Autism and ABA

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Autism and ABA

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    http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/oct/29/specialeducationneeds-autism

    Anyone know anything about this? I hadn't heard of it before. It does seem very much like dog training...

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    Airy, we looked at it in the very early days. It might work for some families, but it wasn't for us.

    We were concerned that it taught children to respond to certain incentives/motivators, but it didn't do a lot to teach children "why"   they were expected to do things in a certain way, which is important when it comes to independence and developing problem solving skills etc.

    If a child knows that something good happens if they do something a certain way, then they will learn to do that quite quickly. But for a child to be able to function in the real world, they need to be able to understand that in certain circumstances it may be okay to do something, but in an another situation it may not. If you want a child to be independent, they need to learn to be flexible and to be able to recognise what is happening in a given situation and what action you should take as a result.

    A child with diabetes has to learn to be able to manage their condition and children with ASD are the same. If a child is frustrated it is important that they learn to identlfy the reason why they are frustrated. If a child is frustrated because they cannot communicate, they can very quickly learn that to say the word will bring a reward. It doesn't really do anything to help them to understand why they are frustrated in the first place.

    I am by no means an expert in ABA, so my concerns may not be well-founded.

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    Doglover
    A child with diabetes has to learn to be able to manage their condition and children with ASD are the same.

    Not all children with ASD are able to do so.  If they are to manage their condition they have to understand that they have a condition and that is well outwith the capabilities of some. 

    Doglover
    If a child is frustrated it is important that they learn to identlfy the reason why they are frustrated. If a child is frustrated because they cannot communicate, they can very quickly learn that to say the word will bring a reward. It doesn't really do anything to help them to understand why they are frustrated in the first place.

    It's great if a child with ASD is able to understand why they're frustrated or are able to understand why their frustration may not be 'appropriate' but for those who cannot understand or unable to accept that the cause of their frustration cannot be addressed to their satisfaction a reward if they adapt their behaviour instead of expecting the situation to change may be an acceptable alternative.

     

    On a lighter note....

    I've long considered the bringing up of children to be not dissimilar to training a dog.

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    As I said, Seren, ABA may work well for some families but we didn't think it would work for us.

    The concerns I expressed were the concerns we had when considering ABA, for our child.

    As someone in the article said, ABA may be fine, but should probably not be used on its own.

    There are many other approaches which use schedules and augmentative communication such as signing, picture cards etc. They produce very good results for a lot of children without ABA, so it would be interesting to know whether it is ABA or ABA in conjunction with these other techniques which are successful.

    ABA is controversial. It always has been.

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    I should have said that I have read around ABA in the past, and although it promoted as being "scientifically proven" and "evidence based", it is quite difficult to find any real hard evidence to back it up.

    Some of the literature about early examples of ABA, make for very difficult reading.

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    Mother: "Grumpygirl, you WILL not walk on that lady's doorstep because she has cleaned it and it is not yours to walk on."

    GDW, knowing her mother meant it and she might just get (worst case) a smack or (best case) a stern look, got off the step.

    With autism (although I reckon I AM autistic) you sometimes have to work a lot harder on the positive reinforcement because the desire of the child to please you just isn't there. Nor is the fine calculation as to how far to go before you fall foul of the parent. If you can't deploy negative consequences (because, if you do, you're going to get screaming/kicking/biting) then you have to go way overboard on rewards.

    It IS like dog-training. What's wrong with that? ABA doesn't seek to eliminate autism. It just trains you to function a bit better in a world that's not well-adapted to you. That's the point right there - hard as it is. The world isn't going to accommodate itself to YOU.

    I've taught dozens and dozens of kids with autism in Special schools and I don't hold with the normal mantras of: never vary the routine, give them a timetable, stick to it no matter what. NO. I was constantly changing things. If YOU, the teacher, are confident and assertive and direct then the children's tolerance levels improve. Naturally it wasn't chaotic change. I knew that we'd be doing something different and it only seemed ad hoc to the kids. It was all planned. But they didn't know that.

    I never (honestly, never) had a kid kick off. Education is for life. School is not life.

