Book Review: The Nurture Effect – Anthony Biglan

 

new biglan

This was one book I was very keen to read. A lot of people had been talking about it online, and it seemed very much in line with the type of book I like to read.

I think it would be good to go back and re-read, maybe in a few months. Overall, it was a good book to read, mainly about society, and the world at large, very much in line with a behaviourist’s thinking. However I did feel it was very specifically aimed more so at American audiences, than anywhere else in the world, and feel like it could have investigated different things, different countries are doing around the world, to help with social issues, such as poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, education, and health.

In saying that, I think it is a text that can very easily be understood by anyone that picks up the book, and relay the principles of applied behaviour analysis, and how we can use those principles to make positive changes in everyday life.

I particularly like how at the end of each chapter, there were points to help explain what the reader could do, at an individual level, at the local community level, and at the national level. These were pretty straightforward, practical ideas, that anyone could do, to help start the change.

I also like how there were a few chapters related to things I am very fond of. Particularly the chapter on Direct Instruction, and how implementing evidence-based practices in classrooms can make a huge difference in children’s lives.

I did also like the part about the Triple P Positive Parenting Program, which has come out of Queensland, Australia. The way it has been delivered and used by families around the country, and the world, is highly impressive. This dissemination of information (effective, evidence-based information) is what we need to focus on and figure out ways to get the correct information across to people, and teach them how to look beyond the initial flashy introduction, and think critically about what information is being presented to them.

Some other parts of the book which fit into this particular theme include the part about families overthrowing the tobacco industry and its advertising campaigns. Very inspiring read, and gave me lots of ideas about pseudo-science and how we could potentially approach it in a more successful way.

I think it is definitely well worth a read, not just for behaviour analysts, but people who are interested in social welfare.

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References

Biglan, A. (2015). The Nurture Effect

 

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Book Review: The Nurture Effect – Anthony Biglan

Book Review: What Shamu Taught Me About Love, Life and Marriage – Amy Sutherland

This book was something I figured I would get around to reading eventually. It was on my list, it was about behaviour, but within a different application than the one I am used to, and I think I have just been on a roll with reading books this year, so, I read it 🙂

The author is a journalist who was writing about animal training methods at aquatic parks and the like. She became quite invested in what she was learning and attempted to apply it to her life and relationships, with quite good success!

The book discusses various techniques she learned while observing the training, and while they have different names, it was clear to see how it linked in to what I know and do.

It was also interesting to see how she started to think about the world and her interactions with others. Thinking about everyone around her’s behaviour, as well as her own, and what could she do to try and prevent the undesirable/challenging/frustrating behaviour from occurring.

It made me think about how I do try to think about that in my daily interactions, however for slightly different reasons. It did make me think about how I could try and think about the ways in which I could implement more antecedent strategies with some people in my life, and think I may have come to a reasonable understanding about that (for myself).

In regards to the animal part of the book, she has two lovely dogs, who you can tell her, and her husband, love dearly. She discusses the training aspect and how she implemented some strategies with her puppies, even though they were older. Spoiler alert (highlight the text)if you love dogs, just be warned there is a little bit of a sad bit towards the end (sorry!)

It also reminded me of when I visited Universal Studios a few years ago and saw the Animal Training show. I felt that it all made a lot of sense then, and it was very interesting reading this book and getting to know more about the process and different strategies they use when training lions, elephants, dolphins, birds… etc

I also was a little bit concerned that there was going to be no mention of behaviourism or Skinner, but about halfway through the book, there was a nice link to Skinner and his contributions to what the animal trainers were teaching.

Again, one of those books that I think as a behaviour analyst, you probably want to read, but I think I know a few people I could recommend it to, as an interesting read. It is quite an easy and short read, and provides a good understanding of the general principles, and use, of ABA.


References

Sutherland, A. (2009). What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage.

Universal’s Animal Actors

Book Review: What Shamu Taught Me About Love, Life and Marriage – Amy Sutherland

Book Review: The Verbal Behavior Approach – Mary Lynch Barbera

 I finally got around to reading this book in 2015 🙂 I’ve had it for about 4 years, but just never picked it up!

While trying to gain inspiration for a journal club I am completing on verbal behaviour (and having no luck with!) I thought, why not read this – it might give me a few more answers!

