Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is most notably used in the treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. But in truth, ALL children experience problem behaviors at some point in their lives - from the “terrible twos” to the rebellious teen years. This blog is designed to provide an overview of ABA and how it can be a useful tool for typically developing children, teenagers, and even your husband;)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Happy Holidays

I've been MIA for a while, but I can at least stop by to say "Merry ChristmaHannaKwanzikah!" Whatever you celebrate this time of year, Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What Do We Tell the Kids?

Taking a moment to just pause and remember that fateful day.  This morning on The View, Elisabeth Hasselbeck wondered what to tell the kids about 9/11.  Her 7 year old daughter asked her why we remember 9/11.  Elisabeth told her that some bad people tried to take our freedom.  To which her daughter replied "Did they?"  Elisabeth's answer: "No, and they never will."

So, what do we tell our kids?  I have yet to really experience this.  As a preschool teacher, we danced around the topic telling our students that we celebrate that our country came together as one big family in a time of tragedy and we appreciate all the people that keep our country safe.  For us, it was our responsibility to get the topic in their heads, but their parents might want to be the ones to explain the tragedy in their own words.  My own daughter is nearly 2 and we have a while before she asks these questions.  But, it got me thinking about other difficult life experiences and what we will teach her about them - death, war, violence.  It's all so complex.  There are things you just want to protect your children from in order to hold on to their innocence as best you can.  Nurture, protect, educate, and worry.  Such is the life of a parent.       

Saturday, September 8, 2012

My First Book Review!

First, let me say I am flattered that anyone would ask me to review a book and blog about it.  I mean, I'm just a mom with a blogging hobby.  I'm no Heather "Dooce" Armstrong with 1.5M Twitter followers.  Second, it was kinda fun to review a book!  Third, I'm still amazed at the connections you can make in the world through social media.  Exploring these connections through the blogging world is proving to be very enjoyable!  With that said, this post has nothing to do with ABA, but it does have to do with our children.  Lillie LOVES to read books every night at bedtime.  She'll pick book after book after book until we finally say "Last one, time to get in bed".  I've really enjoyed reliving my old children's books as well as exploring some new favorites with my daughter.   

This week Marta Cappa sent me one of the acts from her Stories from Slumber Village book titled "The Best Grandma in the World".  It was, of course, about becoming the best grandma.  At first glance I wasn't in love with the illustrations.  I wasn't quite sure what exactly the characters were.  I assumed they were cats as they had whiskers.  My daughter assumed the same.  As usual she asks "what's that?" to which I replied "I don't know?"  "Kitties?"  So we did a little poking around at Slumber Village and guess what?  They're guinea pigs!  Now THAT's a character you don't see everyday!  We also find out the illustrations are watercolor.  Also something you don't see everyday.  Pretty unique but somehow less appealing than the illustrations of the stories we typically read.   As I continued to read the story, the illustrations didn't much matter.  The story was heartwarming.  Initially the book spoke to me more as a parent and future (way WAY in the future, God willing and supposing my daughter takes a path to motherhood) grandparent.  I wondered if my own parents (first time grandparents) felt these same emotions as they became more than just Mom and Dad but Nana, Grampa, and Granny.

Let me tell you about the story.  Bonny Pea was anxiously awaiting a call from the doctor.  He promised to let her know when he had a grandbaby for her to hold.  But she didnt yet know how to be a grandmother.  She didnt want to be just any ol' grandmother.  She wanted to be the best.  So with the help of her friends they tried to find all the qualities of a really great grandmother.  But poor Bonnie Pea just didn't measure up.  Before they could even come up with her very own special grandmother name the doctor calls.  Oh no, shes not ready!  As they visit the baby in the hospital, Grandmother Pea finally receives her special name.  You'll have to read the book to find out how.  I wonder if Bonnie ever figured out her special grandma talent? 

You can find out more about Marta Cappa and her Stories from Slumber Village here.  Grandparents day is Sunday, September 9th.  Why not purchase this heartwarming story for the grandparents in your life?! 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Behavior Plan for Myself

I'm on a weight loss journey - one that I hope to be the ultimate success for me.  If ABA works for our kids, our husbands, and our pets, then why not for ourselves?  The key ingredients for my behavior plan include reinforcement and shaping.  First of all, I HATE exercise and I LOVE food!  I'm a tv watching, sugar/carb/fat consuming, self-proclaimed couch potato.  To make this work, I need to fix this love-hate relationship.  I need to make exercise fun and reward myself for participation.  I need to train myself to use food for nurishment and punish overindulgence.