    ABA sounds perfectly logical to me. As for dog-training? With a moniker like mine I would know a bit about dogs and I have qualifications in Canine Psychology (so there's the theory) and Dog-Training (that's the practical). If I could teach kids half as quickly as I can teach a dog a full routine to performance standard then I'd be.....well, brilliant. That's because dogs are better learners than people though!

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    Like a lot of people who have worked (and lived) in the field I have concerns that this is still being promoted as complete solution.
    It isn't

    It is however a set of tools that you can select from to suit individual needs and those I have used have been successful at times.
    It is very environment dependent as well and sometimes causes problems when you have mixes of those within the spectrum and those not (especially in home situations) or even variations of levels

    I also have concerns that the "normalisation" can be taken too far and you can end up throwing away the baby with the bathwater

    And yes it is like training animals but we are animals even if we are complex ones

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    What I like about it is the assumption that autistic kids can learn to do new things.

    There's an awful lot of defeatism.

    He won't do X

    He hates Y

    He'll never go to Z

    He only eats Q

    He doesn't like W

    I do appreciate an approach that is prepared to 'have a go'. There's nothing wrong with making compromises to fit in to society. You can be 'yourself' when you're not at school/work.

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    I think you are absolutely correct. I rather like the way the headteacher doesn't have blank walls etc, according to the 'autistic teaching rules'. Of course, the world is a very over-stimulating and colourful place - parents want their children to be comfortable in places like shopping centres, restaurants, the natural world.  I cannot understand why teachers of children with autism feel they have to remove displays from their classrooms.

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    What concerns me is that there is a lot more to ABA, than this article portrays.

    Some supporters of ABA have and continue to promote ABA as  "cure" for autism.

    However, success rates with this approach are very different. Some children appear to benefit, while for others it is of no benefit it all. Where that is the case it is often the tutor, length of tutoring or even the child that is blamed for the failure.

    Some children are having in excess of 40 hrs one-on-one tuition in this area, per week.

    Research suggests, that there is a stage of development, where many symptoms of autism will plateau. The window for early intervention is known to be between 4 and 7 years of age, and this is when most children will benefit form early intervention. A lot of the progress seen after ABA has been used, may well have happened anyway. There is little substantive evidence to prove that ABA has caused the changes.

    This is not a simple "give it a go" approach. This is a really, really time consuming and very, very expensive approach, as interaction has to be initially on a one-to-one basis. This approach cannot be used in school alone, it has to become a way of life for every member of the family.

    I find it quite disturbing to think that children with autism do not have the ability to learn to do new things. Autism is a behaviour which causes difficulty in social interaction/communication, for children. This is only one problem. There may well be reasons why a child does not want to communicate, rather than the fact that they can't.

    One of the first things ABA teaches a child to do is point. Another thing that they teach a child to do is make eye contact. However there is research to show that eye contact for children with ASD can actually be physically painful. Is it right to reward a child to make eye contact for a reward?

    Another thing that this article does not tell you is that children learn to speak with ABA in an almost "robotic" way. The ABA tutor actually tells the child what to say, and the child is required to repeat it. There is nothing particularly natural or spontaneous about it. The interactions are scripted initially and not necessarily individual to each child.

    I resent the idea of training a child with ASD, or any child for that matter, as if you were training a dog. But then again, training a dog is another area where people are dreadfully ignorant.

    Each and every child with ASD is a unique individual. The uniqueness of each child, is often much more exaggerated than it would be, in an individual who does not have ASD.

    Each child deserves to have an approach which is tailored for them, as an individual. There is no "one size fits all".

    I have 2 children with Aspergers and they are very, very different. What works for one, does not work for another.

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    GDW, over the years, I have been very much in favour of not "forcing" a child with ASD to do anything until they are ready and have the skills/maturity to do it.

    My children , were those children who wouldn't eat..., wouldn't  go to....., wouldn't do......, etc

    When I was tearing my hair out about my eldest child's diet, my paediatrician used to tell me that she would not starve and as hard as it may be, I shouldn't make a fuss. She assured me that sooner or later she would take more of an interest in food. When she became an age where eating became more of a "social" thing to do, she started to explore new food and now she has a really varied diet.