I have always had an interest in verbal behaviour. I didn’t quite know what it was about, or how it was different from ABA, all I knew was it had something to with creating a ‘voice’ for people (not necessarily a speaking voice – more to do with communication) and it seemed to be presented in a much more ‘fun’ light than the traditional ABA programs I worked on in Australia.

Well, the way the traditional ABA programs were supposed to go, because I always feel I tried to make sessions as fun as possible… most of the time anyway.

What I got from reading this book was, I feel like I was inadvertently (there’s that word again) implementing techniques from a verbal behaviour program when I was working as a young, junior ABA therapist, and then when I progressed and moved into different roles, using the principles and science of ABA.

So basically, I was very impressed with this book, because it resonated well with me, it aligned very much with my beliefs about the work that I do. But mostly, I was impressed with the straight forward-ness of the book. I almost felt like passing it onto a few families I am working with and asking them to read it, but that would probably be quite overwhelming, despite the everyday language used, and practical examples.

The book is written by Dr. Mary Lynch Barbera, a BCBA, who is also the mother of a son with Autism. She became a BCBA after her son was diagnosed and was heavily involved in his program, moving him from a typical, Lovaas style ABA program, to a verbal behaviour program.I like her determinism, and her thoughts about how the differences in each program had their benefits.

The book worked through how you could go about setting up a verbal behaviour program (and got me motivated to create a mind map – using a very cool online mind map program – Popplet) and provided a very straight forward way to teach the different components of a verbal behaviour program.

I found a really clear explanation of the differences between an ABA and a verbal behaviour program. There was also a very clear, and initial description of conducting a functional assessment of behaviour, right at the beginning of the book – very important, you want to know what behaviour you want to replace, so you can know where to start 🙂

I also liked the focus on reinforcement and motivation, and how as a therapist, you basically wanted the child to be running to the table to do ‘therapy’. This is something that really struck a chord with me.

I have had some kids who didn’t care either way, but I have also had some kids who would do anything to avoid coming to the table 😦 I know it wasn’t me, because when I was playing around and being silly, we would have the time of our lives 🙂 but as soon as a demand was put in place, I was seen as something very aversive.

My personal experience with intensive ABA programs in Australia finished around 5 years ago, but I really don’t think things have changed that much. When I was working on those intensive programs, this was definitely not an aim of the program. I wasn’t given much of an opportunity to pair myself with reinforcement, I was basically having to go in and teach.

As a teacher, I completely believe you need to show respect for your students, and gain their trust, and then you can begin to teach – a very similar process to the rapport building and pairing with reinforcement discussed in this book, and as a cornerstone of a verbal behaviour program.

I believe I do this fairly well. Particularly as some of my more recent work involved me going into families homes and doing this within a 2 hour session, in a couple of weeks… very tricky, particularly when you are trying to explain your program, collect baseline data, and gain the parents (and siblings) trust and respect as well. It’s not easy, but it is definitely worth it.

I also took some things immediately away from the book – from teaching different and known item mands to a very beginning 4 year old learner, to how to use echoics and intraverbals, and transfer procedures (which was also one of those things I was already doing without even realising) with a 12 year old with some language, just not a lot of motivation to communicate 😉

I also then went a step further and found this extremely detailed, yet interesting, relevant, and clear explanation of verbal behaviour article, which was much more technically oriented, but consolidated the book. The Verbal Behavior Approach to ABA by Robert Schramm and Regina G. Claypool-Frey.

I recommend the book to anyone who is working within an ABA program already, and definitely anyone interested in applying verbal behavior techniques within a program. I really wish I had read it earlier – it is an easy, and quick read, and it has given me a lot of ideas. I feel a lot more confident with my programming going forward, with this information.


References

Barbera, M. &Rasmussen, T. (2007). The Verbal Behavior Approach: How to Teach Children with Autism and Related Disorders.

Popplet – a website for creating mind-maps

The Verbal Behavior Approach to ABA by Robert Schramm and Regina G. Claypool-Frey.

Book Review: The Verbal Behavior Approach – Mary Lynch Barbera

Book Review: Walden Two – B.F. Skinner

The week between Christmas and New Years, I had a “staycation”. Which basically means, because I have done so much travelling this year, I wanted to stay home over the Christmas period, and do nothing. Well, lie on the beach, read, and watch cricket and movies. Which I did! (And I didn’t even get that burnt!)

