ABA in Australia: Diverse and Relevant… The Second Annual ABAA Conference

The 2nd Annual Association for Behaviour Analysis Australia conference happened, the first weekend in November. It was a time to come together, meet old and new colleagues and friends, and most importantly, spend an entire weekend talking about ABA with like-minded people! There is just something about being in a room, with people who love ABA as much as you do 🙂

We had two jam-packed full days, with Dr. Dana Reinecke kicking off Day 1, discussing working with older clients, in particularly, utilising technology to increase independence (a current special interest of mine). Lots of great take-aways, including her mention of Dr. Peter Gerhardt and ‘planning for the next five years’ – which ever life stage you are in.

Dana

Dr. Dana Reinecke discussing utilising technology with students.

We then heard from a range of different presenters, covering topics such as the Association for Science in Autism Treatment’s presence in the media, creative ways to assess PICA (eating non-food substances), and supervision.

PICA

Dr. Tessa Taylor sharing some great information to help with assessing functions of PICA.

We wrapped up the day with a lively speech from Dr. John McEachin and teaching receptive language skills. We also we privileged to hear about Jay Birnbrauer, by his friend and colleague, Dr. Alan Ralph, who shared with us Jay ‘Birnie’ Birnbrauer’s contribution to behaviour analysis, in Australia.

It was a long, but really interesting day, topped off by fantastic discussions with ABA colleagues, long into the night.

Day 2 was off to an extremely interesting and renewed start. We heard from Dr. Johnathan Tarbox, on the Benefits of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Applied Behaviour Analysis, which just blew everyone out of the water. We all seemed to take away something from this session.

Tarbox

Dr. Johnathan Tarbox, sharing his amazing presentation of ACT and ABA.

The day continued with a very interesting presentation, from Dr. Erin Leif, sharing Dr. Greg Henley’s Interview Informed Functional Analyses in Clinic and Home Settings. We heard about teaching social skills to students with autism, as well as some more on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Behaviour Therapists, and wrapped up the final day of the conference with a panel discussion on advocating for services through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

There was so much to take in, and I personally feel like I learned so much. Now, its just about finding the time to synthesise the information, and apply things where needed. I also figured out about 10 different things I wanted to look further into!

It is really great to be able to be a part of a community such as this. I never thought, when I first started this career, over ten years ago, that we would be in a position where we have annual Australian ABA conferences. The field is only growing, and with new opportunities to become a BCBA (through Monash University), the Victorian Department of Education hiring 3 state-wide BCBAs, as well as the Victorian Government providing scholarships for teachers to complete postgraduate study in ABA, we can only continue to expand, from here.

And finally, something that made me smile – applying the principles of ABA, to increase recycling behaviour 😀

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A Behaviour Plan to help everyone increase their recycling behaviour, after the conference!


To find out more about the Association for Behaviour Analysis Australia, visit their webpage, http://www.auaba.com.au.

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ABA in Australia: Diverse and Relevant… The Second Annual ABAA Conference

Know Your Rights! (As a consumer)

 

Know your rights

Working as a behaviour analyst with people with autism and intellectual disabilities, we need to ensure we are putting the needs of the client and their welfare, first and foremost.

Working in a person-centred way involves many different things, but one thing that is essential for someone who chooses to engage a service, either on their own, or with the support of their family and friends, needs to understand what their rights are, as a consumer, and how they can ensure they get their needs met.

Specifically, with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in action, around Australia, there has been a lot of information provider to both participants and providers about beginning services. It is essential that both participants of services, as well as service providers, are aware of what this information means, for them. Below are a few things that I believe are essential for anyone who is working within the NDIS framework, to be familiar with.

Service Agreements

A service agreement sets out what service will be provided, who for, how long for, how much it will cost, and what the outcomes will be, how you can suspend the service and exit. It is usually provided during initial sessions, and most service providers will have a template they use. As a consumer, and a participant of the NDIS, you are able to make changes where you feel it is needed. Likewise, the provider does not necessarily have to agree to those changes, but you can discuss what you both need, and hopefully come to an agreement that suits both of you.

The NDIS has provided a template for service providers, or participants, if they are self-managing, to use, which is a good starting point.

If you begin a service and you haven’t signed a service agreement, you may find it difficult to know what to expect from the service provider. It is good practice as a service provider to provide this information, up front.

Complaints Process

While this is obviously not the most positive thing to discuss, it is important to know how to make a complaint (and likewise, know how to provide compliments for a job well done!) This should be included in the service agreement, and should provide multiple pathways to have your concerns heard. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking directly to your provider, there are other avenues you can pursue.

Ombudsman

If you need to take your complaint further, you can contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman – http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/. The NDIS is a federal scheme, so you need to contact the Ombudsman responsible for national government agencies.