    My 12 year old found it hard to spend a whole night in her own bed, right up until a few weeks ago. I despaired of getting a full night's sleep. Just over a month ago, she went to bed on her own and she hasn't been in our bed since.

    The same thing has happened for many of the milestones they reached ( and I don't mean developmental milestones).

    Sometimes it is not about being defeated, rather than "I'm just not ready yet!"

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    Every child is different. Every family is different.

    Let me give the example of one mother. Her lad used to like walking the bus route and ticking off all the bus stops. She would do this every Saturday for years. It took hours. Fine. He was the only child.

    That wouldn't do for every family. I found him perfectly adaptable when I taught him. I don't do what some teachers do and try to prevent kids rocking or performing some stereotypical calming behaviours to console themselves. I let them manage their anxiety. But we still do what we need to do. We still go out into the community. We take the bus. We go round the shops.

    The most commonly observed behaviour by parents (on the basis of my experience of dozens of kids and parents) is the fear and concomitant reluctance of the parent to ask the child to enter their world. We are training proto-adults. We have to be positive. This applies to all children. All.

    It's not about making a fuss. That works with no child. But expectations must be high.

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    GDW, I don't really see it as "our world" and "their world". We all occupy the same world. Sometimes the child/teenager/adult with autism needs to be flexible and sometimes the child/teenager/adult who does not have ASD needs to be flexible. Living in the world we share can be hard for every one at some stage or another.

    I think you will find that there is no one who has had higher expectations of their children with ASD than me. I do not accept is an excuse for bad behaviour. I do not accept it as an excuse to be unkind or hurtful to another child. I do not accept is a reason for not doing their best in school. I could go on.............

    But that is fine for my children, because they have had supportive family, supportive teachers (some of the time) and they are lucky that they do no  difficulties which affect their ability to learn.

    I believe it is just another myth to say that individuals with autism live in "their own world". They don't. They live in the same world we all live in, but they sometimes find that world difficult to deal with, and therefore develop strategies to deal with that.

    It isn't about bringing them into "our world". It is about helping them to understand and cope with the world they find themselves in, to allow them to be whatever they have the ability to be. Just as that is different for all of us, it will be different for each individual with ASD.

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    Well there I cannot agree with you.

    In every society there is a prevailing culture and mores. We prepare to take our place within the society in which we find ourselves. The role of educator is also a role of enabler. One may opt out of that society but one needs to be aware of what one is dismissing.

    We are not islands entire of ourselves (John Donne). To "allow them to be whatever they have the ability to be" may be a dereliction of duty on our part. That smacks of 'lowest common denominator' to me.

    I'm sure your children are delightful, Doglover. You must do as you see fit. That is your right. I happen to have a different perspective. Too often I have seen autistic kids underestimated/unchallenged/underperform.

     

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    GDW, the problem is that a lot of the time, we are not entirely sure what children with ASD are aware of and what they are not - especially if they have associated learning difficulties.

    To treat them all in the same way is doing all children with ASD a great disservice.

    You obviously don't know me GDW, or the lengths I have gone to to ensure my children have every chance of fulfilling their potential in whatever way they see fit to do.

    GDW, my eldest child was denied a statement because she was academically "too able" even though her Asperger Syndrome was described as severely affecting her ability to access the curriculum. She was refusing to go to school because she simply could not cope with the environment. My husband and I fought tooth and nail to get her a statement, which because she was allocated an excellent classroom assistant, completely changed her life.

    At transition to post-secondary, she was assessed by an EP who knew nothing about her. She was very nervous in the assessment and didn't perform to the best of her ability. His treatment of her was verging on malpractice, for example he insisted she could not be accompanied by the TA. He didn't look at her 130+ Nfer scores, her test results etc and didn't speak to any of the teachers. He told her the local grammar school was for clever kids and she wasn't one of them. He wrote in his report that we imagined her difficulties.

