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Archive for the ‘Intervention’ Category

Hi! and welcome to What Works Wednesdays where historically a success story from clinical files is shared. With all the buzz about the latest “research” on getting the flu while pregnant and the supposed link to autism, it seems logical to help readers better understand research so they can interpret findings themselves. If readers know how to read research, then they are better able to know if an intervention works (or if the conclusions from a study are flawed or misinterpreted).

What is Research?

  • “work undertaken systematically to increase the stock of knowledge” (Wikipedia.org)
  • “diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications, etc.” (dictionary.com)

Most scientists conduct research by utilizing the scientific method. The scientific method requires the development of a hypothesis (which is usually formed from observation or reading other research), conducting the experiment, gathering results, and determining if the results support the original hypothesis.

Different Types of Research

Using the scientific method, scientists design different types of studies. These study types include:

  1. Experiments. In experimental studies, researchers recruit participants and assign them to treatment groups. Researchers can study one or more treatments and participants may receive some treatments or they may receive a placebo or no treatment at all. Usually, researchers measure one or more important variables before the study and they measure the variable(s) again after the study.
  2. Single Subject Experimental Studies. In these studies (most often conducted by behavior analysts), researchers recruit participants who are observed and measured carefully for a period of time before receiving treatment. Researchers then implement treatment while continuing to observe and measure carefully.
  3. Correlational studies. In these studies, researchers use existing data sets (e.g., collected for some other purpose) or they recruit participants. Researchers gather a wide range of information on each participant (e.g., age, SES, education, health history). Participants do not generally receive treatments or interventions of any kind.
  4. Qualitative studies. In qualitative studies, researchers occasional recruit participants but at times they enroll participants with whom they are already familiar. In qualitative studies, researchers study one or more individuals or one or more groups (e.g., one class). Researchers carefully study the participant and take copious notes. Researchers may interview the participants and they may use focus groups to better understand some of the issues. If a treatment is provided, the researcher continues to carefully study the participants to document the participants’ responses to the treatment.

Conclusions Based on Study Type

Researchers must use caution when drawing conclusions about their studies. Researchers who use well-designed experimental designs can draw cause-effect conclusions. For example, a researcher can enroll a bunch of smokers in a study. Some of the smokers receive a behavioral treatment, some of the smokers receive nicotine patches, and other participants receive both. At the end of the study (if the researchers have conducted the study carefully), the researchers will be able to say that one or more methods is successful at helping smokers quit.

Similarly, in a single subject experimental study, researchers can demonstrate if a treatment changes behavior. Again, the study must be carefully designed and conducted but it is possible to draw cause-effect conclusions. For example, a researcher could study 3 smokers. The researcher would observe the smokers and collect data. One smoker could receive treatment. While she is being studied, the other smokers would still be studied. After the first smoker quits successfully, the next smoker would receive treatment. He would continue to be studied as would the non-treated smoker. Finally, when the last smoker receives treatment, researchers continue to observe him. If the researchers successfully help all 3 participants quit smoking (and the study is carefully designed and carried out), they will be able to say that the treatment caused the behavior change.

Correlational versus Causal

Correlational studies are designed to determine if any relationships exist between variables. Researchers could gather data on 1,000 people from an existing data base. They could sort the data into smokers and non-smokers. They could run a simple data analysis to see if smokers have other tendencies (e.g., like to go to race car events, like to drink socially, and so forth). Researchers may not conclude causal relationships from their studies. They are only able to conclude that a relationship exists. Of more importance is the strength of the relationship. For example, if researchers ran an analysis on the relationship between giving birth to a child and gender, they would find a very strong (almost perfect) relationship between giving birth and being a female. If a weak relationship exists between variables it is more likely due to chance.

Go Forth and Read

In these days of social media, spin rooms, and media crazed talk shows, very poorly designed studies are being presented to the public without appropriate interpretation of the study or its results. If you are interested in reading a few examples of this, check previous posts here and here.

In summary, don’t believe everything you read about the “latest scientific study” unless you read the study itself. When you read the actual study, what you find may actually surprise you.

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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 “Brief Report: Increasing Verbal Greeting Initiations for a Student with Autism Via a Social StoryTM Intervention”. Brian Reichow and Edward Sabornie authored the article and The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders published the article.

