Archive for June, 2012

Our mission is to improve quality of life through effective interventions. One way we achieve this mission is to provide on-going continuing education webinars for behavior analysts. While the courses are designed specifically for behavior analysts, anyone with an interest is welcome to participate as long as they understand that we will not “water down content” for beginners.

Upcoming topics include:

  • July 12th- Augmentative and Alternative Communication and Ethics for Behavior Analysts
  • August 16th- Ethical Issues in Supervising and Training Behavior Analysts and Behavior Therapists
  • September 15th- Critical Skills for Social Success
  • October 20th- Using ABA to Address Feeding
  • November 17th- Special Education Law and Ethics for Behavior Analysts
  • December 15th – iPad Applications and Computer Assisted Instruction (Saturday)

We offer price reductions for agencies registering three or more participants. We also offer special prices for individuals sharing a computer during the webinar. Please visit our website to register for webinars (http://appliedbehavioralstrategies.com/workshops.html ). Please email us at info at appliedbehavioralstrategies dot com for additional information.


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Hi! and welcome to What Works Wednesdays where we share a success story from our clinical files. Today, we are going to take a pause from our personal stories and share a resource with our readers. The resource is called the What Works Clearinghouse from the Institute of Educational Sciences (IES). the website for the resource is http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/.


Educators (special education and general education alike) are required to use evidence-based strategies in their teaching as required under the No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act. Educators often find it difficult to determine what strategies have evidence.

As a result, the Institute for Educational Sciences (which also happens to hand out research money to educational researchers) developed the clearing house as a resource. The criteria used to determine if a methodology may be listed in the Clearinghouse is very stringent. However,  if you are ever in doubt about teaching methodologies and “what works”, their website is a good place to start.

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Keep All Students Safe

If you have been with us for a while, you know that we are passionate about the use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for improving quality of life. We advocate frequently for the use of reinforcement based strategies to address challenging behavior. As you know, the use of procedures such as timeout rooms (also known as seclusion rooms or scream rooms as some folks in Connecticut call them) and/or restraint have come under fire recently. If you have not been following us, you can learn more about that here, here, and here.

Not too long ago, Senator Harkin proposed the Keeping All Students Safe Act (S. 2020 and H.R. 1381). The bill requires each state to develop formal policies regarding restraint and seclusion. To read the entire text of the bill, visit here.

The Keeping All Students Safe Act is going to hearing on Thursday June 28th. Now is the time to let your US Senators and Representatives know how you feel about this Act.

If you have opinions about this Act, we would love for you to share them in the comments section. Have you read the Act? What do you think about it?

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Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to a question from readers regarding a behavioral problem. Today’s question comes from a close friend who has a child struggling with spelling. She asked,

“Missy, our child is struggling with spelling. Because spelling skills are the basis of writing skills, we feel that if we help her over the summer, she will enter school this fall in a better place.”

Spelling Starts with Letter Fluency

Well, you could not be more right with that line of thinking. Spelling is directly tied to reading. We know from a line of research that ABA strategies are successful in teaching basic skills such as spelling. In order to improve spelling skills, you first need to make sure that your child is fluent with her alphabet. Some people call this Letter Naming Fluency, others call it Letter Recognition.  To check her fluency, hand her a stack of letter flash cards in random order. Set the timer to 60 seconds and tell her to read the letters as fast as she can. Tell her you will give her a special treat if she can do X number of letters in X seconds.

Next Step: Letter Sound Fluency

After your child becomes skilled at letter naming, then it is time for her to master letter sounds. Not only does she need to know the sounds but she needs to know them quickly. This includes short and long vowels. This time, use flash cards that include short and long vowels as well as common blends (e.g., ch, sh, cl, sl). Set the timer and tell your child to go fast. Continue working on this until she can fluently name all the sounds the letters make.

Word Families

Your child should become familiar with word families and how to change words by changing the beginning sound. Take an, at, and all for starters and have her quickly change the words with various letters. Again, she needs to have the skill but she also needs to do it quickly.

Phonemic Awareness Games

Play games with your daughter to help her become fluent in phonemic awareness.

  • Ask her to name words that rhyme with target words. Have her do it quickly.
  • Ask her to think about a word and then remove the beginning letter. Ask her what the new word would be. Have her do it quickly.
  • Ask her to think of a word and then add a letter or blend at the end. Ask her what the new word would be. Have her do it quickly.

Last Step: Stretch It Out

Now that your child has mastered the sounds that words make, ask her to start spelling words. Make sure that she stretches out the entire word and remind her to remember the rules (e.g., “e at the end makes the vowel long”). Use the iPad to keep it fun. For example, open up the notepad or some other note taking application. Have her write the word and then use the speak button to read the word aloud. This will help her see her mistakes and it will help her recognize that she has left out some important letters.

And of course, she needs to do this quickly.

Spelling Apps Make Learning Fun

You should not be surprised, “there is an app for that!” Here are some of the apps that we use to support spelling and early phonics development.

  • First Words Deluxe
  • Bob’s Books
  • Teach Me Toddler
  • Teach Me Kinder
  • Teach Me First Grade
  • Montesorrum Intro to Letters
  • Dora’s ABCs
  • Dora Hops in to Phonics
  • Super Why!

And for those of you whose readers are beyond basic phonics and really need to work on spelling, try these:

  • Montessori Cross Words
  • Word Magic
  • Wordball

Good luck this summer! Don’t forget to reinforce your daughter for her hard work!

