Teaching Group Responding: Squad School

Teaching group responding skills is super important. It’s a set of skills that most children don’t need to be taught intensively. But when they do, it can be tough! It’s really important for a person to be able to respond to group demands in order to be an independent learner in the classroom.

 

If you really think about it, it’s pretty difficult to think about the skills needed to respond as part of a group. I think most people would assume that if you can answer questions and respond on a 1-1 basis, then you can answer as part of a group. Pre ABA I definitely would have seen that as pretty much the same thing. This is definitely not my experience when working with children with learning difficulties and/or autism. 

 

If you don’t break down skills the way that ABA does, it can be difficult to know what’s ‘missing’. The VB MAPP and ABLLS-R break down skills in this area well. I generally use these assessments to guide which skills need to be taught, especially as the VB MAPP is developmentally sequenced (lists the skills needed in the correct order). 

 

It can be tough to teach these skills in schools. Children often go from 1-1 learning in to a class of 15 or more children, and that jump can be too high. It can sometimes be the case that the learners sit appropriately as part of a group, but sitting with the absence of problem behaviour, and learning as part of a group, are not the same thing, and it’s not enough. Another common observation is that teachers may ask the learner several questions during group time (which is great, we want to encourage active student responding), but they are presented using the learners name, with direct eye contact (so again, essentially a 1-1 response, when sitting as part of a group). It must be presented non specifically such as ‘everybody go and get your pencil case’, or ‘can you all show me clapping’, not ‘Joey, go and get your pencil case’.

 

If group skills need to be taught, it usually needs to start in a small group (maybe even 3 participants to start). Reinforcers should be delivered from the person running the group. It’s important that 1-1’s don’t simply repeat what the teacher says, because even if the learner is sitting in a group and responding, it’s still a 1-1 demand, not a group one. Instead, stand behind the learner, and if they need prompting use physical prompts where possible and fade (no talking). Remember, that when starting out and establishing group responses, it’s good to start with skills that are already fluent on a 1-1 basis, teaching new skills and group responding at same time can increase the effort on the learners part. Provide lots of opportunities to respond in the group, the more responses, the more opportunity for reinforcement; we only learn if we behave. 

 

It’s not always easy for teachers to cater for this within the school day. It may be due to time restraints, lack of staff, or the fact that it’s not necessarily fair to other children to participate in a group that is too easy for them, just to benefit the learner you’re working with; all fair points. It has worked in the past by collaborating closely with teachers, and taking any given chance to squeeze some group time in. You can start out teaching group responses during fun games (like Simon Says, or Befuzzled), so it could be done in golden time, or a break time/free play. The most important thing is working with the teacher to see what can be realistically done. Providing some data can also be useful, showing a simple tally of how many opportunities there were to respond over a given time, and if they were 1-1 or group, prompted or independent. Further down the line, there is some good research for hand raising.

Anyway, I could go on forever about this. All of the above has motivated a colleague and I  (Holly Cowlam, previous guest blogger, check out her website here) to start a group teaching group skills. The group is called Squad School, and will be run out of The Children’s Place clinic in London. If you’re interested in signing up, or finding out more, check out the flyer below. There’s a free drop in day to meet Holly and I at 9am on Wednesday 23rd August, at The Children’s Place Marylebone clinic. Or just comment on the blog/email the address on the flyer if you want to ask any questions! Thanks!

Squad School 2017

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Manding for Information – Teaching WH Requests

Manding for information is an important skill. I ask questions all day.

Manding for information refers to the process in which information becomes a conditioned reinforcer as it leads to an already established reinforcer. So basically, ask a question, and use the information to do/get something useful.

featured-content-ipad-icon_2xHere’s an example;


Learner: ‘where’s the iPad?’ (this is the ultimate reinforcer)


Adult/peer: ‘in the kitchen’ (the useful information leading to the ultimate reinforcer)

Learner goes to the kitchen to get the iPad

Here’s some practical tips on how you can teach this skill. When you start out, you need to identify some strong reinforcers; these can be used as the items/activities that motivate/reinforce the learner to ask the ‘wh’ questions. The reason you should start out with highly motivating items is because nobody asks a question if they don’t care about the answer (for example, I am very unlikely to ask ‘where’s the cauliflower’ and much more likely to ask ‘where’s the chocolate’).

