ABA + Sustainability

Sustainability May blog post

Reducing waste is a personal goal. I’m very conscious of how much I actually waste, and though I have a long way to go, I know I also have come a long way

This year, I have very slowly been becoming more aware of the amount of waste I produce. Rubbish, recycling, food scraps – they all add up. Take-away coffees, plastic water bottles, even brushing my teeth – the packaging the toothbrush and toothpaste come in, and then the containers themselves.

So much waste!

So, as any good behaviour analyst would, I thought about how I could change my behaviour.

Recently I read a post about behaviour analysis in environmental sustainability, and the ever-present issue of climate change, and specifically, how ABA can help. It was a fascinating read, and yet another example, on a wider-level, of how ABA can help “save the world!”

In the meantime, I was thinking about how I could make small changes, that may have longer lasting impacts. Turning off lights and power points when I’m not using them. Using travel coffee mugs and reusable drink bottles. Separating all my recycling.

In regards to not using my car, that would be very difficult. My clients are all over Sydney, and, apart from our public transportation system being completely unreliable, Sydney is so vast, it would not be feasible. However I also recently found some websites that allow you to purchase carbon emissions offsets, and even plant some trees, to somewhat make up for that!

In order to make these changes, I had to take small steps. Nothing too drastic, otherwise, I probably wouldn’t stick with. Staring small, and reminding myself every time I leave a room, or take some rubbish downstairs to the bins. I have about 15 “green” bags in my car that I use when I go to the supermarket! I carry reusable straws in my handbag, so when I’m out and about, I can say “no thanks” to a straw in my drink 🙂

I also had to think of reinforcers. Fortunately, my bright pink kate spade glass water bottle, has been highly reinforcing (and encouraging me to drink more water, which is another benefit).

pink drink
Drink Pink!

The next step is food scraps. Up to 40% of our food is wasted before it even gets to us! And up to 20% of our food is thrown out from our fridges and cupboards! Although I live in an apartment, with no composting facilities within walking distance (I really don’t want to put compost in my car!), I’m sure there is an apartment solution I just haven’t found yet.

Penrith City Council, in Sydney’s West, provides each home with a small compost bin. Since 2009, they have managed to increase their landfill diversion rate from 21% to 65%, due to their composting and recycling strategies. This is a great example of #EverydayABA and encouraging small behaviour change strategies.

A lot of other Sydney councils follow similar systems, including having a smaller “waste” bin, and bigger “recycling” bins. While it is difficult at first to maintain (any change is scary and different!), over time, it becomes easier. In order to ensure your “waste” bin doesn’t overflow and smell, you figure out what percentage of your waste could actually become recycling material!

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Three different bins – different sizes, for different waste products.


More recently, a new TV show on the ABC, called “War on Waste“, has a lot of people talking, and actively thinking about just how much we waste each day. Hopefully it is ‘planting the seed’, to make people more aware and try to reduce their waste.

We are very lucky to have such beautiful country in Australia. We want to ensure it remains as beautiful, for centuries to come. Sustainability is possible, and it starts with small steps from each of us.

And if you want to start somewhere, “Plastic Free July” may be the way to go! Check out the website for ideas, and sign up to use less plastic, this July.

PS – Remember to ‘set yourself up for success’ – start small, don’t go too big, too soon!


ABA + Sustainability

Study Time!

I have recently completed another subject at Florida Institute of Technology in my Graduate Certificate of ABA. So preparing for the final exam involved utilising my knowledge and understanding of ABA principles, to help.

The course involves a lot of video-lecture watching, and reading, so I use the Premack Principle, which is essentially a ‘first / then’.

I would set myself up with the ‘first (less preferred)’ task of watching hours of video lectures, and this would lead to the ‘then (highly preferred task)’ of something reinforcing (usually food, or playing with my puppy) 🙂

I also went a little crazy at Officeworks, purchasing Post It notes of various sizes. I used these to jot down guided notes (of sorts), from the lectures, and from class meeting notes.

Post its

Post It Notes from Office Works in various colours, with study notes on them.

Another of my favourite stores, Kikki K, has a handy A5 study guide sheet, which breaks down the tasks that need to be done, with upcoming assignments, and even a little box, to write in your reinforcer!

All of this study did pay off, as I passed the course! One more to go, before I can sit for my first exam!

If you want to find out more about FIT’s ABA Course, follow the link.

Study Time!

Happy “Let’s Always Appreciate Teachers” Year!

c-wilconx-2I recently had the opportunity to visit Darwin, in the Northern Territory, to deliver some literacy workshops. I have previously been to Darwin, in a similar capacity, almost 7 years ago. It is a very different way of life up there, and a lovely part of the country. Extremely tropical, and life is very relaxed. I think they could definitely pick I was the “Sydney” driver, in the mix.

