Working with Providers

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is providing many opportunities for people to access supports and services that they may have never been able to before.

It also opens up a dynamic, and innovative marketplace, for new, and exciting providers to provide specialty, niche services, based on the needs of the consumers.

Once you get through the initial planning stage with the NDIS, you will then have to choose service providers. There are lots of options, depending on what your needs are, where you live, age, etc and lots of ways to find different service providers. Google is a great place to start – google ‘the service you are looking for’ + ‘your suburb and state’ and it should give you some information.

When choosing a service provider to work with, there are a range of different things to consider. Below is a list of some of these. Before signing up with any specific organisation, ensure you feel comfortable, and have any questions answered.

service agreement

Service Agreements

Generally you will have a service agreement, that should be clear, and easy to understand. This will describe what the service you are signing up for, involves – including sessions, times, costing, complaints procedures, and how to end the service agreement. The NDIS have provided a template on their website. You should be able to take the time to read through the service agreement, and suggest any changes you want to see.

question mark

Ask Questions

Ask as many questions as you want! Find out everything you need to know. Make a list of what you want to know, write down questions, and take it to your initial meeting. Also grab the details of your contact at the organisation – email and/or phone number – so if you have questions later, you can always contact them.

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Goals

Your NDIS plan should have specific goals you are working towards – does this provider line up with supports to help you achieve your goals. On the flip side, how does your provider measure goals and progress? Do they provide initial assessments? Are there ongoing monitoring tools? Are the monthly session summaries? It is important to make sure the supports you have in place are helping you to achieve your goals, and the best way to do this, is monitor, as you go! (Not just at the end of your NDIS plan!)

There are many other things to think about and consider, and you may be able to access some support in finding and engaging service providers, through a Local Area Coordinator (LAC), with the NDIS.

Working with Providers

Back to School!

back-to-school

Back to School! For some kids I know, its the first time at school, a change to a new school, or even a move to high school! So many changes, and it’s the time of year people either love or hate, depending on which side of the fence you sit on. And sometimes, you can feel both ways about it!

Going back to school for any child, can be a difficult time. It is a big change in routine, from usually unstructured, leisure-filled days, to highly structured routines of the classroom. In particular, the long summer break, over Christmas and New Years.

It can be particularly difficult for children with additional needs, as it is often a time of new teachers, aides, peers, classrooms, playgrounds, school bags, drink bottles, work expectation… the list could go on!

And while a lot of kids with additional needs thrive on the structure of the classroom, it can still take a while to settle back into the routine and pattern of the day.

So I’ve put together a few tips, mainly for parents, although it would be useful for educators to consider these things that parents might be dealing with. These tips are also relevant for any educational setting (pre-school, through to high school).

Be prepared!

We know there will most likely be an increase in challenging behaviour, sleep, diet, conversation – when school starts up. Even if you have done this for the past 10 years and that amount of school holidays, it is still a struggle for some kids. Provide a bit of structure, using a visual schedule, or a weekly schedule overview, so the child knows what to prepare for.

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Visual Schedule for personal care.

Provide ‘down time’

First few weeks back will be a lot for your the child to adjust to. Make sure you give them time to ‘have a break’ and do the things they love to do. It’s still hot out, so going to the pool or splashing through the sprinkler in the backyard with very few demands, will give the child an opportunity to regroup after a long day at school.

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Run through the sprinkler!

Keep Consistency!

It might be good to keep consistency with therapists and professionals working with the child. The child will know the expectations from the therapist, and will help provide a bit more of that “routine” they’re used to. Plus, they’re handy to have a chat to, if you need some suggestions to help the child with this transition back to school.

So just a few tips to help with that transition period of going back to school. Again, even though school holidays happen fairly frequently, and the child may have been at school for many years, it is still a big change and difference in their daily life, so try and communicate the changes as best as possible with the child.

Back to School!

End of the Year!

