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5 Things to Keep in Mind When Potty Training a Child with Autism

Potty training is a big milestone for any child. It definitely is an important milestone for parents as well! No more diapers!! However, there are some things to keep in mind prior to considering potty training as well as during potty training. Blog-Potty-Training-Main-Landscape

  1. When should you consider potty training?
    • On average you would consider potty training when the child is around 2.5 years of age and above, can hold urine for 60-90 minutes, recognize the sensation of a full bladder, and show some form of awareness that they need to go to the bathroom.
    • Do at a time when you can spend large amounts of time at home! Some parents find it best to do in the summer (less clothing!).
  2. What schedule should you use when potty training?
    • You want to take your child to the bathroom every 90 minutes, if your child urinates then you wait for the next 90 minute interval, if not you reduce the time by 30 minutes.
    • Consistency is extremely important to ensure success.
  3. While on the toilet what should we do?
    • Praise your child for sitting appropriately on the toilet.
    • You can do activities with them as long as they are not too engaging or involved.
    • If they do urinate you want to CELEBRATE!
    • You need to wait up to 15 minutes if there is still no urination, then you let them get off and bring them back after 60 minutes (this keeps decreasing by 30 minutes each time there is not urination).
  4. What should you do when there is an accident?
    • It happens! Make sure you have your child help you clean it up, this is not meant to be punishing but more a natural consequence of having an accident. Keep a neutral tone and assist your child if needed to clean up the mess.
    • If your child is having too many accidents you may need to shorten the intervals of going to the toilet, or it may be that your child is not ready to be potty trained yet. Always rule out any medical reasons as well!
  5. Things to remember!
    • When starting potty training you want to make sure you child can sit on the toilet for up to 15 minutes with minimal challenging behaviors.
    • The goal is INDEPENDECE, you want to work towards your child walking to the bathroom on their own and removing and putting on their underwear and pants independently as well as washing their hands.
    • Make sure you child is in underwear throughout potty training! NO DIAPERS/PULL UPS!
    • Diapers and pull-ups are okay during nap time and bed time.
    • Number one thing to remember is PATIENCE, try to be consistently upbeat and encouraging to your child and deal with accidents as calmly as possible!

It is important to ensure that potty training is as positive an experience as possible for your child! Maintain your positive energy and constantly praise appropriate behavior seen throughout the potty training process! This will encourage your child to become more independent as well as want to go to the bathroom more often on their own!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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How to Choose the Best ABA Provider for Your Child

Beginning ABA therapy services can be overwhelming and confusing. Below are a few things to consider when choosing an ABA provider to ensure you are finding the best fit for you and your child! Blog-ABA-Search-Main-Landscape

Scope of Practice

  • This is a term that simply means that healthcare professionals should ethically only treat populations and use procedures/processes in which they have specific education and training.
  • For example, if a BCBA has only worked with the pediatric population, it would be outside their scope of practice to treat adults.
  • Especially for children with intense behaviors, children who are older in age, larger in stature, etc., it is important to ask if the ABA therapy practice has BCBAs who have experience treating in these areas to ensure safety and maximum progress.

Location of Services

  • Some ABA therapy companies only offer in-home or in-clinic services exclusively. Other places, like NSPT, offer ABA services in homes, clinics, schools, etc.
  • It is important to consider where your child might need support and choose an ABA company that is able to offer services where therapy will be most appropriate, beneficial, and consistent.

Insurance Coverage

  • ABA therapy is recommended 10-40 hours per week, based on BCBA recommendations. This range of hours is what has been proven to be most effective for progress.
  • Because of the large number of hours, therapy can be very costly if paid for out of pocket.
  • When calling ABA therapy providers, be sure to let them know which insurance you have (at NSPT we will check benefits and provide a summary explanation as a courtesy to all of our families). Families are then able to determine if it is going to be financially feasible to begin services with the provider.

ABA therapy requires consistent communication and collaboration between provider and family, so above all, it is vital you find a provider who you are comfortable talking, sharing, and brainstorming with!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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The Difference Between Positive and Negative Reinforcement

Trying to figure out different ways to approach behavior can be overwhelming and frustrating. One thing to always remember is to try and focus on reinforcing the behavior you want to see moreBlog-Reinforcement-Main-Landscape
than punishing the behavior you are wanting to decrease. Using positive and negative reinforcement can both help achieve the same goal of increasing the behavior you would like to see more of.