You should teach at least 2 WH questions at the same time to help with discrimination hex_pat(so the learner doesn’t just ask ‘what’ questions all of the time).

It doesn’t always have to be a really creative process when teaching this skill, there are plenty of everyday situations in which you ask different ‘wh’ questions (it can be really creative as well if you want).

Remember it’s the information which is valuable, if you’re learner says ‘where’s the iPad?’ don’t just deliver the iPad, tell them the location, then they have to use the information to go and get it. The information is the reinforcer.

Manding for information lesson plans are a good way to prompt you when to use different ‘wh’ questions. It is good to not do 20 what questions in a row, and then 20 where questions, mix it up a bit, intersperse the WH questions. Lesson plans are also a good way to plan out;

1) the contrived situation

2) what information becomes reinforcing

3) what the ultimate reinforcer is

It breaks down the process that the learner goes through. It’s also good to teach during naturally occurring situations throughout the day even if you haven’t planned to do so (so when in a shop, the learner might spontaneously request a magazine, but they don’t know where it is, prompt ‘where is the magazine?’).

Generalise the way you can ask WH questions, for example, ‘what is it?’, ‘what are you watching?’, ‘what are you doing?’, ‘where’s the IPad?’, ‘where are we going?’ etc. This will encourage the learner to emit novel responses, which is the ultimate goal. Don’t just teach ‘where is it?’ and ‘what is it?’.

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Manding for info data sheet (adapted from Carbone Clinic data Sheet)

Now, I’d never say no to data, it’s always a good 
way to track if what you’re doing is effective
. You can even just tally prompted versus spontaneous use of the targeted WH uestions

As always, differentially reinforce responses (give more social praise/reinforcement for more spontaneous responses).

So if you want to work on this in a spare 15 minute period, firstly give some thought to what the ultimate reinforcer will be (what is the learner getting out of it), think about which WH questions you are targeting (might be 2 for intensity, or more than 2, depends on the learner), and get ready to create situations for the learner to ask. When you have identified that the learner has motivation for the information, the teaching procedure would be as follows,

  • Contrive situation (adult says – ‘lets play with the iPad’)
  • Prompt response (adult models what to say -‘where is the iPad?’ and waits for the learner to repeat it back (this is an echoic prompt))
  • Fade your prompt (independent response if possible ‘where’s the iPad?’)
  • Give the information and differentially reinforce (dependent on how independent the learner’s responses were)

If manding for information is totally new to your learner, it may be worth running a few trials using steps 1, 2, and 4 (contrive, prompt, give information), and you can fade your prompts over each trial, again, it depends on the learner.

The awesome Busy Analytical Bee has also just posted about this – you should check it out for some good ideas how to teach each WH mand – https://busyanalyticalbee.com/2017/02/22/teaching-mands-for-information/.

So there you have it, a brief snippet on how to teach a real important part of your learners’ mand repertoire.

High Expectations

Happy New Year everyone!

Back to school in January is a busy time for all.  Getting back in to the routine after the holidays is always tough, for adults and kids! 

The new year is often a time to update targets for a learner, new term, new targets and all that. When setting goals, it’s important to to have high expectations. This doesn’t mean setting goals well above the level of the learner, after all, a key principle of ABA is setting small achievable targets. High expectations are individual to each learner, but it can be expecting them to eat with a knife and fork during meal times, or showering independently, pushing the development of vocalisations, and many other worthy goals, and not juts settling for an non-disruptive student (who may not actually be learning much). It’s continuing to persist with a goal, that may be a particularly difficult area for your learner, but striving to individualise the teaching, and finding better ways to teach it. This isn’t always easy!

