Wouldn’t you prefer to learn things in a natural way? Learning things when you are motivated and interested? How could learning be more fun and applicable? The NET is where Natural Environment Teaching occurs, and commonly looks like play.
The focus is on communication, social interactions, play skills, and other skills that the child would engage in during their typical days. In our clinic, many clients receive instruction in a Verbal Behavior approach. Verbal Behavior focuses on teaching the different verbal operants, such as mands, tacts, intraverbals, echoics, etc. as a replacement (or alternative) for problem behavior. The session is organized to be a combination of table time, where skills are learned in isolation, and NET time when skills are learned through opportunity (contrived and natural). The session is a ratio of NET and ITT (Intensive Table Teaching), based on the needs of the learner. Many of our early learners, spend 75-80% of their session (about 45 minutes) in the NET and 20-25% of their time at the table (about 15 minutes). This allows enough time to become engaged in a variety of play tasks and social opportunities.
Now let’s walk through what a sample NET session may look like, but first you must know about the learner. The learner is a 3 year old male with an older brother, vocal verbal communicator (which means he can communicate with speech) in single words, and loves trains/cars. The learner enters the basement, where sessions are typically held, and approaches the train table. He quickly gets out the big box of trains and begins digging for his favorite train, which changes on a daily basis. The Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) begins to move a train back and forth on the train tracks, while making ‘choo choo’ noises, ‘look at this blue train’, ‘it’s moving so fast’, ‘train, train, train’, etc. The learner finds today’s beloved blue ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ and is ready to play on the train track. The therapist moves the train box closer to him/herself, thus encouraging the child to request next time they want a train. The train track is only partially completed. Therapist hands the child 2-3 pieces of train tracks, while stating ‘here’s the track, track, track’, ‘let’s make the track longer’, etc. The therapist will continue to play with his/her train, and the learner reaches for the track pile, The therapist will verbally prompt ‘track’, then provide the track. Over several more opportunities, and referencing the data collected per trial, they will fade out the verbal prompts and provide more opportunities for independence. You will note that the therapist provides plentiful speech around the play, as well as targeted language around a similar level to the learner. Since this learner is primarily communicating in single words, much of the modeling should be at this single word level (i.e. ‘train’ and ‘track’), however also modeling and providing experience for the higher level phrases and sentences, applicable to that activity. One of the other important components is to not spend all 45 minutes in the same activity. There are several ways to make the transition, but here are just a few:
- After some time of engagement with preferred activity, prepare the child 5 minutes before, stating ‘5 more minutes, then (name next activity)’. Similarly prepare the child at 3 minutes, 1 minute, 30 seconds, 15 seconds, and 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 All Done’ (or something of a similar structure). It may also be helpful to have a visual schedule for the learner to see what is coming next.
- Therapist can incorporate novel activities into the preferred activity. The previous learner loves trains. The therapist may incorporate music, bubbles, placing the train down a car track, racing trains on the ground, etc. The therapist may be working to condition new reinforcers (i.e. providing experiences with novel activities while incorporating their currently highly preferred activities.), in an effort to increase the variety of their interests (and possibly to be used as reinforcers in the future). Also the therapist may be working on variety of play actions with the same preferred activity (i.e. train races, trains on the car ramp, etc.).
- The learner may also transition to another activity while bringing the preferred toy with, to initially make the transition easier. Over time, we can work on transitioning without that preferred item.
These are just a few ways to structure your NET time!
This paper plate sea shell is a great summer craft. It can be used for any ocean or beach theme activity, or even just a great summer decoration to hang around the house! To complete this activity, you will need:
A single hole puncher
First, grab your paper plate and draw an outline of a sea shell for you or your child to cut out. Next, cut out the areas you outlined. After the outlines have been cut, then you can grab paints of your child’s choice. Once the paint colors have been chosen, have your child use the sponge brush to paint the sea shell. For a more sparkling sea shell, add glitter to the wet paint. Let the paint dry before moving onto the next steps. Once the paint has dried, use the single hole puncher to create four holes on the bottom and top of the plate. Grab some yarn and have your child lace it through a hole at the top to a hole at the bottom. Repeat this step till all the holes are filled with yarn. Then tie the ends of the yarn together and cut it as needed.