I was lucky enough to visit a small Catholic school and work with the staff there (during their school holidays :o). It was about 40 mins out of Darwin, which can actually mean it is fairly rural, however the school had approximately 150 students, with actual numbers to be determined, once the kids came back the next week, the Principal explained.

Other than the change of students – down, or up – the school had to condense a class, as they also lost a teacher. It made me realise how difficult it would be to ensure good quality teachers, are encouraged, and supported, to work in rural, and remote environments.

I also managed to speak to some teachers from schools even further remote than the suburb I was delivering the workshop in (coincidentally, there was an Early Childhood Australia Conference on, at the same time I was in Darwin!) The scenarios they were facing with some students, provided a much more eye-opening opportunity, than I was anticipating.

It was great to be able to chat to teachers, from very different parts of Australia, and just nice to be able to meet with educators who are extremely passionate about helping all of their students, with whatever was needed, and never giving up.

I followed this workshop up by immediately going to Melbourne (with a temperature difference of 31 degrees celsius!) where I also met some extremely passionate educators. It was one of the best workshops I felt I had delivered, as we had some excellent educational (with a strong tie to literacy, as was the aim of the workshop :D) discussions, throughout the two days.

I also recently completed some observations in a school for students with additional needs, and was so impressed with the teachers in the class – constantly “on”, teaching, checking medications, ‘catching students being good’, prompting self-regulation – all almost without a breath in between.

And just last week, I was able to deliver one of my favourite workshops, talking about one of my favourite topics – positive reinforcement. I had a lovely small group, of four ‘beginning teachers’ (between 1-5 years teaching experience), all from the same school, and another additional extremely experienced individual. Again, we had some fantastic discussions, and these teachers were all amazing with the time they spent thinking about, and planning for, their students. Some great discussions were had again.

I know teachers receive a lot of criticism, but they really do an amazing job, with something that can be so extremely hard, yet ultimately, so rewarding.

So while it isn’t any specific “International Teachers Day” or anything, I figure, why not celebrate the great teachers around us, every day 🙂

Below is a video from one of my favourite teachers – Mr. Chris from Special Books by Special Kids 😀

Happy “Let’s Always Appreciate Teachers” Year!

ABA Intervention Programs in the 21st Century.

Technology is very much a part of our lives these days. So many apps to make our lives easier. Computers that can log you in via your in-built camera. Phones that can hold all the information in the world, at the touch of your fingertips, as well as all your contacts, photos, videos, music, entertainment, street directory… and the list goes on and on.

Then – a typewriter vs Now – a tablet

In the area I work in, technology has had a huge impact on people’s lives. Giving people a voice, through Augmentative/Alternative Communication devices and apps, such as ProLoQuo2Go, and TouchChat.

An example of an AAC – ProLoQuo2Go

Children with autism connecting with others, and making friends through playing Minecraft on their iPads. Even more recently, with Pokemon Go!

The use of heart rate monitors to help adolescents and adults self-monitor potential increases in stress levels, which may lead to challenging behaviour.

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Poster presentation from ABAI Chicago, May 2016.

Daily schedules and reminders – from calendars with reminders on your phone, to basic watches that vibrate at certain times, and prompt children to brush their teeth, or pack their bag.

octopus watch schedule
A watch “visual schedule”.

Application, after application, after application, to collect data, graph, and report on, to make changes as needed for skills teaching. (And that is just a small sample! At the ABAI Convention in Chicago, many of the stalls were advertising online data collection platforms).

It makes sense, in this technology driven world, that we utilise the benefits of technology to make positive changes, and add value to programs.

Which is why GSBS programs have completely customised, exclusive online programming, with every program we run.

Looking at all the options already available, and even trialling a few, they are extremely comprehensive. Some are a bit more difficult to navigate, and would take a lot of training and practice to become fluent in their use. Most, if not all, are based out the US, which is not really an issue, however there may be 1 or 2 things that pertain specifically to Australian audiences, that cannot be added or changed in those programs.

So when I started thinking about programs going “online”, I looked around, to see what I could possibly try and set up. And then I found it. Google.

If you haven’t already caught on, Google is amazing. Not only can the search engine tell us *anything* we want to know (I literally type a question in as if I were asking it to a person!), but they have a whole range of google apps, that are just fantastic! Email, calendar, a storage drive, business insights, advertising – all under one email address! The free account has a decent amount of space, but to upgrade, it is not terribly expensive. They also have “office” documents – Google Docs (Word), Sheets (Excel), and Slides (Powerpoint). As well as a free website option to crate your own website, and a form creation app to… well use as you see fit.

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So many apps, so little time!

Which is what we do.

Using the site as storage space, and Google’s easy to use template, private websites were made, to share information about the individual client, with all those involved in their care and support – parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, other professionals working with the person, and so on. Having input from the families, and the clients themselves, the website can be a useful tool, to share skills, and strategies.