The difference between positive and negative reinforcement is simple. The use of positive reinforcement is adding something (typically something that is liked) to the environment after a behavior occurs that will increase the future instance of that behavior. The use of negative reinforcement is taking away something (typically something that is not liked) from the environment after a behavior occurs that will increase future instances of that behavior.

 Examples of positive reinforcement include:

  • Giving a praise after a specific appropriate behavior occurs and then that behavior continues to increase.
  • Earning a special treat after a specific appropriate behavior occurs and then that behavior continues to increase.
  • Getting a 5 minute 1:1 time with parent after a specific appropriate behavior occurs and then that behavior continues to increase.

Examples of negative reinforcement include:

  • Removing a chore from the chore list from the schedule after a specific appropriate behavior occurs and then that behavior continues to increase.
  • Taking away a specific school related task after appropriate behavior occurs and then that behavior continues to increase.

The key to making sure either type of reinforcement is working is to measure and track the behavior and see if that behavior is increasing over time!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140.

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Help! My Child is Wetting the Bed

Wetting the bed is a very common issue that occurs with many children. Below are some preventative and reactive strategies to help decrease bed wetting from occurring. Blog-Wetting the Bed-Main-Portrait

Preventative Strategies for Wetting the Bed

Liquid Intake

It is important for children to drink liquid throughout the day to stay hydrated, but it is best to stop drinking liquids before bed time. This may prevent the bladder from having to be emptied while the child is asleep.

Bathroom Schedule

Scheduled bathroom breaks help empty the bladder when it may need to be emptied. Many times when children are engaged in a preferred activity they choose to not use the bathroom when it is needed. Bathroom breaks/schedules throughout the day can prevent other issues like infection or wetting pants during other parts of the day. Using the bathroom multiple times or at least one time right before bed may help the child from needing to empty the bladder while he or she is sleeping. Parents can also wake their children up when they are getting ready for bed and have them use the restroom one more time.

Reactive Strategies for Wetting the Bed

Waterproof bedding

When a child does wet the bed, use waterproof bedding, blankets, and padding to prevent any damage to mattress. Clean up will also be easier.

Alarms

Sometimes children are in such a deep sleep that the signal of wetting the bed does not wake them up. There are alarms that can be bought to help signal/wake the child when he or she needs to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Open Communication

It is important to not embarrass your children or make them feel bad when they wet the bed. This can be a sensitive topic and it is important for open communication and to make you child feel comfortable when it happens.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140.

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Help for Defiance

Life can already be busy enough making sure your child gets through all of the tasks he or she needs each day. The last thing you need is your child refusing to follow directions. Here are some proactive and reactive strategies for when you need help with defiance. Blog-Defiance-Help-Main-Portrait

Preventative Strategies for Defiance

Clear Directions/Expectations

When asking your child to complete a task, make sure you are crystal clear with the directions. For example, if you ask your child to clean their room, your child may go pick up their clothes off of the floor and then say they are all done. When you go to check the room you say, “Your room is not clean.” This may cause an argument/conflict. To your child, a clean room means there are no clothes on the ground. To you, a clean room is a made bed, clothes folded and put away, and a clean desk. Clearly state your expectations to leave no room for confusion and make success more achievable for your child.

Offer Choices

Sometimes, your child may get overwhelmed and become defiant if they have numerous tasks to complete. Giving them the option to choose what tasks they need to complete each day may make them more compliant and successful. For example, give your child the option of making the bed or cleaning the clothes off the ground. Another example is giving your child the option of which homework assignment they would like to complete first.

Shortening Tasks

I know many teachers who use this tip when working with students who refuse to do their work. For example, they might give a student a math worksheet of 20 problems and ask them to complete 15. Another way to use this tip is asking them to work on one problem or one part of the task and then increasing the number of problems/parts of the task over time. Following strategies like this may feel like you are giving in to them, but in the end they are still completing part of the task, as opposed to refusing to address it at all.

Offer Rewards

Many children are motivated by rewards. When stating your expectations, ask them what they would like to earn after they complete the task or give them options of what they can earn. You want to make sure you do this while stating the expectations. If you do not, and your child engages in defiant behavior and you then offer the reward, it becomes a bribe. Bribes are dangerous for growth because they teach children that if they refuse to do something at first, they will eventually get something extra. We want them to learn that they get a reward by complying with the task.  For example, “What do you want to earn when you complete your chores? You can get 15 minutes on the iPad or a candy bar.” Make sure the rewards are activities or items that your child enjoys and will motivate them. If earning a reward is not enough, you can also present the consequences of what will happen if they refuse to do the task.

