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ABA and the 'real world'

(21 Posts)
sphil Mon 24-Sep-07 11:31:43

OK - am having a bit of a crisis of confidence here. As some of you know, DS2 has been doing an ABA/VB programme since April, supervised by Growing Minds. He's doing very well - marching steadily through the targets, especially the receptive and expressive language ones. Has finally got the hang of matching too. Imitation is a bit more difficult - he can imitate single actions and sounds, but if you put a sequence together he struggles.

My concern is that he's not really transferring these language skills to everyday life. He can probably name 70+ objects/items at the table, but he almost never labels anything spontaneously outside the playroom. If we point things out when we're out and about he might say the name, but it's pretty reluctant and often needs prompting. The one thing he has transferred is his ability to imitate - he uses it often now in games with us.

His ability to request verbally has improved hugely - but that's because we've done lots of mand training, away from the table. And that's slowed down now because he can basically ask for everything he wants (he has a very limited diet and limited interests).

Have others found this - and if so, what did you do about it? I wonder if I should spend more time on natural environment training and less time at the table? I'm spending hours and hours preparing and recording - and because I spend so much time doing it, domestic stuff gets neglected. Then I have to catch up at weekends, which means DS2 is stuck in front of the video for hours on end. Can't help feeling the balance is wrong somehow.

gess Mon 24-Sep-07 16:05:34

I think it comes eventually. INitially I could only teach ds1 stuff at the table- that was the situation from when we started ABA when he was 5 until we wnet onto Growing Minds when he was 7. Then suddenly he was generalising everything, now I very much can teach him anything anywhere.

i think from talking to friends it seems to me that you have to start at the table. Once certain attentional skills are in place (following that teaching) then suddenly you have a lot more choice.

I'd continue to do a mix of both- if he's really ont getting stuff away from the table, stick with the table though iyswim. It will come eventually....

sphil Mon 24-Sep-07 17:22:52

Thanks Gess - I hope so! Though in fact I've been trying to look at him objectively today and I can see he really has come on. Had to take him to DS1's karate class this pm - potential nightmare, as there's loads of excited kids milling about and lots of mums waiting with crying babies - anathema to DS2! Took a choice of snacks to keep him occupied - sat him down and offered them one by one 'you can have crackers, raisins or bananas.....which one?' And he looked back at me solemnly and said 'Chips' grin. I cracked up and so did a couple of other parents who'd obviously been earwigging. DS2 then laughed his head off! He wouldn't have done any of that 6 months ago.

Just finding the whole programme such bloody hard work though!

Homsa Mon 24-Sep-07 20:06:49

Sounds like you are doing most of the teaching yourself? That must be really exhausting, especially when progress slows down, as it will every once in a while!

I think I read somewhere that it can take up to a year for a child to show any significant improvements on ABA, like gess said the "learning to learn" skills need to be developed first and that takes time. Sounds like you're on the right track if the manding is going well!

On our ABA programme we have a list of "mastered items" that are then put into "generalisation and maintenance", which basically means that we do them in different places, different presenters, tv on in the background, etc. That kind of natural environment training should make up about one third of each session.

HTH

gess Mon 24-Sep-07 20:10:27

Yes that learning to learn skills took us ages! Years... How many tutors do you have? I get mine to do table work, I do the natural environment

I was watching your ds2's video again this weekend - he is such a sweety, such good relational skills- don't forget that!

Davros Mon 24-Sep-07 21:01:32

Like Homsa we had a "formal generalisation" program which sounds a bit silly! It is also easy to get confused between maintenance and generalisation. I can't quite remember how ours worked but we allocated one session per week, and switched between tutors and had a lot of ideas written down about what needed to be generalised and ideas of how to do it.
My feeling is that you do have to keep using the table to teach but then move away to generalise but also move back to it iyswim. I wonder if there is another way for you to offload some of the work you are doing? Can't any of your tutors do any of the donkey work? I'm not sure how many you have mind you. I used to make my tutors feel "special" with their own little jobs, one liked keeping the file in order (believe it or not), one liked to make stimuli, one liked to do play-orientated stuff etc. There is always a certain level that you have to do yourself unless you want it screwed up unfortunately.
My other thought, and this may not apply to your DS at all, is that although DS learnt lots of labels, concepts, skills etc he didn't generalise them all because of his ASD. In Autism some things are simply not generalised because of the nature of the beast, like so many things just because they CAN do something doesn't mean that they WILL.
I have some quite lengthy notes on Maintenance/Generalisation from the Support Group I used to run, happy to share them with you just in case there is something useful in there. I don't think I still have your email address though so CAT me if you want it.

sphil Mon 24-Sep-07 23:14:21

Ah, now I think I see where I'm going wrong. Once he's mastered stuff, I put it into a different file and we use it for 'fast trials' but only at the table. I can see how I could tranfer this to different environments.

Part of the problem is that I only have one tutor (did have 3 but 1 went back to uni and the other got a teaching job). She does 9 hours a week and I do 8 (+ extra at w/emds if we can fit it in). But I do all the preparation and recording. I think the control freak part of me would be quite scared to hand it over!