There are so many reasons that I love working at Behavioral Perspective! First and foremost, I love the clients and families that I get to work with each and every day. The reason that I gravitated towards the field of ABA nearly 5 years ago was because I wanted to help others. I had seen firsthand the results that behavior analysis could provide and I knew that I wanted to be a part of that process. Throughout my time at BPI, I have worked with so many wonderful clients and have seen an incredible amount of improvement from each and every one of them. Not only have I seen these skills within my therapy sessions, but I have also been fortunate enough to see many of the skills we work on in therapy generalized to the ways the clients interact with their families, school teachers, and in the community. Nothing makes my day more than when parents share stories of how happy they are to see their child making so many improvements!
I am also extremely fortunate to work with a fantastic group of staff! No matter the experience level, everyone on our team has the same mindset – doing everything we can to make sure our clients’ needs are met at the highest possible level. The BCBAs and BCaBAs that we have at BPI are phenomenal at what they do and provide top notch training to every staff member! We also have staff with a variety of experience, so no matter what question I have, someone is always happy to help provide an answer while also furthering my own knowledge! I myself am a BCBA in-training, so I want to make sure that upon my graduation I have acquired all of the tools that I need to be a competent and successful BCBA. My experience at BPI makes me absolutely certain that I will be the best BCBA that I can be!
So you’ve completed the initial intake and initial assessment of your child, and now your Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) has a list of goals for your child to work on during therapy. But how were these goals chosen? It can be difficult to navigate through the world of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and child development to figure out what is higher priority for each child. Your child’s ABA program and goals are going to be completely individualized for your child and based off an appropriate assessment for their age and functioning level. Although there is more to consider when creating an appropriate program, these will be the top priorities in any ABA program.
Priority #1: Behavior Reduction
Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (ABC) data will be taken during each session, along with frequency and duration of problem behaviors. ABC data tells you what occurred prior to the behavior occurring, what the exact behavior the child engaged in, and what happened immediately following the behavior. This helps to determine the function of the child’s behavior and also help to guide the treatment of the challenging behaviors. It is important to address these behaviors now when your child is much smaller, than to have to address it when they are older, taller, and stronger.
Essential Skills Every Child Needs:
1.Being able to accept being told No
2.Having an item removed taken away
3.Ability to smoothly transition (i.e. without problem behavior) from locations or activities
4.Waiting for an item or activity
5.Sharing & Taking Turns
The essential skills that every child need are extremely important. If your child isn’t able to do some of these skills, then they have barriers to learning. Once your child has these skills, they are much more available for learning and will learn skills much more quickly.
Priority #2: Communication
Think about all of the vocal and nonvocal behavior that you engage in on a daily basis. There is a lot! We are constantly requesting items or activities (mands), labeling items within our environment (tacting), following directions (listener responding), and engaging in conversation (intraverbals). Most children with Autism have a deficit in this area, as they learn language differently. Your child’s ABA therapy sessions will spend the majority of their Natural Environment Training working on Manding. One of the most important skills for your child to have is to be able to effectively get their basic needs and wants met. Bonus: effective communication will help to reduce problem behaviors!
Priority #3: Effective Reinforcers
THINK: Money! As adults, we go to work and perform our job duties in order to receive our paycheck at the end of a two week period. This money is then used to buy things that we enjoy and need: food, entertainment, shelter, vacations, etc. If you didn’t receive your paycheck after you put in all this work, would you continue to work for that company? Of course not!
The same thing applies to your child. If they don’t get something out of communicating, following directions, etc., would they continue to respond? No, they wouldn’t. Therefore, it is extremely important that your child have effective reinforcers. Sometimes it can be hard to determine what your child finds reinforcing as they might have a limited selection of preferred toys or edibles. Therefore, an effective ABA program will work on increasing your child’s reinforcers so they can have a more enjoyable life and also increase the likelihood of learning new skills, communicating, and following directions.
McGreevy, P., Fry, T., & Cornwall, C. (2012). Essential for Living. Winter Park, FL: Patrick McGreevy, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates.
Non-Toxic Kids Paint
Paper or reusable plastic plates
Fill paper plates or plastic reusable plates with paint. We choose to use color coordinated paint, plates and fly swatters to aid with color recognition. Tape paper to an outdoor wall or door. Let your child dip the flyswatter in the paint and smack the paper to paint.
Topics of Conversation:
Colors and color matching
Textures from the various types of fly swatters
Numbers (count the number of times you hit the paper)
Mixing of primary colors to make secondary colors For example: Red+Blue=Purple Yellow+Orange=Red
Illinois Early Learning Standards Targeted:
1.A.ECa Follow simple one-, two- and three-step directions.