When I first started as an ABA therapist, I was always encouraged to use every part of the day as a potential teaching opportunity (queuing for lunch, getting cutlery, washing hands after the toilet, social interactions at break and so on). It can be hard work to do this, and days can be full on, but it’s so worth it. 

Here’s a little video of me rambling on about this at a school training day.

 

So there you go, have high expectations, use every moment of the day, and smash it.

How to Sort Yourself Out – Self Management

Hopefully by now (if you’ve read any previous posts), you should have a little baseline knowledge about some of the principles of ABA. In this post, I’ll discuss a slightly different application of the principles – using them on yourself for your own behaviour.

 

I recently saw Aubrey Daniels in London, king of OBM (organisational behaviour management, which uses the principles of ABA in business and staff/performance management), and he spoke quite a bit about self management.

 

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Here’s a picture of (from left to right) Amy Lewis BCaBA, Mikaela Green BCBA, Lesley Love BCaBA, Aubrey Daniels, and me

 

Cooper, Heron, and Heward (2007) (the ABA bible) define self management as ‘the personal application of behaviour change tactics that produces a desired change in behaviour‘. Put it this way, have you ever left yourself a note to defrost something for dinner, or left a note to call someone back, or set a reminder on your phone to get something from the shop? That’s self management. I constantly set myself reminders, flag emails, write myself notes, it keeps me organised and prompts me to do the things I need to do.

 

Self management can help you be more effective and efficient in daily life, accomplish targets, achieve personal goals, and replace bad habits with good ones (Cooper, Heron, Heward, 2007).

 

A good way to implement self management, is planning contingent reinforcement. Contingent means that you only get the reinforcement if you emit the target behaviour. An example would be, ‘write 500 words of an essay, and then I can go and get some chocolate’ (I used stuff like this loads when I was studying (I still do as well)). Another example is, respond to all of my flagged emails, and I can watch a recorded tv programme. I can only do these things if I achieve my target. 

 

Aubrey Daniels recommended this book on self management.

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I was recently talking to a friend of mine, who has started studying again, and we were discussing ways in which he could complete his work more efficiently. It’s true, if you work hard, you have to play hard, this basically means that your reinforcement (play) has to be relative to your response effort (work) (e.g. money is probably a reinforcer for most people, but £1 for a days work isn’t likely to increase any behaviour!). So we discussed possible reinforcers for reaching a pre determined target (watching football, going to the cinema, going for a drink, get a nice meal), and talked about how we must be disciplined in self reinforcement; it could be so easy to not reach the target and do what you want anyway. 

 

So , why not give it a go. If you’re forgetful, set yourself some reminders/leave yourself some notes. If you have a lot of work on, think of something you want to do (a reinforcer), set yourself a reasonable target, and make reinforcement contingent (no cheating!).

Make the Most of Behaviour Analysis

Behaviour analysis is so much more than the amazing work we do with individuals with autism. It’s reach is far and wide. We are all, everyone of us, governed by the principles of behaviour, and this is utilised in many fields.

There is so much to learn, and I still am, and constantly will, learn new things. During my time studying for board certification, I was interpreting everything I was learning in to the work I did in an ABA school (Treetops, Essex). But there came a time that it started to all become overwhelming because I was realising that it was more than what I did at school. I started to realise that I could use all of the principles of behaviour to explain daily routines and interactions. 

Some areas that behaviour analysis is used in are:

  • Autism
  • Gambling
  • Addiction
  • Sports
  • Business
  • Robotics
  • Animals
  • Crime and forensics

…and many more. I strive to use the principles in everything I do, especially when it comes to parent and staff training, and working with others outside of the field. I’m always looking to improve. I also try as much as possible to use self management strategies to shape my own behaviour, and keep myself motivated and organised! Anything that involves behaviour, that’s our game.

So there you go, just in case you didn’t know, the field of behaviour analysis is massive!

 

7 Teaching Procedures to Smash ITT

Table work, ITT (intensive table teaching), DTT (discrete trial training), are all ways of talking about working at the table.

