Category Archives: autism workshops

Teaching Safety Skills to Children with Autism

Here are the highlights from another talk that I attended at the 39th Annual Applied Behaviour Analysis International (ABAI) Conference in Seattle on the importance of teaching safety skills to children (and adults) with autism.

Teaching Safety Skills to Individuals with Disabilities:                                                                    

Every parent wants their child to be safe. And for many parents of children with autism, safety skills are often top of mind. Safety skills cover a broad range of skills, but when you boil it down, they can be put into one of two categories: (1) dangers in the social environment (such as kidnapping, abuse); and (2) dangers in the physical environment (such as poisons, matches).

In this talk, Miltenberger stressed the importance of reliably assessing the safety skills of children with autism and other disabilities after they have been taught. Because you want to (need to) know that if your child found a firearm in the home (there was a heavy emphasis on this during the talk, assuming because this is more common in the US because of their laws around firearms), that they would in fact: (a) not touch the gun; and (b) go and tell an adult immediately.

It turns out that it doesn’t matter if your child can tell you what needs to be done when faced with a safety threat, nor demonstrate that he/she could act it out successfully in a role-play situation; it’s the real-life simulation (i.e., your child doesn’t know that he/she is being tested) that will give you the real measure of how your child will stand up if it actually happens. It’s like those “quality” daytime talk shows when they set kids up by knocking on their door when their parents aren’t home, and pretending to be a stranger to see how the child will respond (all the while their parents and a video crew are watching from a live feed in the backyard). It looks like Oprah wasn’t so off on this one.

Miltenberger also stressed that these real-life assessments need to be carefully designed with the child’s safety and well-being in mind. It’s meant as a protective measure and a learning opportunity.

Sound scary? Definitely. But in this case, isn’t knowing better than not knowing? If you want to learn more, check out this article by Miltenberger that looks at the different types of safety skills, how to assess safety skills, and general guidelines for teaching safety skills to children.

What are your top safety concerns for your child? What strategies have you found to be effective?

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38th Annual ABAI Conference Highlights

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a self-professed “Behaviour Geek”, and any opportunity I have to learn about the wonderful science that is behaviour, I’m in. And so, every year I pack up and head to a number of different cities to attend training seminars, workshops and conferences. This year, I had the wonderful opportunity of going to visit one of my favourite cities in the States for the Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) 38th Annual Convention in Seattle (aka a Behaviour Analyst’s heaven).

In between waking up early to walk down to the market to Le Panier to devour the most incredibly decadent almondine croissants,  drinking the most delicious coffee on the earth from Monorail (a really cool, walk-up coffee window in the heart of downtown, almost too conveniently located a block away from the Convention Center), and meeting up with a few of my incredible advisers and professors from UBC, Dr. Joseph Lucyshyn (see wonderful, and this equally wonderful book on Positive Behaviour Support with families) and Dr. Pat Mirenda (see amazing, and this equally amazing book on AAC), I managed to pack in quiet a hectic schedule of workshops and lectures, leaving me tired and delighted, my brain filled with all things ABA.

Over the next few posts, I’ll highlight some favourite workshops and talks. Here’s the first:

Interventions for Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviour in Children with Autism:                          

Anyone working with children with autism has probably experienced what I call the “Thomas the Tank Engine” phenomenon – an almost obsessive interest in all things Thomas.

There has been a lot of interest the field of autism and ABA regarding the presence of OCD-like behaviours in children and adults with autism (sometimes referred to as autism obsessive-compulsive, or autism “OC”). The main difference it seems is that autism OC behaviours are not always related to relieving anxiety; rather, many individuals with autism often enjoy these repetitive behaviours (whether it be reciting lines from Thomas, talking about Thomas, playing with Thomas toys, looking at Thomas books, etc.).

The second part of this talk was about finding ways of taking these restricted “obsessive” interests and behaviours that are all too often seen as a hinderence and using them to teach skills. I love this! Embrace the laser-like focus children with autism have for these interests! I mean, what would have happened if someone told Stephen Wiltshire that he was drawing too much as a kid? Or told Temple Grandin that she thought too much about cows?

One of many the areas that the researchers are exploring is the use of these interests in teaching joint attention skills.

What are your child’s special interests and talents?

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Top Picks for Autism Conferences and Workshops – Summer 2012

Autism and ABA learning opportunities in Calgary are a bit of a rarity (and I’m hoping to change that – I’ve paired up with Autism Calgary and will be presenting the first of hopefully many workshops in September 2012 on a topic that’s near and dear to my heart: sleep (details to follow).  In the meantime, here are my top picks for upcoming conferences and workshops in the summer months  (on the web and around the globe):

Penn State National Autism Conference (July 30–August 2, 2012): FREE, yes you heard me, FREE webcasting! With a ton of excellent speakers (SundbergEschIwata, Vollmer, and Cicero to name a few), and a myriad of topics to choose from (AAC for ASD, peer support and promoting inclusion, planning for autism emergencies, teaching children to follow instructions, girls and ASD, and effective toilet training and so on), clear your calendars folks because this is one you won’t want to miss! And did I mention FREE?!

Autism Society National Conference and Exposition (July 25-28, 2012 – San Diego, California): With presenters like Turnbull, Dunlap and Durand (aka the godfather of sleep and children with special needs), and an eclectic mix of topics (with a surprising amount focusing on adolescents and adults, which is all too often a rarity in the field), this is another conference that if you can swing it will be a good one, plus if you’ve ever wanted to go to Disney (and who doesn’t love Disney?!), this is your excuse.

Michelle Garcia Winner and Carol Gray Together at the Vancouver Convention Centre (August 16-17, 2012, Vancouver, British Columbia): This doesn’t happen often. Two wonderful, incredible speakers like this, teaming up to host a two-day workshop. Day 1 focuses on social strategies to teach people with ASD and Day 2 focuses on teaching “thinking” and cognitive behavioural strategies. 

 

Beyond these, some of my favourite sites I compulsively check for new, upcoming conferences and workshops are:

Community Education Services (right here in Calgary, run by Alberta Health Services and Alberta’s Children’s Hospital)

Autism Community Training (from our neighbors to the West in Vancouver, BC but often have live webcastings if you can’t make the trek out there)

Geneva Centre for Autism (in Toronto, ON, but also offer most of their workshops as live webcastings)

Autism Training Solutions (an excellent web-based training site that offers FREE webinars, and keeps a large collection of previous sessions that you can access at any time)

If you know of any upcoming conference and workshops (in Calgary or otherwise) share them with us!

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