Once the site  is created, you can input pages that contain forms, add information about skills pages, even have an online communication/notes book (which sends automatic emails after every session!) The sites are 100% private and you can control who can view and access the page. It is really handy because not only is all the data collection on there, but information about the program, and most importantly, information about the person at the centre of the program, is readily available.

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The easy-to-use-and-set-up website via Google Sites.

Moving to an online system, was a bit time consuming and tedious at first, a lot of trial and error during creation, but ultimately worth it. It means that I can access information on skills, even if I am not seeing the families every week, or interstate or overseas.

If multiple people (parents, home therapists etc) are working on programs, up-to-date information is available, as soon as it happens. It seemed to be the logical solution moving forward, making a program that is accessible, and affordable (and if it saves a few trees in the process, that can’t hurt!)

In terms of training – so far, I have had very good feedback about how it was pretty straight forward, and relatively easy to use. A few hiccups with ensuring everyone has access, but on the whole, it was easy for people to pick up. Which is a relief, because within GSBS, we want these programs to be online, to make things that little bit easier. And with Google, we are able to completely customise it to exactly what we want 🙂

Next adventure…. telehealth 😀 The initial research is promising, and would be of so much benefit to people who may usually never have access to services.

N.B. I have no actual affiliation/loyalty to Google, I just am very impressed by their range of products, and enjoy using them, so wanted to share some info!


ABA Intervention Programs in the 21st Century.

Mid Year Review :D

I realised it is half way through the year already! In some ways, it has gone so quickly, in other ways, I can’t believe it is already July. I know I sound redundant saying that, and everyone always says that, but it really does feel strange!

I am up to my “mid year review” of how I am going with my goals, kind of like what I do with programs with clients! So, lets see how I am going…

The post with goals I developed at the beginning of the year, can be found here – just for reference 🙂

1. Obtain my Behaviour qualification.

I have yet to make a move on my first goal 😦 Many different circumstances have prevented me from being able to start the next course for my coursework. I am hoping to be able to do this for the last quarter of 2016, if not, then 2017 will have to be the case!

2. Become a registered provider under NDIS services.

I am registered! Great Start Behaviour Services is registered to provide services in three domains:
– Behaviour Support
– Therapeutic Supports
– Assist Integration to Educational Settings

3. Attend and participate in at least two ABA conferences.

I am halfway there! I attended ABAI in Chicago at the end of May, and learned a lot. I am attending the inaugural Association for Behaviour Analysis Australia Conference in Melbourne, in September. I also am tossing up whether or not to go to the NZABA Conference in Auckland at the end of August. I think the presentations will be quite interesting, and it will be nice to see some organised, proactive ABA supporters, from within the Pacific.

4. Continue on with my supervision through my BCBA Supervisor.

Still continuing on! In fact, I had supervision this morning, and am currently at 51/75 hours!

5. Continue to read at least two journal articles a month, in the field of ABA, but not specifically Autism related.

I don’t have specific data on this, and I honestly don’t think I have done this. I definitely do not have the comments on Twitter to back up my reading of these! I will need to identify 2 articles for the month of July.

6. Continue to disseminate information about ABA, to non-behaviour people.

According to my goals, I have used the #EverydayABA hashtag on twitter at least 12 times, to share information about ABA.

I will most likely be unable to run separate workshops in 2016, providing information about ABA, but will definitely move that goal over to 2017! In fact, I applied for a grant to provide parent / carer workshops, on basic principles of ABA and understanding functions of behaviour, for South West Sydney.

7. Attend and participate in online ABA chats.

I haven’t done any of these! In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen any chats for awhile. I need to look into when the next one will happen on twitter, or if people want to have another one!

8. Volunteer my time to at least two different organisations (not necessarily ABA/behaviour).

I am still volunteering with A Global Voice for Autism, and I think that will have to be it this year. I would love to do the externship with the Association for Science Treatment in Autism, but I think I will need to wait until I’ve finished my BCBA!

9. Provide services to more clients in Sydney/Central Coast.

I have met this goal! I currently am providing services to 7 clients (8 by the end of next week!), and I started with 2 at the beginning of this year! (Granted one of them is not technically “brand new” – I have worked with the family previously, but still!)

10. Meet new behaviour analyst people!

I actually met a very lovely lady, who is very new to ABA, and is also a Mum, who is very enthusiastic, just this week! It’s always great to meet like-minded, ABA supporters!

Not too bad. I’m tracking through a few goals, and even have 2 goals met! And it’s only halfway through the year – seems like there is still plenty of time! Although I’m sure I won’t be saying that, come October!

Mid Year Review :D

While I’m killing more time in an airport…

I figured I’d sum up my experience at the ABAI 2016 Convention.