 

The following teaching procedures are taken from the excellent Carbone et al (2010) paper. These teaching procedures will make table sessions, and pretty much all teaching, more effective. Most importantly, they get your learner to learn because they want to, not because they have to!

1. Pairing and Manding

When beginning a table session, pairing and manding is your first priority. You should present an array of reinforcing items for ‘free’ (no requesting necessary). Then it’s your job to follow your learner’s motivation, see what they are most motivated for among the items that are presented. To be sure that the item will function as a reinforcer, you should require them to mand for it, if they are willing to ask for it, then is most likely a reinforcer. This process helps you identify effective reinforcement for your table session, which is essential to promote good responses, and also decreasing the likelihood that your child will engage in escape motivated problem behaviour.

 

2. Stimulus Fading

Another method to prevent escape motivated problem behaviour (crying, whining, flopping etc when demands are placed) is to fade in the amount of demands. This will be relative to your child’s VR. A Variable Ratio schedule of reinforcement has been found to be the best schedule to maintain steady rates of responding (sorry got carried away there, but it is a juicy science). A VR is basically how many demands you can place before your learner loses interest. You should start at the lower end of your learners’ VR, for example if your learner has a VR of 2, you should start with 1 demand then reinforce, and increase the amount of demands each time until you reach the higher end of the VR which would be no more than 4. If the learner’s VR is 10, stick between 5 and 20 (half below, double above). It’s not just about the amount of responses; you should also fade in the effort and difficulty of responses (don’t probe acquisition skills (skills you’re teaching) too soon).

 

3. Differential reinforcement

If your learner responds well (not making errors, or getting a ‘yes’ on the probe (the first time you ask them)) then you should reinforce more. You can do this in various ways, either longer duration of an activity (e.g. giving your learner longer on the iPad), more than one reinforcer (e.g. iPad, slinky, and bubbles), or a higher quantity of a reinforcer (e.g. 3 crisps instead of 1). Equivalently, if your learner responds poorly (e.g. errors frequently on mastered targets, or gets a ‘no’ on a probe) then you should deliver less reinforcement. This process is referred to as differential reinforcement. Think of it as ‘performance related pay’.

 

4. Errorless Teaching

Throughout a table session you should minimise errors (your learner responding incorrectly) as much as possible. Frequent errors increase the likelihood of escape-motivated behaviour.

If your child errors this is the error correction procedure you should follow: –

 

Re-state the SD (the demand)

Prompt response

 

Re-state the SD

Fade on your prompt

 

Distracter (between 1 and 3 previously mastered skills)

 

Re-state the SD

Fade again on prompt if needed/let child respond independently

 

Effective prompting will also help minimise errors. You should follow the prompt schedule of most to least (go in with a higher prompt and fade as needed). Your prompts should be the most effective and least intrusive you can do. Remember to prompt as much as necessary to ensure a correct response while not over prompting when not needed. Each trial you run will be different. Don’t fade if you think an error is likely.

 

5. Pace of Instruction

Another teaching procedure to consider when at the table is the pace of instruction. A fast pace of instruction is important as it prevents the likelihood of escape motivated problem behavior. Using short ITI’s (inter trial intervals – the time between the learners last response and your next demand) gives less opportunity for problem behavior to occur, and also provides socially mediated reinforcement for your learner quicker. It is also worth paying attention to your learner’s latency (how long it takes your learner to respond to your demand) to responding, the longest time between a demand and a response should be 2 seconds, and anything longer should be error corrected. Basically, don’t hang about, get it done well and in a timely fashion.

 

6. Intersperse Instructions

When teaching a target at the table, you should be using a master pile; these are skills that have previously been mastered. The mastered targets are regarded as ‘easy’ tasks, and acquisition targets are regarded as ‘difficult’ tasks. Difficult tasks have been found to be associated with a worsening set of conditions due to higher errors, more effort, and less reinforcement (basically new targets are harder). It’s important to intersperse difficult tasks within the easy tasks – 80% easy, 20% difficult to help prevent this. This (hopefully) ensures loads of success.