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Review of my 2016 goals – How did I go? 😮

Well, to be honest I think what would have been completed, would have already been covered in previous posts, not much will have changed in the last 3 months, but we’ll have a look anyway!

Original goals can be found here.

Goals for 2016

1. Obtain my Behaviour qualification.

By the end of June 2016, I will have completed two more subjects through Florida Institute of Institute.

By the end of June 2016, I will have completed my 50 supervised hours of experience.

By the end of August 2016, I will have sat the required exam, and eagerly be awaiting my results!

Sadly, this did not happen in 2016. However, I have registered for my next subject to begin in Jan 2017, and watch this space for my goals for 2017 😀

2. Become a registered provider under NDIS services.

By the end of December 2016, Great Start Behaviour Services will be registered through the NDIS to provide at least one service support.

Done! I am still currently registered for 3 areas, waiting on 3 more. Will hopefully be able to do that over the Dec/Jan period.

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

By the end of December 2016, I will have attended two different ABA based conferences, and participated either by: presenting a poster, presenting a paper, or asking a question, at each conference.

Done! I attended ABAI in Chicago, in May, and presented a poster, and then the first ever AABA conference in Melbourne, in September, and presented some of my parent training work!

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

By the end of December 2016, I will have completed the required 75 hours of supervision for my behaviour qualification, as well as the 1500 hours required field work experience.

Done! I definitely have my 1500 hours for my BCBA! Just don’t have the BCBA yet! Will be continuing on with my supervisor in 2017.

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

By the end of December 2016, I will read at least two journal articles a month, and comment about each article on Twitter.

By February 2016, I will subscribe to JABA, to find relevant articles.

I did not meet this first goal. I think I was a bit too ambitious with a) reading 2 articles a month 😛 and b) commenting about it. I did start a journal club with some colleagues though, and we have successfully completed read and discussed two articles, with another one schedule for the first quarter of 2017! I’ll need to rejig this for 2017. I did subscribe to JABA, and will do again in 2017.

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

By the end of December 2016, I will have presented at least two workshops for people interested in learning about behaviour.

By the end of December 2016, I will have shared at least 12 posts about ABA on GSBS Facebook page.

By the end of December 2016, I will have used the hashtag #EverydayABA, at least twelve times, to promote and inform how behaviour occurs in our daily lives.

Unfortunately the workshops were unable to happen. I did however do a separate behaviour/positive teaching workshop, twice this year, but not exactly what I meant by that first goal 😀 (still an excellent workshop though!)

The Faceboook posts and #EverydayABA tag were achieved!

7. Attend and participate in online ABA chats.

By the end of December 2016, I will have attended at least two online chats, and made at last 5 comments on Twitter.

You’d think this would be easy, as I could do it from anywhere, but I’m terrible at time differences. However that is no longer an excuse either, as the good twitter people have found ways to keep people engaged in chats! Will need to revise my goal for 2017, to make it more achievable.

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

By the end of December 2016, I will have volunteered with two different organisations, including at least 10 hours a month, towards these organisations.

By the end of January 2016, I will volunteer with at least one organisation. (A Global Voice for Autism).

By the end of June 2016, I will have volunteered with at least two organisations. (As above, and The Pyjama Foundation or The Association for Science in Autism Treatment).

As with a few other goals, I think I was overly ambitious! I currently am still volunteering with AGVFA, however I haven’t done much recently! Definitely want to continue on in some capacity in 2017.

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

By the end of December 2016, I will have provided services through GSBS, to at least five new clients.

I currently have 15 clients, and have had to put a hold on accepting new clients, until around March 2017.

10. Meet new behaviour analyst people!

By the end of December 2016, I will have met and discussed behaviour analytical discussions, with at least 3 behaviour analysts, around the world😉

I definitely did meet plenty of new Behaviour people at the AABA conference! I even met up with one in Adelaide for dinner when I was there!
All up, a really great year! Lots of unexpected changes, and so many new things happening, with many more exciting things to come. 
Thanks for sticking by me, and supporting me 🙂
End of the Year!