6.A.ECa Count with understanding and recognize “how many” in small sets up to 5
25.A.ECd Visual Arts: Investigate and participate in activities using visual arts materials.
31.A.ECc Interact easily with familiar adults.
It’s very possible at some point you have heard the words “tact” and “mand” thrown around. But what do these words mean? Are they slang for something? “Tact” and “mand” are actually terms coined by B.F. Skinner. They are two popular verbal operants to describe components of language.
A tact is described by Skinner as being controlled by a nonverbal stimulus and reinforced by non-specific praise. Let’s break that down. A nonverbal stimulus usually refers to visual stimulus, so for example, Johnny sees a cow. Johnny says “Cow!” and then the behavior is reinforced by non-specific praise. Non-specific just means that the reinforcement will be different from what Johnny had actually said. (Johnny parents are not going to give him a cow). Typically they would reinforce by saying something like “You’re right, Johnny! It is a cow!” Tacts are easiest to think about as labels for names for people, places, and things.
The word “mand” is taken from words such as “demand” and “command”. When you think of mand you should think of a request for something. As Skinner puts it a mand is controlled by an establishing operation and reinforced by a specified reinforcer. What this means is that in order for a request to be considered a mand, the client must actually want whatever they are asking for. For example, if Sally asks for a chip and when someone gave her a chip she no longer wanted it, this is probably not a mand. However, if Sally asks for a chip, you give her a chip and she eats it, this is a mand. “Specified reinforcement” refers to a person receiving specifically what they are asking for.
Board Certified Behavior Analyst, or BCBA, is a person who has earned a graduate level certification in behavior analysis. BCBAs adhere to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s (BACB) code of ethics, and the specifications required for maintaining their credentials. Moving onward, let’s refer to the BACB as the Board, so as to not have too many acronyms flying around here.
BCBAs are individuals who can provide behavior analytic services, and supervise the work of Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBA), and Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT).
I apologize in advance for introducing yet another acronym, but the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is full of them. An article written by Baer, Wolf, & Risley in 1968, describes ABA as follows: Applied Behavior Analysis is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior.
According the Board, a BCBA is a practitioner who can provide the following services:
One of the best things about working for BPI is how friendly the staff is. Everyone is incredibly welcoming and always eager to help me out with any questions or issues I run into. I also love how all programs or interventions with clients are based on empirically-based research and can be broken down and explained. Research based therapy leads to effective treatments and client progress. It is really amazing to watch my clients learn and grow as they master different targets and new targets are introduced. I love seeing my clients meet their goals and progressing in their daily life.
Your child will love chipping away at this colorful ice block, using a variety of tools! This is a great activity that can last several days. All you have to do is put the remaining tower in the freezer when your child is finished.
What you will need:
Bits and pieces in rainbow colors (beads, marbles, pomp oms, etc.)
What to do: After collecting your items, measure how much water it will take to fill up your vase and divide it by however many different colors you have (1 layer for each color).
Add your first layer of water into the vase, along with your first colored items. Place the vase into the freezer and allow to freeze for a couple hours. Place the remaining water into the fridge.
Once the first layer is frozen, repeat step 2 with another layer of water and colored items. Continue to do this until all layers are frozen.
To remove the ice tower, run water outside the vase while holding it upside down. Be careful: if the glass isn’t heat tempered, you will have to run cold water to keep it from breaking.
Once the tower is out, your child can use a variety of items to chip away at it, including eyedroppers, salt, paint brushes, and squeezy bottles! If your child doesn’t get through it in one sitting, place the tower back in the freezer and save it for the next day!
Summer is coming fast and we've got a great recipe to beat the summer heat! This recipe will satisfy your ice cream craving, but with less calories and it's dairy and gluten free!
One-Ingredient Ice Cream
· 1 Banana
1. Peel and slice bananas and place in the freezer overnight.
2. When ready to make your "ice cream," put sliced bananas into a food processor.
3. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary.
Optional add ins: peanut butter, sprinkles, chocolate chips, etc.
If you are feelings really adventurous, you can make homemade "magic shell" chocolate topping!
"Magic Shell" Topping
· 2 cups good quality chocolate, finely chopped
· ¼ cup coconut oil
1. Add the chocolate to a microwave-safe bowl or container along with coconut oil.
2. Microwave in 30 second intervals, until melted
3. Pour over your banana ice cream. Allow at least 30 seconds before trying to break into the shell. When the shell turns matte, you'll know it is ready!