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Safety First For Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Teaching a Child to Stop

Using ABA techniques that include breaking down tasks into small steps and providing lots of positive reinforcement and opportunities to practice, Marianne and Whitney have been teaching Ale to stop when asked. They work on this safety-related goal during their home visits, trying to make it as fun as possible.

“They started by walking right next to Ale and then stopping, walking and stopping,” explains Jose. “Now they are at the stage where they take a couple of steps forward just to see if he stays put, then call him and see if he comes forward, then ask him to stop again and see if he responds. They do this over and over and over again.”

Another fun and effective way Marianne and Whitney teach Ale to stop is by using a sign that has a red “stop” sign on one side and a green “go” light on the other. They prompt Ale to stop when the stop sign is facing him and go when the green light is facing him, reinforcing the lesson by saying the words “stop” and “go” when they show the corresponding sign. This helps him associate the word with the request. With patience, persistence, and a lot of practice, Ale will learn to respond appropriately to the “stop” request in other settings and without the sign.

Depending on the child’s preferences, ABA practitioners provide “reinforcers,” or rewards, such as praise, edible treats, or small toys immediately after a child gives the correct response. After the child consistently stops when requested, the behavior analyst may take him outside to practice. If he does not repeat, or “generalize,” the proper response to the “stop” request outside, they may go back inside for additional practice.

Ale’s favorite rewards are drawing and playing with Play-Doh. When he first began receiving in-home therapy, Marianne and Whitney used Play-Doh to keep his attention and encourage him to stay at the table.

Working with the IEP Team

When a school-aged child is receiving in-home ABA therapy, his behavior analysts usually become part of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team at school. That way, they are able to offer input during the development of his behavioral support plan.

At Ale’s school, his behavioral analysts have “joined the team” that includes his classroom teacher, special education teacher, speech language pathologist, the principal, and his parents. The team meets to ensure that the treatment goals implemented at home are consistent with those implemented at school and vice versa. Because the team provides this consistency across settings and works toward shared goals, Ale has many more opportunities to practice. As a result, he can often master these goals more quickly.

There are ongoing opportunities to collaborate with the school’s team. A good example is Ale’s treatment plan and IEP, which were recently updated. Marianne, and Whitney met with his special education teacher to review his new treatment goals at home and his new IEP goals at school to ensure that they were consistent before implementing either of them. Working together, the team has created a comprehensive program with current goals and objectives that address Ale’s unique needs. Ale’s safety-related treatment goals for the next quarter include compliance (e.g. “stop” and “come here”), waiting (e.g. waiting before going outside, etc.), and learning personal information.

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