Reactive Strategies for Defiance

Reassess Motivation

After the child decides what they want to earn, they still may not complete the task. Their behavior shows that the reward may not be motivating enough for them. You can offer new choices or remind them what they are earning if they complete the task.

Stay Calm

When your child is engaging in defiant behaviors you want to stay calm. Use a neutral tone when you speak to them and make sure your facial expressions stay neutral, too.

Stay Consistent and Follow Through on Expectations

If you offer your child a reward after they complete a task, make sure you give it to them immediately. If you do not, your child may not be motivated by rewards because they will become skeptical. Additionally, you can’t give them the reward at a later time if they do not complete the task.

Deliver Verbal Praise for Appropriate Behaviors

When your child is being compliant instead of showing defiance, please deliver verbal praise!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140.

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Help! My Child is Biting

Biting can be a very challenging behavior to deal with. It can result in physical and emotional distress to all individuals involved. In order to accurately address biting situations, we must blog-biting-main-landscapedetermine why the individual is engaging in that behavior. In other words, we need to know the function of the biting. Like any behavior, biting has a history of reinforcement. This history plays a big role in the function of biting.

We can determine the function by analyzing what occurs immediately before the behavior (antecedent) and what occurs immediately following the behavior (consequence). Sometimes we may not be aware that our own behavior is impacting the child’s behavior. Once we are able to identify why a child is engaging in a behavior, we can change our own behavior which will lead to changes in their behavior.

There are many possible functions for the biting which can include: escape, attention seeking, gaining access to materials, or sensory stimulation. Below you will find a detail of the functions and suggestions to decrease biting given that particular function.

Functions and Working Tips for Biting:

  • Escape or Avoidance: The child might behave in a way to get out of doing an unfavorable task/activity or to remove themselves from a particular situation. The child might engage in biting in order to avoid doing something they do not want to do.
    • Working Tip: If you ask a child to follow your instruction, but they engage in refusal behavior and biting occurs, it is important that you continue to present the request for the child and follow through with your instruction. By not allowing the child to escape the demand, biting is no longer resulting in an inappropriate escape of demands.
  • Attention seeking: The child might bite as a way to gain the attention of others. When a child bites you or themselves it is natural to react in a certain way. You may raise your voice, make different facial reactions or pull away quickly. By providing this attention after biting occurs, the child may be more likely to repeat this behavior in the future to gain your attention.
    • Working Tip: If a child is biting to gain your attention, ignore this behavior by providing no facial or vocal reactions. Instead, provide attention for appropriate behaviors during periods of time when no biting is occurring.  If the child is engaging in self-injurious biting behavior, you can block the behavior without giving additional attention to the child to ensure safety.
  • Access to materials: The child might bite to gain access to preferred items or activities. If you are giving a child something they want after they bite you, you are likely reinforcing this behavior.
    • Working Tip: It is important to refrain from giving the child access to any preferred items or activities when this behavior occurs. Instead, provide access to these after they engage in other appropriate behaviors (i.e. asking appropriately, handing you the appropriate picture exchange card, etc) to tell you what they want.
  • Automatic (sensory stimulation): The child may be biting because it is something that feels good to them.
    • Working Tip: To address this behavior you can give the child something more appropriate that they are allowed to bite on like a rubber chewing item.

Things to Remember When it Comes to Biting:

  • Consistency is key: Once a function of the behavior is determined, it is important that everyone who interacts with the child addresses the behavior in the same way in order for the intervention to be effective. As long as the biting behavior is working for the child to get what they want, even if only on some occasions, they will continue to engage in this behavior.
  • Reinforcement: Reducing/eliminating the biting behavior is important, but at we also want to teach children appropriate behaviors to replace biting to ensure they are getting their wants and needs met. By applying the principles of behavior, you can teach your child more appropriate ways to gain attention, access to preferred materials, or to ask for a break from a non-preferred activity.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Age Appropriate Toys for Children with Autism

It’s the holiday season and everyone is out shopping for family! If you’re looking for age appropriate toys for children with Autism, then check out this age-by-age list:blog-autism-toys-main-landscape

0-18 months

Goals of Play:

