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Trying to Figure Out the Function for Problem Behaviors? Ask the Child!

September 10, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

When addressing problem behaviors in individuals with ASD, the first step is to determine the function the behavior serves.  The main reason why we need to determine the function for problem behavior is so that we can teach the child replacement skills that are more appropriate that can serve the same function.  There are many tools teachers and behavior specialists use when doing a functional behavior assessment to determine the function of a problem behavior.  They conduct functional behavior assessment interviews with caregivers and professionals.  They observe and record the antecedents leading up to the problem behavior and the consequences that follow the behavior.  They collect scatter plot data in which they document when and where the behavior is most and least likely to occur.  And if they are real savvy, they go as far as doing functional behavior analyses in which they actually manipulate variables in the environment to test out the hypothesis for the function of the behavior.  For more info on functional behavior assessment, click on this helpful link: http://cecp.air.org/fba/ Read the rest of this entry →

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A Taste of Autism in the East

July 8, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

There’s a hair roller stuck with a piece of Velcro to a piece of card on the wall. Alongside it is a separate strip of cardboard with a small card attached with Velcro, on which is a picture with the name of what’s on the image hand written underneath. These two strips of cardboard demarcate the gap between the least and most able students in this part of the autism school in Beijing, China.

I’ve taken a short, dusty walk from the original Stars and Rain autism school to this building which teaches around 6 students aged 13-18 at any one time. When I arrive there are only five students, four adolescent men and one female. Chinese Special Educational Needs teachers, who have little in-service training and still less status for their work, use TEACCH (the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Related Handicapped Children) methods and visual timetabling to achieve goals and develop communication. On the day I visit, there are two teachers and three German volunteers whose internships program sees them stay for a year in the capital’s suburbs, working daily in the upper school and sleeping in local accommodation. Read the rest of this entry →

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The Affordable Care Act and Autism Insurance: A bait and switch?

July 7, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

The rate of autism is on the rise. Current estimates about the prevalence of the condition are that it affects one out of every 88 children. Among boys the rate is even higher at one out of every 54. It’s so bad that the advocacy group Autism Speaks has called it an epidemic.

For parents of autistic children the most effective option for treatment has long been Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of ABA both in the long and short term. The therapy helps children learn the essential life skills that help them succeed well into adulthood.

However many families face the issue of how to afford such treatment. Daily sessions can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000 each year, and the therapy is not always covered by insurance. Read the rest of this entry →

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Using Ecological Assessments to Set Meaningful Goals for ABA Interventions

January 14, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

When professionals develop ABA intervention programs for students with ASD and other disabilities, they use many different approaches when selecting goals.  Some use criterion-referenced assessment tools such as the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills- Revised (The ABLLS-R) or The Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP) to set intervention goals.  Others use informal assessment procedures such as interviews with students, caregivers, and teachers, checklists, and informal observations to set goals for ABA interventions.  What professionals do not typically use nearly enough are ecological assessments to set goals for ABA interventions. Read the rest of this entry →

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Send Em’ To The Principal’s Office!

January 8, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

When I was in elementary school, I had a bit of a tough time of it.  From first to third grade I spent an inordinate amount of time in the principal’s office, the punitive measure of choice at my elementary school.  Every paper thrown, inappropriate comment bellowed and t-shirt removed during a reading lesson (I won’t get into this) evoked the same response from my teachers:

“Go to the principal’s office.” Read the rest of this entry →

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The Complexity of “Simple” Tasks

November 5, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Recently, I’ve  been putting together a shaving program for an adolescent learner I work with. When creating a program for adaptive behaviors, I use Task Analysis to identify the steps needed to complete the targeted skill.

Task analysis “involves breaking a complex skill into smaller, teachable units, the product of which is a series of sequentially ordered steps or tasks” (Cooper, Heron & Heward p. 437).

Task analysis is helpful in determining the “sequence of behaviors that are necessary and sufficient to complete a given task efficiently.” (p. 437).

Additionally, task analysis allows a teacher to identify steps needed to complete a complex skill that are “individualized according to the age, skill level, and prior experience of the person in question” (p. 437).

A cooking recipe is a common example of task analysis.  Each step needed to create a dish is specified in sequential order; if we follow the steps, we create an edible dish (well we should be able to.  Remind me to tell you about my falafel debacle some time.  What a mess that was). Read the rest of this entry →

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“Mind Blindness?” I Don’t Think So: Thinking Differently About Theory of Mind and ASD

October 30, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

It has been well documented in the literature that individuals with ASD have impairments with what it called “theory of mind.”  Basically, theory of mind refers to the ability to take the perspective of other people, or to see things from the point of view of someone else.  Some refer to the difficulties with theory of mind in people with ASD as “mind blindness.”  I find that to be quite a harsh description of individuals who have amazing minds and much to offer the world.  I’m not going to discount the fact that many people with ASD do have difficulty understanding the perspective of other people.  But what I am going to point out is this:  so do a lot of people who don’t have autism.  Let’s not deny that many people in this world spend the majority of their time thinking from their own perspective and have great difficulty seeing things from the perspective of others.  It may be true that people with ASD have more difficulty with perspective taking than individuals without ASD, but they are not a rare species of humans who are the only people who have difficulty with theory of mind.  Read the rest of this entry →

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Embedding an ABA Intervention During Read Aloud

September 4, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

It is well documented that students with ASD benefit from ABA interventions.  It is also well documented that children with disabilities (including students with ASD) benefit from inclusive classroom experiences with the necessary services and supports integrated into the classroom to improve learning outcomes.  When students with ASD are included in general education classrooms, ABA interventions can and should be embedded into as many different instructional and non-instructional activities as possible to provide the intensity of intervention they often need to meet their social communication, behavioral, and academic needs.  Many teachers consider ABA as a 1:1 intervention that can only be implemented in therapeutic settings.  However, as I discuss in my books Bringing ABA into Your Inclusive Classroom and Bringing ABA into Home, School, and Play for Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, ABA interventions can be implemented within everyday routines and activities across home, school, and community settings. Read the rest of this entry →

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Thoughts on Independence

August 29, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

The overriding goal for most students with disabilities is to become independent.  Very often, IEP goals include the specification that skills should be demonstrated “independently.”  We use this word a lot in special education, but it sometimes seems as though there are different interpretations.

To me, independent means without prompts or other assistance.  It means that a skill is performed from start to finish, with no cues or guidance beyond those normally available to anyone performing this skill.  To take a simple example, if all of the children in the classroom take out their reading books upon the teacher’s instruction “Please take out your reading books,” then that is what independent looks like for my student who may have autism, ADHD, or another challenge.  It is not independent if my student takes out his reading book only after his one-to-one aide has repeated the instruction, or if he opens and reads from the book but the teacher took it from her own desk and handed it to him. Read the rest of this entry →

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Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports

August 27, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) says that behavior is a special factor that must be considered when developing an Individualized Education Program (IEP).  Specifically, IDEA states that IEP’s for those children whose behavior impedes their learning or that of others, should consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), and other strategies, to address that behavior.  Congress’s reasons for including PBIS was due in part based on their findings which stated, “Almost 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by providing incentives for whole-school approaches, scientifically based early reading programs, positive behavioral interventions and supports, and early intervening services to reduce the need to label children as disabled in order to address the learning and behavioral needs of such children.” Read the rest of this entry →

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