You can submit information online, and they will be in touch to let you know the next steps. The Ombudsman service is a fair, impartial service, that will help you resolve your concern.

Disability Services Standards

Intertwined with all of this information, are the Disability Service Standards.

“The National Standards for Disability Services (National Standards) will help to promote and drive a nationally consistent approach to improving the quality of services. They focus on rights and outcomes for people with disability. The National Standards were first produced in 1993.”

Australian Government – Department of Social Services

The six standards are:

  1. Rights
  2. Participation and Inclusion
  3. Individual Outcomes
  4. Feedback and Complaints
  5. Service Access
  6. Service Management

More information can be found here.

These six standards need to be considered by any service provider, wishing to provide a service, and as a participant, you should be able to expect a service that ensures those six standards are met.

It is a lot of information to consider, from both a participant, family member or carer, as well as a service provider, but is essential that this information is considered when providing services to vulnerable populations.

Know Your Rights! (As a consumer)

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.

then2bvs2bnow
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.

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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.

google apps image.png
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.

What’s your favourite colour?

Or food? Or animal? Or TV show? Getting to know someone, and finding out what their interests are, really can help strengthen your teaching relationship.

Concepts, and even some concrete skills, can be taught in ways that incorporate individual’s strengths and interests, to increase the chances that you are motivating them to begin, and complete the task.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And the theory of it is. The application, is a little harder. It takes a lot of time, creativity, and technological skill (sometimes), to make these things happen. Having done this for many, many years (almost 10!), I have lots of different ideas about teaching new skills and concepts, and ways to present. But I still always am learning about new ideas I can implement, and of course, there is always Pinterest!

Recently, I have been able to implement some specific interest-related tasks into sessions.

The first has been in one of my literacy programs. Particularly with teaching reading, finding interesting and relevant material, that is at the appropriate reading level, is not always easy. With one of my students in particular, his interests narrow in on the naughty neighbour Sid, from Toy Story, and Problem Child. He loves the naughty kids and is always enquiring about what would get them in trouble, yet he wouldn’t dare ever consider doing any of the things those naughty kids do (thank goodness!)

We have been looking for reading material that will hopefully be of interest to him. We read through Diary of a Wimpy Kid, some Nature Goodies (with worms and insects), but a really winner, that we have been reading through recently is “The World’s Worst Children” by David Walliams. Comprised of short stories involving disgusting children, including smelly children, and drooling children.

children worst.jpg

While I sit there, trying not to gag while he is reading, the kid loves it! He reads so fluently, and will stop often to ask me questions, and clarify points! He is interested in what he is reading, and is understanding what he is reading – all we have worked towards with reading, is happening!

Another client I have been individualising more of his program for, is someone who loves the Wiggles. wiggles youtubeHe has inherited this love for the Wiggles, from his older brother, whom I learned all about the Wiggles from, many years ago! Now this kid is more of an “original” Wiggles fan, which suits me fine, because that’s who I learned about from his brother, but it does make things difficult, because all the VHS tapes of old Wiggles shows, are very slowly disappearing, or breaking. Luckily, thousands of those videos are preserved and accessible, via a quick YouTube search 😀

We have recently added a few more matching craft activities, particularly because he is very good at matching and puzzles. We have been slowly introducing a few different, and new, activities over the past few weeks, and he has been really enjoying the different tasks and demands. We have been able to incorporate a lot of fine motor skill work, and sight word and vocabulary building, within these activities.

interest instaExamples of some of the activities created: Emotions cards with cartoon
pictures of different feelings, and a cartoon ‘Wiggles’ music group puzzle.

Where possible, you should aim to include the individual’s interests in your programming. They are more likely to be interested in what you have on offer, and you can make those teaching times a little bit more exciting for them!

References

What’s your favourite colour?

Around the world with 80 Behaviour Analysts …

Part 1, Hawaii!

Although that would be quite cool to travel the world, chatting to behaviour analysts and seeing how they work in different parts of the world, I’m not quite sure how manageable that would be. So I’ll start with a short meeting in Hawaii.

I recently spent a few nights in Hawaii, celebrating some milestone birthdays with friends, but because I can’t seem to be able to sit still, I organised to catch up with Behavior Babe – Amanda Kelly!

hawaii

We chatted over dinner about the way funding is organised in the US vs Australia (and the differences between the states within the US) and just in general about the quality of programs and educational opportunities for Behaviour Analysis at universities and colleges.

It was great to catch up and just gain another perspective on ABA and the whole behaviour certification thing I have been aiming towards for many years.

And I have since come back very motivated and refreshed, and ready to keep going!

So thank you Amanda for meeting with me, and I will hopefully see you again, on future trips to Hawaii … potentially for conferences 😀

Around the world with 80 Behaviour Analysts …