I have learned from past attempts that I cannot use food as a reinforcer and I cannot use exercise as a punisher.  I used to reward myself for exercise and diet by indulging in favorite foods.  In order for that to work, I had to abstain for those foods until I met whatever requirement to earn it.  The problem with that is when I abstain from favorite foods, I tend to overindulge (once I start I can't stop).  Also, food reinforcement is notoriously bad news and often leads to weight gain - not the direction I need to go. 
I also used to use exercise as punishment for not exercising (i.e. instead of the planned 30 minutes I would do an hour).  The problem with using exercise as a punishment is that I will continue to view exercise as a punisher (i.e. aversive).  This is exactly the relationship I am trying to change!  I want to enjoy exercise not hate it.

So how will I change my relationship with food and exercise?  Starting with exercise - the key to enjoying something is to pair it with something you already enjoy.  For example, spending time with my daughter is enjoyable and she enjoys active activities (neighborhood walks, bike riding, dancing, and the playground).  My goal is to work in one of these activities on a daily basis.  I will also begin the Slim in 6 series, which uses shaping to get you exercising.  The series has "Start It Up", "Ramp It Up", and "Burn It Up".  The workouts get progressively longer, more involved, and higher intensity.  Hopefully starting slow will make it less likely for me to give up before I start seeing weight loss results.  My relationship with food is already changing.  I have made small changes to eat healthier for as many meals as possible during the day, indulging when I crave it but not overdoing it.  Keeping track of my calories and sugar intake on a food diary helps greatly!

I'm starting with small goals and will reward myself for meeting those goals.  My ultimate goal is to lose 30 pounds, engage in at least 1 hour of exercise daily, and eat 3 well balanced meals (and a small snack) including appropriate portions following the USDA food pyramid guidelines.  My initial goals are to eat healthier alternatives for at least one of three meals, exercise 30 minutes daily, and lose 5 lbs.

*Since April 2012 I have lost 10lbs by using a food diary to track my sugar and calorie intake.  I'm now commited and upping the ante to include an exercise program "Slim in 6" and an "eating clean" diet plan to lose 20lbs.  You can follow my journey here.

Adventures in Toddler Potty Training - Revisited

A while back, we attempted to begin potty training with our then 16 month old daughter.  We had big girl panties, a potty chair, chocolate candy reinforcers, and a strategy (a modified positive practice method).  Our girl had been interested in sitting on the potty for months and going into the bathroom with mommy so we finally decided to crack down and get started with a potty training method.  Unfortunately, she quickly lost interest and began saying "NOOOOOO" everytime we prompted potty.  Not wanting to push the issue too much as to make the potty aversive (and thinking maybe she's just not ready) we discontinued.  We attempted again several weeks later and again several weeks after that.  Still no luck.  All of a sudden our now 23 month old started requesting panties and the potty.  Since SHE is the one who initiated this time, we figured we'd try again.  This time we took a more relaxed approach.  While wearing panties, we just let accidents happen and took her to sit on the potty when they did.  Her potty was wherever she was playing at the time so her activities were close by and she could continue to play (to an extent) while on the potty.  Within the first week she was requesting potty independently, holding it in until getting to the potty, and urinating in the potty seat.  Of course, we went through several outfit changes, loads of laundry, and paper towels along the way.  Then, a turn for the worse!  She started holding it in ALL DAY LONG, despite the amount of liquid she was consuming and despite wearing a diaper at naptime.  We worried that she would develop an infection if she didn't go so we resorted to (rather unpleasantly) placing her in the bathtub in order to get her to go and then placing her on the potty to finish.  She screamed!  She was so mad that we put her in the tub (I think she knew that it would make her go).  I don't know if it was a "fear" or a "control" thing for her.  Now she doesn't want to take baths at all.  NOW WHAT?!  It's a full on tantrum to sit on the potty or to get in the bathtub.  Nothing but the bathtub will "make" her go potty.  Running water?  Tried that.  Playing in a water bucket while sitting on the potty? Tried that.  Loading her with liquids?  Tried that.  Going back to diapers?  Tried that.  "Bribing" with candy and stickers?  Withholding favorite activities?  Oh yeah, tried that!  She's a stubborn one, she is!  TODDLERS!!!!  She holds it all day until she either naps or goes to sleep for the night.  Now I'm asking YOUR advice?!!  See, professionals need advice too;)  We have discontinued potty training for now and it seems she's back to going in her diaper (sometimes).  Guess we'll start again soon.  She's physically ready and capable, but maybe emotionally or mentally not quite there yet.   