Study Purpose

It is a known fact that children with autism spectrum disorders have social deficits. One intervention that has been used is Social Stories. While social stories are widely used, the research on the effectiveness has been limited. Thus, the authors set out to determine if a Social Story could be used to increase appropriate verbal greeting initiations.

Study Methods

The authors enrolled an 11-year-old male with autism in the study. “George” as he was called, had an average IQ and he had above average grades on his report card. While he attended a social skills group at school, his social skills did not seem to be improving.

The authors developed a story according the guidelines recommended by Carol Gray. We discussed some of the differences between Social Stories TM and social stories or social narratives earlier this week.

The authors used a withdrawal design to demonstrate experimental control. Basically, in this design, an intervention is implemented. If the intervention is effected, it is removed to determine if the behavior would return to pre-treatment levels.

The authors merely counted the number (or frequency) of verbal greeting initiations. Waves and gestures did not count, only verbal greetings (e.g., hi, hello, good morning).

In baseline, George reported to his home room, picked up his schedule, and went about his day.

During intervention, George picked up his schedule (which included “read your Social Story”) and then read his social story before heading out to classes. The authors faded the social story and moved to a simple “cue card”.

Results

During baseline, George had zero verbal initiations. During intervention, George had an immediate increase in verbal greeting initiations. Specifically, he initiated greetings between 2 and 6 times a day; including greetings to peers! However, when the intervention was “withdrawn”, George stopped initiating greetings. When the intervention was reinstated, his initiations increased again to 2 to 4 initiations per day; including initiations to peers. When the social story was faded and the cue card was taught, the verbal initiations continued.

Conclusions

As we have discussed, this intervention is effective. Also as we have discussed, all interventions should be developed on an individualized basis. This is not a one size fits all approach. This individualization means that teachers, behavior analysts, and other practitioners will need to spend time developing the materials that will be used to teach the skill(s).

 

 

 

 

 

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Hi! and welcome to What Works Wednesdays where we share a success story from our clinical files. We usually focus on the use of ABA and its effectiveness for our clients. Today, we are going to share a resource that works. The resource is the Office of the Health Care Advocate (OHA). We have one in Connecticut. Here is the website: http://www.ct.gov/oha/site/default.asp

Here is the contact information:

Mail To:
Office of the Healthcare Advocate
P.O.BOX 1543
Hartford CT,06144

Phone: Toll Free at: 1-866-HMO-4446

FAX:  (860) 297-3992

E-mail: Healthcare.advocate@ct.gov

On October 17th, the OHA held a public hearing on barriers to access to mental health and substance use services. I (Missy) went to testify. Here is my testimony:

Introduction

Hi and thank you for taking the time to listen to consumers, providers, and advocates. I am here today as a behavioral health provider. I am a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and my company, Applied Behavioral Strategies, LLC provides Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy services to children with autism under Public Act No. 09-115.

Autism Insurance Bill

Under Public Act No. 09-115, children under the age of 15 are eligible to receive ABA therapy if their parents have certain types of health insurance.

Success!

While I have only been in business 2 years, you will be pleased to know that all of the children on my caseload who receive services through mandated insurance coverage have made growth as a result of ABA therapy. For example:

  • “Matthew”
    • Learning to go on community outings without screaming when dogs pass
    • Learning to take a shower independently
    • Learning to shave
  • Casper
    • Used to request to avoid many school classes (specials), now participates in all instruction and specials
    • Before our therapy, he had no friends.  Now he has friends and makes play dates
    • Historically engaged in aggression with his parents and siblings, we haven’t seen aggression in many months
  • “Joanna”
    • After living off pureed food for 8 years, she learned to eat table food!
    • She is learning to wear different shoes, hats, gloves
  • “Sammy”
    • Learned to sit and relax by playing games on his iPad or watching music videos
    • Decreased self-injurious behaviors
    • Improving his spontaneous communication
  • “Charlie”
    • Decreased head banging
    • Learning to tolerate work at home
    • Learning to ride in the car without thrashing his head when his parents go a different route
  • “Clark”
    • After being restrained repeatedly in his public school, Clark attends a private school with support and only a few outbursts
    • In the past, cried because he didn’t want to do school work, now gets upset if he cannot finish his work

The “Unlucky” Ones

Those case studies illustrate how state policies improve the quality of lives for individuals with behavioral health challenges. But unfortunately, a group of clients exist who are not eligible for these services because they don’t have the right type of insurance, or their insurance originates from a different state, or even worse, they are too financially disadvantaged to have insurance and are covered by Husky.