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!

We’re going on a ‘treasure’ hunt!

One of my favourite children’s books is We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, which is fun to read and chant along too. It can be quite interactive too, and kids love the repetition and rhythm. However, this blog post isn’t exactly about the book (although it has given me a good idea for a blog post about some of my favourite children’s books!)

What I actually want to talk about in this blog post is another program that has many potential teaching components within a program. I call it “Treasure Hunt”. Basically, it is like a scavenger hunt, there is a list of items to collect and the child has to find these items. It can be expanded or modified to suit all learner’s levels.

I would mainly use this program when I needed a bit of time to either talk to parents, or write up notes. Turning anything into a game is always a good motivator, especially if a sibling is involved and there is a little ‘friendly competition’.

Some of the types of things I would ask to be found in a treasure hunt include:

  • a small, blue, circular object (i.e. it could be a ball)
  • a book with the word ‘the’ in it
  • a book with an animal in it
  • something you write with
  • something that is green and found in the garden
  • something you can eat
  • a transport/vehicle/any other category
  • 5 toy cars
  • completing activities e.g. 5 star jumps
  • purple piece of clothing
  • go to the lounge room and get a pillow off the couch, and come back,
  • and many other ideas!

As you can see, there are many, many options of things you can ask. Instructions, attributes, sizes, colours, visual pictures, written words, categories, numbers, counting etc.

As I said, I like to use this activity when I am needing to multi-task, in particular, when discussing things with parents. It not only keeps the kids busy, but tests their ability to generalise skills learned to a slightly different time in the session. It is also great because it can be modified as needed for all different learners.

Another benefit is that siblings can be involved in the game, and I have found it is always good to find ways to incorporate everyone in the family into sessions. This activity ensures the sibling doesn’t feel like they’re missing out on anything, and you can build on sibling relationships and social skills. It is also great when the kids start sending each other on ‘treasure hunts’.

Plus, you can have a lot of fun with the different types of items to find on the ‘treasure hunt!’

We’re going on a ‘treasure’ hunt!

The importance of being evidence-based.

Not necessarily earnest though.

Many years ago, when I was studying my Special Ed course, I remember having a very brief discussion with one of my lecturers in regards to “harmful” treatments. We were discussing the fact that there are some promising interventions out there (in regards to Autism interventions) however there just wasn’t as much research to support these treatments as there is in regards to behavioural interventions.

Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely all in favour of behavioural based treatments. There is a long history and evidence base of behavioural interventions being highly effective in many different aspects. However I was just interested to see what the deal was with other interventions, and how could we really discount something, if it hadn’t been tested yet (another relevant blog post coming soon – I’m a Scientist!)

Her response was quite informative and I really learned something about science and research. In my mind, I was only considering ‘harmful’ interventions to be the ones that cause physical harm e.g. Students being rolled up into blankets and then suffocating. However she explained that ‘harmful’ interventions also could be interventions that were taking the time, money and place of proven interventions, and providing ineffective treatments, wasting the time and money that could have been spent on effective, evidenced-based treatments.

It was like a light switch. It made sense to me, and explained to me why some ABA providers were perhaps extremely vocal and adamant about the effectiveness of ABA.

I have been doing this for many, many years, and I am still learning to this day. By continuing my study towards becoming a BCBA, I am actually linking things together and things are falling into place even more. But this particular conversation has always stood out in my mind, and I take it with me in my work.

I wanted families to understand the importance of evidence-based treatments. And understand their rights and the types of questions they should ask when engaging with a service provider e.g. What are our goals? When do you review our goals? What measurement tools do you use to check the effectiveness of what you are doing?

I can completely empathise with families wanting to try anything and everything. And a lot of families have friends who may have tried different interventions, and have anecdotal reports about its effectiveness. I imagine I would be in the same boat as families, and want to try everything, and do everything in my power to help my children. Personally, I just want to be able to support families, and share with them the information I have learned over my time in this field, and hopefully provide them with good information.

