Category Archives: Behaviors

Operant Conditioning – Reinforcement and Punishment

I have spent the better part of the last two days sick. It is hard enough to study when you are feeling your best!

Anyway, part of my readings for this week included Operant Conditioning and the wonderful world of Positive/Negative Reinforcement and Positive/Negative Punishment. This really should be review for me as I have had all this information before, but for some reason I really never could wrap my brain around this. It confuses me how there could be negative reinforcement and positive punishment!!

Lucky for me, I have to be supervised by a BCBA (what I want to be when I grow up), so for this weeks meeting (done on the phone while she was headed for Chicago), she sorted it out for me in a way that I can understand. AND… because I love dearly how she explains things to me, I thought I would share so that maybe it will help this concept click with someone else!

The best way to figure out what is happening is to use the phrase…

“In the presence of ___Reinforcement (R) or Punishment (P)__, the behavior ___increased (+) or decreased (-).

So, let me give you some examples that make sense in the real world.

Positive Reinforcement

We want “J” to use his voice (speak out loud), so we will reinforce his talking behavior with a skittle.

In the presence of a skittle (R),”J’s” talking behavior increases (+).

Negative Reinforcement

“N” will sometimes avoid a math problem. We want him to pay attention. We will use his favorite chip as a reinforcement to decrease his avoidance behavior.

In the presence of “N’s” favorite chip (R), “N’s” avoidance behavior decreases (-)

Positive Punishment

“D” does not like speech. To him, it is a punishment. He escapes to the Tan Room for a break.

In the presence of speech (P), “D’s” escape behavior increases (+).

Negative Punishment

“E” will sometimes stomp at lunchtime. We want him to stop stomping. We remove his plate of food. He stops stomping.

In the presence of plate removal (P), “E’s” stomping behavior decreases (-)

________________________________________________________________________________________

I sure hope this helps you as much as it did me!!

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Back to School and Back to Life

What an amazing summer!!

I know that I said that I would be blogging over the summer, but obviously, that didn’t happen. Because this is my blog for autism, I won’t go in to detail about what my summer entailed, but I will say that I am blessed and so fortunate for great friends that believe and trust in me!

We are now two weeks into the 2012-2013 school year…

…and WOW!! Just WOW!

Two weeks ago, I was all geared up for things to be crazy in the classroom. “These boys take time to adjust”, I said to myself. “Just remember that it will take time for them to get back in the swing of things”, I considered. I walked in to that classroom with my guard up and prepared for battle… both emotionally and physically. And then… they showed up. Smiles, high fives, same routines, EVERYTHING like they never even left for the summer. How cool is that? Super cool… super super cool!

We were all amazed at the way they were able to ease back in to everything we do. I am so excited at the opportunity to see these boys grow more and more in their school work and social skills. We have even gone on two field trips already. I didn’t think we would be able to do that for at least a month, but the very first Thursday, we were off and running.

These kids are so smart. I don’t understand why society thinks otherwise. They just don’t know these kids like we do I guess.

The boys…

“J” – is talking more than ever. He will, when prompted verbally (and it helps if you have a Skittle or M&M in hand), will say just about anything you want him to. And, most of the time, will get a huge grin on his face after he speaks. I mean can you even imagine not being able to talk and then all of a sudden you do and are getting HUGE rewards from it? He is on cloud nine. His aggressive behaviors are still there, but not near as bad as they have been in the past. He seems happy… and that is perfect.

“D” – Still our fun-loving, question-asking, silly man. He had a good summer and, although his personal space is still an issue, it is nothing compared to the beginning of last year. He is comfortable with us and that is awesome!

“E” – He had a good summer vacationing with family. I could tell that he was relaxed from his summer vacation. He and I go to art together every morning with typical kids and he does very well with guided assistance drawing whatever we ask of him. I am lucky to get to spend that one on one time with him.

“N” – This kid is so fun! He seems to be back in the swing of things and his anxiety outside of the classroom (on field trips) has diminished tremendously. He is holding his head up high and having a good time. I can see him making huge progress this year and I am so excited to get to help him!

We even have a new kid on the block!

Although “K” is not in our class, she gets to go on field trips with us! “K” is high-functioning autism and is super talkative. It is good for her to be around the boys and for the boys to be around her. For me, she is another child that I get the pleasure of being around and learning from.

Work school and Masters school!