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sensory Seeking Behaviors

Thanks to a friend for the inspiration on this one.  Just last week someone asked why their child was chewing on fabric.  We forget that our "neurotypical" children engage in somewhat strange behaviors too.  Nail biting, sleeve chewing, nose picking, hair twirling, hair chewing, thumb sucking, teeth grinding, etc.  Oh the things our kids do!  Maybe YOU even do a few of these yourself!?  These behaviors can be classified as sensory seeking.  They are most likely automatically reinforcing - that is, the sensory stimulation received from engaging in these behaviors makes the behavior reinforcing in and of itself.  While these behaviors are relatively harmless and normal, it is bothersome to most parents.   So what can you do?  A) live with it and hope they outgrow it on their own B) punish it or C) teach them an alternative behavior. 

Are you hoping they will outgrow it?  I'm a 28 year old nail biter.  Apparently I didn't outgrow that one.  The problem with punishing such a behavior?  Well, you can't be with your child 24/7, right?  Remember how punishment works?  You have to punish EVERY instance of a behavior, otherwise the behavior is reinforced on an intermittent schedule (meaning every now and again).  Remember intermittent reinforcement is THE worst kind of reinforcement when you are trying to get rid of a behavior - it just makes the behavior stronger!  What's an "alternative behavior" you say?  Well, an alternative behavior is a behavior with which you want to replace the problem behavior.  It should be something that is incompatible with the problem behavior (meaning both behaviors can't occur at the same time), is equally as reinforcing as the problem behavior (in this case meaning it serves the same sensory function - touch, taste, smell, sight, sound), and that is an appropriate alternative (meaning a behavior that you can live with and that doesn't seem "strange" to society).  Of course, you can always chock it up to part of your child's unique personality;)  Everybody needs a little something to make them quirky, right?   

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Help Support Individuals with Disabilities

Time is running out! Please support the DOJ settlement by writing a letter. I wrote one and now it's YOUR turn! Even if you do not live in Virginia, please support the disabilities community.

Dear Judge Gibney,

I am writing to you today on behalf of more than 7000 individuals with disabilities residing in Virginia, including approximately 1100 individuals residing in institutions and training centers and more than 6000 waiting for Medicaid waivers.  I would like to pose the following:  In the 21st century, with as much research that has been done on the importance of community involvement, independent living, and employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, why does Virginia have the 10th largest institutionalized population in the nation? 

If we find it beneficial for our children to be served with their peers in the public schools, then why should we advocate for any less of adults with disabilities?  The children that we advocate for so passionately today will become the adults of tomorrow.  Unfortunately, these individuals are destined to end up on waiting lists that are too long and never receive the assistance they so desperately need. 

Individuals with disabilities have the right to access community settings and assistance to live in their own homes.  Sadly, it does not appear to be our state’s priority to move these individuals quickly from training centers to the community.  Segregating these individuals from their peers is a violation of their civil rights.  These individuals deserve housing and employment assistance in their communities.  Furthermore, continuing to serve these individuals in institutions rather than in the community further exacerbates their disability, making them dependent on others for the rest of their lives.  The longer these institutions remain open the harder it will be to find community resources to serve them and each new individual entering the system every year.  Closing these institutions will not only help restore some independence for these individuals, but it will also cost the state about 1/3 less money per person which will in turn allow the state to serve those on the waiting lists.      

I work with children with disabilities on a daily basis.  I watch these children grow up and I worry.  I worry about when they leave us.  I worry about when the services stop.  I worry about where they will go and who will care for them.  I worry that these children will end up institutionalized for the rest of their lives.  We have helped them make tremendous progress during the years they have spent with us.  And I worry.  Is it all in vain?  Our hard work.  Their hard work.  Is it all for nothing?  Is it all so that they enter these institutions and never leave or get placed on never ending waiting lists?  The answer should be a resounding NO!  But I worry.       

Judge Gibney, I support the DOJ settlement which aims to close these institutions and create more waivers to allow these individuals to live and work in their communities!  Please support this settlement, support civil rights, support individuals with disabilities!


Heather Chandler, MS, BCBA