It is for these clients, I am begging for your ear. These clients and their families will never share joys described to you previously because they will not receive the ABA therapy. They cannot afford to pay for it out of pocket so they do without.  Even as I write this, it feels like I’m writing about a different century or a third world country. How can this be? These clients and their families have just as many needs, if not more, than the clients who are receiving therapy. But as a result of not receiving therapy, their behavioral health needs worsen which only serves to exacerbate the mental health needs of their parents. And all of this costs more in the long run.

Provider Issues

But even worse than not having the appropriate insurance, are the clients who have the right insurance but cannot find a provider because there are not enough providers who accept insurance. Let me tell you why providers do not accept insurance:

  • The reimbursement rates are drastically reduced from fair market value
    • My highest rate of reimbursement is still 50% less than my billable rate
    • The insurance companies do not reimburse for services in a timely manner
      • Cigna currently owes me $18,000 on ONE client
      • The stress I experience at each payroll period is overwhelming because I am not sure if my cash flow is sufficient to pay my employees
      • The amount of administrative time that is needed to follow-up with insurance in order to get paid is almost a full-time position
  • The reimbursement for services does not cover my income and that of an administrative assistant (see rates above).

Amazing Resource

The Office of the Healthcare Advocate has been extremely helpful for me and my clients as staff (Vicki and Jody) have assisted my clients (and many others that are not my clients) in obtaining the coverage to which they are entitled. I am extremely grateful for their assistance over the past two years.

Summary

In closing, I feel fortunate that ABA services are available to children in this state. Thirty years ago, these services were not available to my brother. I cannot help but wonder where he would be today, had he received the services that my clients receive today.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to us today and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions regarding this testimony.

If you want to watch the entire hearing, you can do so here:

If you live in CT, be sure to use your OHA. If you do not live in CT, check your state’s resources to see if you have an OHA in your state.

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Technically, Jackson met our requirements for graduation at breakfast on the 4th day. He successfully ate breakfast with his mom and his brother and he engaged in almost no challenging behavior. However, before we discharge, we like to make sure that our clients can generalize their behaviors to school or to a community restaurant (or both!). So, we used Friday to work on generalization.

Pretzel’s at the Mall

Kendall told us that one of the most difficult times had been when they went to the mall and Jackson tried to get pretzels. Since starting the gluten-free diet, he would not be able to eat those pretzels and she worried that he would have a tantrum if she told him no. So, we agreed to meet her at the mall to work on an intervention.

Jackson walked right past the pretzels to meet us in the middle of the mall. However, when we arrived, he took off walking. He was a man on a mission! He went straight for the pretzels. We told him “no pretzels today, we are going to eat lunch”. He grabbed his communication device and typed out “PRETZEL”. We affirmed his request and simply restated that we would not be having a pretzel but instead we would go to lunch and he could eat pizza (we had already selected a gluten-free pizza place). We showed him the picture of a pizza.

Jackson took off walking through the mall. He had one things on his mind: Pretzels! After circling the mall and arriving at the pretzels again, he walked over to the display and pointed. We reminded him again that we would not be having pretzel and that we were going to lunch. With that, he decided it was time to leave and he proceeded to his car.

Well that seemed a little too easy.

Planet Pizza

 

When we arrived at Planet Pizza, the manager was restocking the chips. Yes, you remembered correctly. Jackson has a thing for Lay’s potato chips. He was super excited! He went over, picked up a bag of chips and appeared happy as a clam. We reminded him that he was here for pizza and not for chips. We asked him to put the chips back. At first he was reluctant but we remained firm. Please put the chips away, we are going to eat pizza. Jackson put the chips away and we asked him to pick out a drink.

Prior to starting feeding therapy, Jackson only drank water. He drank water out of a faucet and out of the Long Island Sound. Wherever he could find water, Jackson drank it! We told him, “No water today, pick something else.” He told us no but we held up two types of juice and he picked one.

Then we escorted him to find a table while the pizza cooked.

