Tag Archives: calgary

ABA – Not Just for Kids with Autism

ABA isn’t just for kids with autism!

Check out this article in the Atlantic on how B.F. Skinner‘s work, with the help of social media, is making a comeback to help people, “…lead healthier, safer, eco-friendlier, more financially secure, and more productive lives.”

 

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Autism + The Importance of Pairing

 

When you first set out to start working with a child with autism, your first step should always be to pair (or associate) yourself with good things, so that eventually you yourself become a reinforcer (be the “M&M“!). Here are some tips for successful pairing:

  • Do a preference assessment or reinforcer assessment to find out what the child’s interests are, and what they may be potentially motivated by (see this really great video on how to do a preference assessment from Autism Training Solutions)
  • Ensure the environment is “sanitized” (i.e., make sure the child’s toys and reinforcing items are put away and are out of reach). This is done to ensure that the child has to come to you to get access to items they want.  It is also a good idea to bring along with you new and exciting toys and activities that may be motivating to the child and that child only has access to when you’re there.
  • Be the “giver of all things good”.  Do this by delivering reinforcement “non-contingently” (i.e., give the child things that he likes for “free”!). In other words, child does not need to request or “earn” the reinforcers.
  • Do not place any demands on the child (this includes asking questions!), stop or remove fun things. Instead, follow the child’s lead, and if the child is already engaged in a fun activity, join in and make the activity even more fun! And if the child becomes bored with an item or activity, find another one!

Once the child is frequently approaching you, you are ready to start slowly introducing demands and begin teaching!

Check out this video of pairing in action:

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Autism Conference Webcasting!

The Penn State Autism Conference (with FREE Webcasting!) is now up! The conference runs from Monday July 30th (today) until Thursday August 2nd. As an added bonus: all of the presentation notes and handouts can be downloaded from the Penn State website! Check it out here!

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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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Calgary Autism Resources

There are great resources for children and families with autism and other disabilities in Calgary, but unlike the other cities I’ve lived in, finding them here is half the battle. Today I went on an adventure to explore some of the wonderful resources Calgary has to offer, and I was pleasantly surprised with what I found. Here are some of the highlights of the day.

Autism Calgary has an extensive resource library that’s open to members (membership to parents and professionals is free), plus it’s open on a frequent basis ( 9am – 5pm Tuesday to Thursday).  The only downside  is that you can only take two books at a time, which is hard for me because every time I go in there to get a book I find a handful of other books I want to take home with me.

The Ability Hub is another “must have” resource for families and professionals in Calgary. Not only do they boast a large collection of books and other materials (some of which can be accessed online) in their Resource Centre, but they also have a Boardmaker workstation set up in their brand new facility so you can create visuals, print and laminate without all the fuss (and expense) of doing it at home. What a grand idea! The Resource Centre also comes with Ambassadors (aka super friendly knowledgeable types) to help you navigate your way through the the mountain of resources, and questions you may have. As an added bonus, many of the Ambassadors have a personal experience with someone with autism (e.g., a child, a family member or a  friend), so if you’re a parent and all of this is new to you, you can be confident that someone knows what you’re going through and can help you find the support you’re looking for.

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April is Autism Awareness Month!

On March 29, 2012, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 1 in 88 children in the US has autism. There are no recently published rates for Canada, but Autism Speaks Canada indicates that the chances of a child being diagnosed in Canada are very similar: 1 in 110, with boys being 4 times as likely than girls to be diagnosed. Chances are you or someone you know has been touched by autism in a very personal way.

April is Autism Awareness Month, and April 2nd is the fifth annual World Autism Awareness Day. Every year, autism organizations around the world celebrate the day with awareness-raising events in an effort to improve screening and referral practices, and advocate for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. How are you planning on celebrating and creating awareness for autism?

I haven’t found any events here in Calgary, but I’ve come across a number of really great online resources.  The team over at Rethink Autism has just launched a video series for family members, friends and educators  in an effort to promote autism awareness. The video gives an  overview of the characteristics of autism and the early warning signs. To see the video, click here.

As with any disability, early detection and intervention is crucial. Although much of what causes autism is unknown, what is understood is that early, intensive behavioural intervention (also known as EIBI programs) can have a profound affect on the quality of life of those children who are affected by autism.

If you have any concerns about your child’s development, don’t wait. Speak to your doctor about screening your child for autism. And if you’re looking for an early intervention program or behaviour support plan check out our Services section, or Contact us!

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