Positive Reinforcement and Autism Intervention

They say nine tenths of education is positive reinforcement.

This is definitely true when it comes to evidence based treatment for Autism, ABA. ABA stands for applied behavioural analysis. It has been known to get some bad press and unfortunately is interpreted differently dependant on who is delivering the treatment. However the majority of ABA programs are generally home-based where therapist’s or parents work one-on-one with the child for many hours per week. The principals of ABA are applied through reinforcing a desired outcome. Therefore ABA is also been referred to as behavioural intervention.

So what does this mean and how can a parent or carer use these principles?

With my son his reinforcers changed over time. Starting though with his highly desired object being the IPAD, we then paired that to the ABA programs being taught as a reward. My son was non-verbal so I didn’t really know what he knew or didn’t know. So initially we prompted him to show him what he needed to do before phasing the prompt out. We started with simple matching and basic language. When he matched or pointed to the correct visual he was rewarded with the IPAD. Quickly my son realised what he needed to do to be rewarded by this highly desirable reinforcer so we then got to work out, despite being non-verbal what my son understood or didn’t understand.

The most effective teaching methods for children with Autism are derived from the science of ABA. ABA methods are supported by research and included in the best practices, national standards for Autism Early Intervention.

Be mindful though that despite ABA’s history, in today’s world it is not all about sitting at a table a forcing a child to do tasks, adopt as much play based teaching as possible to keep it fun. My son was very active so we had to keep moving with him and The Flashcards was the best way to for us to stay portable.

I get asked a lot from parents when they receive the Flashcards, “Where do I start?”

This is a good question as each child is at different levels of learning. Being that ABA is intensive education therapy for children with Autism you first need to find out what level your child is at. This is easy to do with The Flashcards as all the visuals and ABA programs are included and designed specifically for children with Autism.

Visuals are a great way to engage and also gain joint attention. Joint attention is when two people (usually a young child and an adult) use gestures and gaze to share attention to interesting objects or events. Children with Autism usually struggle with joint attention so it is important to develop this skill in early intervention efforts.

If your child is non-verbal you could start with animals which children love. Lay out three different animals and ask them to point to a particular animal. Or within the flashcards are pairs so lay out three animals and ask them to match.

If your child is verbal, I have known some parent’s to use the articulation and pronunciation program within The Flashcards and go through the whole Flashcards kit, over 700 visuals. Putting aside the visuals that the child needs help with either the pronunciation or simply does not know the label.

If you child is more advanced academically, within the flashcards are fine motor programs or the site-reading program. By working through all the programs you can prepare your child academically for school.

Visual thinking is a key strength for children with Autism. The visuals reduce the frustration, increase retention therefore children with Autism are able to learn quickly.

I really liked also this information on the raising children network explaining the importance and use of visuals in early intervention programs: http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/autism_spectrum_disorder_learning_strengths.html

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Through The Flashcards Early Intervention program my son who was non-verbal and had a global developmental delay is now verbal and has age appropriate academic skills!

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