On the very same day that I started back to work after summer vacation, I started 3 classes for my masters. *insert what the hell was I thinking* here. I took 2 classes over the summer and got A’s in both… so far a 4.0! The classes that I am taking this semester are

  • SPCE 610 870  – Behavioral Consultation – This teacher firmly believes in reading and I mean TONS of reading. Lordamercy, I am going to be blind by the time I finish this class. However, I am enjoying the reading so far and look forward to the knowledge I will gain.
  • SPCE 611 875 –  Advanced Applied Behavior Analysis – This class is THE pinnacle course to becoming what I want to be when I grow up. The text book for this class is the “bible” for ABA. I pretty much have to memorize it. *sigh*  I am super stoked about becoming a BCBA and this is going to get me there!
  • SPCE 683 873 – Practicum in Autism – This is my favorite class of the 3. I get to earn my hours at work and I meet with a BCBA (who happens to be my boss) once a week to discuss this amazing field. It is tons of fun getting my experience working with Mara and the kids! Yesterday, I got to go with Mara to observe a child at his home. This is great experience for me to be able to see therapy (other than school) in action, as well as experience in talking to families about their child.

I look forward to another amazing year of blogging. I sure hope you are enjoying this as much as I am!

~Peace,
Kari

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Playdoh… and The Lorax!

This week and next  is TCAP (Traditional Colorado Assessment Program) testing for our general education kids at my school. Our boys have done their testing already, so we get to have tons of fun for the next two weeks. Before I get in to all of that, I have a bit of autism coolness to share!

Last week, we were going to work with Playdoh with the boys and discovered that our Playdoh had somehow turned into some sort of snot concoction and really needed thrown out and replaced … we didn’t even want to guess how that happened. So, this weekend, I went out and purchased a 4 pack for our classroom. I came in this morning and set it on the table and thought nothing of it. The boys came in and my non-verbal guy started hovering over the Playdoh. I went and got him and told him it was time to work. After we finished with the section (Calendar), I was sitting next to him and another kid waiting for our next project, when all of a sudden, I hear… from his iPad… “Clay Please”… I was stunned and said “Oh… you want to play with clay?”…. He then touched “yes” on his iPad!!!! Needless to say, we jumped right up and broke open our new batch of Playdoh!!

A little background… we had previously programmed “clay” into his iPad for another activity… I am not sure I could find clay on that iPad… but he sure as heck knew where it was!!!! Remember, this is the kid that gets pinchy and grabby when he is upset, but lately, he has toned way down and I think it is because he realizes he has a voice now. He will still get grabby, but it is fewer and farther apart and not near as hard (most of the time). It is nice to see his gorgeous smile and hear him laugh!

Now… on to the fun stuff for the week.

Yesterday (Sunday), I went to one of our local theaters to see “Act of Valor”. While I was there, I stopped and talked to the General Manager. I introduced myself, told him what I did for a living, and asked very nicely to see if there was a showing of  Disney’s The Lorax that would be best to bring the boys to. He was super nice and agreed to open the theater at a special early time for us (4 boys and 4 adults)!! I think it will be so much fun to sit in the big theater with these kids, munch on some popcorn, and see a great movie! I have found that our community is getting really supportive of these kids. Knowledge is power and the word on autism is getting out. We are doing a good service to our boys and the community.

Other fun things on the list for this week and next are Miniature Golf, Pet Smart, Home Depot, Hiking, playing with remote control cars, visiting a doctors office… and a lot more fun things! I am so excited! Going to be a really fun couple of weeks.

Thanks for stopping in!

~Kari

 

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Emotions…

We all know that a lot of kids with Autism find it very hard to express a correct emotion/facial expression (by our world’s standards) to any given situation.

But isn’t it cool when they do??

My boys can be rough and tumble when they are upset, but when you can capture a sweet moment.. when you know that moment is genuine… it can sure make anyone melt into an ooey gooey puddle.

A genuine smile when you say hello.

A touch to your shoulder when they are feeling insecure.

A belly laugh when you tease them.

An outstretched hand when they are scared.

And… even a hug when they ask.

For these boys to unlock those emotions is a huge step. To have them join us on a level we understand is an amazing feeling. We don’t always understand these kids and how they are feeling. We want them to be able to express these emotions way more often than we get, but to know that every once in a while, they will reach out to us for comfort or affection, is to know a child that is feeling safe in our care…. and that is what makes working with these amazing kids so worthwhile.

~Kari

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A good learning day!

Some days are just good learning days…

And some are even better than that!

These kids continually amaze me with how intelligent they are! I really don’t doubt that these kids have intelligence, it is just that the timing has to be just right to catch those small glimpses in to their wonderful minds!

