed with Autism

    With early intervention and intensive ABA therapy, children with autism can grow up to become capable and productive members of society. Tarik El-Abour is one inspirational example of the way in which people with autism can reach for the stars. As a child, Tarik displayed early symptoms of autism. He was diagnosed at age three. Now 25 years old, Tarik signed on with the Kansas City Royals this past April. His signing coincided with Autism Awareness Night.

    Although it’s entirely possible that other baseball players have had autism, but were never diagnosed, it’s been widely reported that Tarik is the first professional baseball player with autism to be signed by a major league team. Tarik joined the Royals for spring training and is making waves on their minor league team this year.

    The Behavior Exchange is an autism treatment center near Plano that focuses on empowering children and parents to overcome obstacles and reach goals. Give us a call today at (888) 716-8084.

  • Preparing for Your Child’s Happy and Secure Future

    Parents of children with autism have a lot on their minds. There’s the day-to-day routine of getting the child to ABA therapy sessions, dealing with behavioral issues, and ensuring compliance with the child’s IEP. But in addition to those daily challenges is one major, overriding concern: What will happen to the child when the parents aren’t around to care for him or her? All kids grow up quickly, but children with autism might not reach the general level of functioning expected of an adult. There are a few things you can do to help your child have a happy and secure future, even long after you’re gone.

    Special Needs Trusts

    Your child may receive disability benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. These benefits may not be enough to provide for all of your child’s future needs, but you can set up a special needs trust to cover the difference. It’s preferable to leave money to your child in this trust instead of in your will since cash gifts or inheritances can disqualify a person from receiving disability benefits. Talk to an experienced lawyer about special needs trusts.

    Life Care Planning

    A life care plan isn’t a financial vehicle like a special needs trust. Rather, it’s an evolving document that spells out the specifics of your family member’s current and future needs. For a child with autism, a life care plan may cover these areas:

    • Education
    • Daily activities
    • Medical history and care
    • Environment management
    • Social needs and recreation
    • Transportation
    • Residency
    • Employment

    Your lawyer should be able to point you in the direction of a certified life care planner.

    Parent Training

    Another step you can take right now to help your child as an adult is to take parent training classes from an ABA therapist. You’ll learn how to help your child acquire social skills, and these will prove invaluable to your child throughout his or her life. With solid social skills, your child will have the foundation for a happier present and future.

    At The Behavior Exchange, we’ve made it our life’s work to help children with autism grow into capable, independent individuals who can live life to the fullest. Our behavior analysts near

    Plano and the DFW area provide parent training, ABA therapy, and school advocacy services. Call our ABA school at (888) 716-8084, and let us know how we can support your family.

  • Practical Advice for the First IEP Eligibility Meeting

    The time immediately after a diagnosis of autism can be frustrating for parents. It might seem simultaneous as if life is changing too quickly, and as if the process to get special needs services is taking too long. One of the first steps in this process is the initial IEP eligibility meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to determine whether your child needs special education in order to receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) as mandated by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

    Enlist the help of a school advocate.

    Perhaps the most effective thing you can do to help your child and be well-prepared for the meeting is to speak with a professional special needs advocate. Find out if your child’s autism treatment center offers school advocacy services. These therapists would be well-positioned to inform the IEP process since they work directly with your child. A professional advocate can help you determine if your child is or isn’t receiving the services he or she needs at school.

    Bring a support person.

    If your child isn’t yet receiving ABA therapy, you should at the very least bring a support person to the meeting, such as your spouse, partner, or a close family friend. The law entitles you to bring anyone who is acquainted with your child and familiar with his or her needs. Ask your support person to take detailed notes during the meeting. Do inform the rest of the IEP team ahead of time if you plan to bring another person to the meeting.

    Document everything that happens at the meeting.

    Don’t assume that everything said and done at the meeting will automatically be documented by the school. You’ll need to keep your own meticulously detailed records. If you’ve noticed something from your child’s evaluation that needs to be considered by the rest of the IEP team, read it out loud and ask it to be included in the school’s file. Additionally, document every time you make a request and how the team responded to the request.

    The experts at The Behavior Exchange provide a full continuum of supportive services to families affected by autism, including ABA therapy and school advocacy services. You can get in touch at (888) 716-8084. One of our ABA therapists near Plano will be happy to offer guidance as you navigate the tricky process of IEP development.