Readers, if you have any spelling apps that you would like to add, please share them in the comments. If you have a behavioral question for me email me directly at askmissy at applied behavioral strategies dot com. Thanks!

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Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to a question from readers regarding a behavioral problem. Recently, Rebecca and I were contacted by a parent who is struggling with their child’s picky eating habits. She desperately wanted her child to receive feeding therapy and she had heard how great the outcomes in our clinic have been. For case examples from our clinic, read here, here, or here. The problem, she explained, is that she works and summer is the only time she is available to participate with her child.

Need Summer Feeding Therapy

Unfortunately, this mother is not alone. We have been contacted by 6 or 7 other parents who are desperately seeking services and they need the services this summer. Addressing feeding behaviors during the summer offers many benefits.

  1. Children are often out of school
  2. Parents may have a modified work schedule during the summer
  3. Many outdoor activities are available to get children out of the house and distract them between meals

Summer Clinic

As a result of these requests, Rebecca and I have decided to offer a summer feeding clinic. We have teamed up with Dr. Zwicker at The Easter Seals in Stamford. Their office will supply the space for therapy and Rebecca and I will provide the therapy.

Clinic Versus Home Therapy

In the clinical model, we run two concurrent feeding sessions each hour. Rebecca is 1:1 with a child in one room and I am 1:1 with the child in another room. We generalize therapy from us to one and/or both parents as well as any other individuals in your child’s life (e.g., speech therapist, behavior therapist, grandparents, or nannies). We also generalize therapy to community settings such as a restaurant or to your home if you live near Stamford.

Additional Information

The clinic is set to run from August 13 through August 17. During that time, your child will receive up to 15 sessions including generalization sessions to restaurants or home. Sessions also include parent training. The cost for the feeding clinic  includes the intake and record review, an exit report, and any follow-up consultations that are needed after therapy has finished. We require parent participation at every session. We also make accommodations for other individuals to participate as often as they are interested and available (e.g., spouses, grandparents, teachers, ABA therapists, etc).

Please contact us if you have questions or need additional information. We look forward to sharing the success of the clinic in our What Works Wednesdays postings.

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You know we are back to our old antics when we resume our Funny Friday posts. We just couldn’t resist this one. We love the men in our lives who are awesome fathers but there is nothing like some good ole ABA to help improve things. Thanks to Real Life Adventures (Lance Aldrich and Gary Wise) for this great cartoon!

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Here at Applied Behavioral Strategies, our mission is to improve the quality of life through effective intervention. One way we hope to do that is by reviewing research articles for our readers. Today’s article is titled, “Evolution of Research on Interventions for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Implications for Behavior Analysts”. Dr. Tristram Smith (Tris) authored the article and he recently presented the paper at the Annual Conference of the Association for Behavior Analysts in Seattle.

This article is somewhat different from the other articles we have reviewed. In the past, we have reviewed research studies where authors gather data, analyze the data, and present the results. This article is a summary of the autism research that is ongoing today.

Historical Review

Over the past half-century, hundreds of papers have been published on the effectiveness of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Those interventions have been used to teach communication skills, play skills, self-help and those interventions have successfully addressed challenging behaviors such as self-injurious behaviors and tantrums.

Current Transformation

Today, scientists in fields other than Behavior Analysis are conducting studies related to autism. The Combating Autism Act  of 2006 and reauthorized again in 2011 was a declaration of the war on autism. This act resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars for research on autism with a large percentage of it focused on intervention efforts. Scientists can now apply for specific autism research money through Autism Speaks, the National Institute of Mental Health, the Institute for Education Sciences, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, and the Department of Defense.

Priorities for this research focused on randomized clinical trials (RCTs) where participants are randomly assigned to treatments in order to determine which treatment is more effective. This means that some participants will be assigned to the “no treatment” or the waiting list control group. (I don’t know about you, but if my child had autism, I would not wait one minute to begin treatment.)

Types of Funded Studies

A number of studies have been funded. For example, two studies on psychotropic medication have been completed. Those studies resulted in the approval of the use of abilify and resperidone for treatment of children on the spectrum.

Several studies on ABA packaged interventions have been funded. However, the treatment is brief and often implemented by non-behavior analysts.

Studies on clinical behavior therapy and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) have also resulted. Researchers examined social skills interventions, anxiety reduction strategies, and interventions for individuals with high functioning autism.

Implications for Behavior Analysis

Dr. Smith notably discusses the relevance of this to behavior analysts. Essentially, the money is available for research. If behavior analysts do not seek out the funding, other scientists will. He goes on to list areas of work where behavior analysts should focus.

Framework for Autism Research

  1. Dr. Smith encourages researchers to conduct careful tests of individual intervention packages before moving on to RCT research.
  2. Dr. Smith notes that some areas of ABA are ripe for RCT research, specifically comprehensive ABA interventions for school age children, youth, and adults.
  3. Dr. Smith suggests that we refine the defining features of autism through behavior research.
  4. Behavior analysts have long been successful in reducing stereotyped behaviors. This should be studied using RCT.
  5. Behavior analysts need to study intervention packages for behavioral feeding therapy.
  6. Dr. Smith encourages behavior analysts to develop thorough treatment manuals so that procedures may be replicated successfully.

In summary, we have a duty to ensure that research in autism interventions continues. If we want to continue demonstrating that ABA is effective, we must seek out this funding, design studies to demonstrate effective techniques, and disseminate our work so that others can implement successfully.

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