 

7. Mix and Vary Tasks

This is short and simple. Research has shown if you repeat the same task over and over again, it’s boring! This can lead to an increase in escape-motivated behaviour. So mix demands across different verbal operants; listener responding, imitation, tact, intraverbal, visual etc.

 

I hope this all makes sense. I’m hoping to get a video of this to post it in action.

Smash ITT.

Reflexive MO article – Carbone + Tirri

Leg it to the Table!

So, with some learners, it’s appropriate to be running ‘table sessions’. A table session is an intensive teaching period of many tasks to provide a lot of opportunities to teach targets. As a general rule, I wouldn’t run table sessions with pre school age children, as most of those programmes are based around natural environment teaching and play.

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It’s important to generalise all teaching in to the natural environment, but learners (and therapists) often respond well to table sessions, as it’s very structured, and (should be) reinforcement rich.

 

First things first; set up the table as a fun place to be. You want your learners to run to the table, not run away. If you are working with a learner who has a history of problem behaviour related to table teaching, forget demands, just pair. Build a stronger history of reinforcement at the table than problem behaviour. Just go there for fun! Deliver all of the learners favourite things, and play with their favourite toys, and the only requirement is that they stay at the table. 

 

Once your learner is ready for table sessions (no longer having problem behaviour when asked to sit at the table), make sure you prepare well. Have a range of possible reinforcers ready, all necessary teaching materials (targets on acquisition – being taught, and mastered skills), and probe data sheets needed.

 

For most learners, a 15-minute schedule is appropriate, (15 minutes NET, 15 minutes’ table, 15 minutes NET etc.). For younger learners it may be less, and older learners (particularly secondary age and over) it would be more, but of course this should be totally tailored to the individual learner.

 

Version 2

Master Pile

Version 2

Tact Picture

Version 2

Intraverbal

Version 2

Imitation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next post is going to be on awesome teaching procedures to use at the table, and in general life!

Challenging Behaviour – Part 3

We should always keep the learners’ safety and dignity as paramount. It’s also important to rule out any medical issues when dealing with problem behaviour.

 

One very important thing to consider when working on decreasing challenging behaviour is an extinction burst. An extinction burst basically means that when you start working on reducing problem behaviour, it gets worse before it gets better. Two bi-products of an extinction are intensity (more of the same behaviour, at a higher intensity) and variety (some challenging behaviour you haven’t seen before). An example of this is the classic ‘child trying to get mums attention scenario’.

extinction-burst-graph

 

Mum is talking, and the child comes up and says ‘mum’, the mum ignores, the child persists ‘mum, mum, mum’ (this is the intensity; more of the same behaviour), but the mum continues to ignore, so the child pulls on mum’s arm (variety, a new behaviour).

 

Your consultant should have a good chat with you about this, because if you ‘give in’ and reinforce the challenging behaviour during the extinction burst, you are likely to make the whole thing worse in the long run. You’re better off not working on it at all if you think you can’t manage the extinction burst, so think carefully. If you reinforce during the extinction burst, you’re essentially encouraging the learner to engage in more intense problem behaviour, sooner.

 

So here are some of the key tips to remember when dealing with problem behaviour;

  • Remember, as hard as it might be initially, keep calm, think about the antecedent (why the problem behaviour occurred), and what consequence you should deliver. The better your analysis becomes, the calmer you will be during incidents of problem behaviour.
  • Make sure you are reinforcing appropriate behaviours, and your reinforcement is being delivered well.
  • Don’t get caught up talking during the incident, it’s consequences that will shape behaviour.
  • Don’t negotiate during problem behaviour; nothing positive should occur in the learner’s environment until problem behaviour has ceased.
  • You could also try video the problem behaviour, so you can watch it back to analyse the situation. 

This concludes the 3 part challenging behaviour posts, I hope you found it useful!