  • Manipulate and explore a variety of toys
  • Show variation in play
  • Demonstrate generalization by playing with toys in a variety of environments
  • Engage in movement play (gross motor play)
  • Cause-and-effect play

Toy Ideas:

  • Blocks (Duplo blocks or Large Lego)
  • Cause and Effect Toys
    • Car Ramps
    • Pop-up Toys
    • Push-and-Pull Toys
  • Simple puzzles (individual/non-adjoining pieces)

18-30 months

Goals of Play:

  • Toys with multiple parts (learning to look for pieces and assemble)
  • Using toys for their actual functions (i.e building blocks rather than just dumping them out of a container)
  • Play with everyday items in creative ways (i.e. pretends a marker is a magic wand)
  • Gross motor play on play structures/playground equipment

Toy Ideas:

  • Doll houses/dolls (i.e. Little People sets)
  • Tea party set
  • Pretend Food
  • Smaller blocks/Lego/K’nex blocks
  • Potato Head
  • Train set
  • More complicated puzzles (such as those with adjoining pieces)

30-48 months

Goals of Play:

  • Spontaneous engagement in pretend or imaginary play
  • Arts and Crafts activities
  • Drawing and writing in pre-academic activity books
  • Social play becomes a focus

Toy Ideas:

  • Dress up clothes
  • Play Kitchen
  • Board games or other games that encourage turn-taking
  • Arts and Crafts materials- paint, markers, glitter, glue, dot markers
  • Pre-academic workbooks (can be found online or in a variety of bookstores)

Resources:

Sundberg, M. L. (2008) Verbal behavior milestones assessment and placement program: The VB-MAPP. Concord, CA: AVB Press.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Executive Functioning Skills: How Can I Help My Child?

Executive Functions are a set of higher order mental processes that allow an individual, or in this case, children; the ability to control their thoughts, actions, and attention in their ever-changingblog-executive-functioning-main-landscape environment. Often, children can present with executive functioning issues as a result of many different factors such as Autism and ADHD.

Below are some executive functioning skills and how they present in both individuals with normal and poor executive functioning, and some tools/strategies for parents:

Skill Example Tools
Organization Your child has trouble being organized or often loses, or misplaces items. Create a “home space” for your child’s items. This can include simply labeling areas of the home where items should be stored, so your child knows where to place items and lowers the risk of loss. Make checklists or use planners to help your child create a schedule.
Working Memory Your child easily forgets what they just heard, or what they were asked to do. Make connections in every lesson. Have you ever heard of ROY G. BIV? – this is how most people remember the colors of the rainbow. When teaching new content such as tying a shoe use cute, age appropriate analogies such as the bunny rabbit in the hole. Also, helping your child visualize information by writing it down, drawing pictures, and even becoming the teacher are great tools as well.
Self-monitoring Your child may not seem aware of themselves such as when they are doing well. Behavior charts are a great tool to help your child self-manage their own behavior. Choose an important behavior for your child to manage and how often you would like for your child to “check in” on this behavior.
Task Initiation/Planning and Prioritizing Your child takes forever to get started on a particular task or has trouble planning activities. Break whole tasks down into smaller achievable steps. If the desired result is for your child to complete an entire homework sheet, maybe setting a goal to do the first 2 problems together can be a happy medium. Also allowing your child to take breaks or receive rewards between tasks are a good strategy as well.
Flexibility Your child often has trouble with new ideas, transitions and spontaneity. Visual schedules and first/then language are your biggest friend. For a child who has trouble being flexible, try to alert your child to changes in routine as far in advance as you can. To help combat rigidity such as not wanting to try a new food, try to approach slow and steady first. This can include tasting a small amount of a new food instead of a large portion.
Impulse/Emotional Control Your child often has trouble controlling their emotions and impulses when they are sad, happy, or angry. Speak and repeat. When providing directions to a child, if applicable, state the directions remembering to adhere to your child’s learner and listener styles, and then have your child repeat back to you. Use social stories and modeling: For example, if your child often gets upset when they lose a game, a social story can help teach tools on how to act in this situation.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Creating SMART Goals for Kids with Autism

When it comes to creating goals for kids with autism, it can be overwhelming where to start. What goal do you pick? When should they meet their goal? How can everyone work on it together? blog-smart-goals-main-landscapeRest assured, creating effective goals is as simple as making sure it is a SMART goal: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Following these simple guidelines will help your child achieve the goals you set in place.