  1. Note: Kendall brought her own dairy free cheese and the staff cooked the gluten-free crust with the special cheese.
  2. Note: Bring things to do in restaurants while you wait!

While we are great at helping kids in the community, we have so much knowledge and training that we have a hard time remembering to teach the parents all that we know. We forgot to prep Kendall for the things that Jackson would need to keep himself busy. Luckily, we had iPhones so he tried to watch YouTube while waiting.

Jackson made a few noises during his wait. Unfortunately, restaurant patrons stared at us. The staring makes all parents uncomfortable. We let Kendall know that bringing Jackson out actually helps to educate others. Plus, Jackson has every right to be there too!

Success

The pizza arrived after only a 15-minute wait but then we had to wait for it to cool. Finally, Jackson could try pizza for the first time in many, many years. He loved it! He didn’t mind the spinach or the broccoli. He even picked up his fork and stabbed a few pieces on his own. He ate the entire piece that Kendall had prepared for him. He did this without aggression and without any expels!

Jackson still has some skills to work on:

  • cutting his own food
  • stabbing his own food using the fork
  • scooping his own food with a spoon
  • learning to wait quietly at restaurants
  • wiping his mouth with a napkin without reminders

However, he has come a tremendous distance in only 5 short days. Congratulations Kendall on all of your hard work. Jackson is a champion eater and you are a champion mom!

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Needless to say, Rebecca and I were running on fumes at this point in our week. We started the day hoping that 3 of 5 clients would graduate if all goes well. Because of his great success, Jackson was scheduled for only 2 meals: Breakfast with his brother and dinner with his father watching.

Breakfast with Brother

For breakfast, Kendall brought bananas, yogurt (coconut milk), gluten-free hot cereal, and raspberries. Jackson engaged in quite a few behaviors today which is common each time we change the conditions. He engaged in 20 verbal/vocal refusals, 6 physical refusals, and he cried two times. His brother, on the other hand, gagged a few times and had to leave the room several times. Hmmmm, maybe we should enroll another client in feeding therapy!

Dinner with Dad

Jackson was ready to show off his mad skills to his dad. Kendall brought sauerkraut and wieners, quinoa, beets, pears, and dried cranberries. What a champion! Jackson ate everything and he had only 2 gags! (beets would make us gag as well!) Throughout the meal, Jackson engaged in only 5 instances of verbal/vocal refusal. Dad was floored! He could not believe how much progress his son had made in just 4 days.

We also taught Jackson how to eat potato chips without making a mess. In the past, he ate them like a wood chipper with chip crumbs flying around. We taught him how to place the entire chip in his mouth without making crumbs.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow to see how Jackson handles going to the mall when he cannot eat his favorite Auntie Annie pretzels!

 

 

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Feeding therapy has been going great. So well, in fact, that one of our clients has transitioned to eating at home with his mom! Two other clients are eating with their moms at the clinic. Jackson is one of those two!

Kendal came in bragging about the standoff she had with Jackson the night before. When asked who won, she replied, “me, of course!”

Breakfast Day 2

Jackson started the day by generalizing his eating skills to a new therapist. Jackson ate gluten-free waffles, bacon, blueberries, and hash browns. He also started working on cutting his food. He consumed a total of 36 bites.

He engaged in only 21 verbal or vocal behaviors and only 1 attempt to elope.

Lunch Day 3

At lunch, we transitioned Kendall in to the driver’s seat. She supervised Jackson as he ate tuna sandwich on gluten-free bread, apple slices, and salad with dressing. His sitter, Chardonnay, made humus and he ate that with cucumbers and corn chips.

During lunch, Jackson realized that his mom was “in on it”. He cried for the first time. In fact, he cried 26 times. He laid on the floor and he refused to eat for 3 minutes. He also engaged in verbal/vocal refusal a total of 26 times. But, he continued to eat. He ate a total of 53 bites of food with only 1 gag and 4 expels.

At one point, Jackson reached out to grab his mom and she showed him her open palm indicating that he could push his chin on her hand for deep pressure. He pushed his chin into her hand over and over. He leaned back up in his chair and was ready to eat again. Kendall looked around at her fan club (therapists, interns, and sitters) with tears in her eyes. Then she said beneath her tears of joy, “In the past he would have attacked me.”