Challenging Behaviour – Part 2

When working on reducing problem behaviour you need to be sure to deny any reinforcement related to the antecedent when problem behaviour occurs.

 

Here are some common reasons challenging behaviour may occur, with typical consequences we should deliver in brackets;

  • Lack of effective communication (requests) (the ‘count and mand’ procedure could be used for this)
  • Avoidance/escape of demands (follow through with reasonable demands)
  • Sensory reinforcement is valuable (block and re-direct)
  • Wanting attention (ignore)
  • Having to wait (continue to wait until the learner has waited appropriately)
  • Being told no (continue to deny access to what the learner wanted)
  • Being interrupted from a preferred activity/having to transition (continue to interrupt /transition)

praising-your-children

It’s also important to reinforce appropriate alternative behaviours where we can. This,
coupled with ensuring the appropriate consequence is delivered if problem behaviour does occur, will most likely reduce problem behaviours faster.

 

Here are some of the best ways to do this;

  • Lack of effective communication (requests) – teach mands, the more spontaneous mands a learner has in their repertoire, the less likely they are to engage in other, less desirable, challenging behaviours.
  • Avoidance/escape demands – implement an appropriate schedule of reinforcement that competes with the motivation to avoid/escape. Chances are, if there is a lot of problem behaviour when demands are placed, your reinforcement needs to be better.
  • Sensory reinforcement is valuable – teach an appropriate behaviour to achieve sensory reinforcement (e.g. if your learner swipes things off of a table to see them fall, teach them to build blocks and knock them down instead).
  • Wanting attention – teach to request attention appropriately (tap on arm, saying someone’s name).
  • Having to wait – initially provide reinforcement during periods the learner is expected to wait (as long as there is no problem behaviour), and fade reinforcement gradually over time (as long as the learner is waiting successfully).
  • Being told no – provide alternatives as long as there is no problem behaviour (you can’t have chocolate, but you can have some raisins).
  • Being interrupted from a preferred activity/having to transition – use promise reinforcers (provide something the learner wants, initiate the interruption and immediately deliver reinforcer in the absence of problem behaviour).

 

This is a very brief snippet of what could be done, and there are comprehensive protocols for working on a range of problem behaviours, that should be overseen by a BCBA/BCaBA, with thorough data being taken.

Challenging Behaviour – Part 1

This will be part 1 of 3 on challenging behaviour. There’s a lot that could be covered, so I thought I would spread them across 3 posts to not overwhelm readers!

 

First, the following point should be noted. I’ve heard people say something like, ‘little Jonny had a behaviour in the last session’; well I should hope so, as behaviour is anything a living organism does. Referring to an incident  as a challenging behaviour, or problem behaviour is clearer.

 

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Challenging behaviour is a reality for many of those on the spectrum. Challenging behaviour can present in many different ways, but it’s important to look at why something is happening – the antecedent.

 

For each incident of challenging behaviour, we should strive to look at the ABC (antecedent, behaviour, consequence).

 

A – Antecedent – the ‘trigger’, why did it happen, the function

B – Behaviour – what the learner did, the challenging behaviour

C – Consequence – what consequence was achieved

 

Rather than adopting a blanket consequence for a challenging behaviour, we should use the consequence appropriate to the antecedent. For example, a child may hit regularly, but each incident may occur for a different reason. What we do should be dictated on why the problem behaviour occurred.

 

There’s no such thing as ‘out of the blue’. It may seem that way as the antecedent isn’t clear, but there is always a reason. When it’s difficult to see the antecedent, it may be worth taking some video, and if you catch any challenging behaviour, watch it back and see if you notice anything. Try looking at what happened immediately before the onset of the incident.

                                                                                       

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Here is a 0-50 graph used to plot data

Taking constant accurate data is vital. It’s the data, and graphing the data that informs us whether we are making good decisions, and whether the improvement is because of our interventions. It’s a good idea to take data on the following; total frequency of problem behaviour, total duration of problem behaviour, and frequency of problem behaviour for each antecedent (I’ll discuss common antecedents in Part 2).