Specific

It is easy to have a general goal in mind for kids with autism, such as increasing their language or self-help skills. However, general goals are hard to work on since they do not have specific behaviors that you are looking to increase. Being as specific as possible with your goal is the most effective way to ensure your child will meet their goal.

Measurable

When we create a goal, we have to make sure we can measure a child’s success. If our goal isn’t measurable, we cannot accurately determine if the goal was met. The two most common ways to make goals measurable are frequency (e.g. 3 times per day, etc.) and accuracy (e.g. with 80% success, in 4 out of 5 opportunities, etc.).

Attainable

Before we start working on a goal, we have to make sure it is something the child can attain (i.e. a goal they can achieve). We need to look at prerequisite skills (i.e. skills the child needs in order to achieve the current goal). We also need to look at how realistic our goal is. We cannot expect a child to get dressed by themselves each morning if their underwear drawer is too high for them to reach.

Relevant

Relevant goals are goals that will make a difference in the child’s life. If the goal isn’t relevant to the child, the child will not be motivated to achieve it. If a goal is determined to not be relevant to the child or the one helping teach the goal, it will need to be adjusted to become relevant.

Time-bound

If all goals had an eternity to be achieved, there would not be a desire to teach and attain the goal in the near future. Making goals time-bound ensure that the goal is mastered in a realistic time-frame. Determining the time-frame of your goal should be dependent on the goal. The more challenging the goal, the longer the time-frame should be.

Example of a SMART Goal

Your goal is to work on your child asking you for help when you are in another room. At this time, your child does not ask you for help when you are in the same room consistently. Let’s go through each criterion to make our SMART goal.

Specific: Child will say “help me” while handing the object they need help with to the adult

Measurable: 4 out of 5 opportunities

Attainable: We will first work on when an adult is in the same room

Relevant: Your child frequently needs help when playing with new toys or opening and sealing food

Time-bound: 2 weeks

Now that you know how to write SMART goals, start making some and see your child blossom!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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5 Tips to Help Your Child Through Failing Grades

As a new school year has begun, your child may be facing quite a few new changes in the classroom, whether that be a new school, new teachers and peers, or even new, and challenging blog-failing-grades-main-landscapecoursework. These changes can generate some difficulties in your student in terms of following academic or social expectations. Maybe they begin getting notes sent home about their inappropriate behavior in class or you begin finding failing grades on recent assignments. Either way, these can be discouraging to parents and their student. As a parent, it is important to identify these challenges early on and follow through with keeping your child on track for their own success.

Here are a few tips on how to help your child through failing grades:

  1. Be proactive. Parents should contact the teacher as soon as they notice their child having difficulty in a class. Follow up with any notes home or call a teacher to have a conference about the recent failing grade on an assignment. Ask the teacher for extra assignments or activities that can be done at home. It’s important to develop a plan with the teacher for collaboration purposes. The teacher may also have better insight into more specific skills that need to be acquired.
  1. Create a routine. Creating an after school routine at home provides clear expectations and consistency. This routine can and should include homework completion, meal time with family, and a bedtime routine. Building a positive routine around homework completion and continued practice can not only provide a balance of work and play, but can also build strong sense of responsibility in your student. Try and remove or minimize other distractions during the homework routine and create more time dedicated to helping your child with homework.
  1. Set expectations. As a parent, provide expectations and follow through. These expectations may begin with something small such as practicing number cards for 5 minutes before bed or making sure all books are brought home for the appropriate homework every night for a week. Whatever those expectations are in the initial stages, follow through and provide the appropriate praise and reinforcement contingent on the completion. It may be helpful to set up expectations with the teacher so you can map out short and long term goals.
  1. Consistently provide encouragement and support. Failing grades may not only be disappointing to the parents, they may also be discouraging to the student. Provide praise and positive reinforcement for even the smallest of progress and the continuation of hard work in and outside of the classroom. Continue to be an advocate for support. Offer help when needed while still requiring the student to complete the work independently.
  2. Look for underlying problems. While discussing specific difficulties with the teacher, look for potential underlying problems. Can there be difficulties with environmental variables such as, not being able to see or hear the teacher, forgetting to write down homework assignments, or being distracted by other classroom students or activities? Is there possibly an underlying learning disability? Is the child having difficulty attending to tasks? Whatever it may be, it is important to identify these things to make appropriate changes necessary for success.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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