Safety First For Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
A Very, Very Big Concern continued...
Jose and Johan shared this concern with Ale’s behavior analysts – Marianne Idol, M.A., and Whitney Hendricks, M.A., – and they began addressing the problem immediately. Both women are board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) with May Institute’s Southeast Regional Autism Center in Jacksonville, N.C., who work with families at Camp Lejeune and in surrounding areas. They have been working with Ale since October 2009, soon after the Center opened.
“It wasn’t until May Institute came to Jacksonville last year that we had access to applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy for Ale,” Jose explains. “We were on waiting list after waiting list…we were waiting for a good year before Ale started receiving ABA therapy.”
ABA is a methodology that applies basic behavioral practices to increase skills and appropriate behaviors and decrease inappropriate behaviors. It is the only treatment reimbursed by TRICARE’s Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) and Enhanced Access to Autism Services Demonstration (“tutor”) programs for military families with children with ASD.
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.