Convention is the right word, it’s much bigger than a conference! I took away so much, met so many people, had some new ideas, and came to the general conclusion that, while ABA is more used and understood in the US, people working in the field can still face the same difficulties we do in Australia – misunderstanding/misrepresentation, lack of funding, lack of collaboration and teamwork. On the whole, it is most likely more accepted, and used in the a States, but in a sad sort of way, that was nice to hear.
On the other hand, there were a few things that stood out to me that seemed a bit backwards, but I can possibly try to understand them. One in particular was the talk on fads and fallacies in autism intervention – what to watch out for. I would have thought that any good, qualified BCBA, would be aware of how to think critically about the latest “cures” for autism intervention, but apparently not. This kind of ties into when I was discussing with my supervisor the pass rates for the BCBA exam, and how people who fail, multiple times, can keep re-sitting it. Firstly, universities advertising their courses as “75% pass rate” is not actually that encouraging! (And I think that’s pretty average!) But I know the higher education system is a little different over here, so I can understand why that is important to people. (For the record, I plan on sitting the exam only once, and passing first go. 😳) There also seemed to be a lot of people discussing the notion of collaboration, teamwork, and working with the families. This is completely opposite of what we (try) to do in Australia. I think the systems here traditionally have been set up very differently.

It was good to catch up with, and meet a few Aussies. I like the fact there are other individuals in Australia, willing to travel half way round the world for a convention, to learn a little bit more about what is happening in the world of ABA. I like like-minded, committed professionals. (It doesn’t hurt that you can turn it into a holiday at the same time 😊)

It was also great to be able to share some work that I am doing in little old Sydney, with people from all over the world. I feel like this was a nice introduction, but it made me think a bit more about where my specific research interests lie (hint – it’s not activity schedules!) So this convention has been good because it has given me a bit more specific direction. Watch this space… 🎓

On the whole, I’m very glad I came! I heard so many great presentations, and had some good chats. I probably won’t be back for another few years, but do plan to go to the Interbational conference in Paris at the end of next year. And of course, the inaugural Australian ABA Conference, in Melbourne, September this year.

While I’m killing more time in an airport…

Checking in!

I can’t believe it is already April! 3 months in to 2016, and where are we?

Well, somewhere I thought I’d be, but also didn’t think I’d be. As of this week, I am dedicating 100% of my working time to GSBS! A bit of a daunting task, but an exciting one, and the timing could not have been better.

I thought I’d start with checking in with my goals. I had a reminder come up on my phone (visual prompts :D) so I figured I’d better do this today.

goals review

So I’m a few days late with posting this, but things have been so busy! This is in relation to the goals I developed at the beginning of the year.

1. Obtain my Behaviour qualification.

I am registering for the next subject at FIT next week, so I’m moving towards it!

2. Become a registered provider under NDIS services.

I have one more piece to add to more registration before I send it off, and we will see how we go. I aim to do this by the end of April. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be registered, but I’ll be on my way.

3. Attend and participate in at least two ABA conferences.

I’m headed to the ABAI Conference in Chicago in May, and am planning to go to the AABA conference in Melbourne in September!

4. Continue on with my supervision through my BCBA Supervisor.

I’m currently a little more than halfway (42 hours of out 75 hours)!

5. Continue to read at least two journal articles a month, in the field of ABA, but not specifically Autism related.

I haven’t really been up to date with this. I have been reading the articles, but not commenting on them.

I did subscribe to JABA though, and am starting a journal club, so I will aim to comment on one this month, on Twitter/Facebook.

6. Continue to disseminate information about ABA, to non-behaviour people.

While I haven’t done any workshops specifically related to this. I have managed to explain the idea that ABA is much more than teaching children with autism, in intensive home programs, at two of the workshops I have done this year.

7. Attend and participate in online ABA chats.

I haven’t participated in an online ABA chats. There is a journal club with Hawaii Association for Behavior Analysis, but I think it is on at a bad time for me with the time difference!

8. Volunteer my time to at least two different organisations (not necessarily ABA/behaviour).

I may have to revisit this goal, as I am finding myself very busy. I have been volunteering with A Global Voice for Autism since October 2015, and am continuing to do so.

I want to do the Association for Science in Autism Treatment Externship Program, but I don’t think I have time for it this year.

9. Provide services to more clients in Sydney/Central Coast.

Well this one is almost done! I am providing services to 4 new clients. I am pretty sure I will be adding 1 more shortly!

10. Meet new behaviour analyst people!

Not yet, but hopefully when I am in Chicago, I will be able to meet up with a few people!

So, I think I’m doing pretty well. I have a bit more time now to ensure I am able to do all the things I want to do, and spend time doing these things.

Having the specific goals makes it much easier to track my progress! I should really be graphing my progress as well 😛


Checking in!