    I am pleased to say he was forced to withdraw his report and the Chief EP told him in no uncertain terms, in our presence, that he had acted atrociously towards our child. A new report was written and all the copies of the original recalled and destroyed.

    Thankfully, the local grammar school, were more than happy to take her on the basis of her performance in primary school.

    My whole life, rightly or wrongly, has centred around ensuring they are able to pursue whatever path in life they choose.

    We are lucky, because she is sitting in Y11 (Y10) with target grades of A*/A and minimum grades of A/B. She has proved herself to be an A grade student.

    In addition to that she has just completed her Baden-Powell award in Guides and is training to be a peer informer for Girlguiding UK and completing her Young Leadership Qualification.

    She is completely independent in school, which is exactly where we wanted her to be at this stage in her education.

    So please don't patronise me by telling me that you are sure my children are delightful.

    I watched as my 5 yr old, primary 1 daughter used to drop a toy in the playground and then wait until someone picked up and brought it to her, so she could have a way of iniating a conversation with them - and yes, she was that clever.

    I watched as the other children went on school trips and never imagined that she would be able to go, and yet she has been on every school trip that has been available to her.

    I had to disappoint her by telling her she couldn't go on a church volunteer trip to Ethiopia because I thought that at 15 she wasn't ready yet - and having AS didn't even come into that decision.

    Please don't tell me about kids with asd who are unchallenged, underestimated or who under-perform.

    GDW, I am one of those asd children who went unchallenged, underestimated and who did under-perform.

    None of that makes ABA the best or the only way of helping kids with ASD and if you knew anything about it, you would know how much criticism and doubt there is around the approach.

    Now if you would like me to start telling you, what we have done for my youngest daughter, I will be happy to oblige!

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    I take the middle position ladies

    Whilst we would be doing a great disservice to both the children (and society) to treat them all the same they do also have to be able to fit in with society and its mores if they are to survive.
    So (as your kids seem to have done DL) they have to develop strategies that work for them (and society)
    And whilst the individuals needs should come first, they cannot truly be served unless the needs of society are met as well


    As a result I will use any technique or tool that will work for each individual in my role as an educator. (and as both part of the spectrum myself and with others in my family in the same boat)

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    As I have already said Tidal, ABA appears to work for some families. But I would approach anything that claims to be a "cure" with caution.

    I don't think the linked article fully describes just what an undertaking, treatments like ABA are.

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    Totally agree DL

    It is a system that has to be integrated at home as well as at school which is clearly not always possible

    or even desirable imho

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    GDW - are you me?!

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    I have often thought I must be, dinx!

    Who said ABA is a 'cure'? How can you 'cure' aspects of personality? This is the problem with pathologising autism. It isn't a condition in the way diabetes or hypothyroidism are conditions. It's a pretty lazy way of looking at behaviour and preferences and trying to herd people together as sheep or goats or whatever.

    If we could stop thinking of autism as a condition, an entity, a 'fact' and just accept that we are all different and go from there then we might be able to develop more useful approaches. Parents are made to feel very defensive and wonder what they have done 'wrong' and this is of no use whatsoever.

    I have many theories of education and one of them has a strongly teleological focus. We are shaping children to take a place in society as currently constituted. We equip them with as many skills as we can to ensure that they have options as adults. One of those options is to decline to participate. In the meantime every avenue should remain open. A method such as ABA is empowering rather than limiting.

    No matter what some may say, it is true that (and I have discussed this extensively with colleagues) parents very frequently present with a list of things the child won't/can't do. Occasionally I have had a positive suggestion but the overwhelming discussion around the child is negative and parents are keen to tell me what I mustn't do.

    This just demonstrates public attitudes to autism. You get a 'diagnosis'. It's natural to group, to sort, to seek common factors but we have to take great care with these wretched labels and you'd think we'd be more aware of the dangers by now.

    I don't believe in 'magic bullets' but why not look for the strengths of ABA? Nobody should be swallowing any one 'method' hook, line and sinker in any case. There is no need to chuck out the baby with the bathwater though.

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