For example… there is one boy in the class that I know can count. He has shown me this on numerous occasions and he is quite good at it.  Usually, this comes with prompting and a lot of patience 🙂 Today however, this child showed me something different.

What did this cool kid do?

We have a program that we use called Vizzle (our school got a grant for this program and it is amazing). This program allows us to do curriculum… such as math, reading, and sentences… in a game like fashion. More fun for all of us if I do say so myself. Anyyyyway…. today, I was working with this student on counting hearts. Vizzle displays a picture of a certain amount of hearts, and then underneath that picture is 3 choices to pick from for the correct answer. On a normal day, with this particular student, I will point at each heart and have him count with me to find the correct answer. Today however, he did 9 out of 10 completely ON HIS OWN!! Each correct answer without prompt was rewarded with a skittle and me going ape-shit (pardon the french) over how good he was doing! He was clapping and laughing and knew that he was so smart!

This is why I do what I do. There are moments of hardship and moments of miraculous growth. And… trust me… the moments of growth completely outweigh those moments of hardship.

I still feel so incredibly blessed that I get to work with these guys. They show me so many wonderful things.

~Kari

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It must be horrible…

… to be trapped in your own head.

Not every day at school is a beautiful bouquet of flowers all wrapped in bows. Trust me, there are more good times than bad (thank heavens), but I just feel so damn helpless when these kids have bad days.

I have laid in bed many nights wondering what it would be like to have Autism. ESPECIALLY if it means that I couldn’t speak or get my thoughts or emotions out in a proper way. I couldn’t imagine being trapped inside my own head … lord knows it is scary enough…

The simple basic needs that we take for granted, such as “hmmm I need a drink” or “I am hungry” are sometimes next to impossible for these kids to assimilate to us.

Today was a rough day with one kid. He is my non-verbal guy and was having a really hard time with his iPad and letting me know what it was that he needed/wanted. He was extraordinarily frustrated. Coming at me… hollering… pinching… scratching. I felt terrible. I didn’t know how to help him. All I could do was maintain my cool and let him know that it was all okay and that I would help him figure it out.

He was so angry and frustrated.

These kids need a light at the end of the tunnel on .. sometimes.. a minute by minute basis. I am amazed at my ability to stay calm and “grounded” during these moments. I was never a very patient person when it came to my own NT child. I guess I just know deep down that these guys don’t know how to control their anger/behaviors and that I need to be an anchor in their storm.

Once I figured out what the issue was, we were able to be happy again and he was the kind and gentle boy that I have come to love.

What I would like to share with you is this… If you have a child that tantrums:

  • Remain calm.
  • Be gentle in your actions.
  • Reassure them that they (and you) are okay.
  • Remind them that together you will figure it out.
  • Keep trying.
  • Love them through it.
  • Time out works most of the time
  • Punishment does not work most of the time.

Thanks for listening. I hope this helps.

Gentle Hugs,

~Kari

 

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Stimming… what the heck is Stimming?

…well, according to autism.about.com, “The term “stimming” is short for self-stimulatory behavior, sometimes also called “stereotypic” behavior. In a person with autism, stimming usually refers to specific behaviors such as flapping, rocking, spinning, or repetition of words and phrases.”

Here is a video clip of a child with autism stimming. Be prepared it is a bit screechy.

Video clip found on YouTube

Stimming and Autism go hand in hand. Most, if not all, people with Autism will engage in stimming behavior. BUT… don’t we all? Do you chew your pen lid when you think? Do you tap a pen on the table when you are working on homework or paying bills? Do you bite your fingernails when you are nervous? Do you bounce your leg when you are concentrating? We all engage in a bit of stim-like behavior from time to time.

I guess the reason people with Autism get such a bad rap for stimming is because they hand flap, screech, clap loudly, bounce… etc. Those, for some reason, are not acceptable behaviors according to society.

I see a variety of stimming in our classroom. One claps and jumps and waves his hand in front of his face, one sings to himself, and one will wave straws in front of his face. This behavior doesn’t bother me really. It is only when we are trying to work hard on a particular project that it gets in the way.

I once heard, or read, Carly Fleischmann say that she would often shriek loudly when she finally understood something. … sorry I don’t have a link.. but I am sure that it was her that said that.

So… stimming isn’t always a negative thing. They aren’t always stimming because they are stressed.

Hope this clears some of that up for you!  Oh and the link up above to the definition of stimming has some interesting info as well.

Gentle hugs and happy stimming!

~Kari

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