I had about 6 books to read, and I read 5 over the week, which is pretty good. A whole mix of things – non-fiction (Murder in Mississippi by John Safran), fiction (The Escape by David Baldacci), one of my faves (High Society by Ben Elton), a random (Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk), and one that was recommended to me by someone who is as big a fan of ABA as me 🙂 (Walden Two by B.F. Skinner.)

I feel like it is one of those books you just have to read if you want to call yourself a behaviourist. I actually didn’t mind it, it was quite dry, and basically a conversation about the application of the principles of ABA to a real world setting, but a conversation between a few people, over the span of a few days, including discussions, arguments and realisations.

Throughout the book, I felt like different characters at different times. I feel like Skinner was trying to do that, trying to cover all possible angles and points that people might have, and addressing them with a solution.I felt I most related to the character narrating the story, but I don’t think I would have ended up in the same position as him.

Basically Walden Two is a community where people live and work, and it is completely structured and created around applying the principles of ABA to any situation, to make things easier and “better” for everyone involved. A place where like-minded people can live and everything is sorted and easy.

There are six visitors to the Walden Two community, and it is their experience of the place that we observe through the narration. They visit for about a week, and make up their own minds about whether or not it is the life for them.

There were some interesting points, and some things that seemed a bit far fetched. I felt as though sometimes the ‘creator’ of Walden Two, who was accompanying the visitors on most of their trip, seemed to have an answer for everything. I find that hard to believe, particularly as one of the attitudes of science is philosophic doubt […to continually question the truthfulness of what is regarded as fact. Cooper, J., Heron, E., & Heward, W. (2007).] And yes, while he seemed to have been experimenting with a range of things over a few years, and yes, he seemed to share this viewpoint, it just seems a hard concept to grasp.

I may be ignorant to say this, particularly as I am an avid believer of being able to apply the principles of applied behaviour analysis to any situation where there is observable behaviour, and it is of social significance or importance to the individual/s concerned, and be able to come up with a solution. Also, particularly as this is what I do, and what I believe. But I just found it hard to see this working so harmoniously and perfectly.

I know, I know, it is a work of fiction (and an old work at that – they were discussing the idea of negative reinforcement being punishment, and, based on a 1975 paper I read recently, they were confused about that initially until they conducted more experiments and realised negative reinforcement strengthened behaviour), but it started to get annoying! Every query, seemed to have an answer. I may just be a hugely cynical person (I don’t think I am!) but it all just seemed “too good to be true” – which I guess is the case with any utopian society.

It made me think about a few things. The first being, how much I apply the principles of ABA to my everyday life. I am always looking at every situation and figuring out what the function of a behaviour is at any given time. What is reinforcing me to do this again and again? I think I could be a bit more analytical about this in 2015. And really begin to live and breathe ABA 😀 (As a side note, there is a very good hashtag on twitter for this now – #everdayABA 😀 )

I also thought about the whole dissemination of ABA and how much this has not necessarily been done too well. I don’t think the book could be used as a way to promote the ideas of applying ABA to society’s issues necessarily, but in the way that I know ABA has many applications and uses, and could be beneficial in many areas of society – government, health, judicial systems… it did get me thinking about ways to share information without coming across as too judgy or ‘full on’ (which I do have a tendency to do!)

I guess I shouldn’t jump the gun and worry about how to make the whole world want to get on board the ABA train, particularly when the people I am working with (teachers, support staff – even some parents) find it hard to implement, but hey, dream big.

On the whole, I think if you work within a behavioural framework, it would be worth a read, at least to see the applications of ABA in everyday life. I also think people who are interested in socialism and ‘living off the earth’ (i.e. my Dad) would find it interesting, but it is quite a droll read (seriously, it is basically a transcript of their conversations over the week!) Any other suggested readings for behaviour analysts?


B.F. Skinner, (1948). Walden Two.

Cooper, J., Heron, E., & Heward, W. (2007). Applied Behaviour Analysis Second Edition

Michael, J. (2004)Positive and Negative Reinforcement, A Distinction That Is No Longer Necessary; Or a Better Way to Talk About Bad Things. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 24:1-2, 207-222.

Book Review: Walden Two – B.F. Skinner