Dinner Day 3

Kendal and Jackson came back for dinner with baked ham and pineapple, baked sweet potato, raisins, and green beans. In this meal, he didn’t cry, not even once. Instead, we saw the opposite. Jackson was happy and laughing and felling wonderful. He ate a total of 58 bites. He engaged in 10 verbal and vocal behaviors and he pressed on his eyes a few times. He did not try to elope and he did not gag at all. He tried to expel just one bite. He started engaging in some eye pressing but we coached Kendall how to interrupt the behavior without calling attention to it.

As if all this learning was not enough, Jackson learned how to drink from a straw! A few years ago, he knew how to drink from a straw but he lost the skill. Using coconut milk, a newly acquired beverage, Jackson quickly re-mastered it!

Day 3 was a continued success. Check back tomorrow to see how Jackson handles eating with his brother, going to the mall, eating at a restaurant, and having Dad observe.

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The feeding clinic was busier than we had expected (or perhaps we were too ambitious to think we could post every day). So, we will post Jackson’s daily progress each day this week.

For starters, we could not believe all of the progress that our clients made in the first 2 days. By the end of day 2, three children were eating well! One child was having severe withdrawals from his gluten and dairy. If you have not heard of this (his physicians had not either), you can read more about what another little girl went through as she came off her addicting Sonic Grilled Cheese here. The other little boy who is still struggling to eat has a combination of physiological (he has oral motor delays) and non-physiological feeding difficulties (behavioral issues around food preferences for flavor and texture).

Changing Reinforcers

Meanwhile, we tried to move Jackson from fluff to a different, more natural reinforcer. Jackson loves Lay’s potato chips so we tried to see if he would eat new foods in exchange for a few chips. Again, Kendall had to keep Jackson from having chips during other times of the day and this is not an easy task but she was a champ and she made it happen.

Breakfast Day 2

Jackson had gluten-free pancakes, sausage, strawberries, and grilled tomatoes for breakfast. He consumed a total of 30 bites. After the 8th bite, we began requiring Jackson to eat 2 bites before he could get his reinforcer. As his food acceptance and consumption increased, his behaviors decreased. He expelled only 4 bites, he tried to elope only twice, and he had only 12 instances of aggression towards Missy. Jackson engaged in 9 instances of verbal and vocal refusal and he engaged in 8 instances of physical refusal. How many adolescents do you know who will eat grilled tomato for breakfast? What a champ!

Lunch Day 2

Lunch on the second day of therapy included coconut milk yogurt with gluten-free granola, ham sandwich with gluten-free bread, oranges, and gluten-free cookies for dessert. Jackson consumed another 30 bites during lunch. He expelled food on 9 times but he did not elope at all. He stood up once as if to elope but he sat down when Missy asked. Jackson had 2 gags during lunch and both were with oranges. Fruit has proven to be hard for him. This is probably due to its wet texture. Jackson has dyspraxia so he obviously has some oral motor issues as well. He is learning to chew and keep his lips closed but this will take continued practice.

Jackson engaged in 20 instances of verbal and vocal refusal and 12 instances of physical refusal (e.g., turning his head or pushing the spoon). Jackson started a new behavior of bouncing up and down in his seat. It was unclear to us if this was a new avoidant behavior or if he was happy about learning to eat these new foods. He engaged in this behavior 22 times.

Dinner Day 2

For dinner on the second day of therapy, Jackson ate cooked carrots, white rice, chicken, and grapes. He ate 3/4 of an entire chicken breast, a portion of rice, and several carrots. After dinner, Jackson ate a gluten-free cupcake with dairy free icing. In the past, he only wanted to lick the icing so Kendall wanted him to learn to eat the cupcake and icing together. He ate about 1/2 of the dessert.

Jackson’s behaviors improved dramatically for this least meal of the day. He engaged in only 1 vocal refusal. He stood up 3 times (but he sat down when asked). He tried to take Missy’s gloves off once (as if to finish the meal). Jackson gagged only once during this meal (over the carrot). After the first 8 bites, we moved Jackson to a fixed ratio schedule meaning that he had to eat 3 bites of new food before he could have a chip.

Jackson’s sitter, Chardonnay learned to help with data collection during this session (thanks for the help–any chance you want a job?!?!). Meanwhile, Kendall will learn to implement the intervention tomorrow. Stay tuned to see how Jackson progresses!

 

 

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