I was always happy to be a consultant for families who had recently received a diagnosis, because I wanted to share with them the importance of evidence-based interventions, and the types of questions they should be asking service providers, and how if you aren’t happy with a service, you can move on to a different service (particularly if you are paying for a service).

I feel this type of information will be even more relevant in the future once the National Disability Insurance Scheme comes into play, and hope families can utilise the tools available to help them make informed decisions.

The importance of being evidence-based.

Can you name the 7 dwarves?

I am pretty sure I can’t.

I can, however, name the five key components of an effective literacy program.

To be fair, I should probably know both of those, because they both could be relevant in my work. Although I think knowing Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends names would be more relevant … I haven’t come across a kid who loved Snow White and the Seven Dwarves yet.

Anyway, I want to provide a little overview of yet another area I am passionate about. Literacy. This is at the front of my mind because I delivered some fantastic Literacy workshops this week in regional NSW.

I have worked with hundreds of children over the years who are struggling with their reading, and have used very specific programs, that are underpinned by scientific research, to ensure their success, and it is that scientific research I will be discussing today.

Three independent inquiries into the components needed in an effective literacy program were conducted between the 2000 and 2006, in Australia (The National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy), The US (The National Reading Panel), and the UK (The Rose Report). Each of these independent reviews looked at all the research on teaching reading available and gathered information about what the research indicated worked. They all found that the same key five components that need to be present for a reading program to be effective. Those five key components are:

  1. Phonemic awareness – oral manipulation of sounds/words e.g. rhyming, syllables, oral blending & segmenting, breaking words into the smallest units of sound (phonemes)
  2. Phonics – linking the letter sounds to their written form e.g. knowing that when we see the letter “m” it makes the sound /mmmmmm/
  3. Fluency – the ability to read quickly and accurately
  4. Comprehension – the ability to understand what you are reading
  5. Vocabulary – understanding the meaning of the words you are reading

These five components, along with explicit and systematic instruction in phonics skills, as well as opportunity to practice these component skills in reading real text, will help to provide the best intervention for teaching students to read.

I find it is (relatively) easy to teach kids the foundational skills needed to be able to decode sounds and blend words and provide repeated practice so they remember them!

However teaching them how to remember what they have read, understand what they have read and make sense of it, is quite difficult. Looking back at the five key components, there is a kind of progression, moving down the list in regards to the skills. You need to be able to read accurately before you can read fluently, and once you start to read fluently, you can then spend more time and energy understanding what you are reading (comprehension), and trying to make sense of what you are reading, which ultimately, is the goal of reading.

It isn’t easy. Teaching students to read fluently to help with comprehending what they are reading, and then teaching students how to understand what they are reading, and increasing their vocabulary to help with comprehension, takes a lot of practice and repetition. There are a lot of different things you can do to help students learn different strategies to make sense of what they are reading. Reading aloud to students, or having them read aloud to you, and asking questions to check for meaning is one of the easiest ways to do this.

There are also Direct Instruction programs that teach comprehension explicitly. I have used theses programs with a few students over the years, and they are highly effective, teaching specific skills and giving students strategies to take meaning from what they are reading.

There is a whole lot more I can talk about on this topic, but I will probably make individual blog posts on those down the track. So I’ll leave you with the things I find are really helpful when teaching students who are struggling to read:

  • a clear progression of teaching individual phonic sounds and skills,
  • building on previously learned/mastered skills,
  • explicit teaching of reading strategies, and
  • opportunities to practice those skills in a supported situation while asking questions to check for meaning and understanding i.e. having them read aloud to practice.

Resources

Direct Instruction Reading – Douglas Carnine

National Institute for Direct Instruction

MultiLit – Making Up Lost Time in Literacy

National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy

National Reading Panel

The Rose Report

Can you name the 7 dwarves?