Davros, I'd love to see those notes - will CAT you. I think you're right about some of it being the ASD. Quite often if I ask DS2 a question when we're out and about he'll reply almost 'through gritted teeth' - he knows the answer but just doesn't want to say it. He's just not interested (at the moment anyway) in sharing information.

But you're right Gess - he is a sweetie grin

bullet123 Mon 24-Sep-07 23:32:00

I have no experience with ABA so I can't advice on that I'm afraid. However, it may well be that it is not a case of your son not wanting to share information, but of being unable to. There are frequent occurences with myself when I have words in my mind and I want to speak but am unable to get them out, it's as though there is a locked door in my mind and it's preventing the words from travelling from my mind to my mouth.

gess Tue 25-Sep-07 07:47:30

INteresting bullet- that's the same situation as described in books like 'autism and the myth of the person alone'. These are mainly interveiws with people who can't talk, but can type. IN that book or another one one person describes wanting to join in conversation but being unable to move herself to get her typing device- she needs someone to recognise that she wants to join in, then prompt her to get the typing device, then sometimes to prompt a response. She describes being kind of locked. A lot fo the others in the book said the same/similar.

How about doing some life skills at the table which can then be generalised easily into something meaningful (I suggest this because on Saturday I went out leaving dh with ds1 and ds3- and the rugby on- and came back to find a beautifully buttered slice of bread and every bowl in the house filled with all the flour, salt, sugar and milk we possess). A right mess, but great generalisation from school! I have no idea whether specifically working on generalisation means that the concept of generalisation spreads, but perhaps it does!

Davros Tue 25-Sep-07 09:02:45

What bullet says is very interesting. I think it is true of ASD that people CAN do things but either have no interest/motivation or don't know HOW to initiate. It does take ages before you realise just how much generalisation is going on, one of the VB vs Lovaas points is that children don't generalise with Lovaas...... well that's a generalisation and just not true. Otherwise DS would not be able to go to the toilet except during a session, never mind many other things. I also see him doing things and think "where the hell did he learn that???!!" and realise its from school, can't think of an example now but love Gess's ruined kitchen and lost supplies!

sphil Tue 25-Sep-07 12:43:07

I definitely will start doing life skills stuff with him - have definitely concentrated on the 'academics' up til now. Am in danger of producing a child who can name 20 different vehicles but can't put on his own coat blush.

Bullet - your comments are very interesting. I've often wondered this about DS2, mainly because from time to time he will choose a person (often my Dad or DS1) lean in very close to them and 'talk' fast and furious, all the time staring intently at them. He's definitely trying to say something very important - it's just that we can't understand it. But if we try to get him to reply to something we've said, it's as if he's 'locked' as you say. At the table it's different - he nearly always answers - and i wonder if it's because something about the situation frees him up - the sameness and routine of it maybe.

Gess - Dh did that when the RUGBY was on??? Pause while I drag my Dh to the computer....

sphil Wed 26-Sep-07 22:31:13

Davros - my CAT has run out. Is it very stupid to post my e-mail address on here? Just being lazy - can't be bothered to go and get my card to renew it blush

gess Thu 27-Sep-07 12:00:59

sphil email me and I can forward the message on. Or if Davros agrees I can send you her email address <<Personal CAT service takes a bow>>

Davros Thu 27-Sep-07 12:42:47

Good idea, Gess can email you my email address....

gess Thu 27-Sep-07 12:45:08

Tis done!

sphil Thu 27-Sep-07 13:04:44

Thanks both grin. You shouldn't encourage my laziness really...

Btw, tried generalising in different environments this morning and it worked very well. I enjoyed it in fact - felt less pressurised than table time. Am going to take him to DS1's school this pm which is a building site atm - see if he can generalise diggers, cranes and trucks!

gess Thu 27-Sep-07 13:54:38

er no sphil- ds1 did THAT whilst the rugby was on (dh was watching the rugby not noticing the kitchen chaos).

It's definitely well generalised though, found another slice of buttered bread 2 days ago and ds1 attempting to empty all the milk into various bowls (luckily I caught him).

bullet123 Thu 27-Sep-07 16:30:30

"Bullet - your comments are very interesting. I've often wondered this about DS2, mainly because from time to time he will choose a person (often my Dad or DS1) lean in very close to them and 'talk' fast and furious, all the time staring intently at them. He's definitely trying to say something very important - it's just that we can't understand it. But if we try to get him to reply to something we've said, it's as if he's 'locked' as you say. At the table it's different - he nearly always answers - and i wonder if it's because something about the situation frees him up - the sameness and routine of it maybe."

It might be that the quietness and order of the table makes it easier for him to process things. I know with my Ds1 he is much more attentive if he's in a quiet room with not many people.

sphil Thu 27-Sep-07 17:18:01

Gess - that'll make DH feel much bettersmile. That's great generalisation though isn't it? DS2 never does anything like that of his own accord (though I did find a packet of gf bread on the upstairs landing last week, which means he must have learnt to open the fridge!)One of the disadvantages of DS2 only going to school for 3 mornings is that he misses out on stuff like cooking, which they tend to do in the afternoons. We're thinking of extending to 5 mornings in fact - he does his programme so much better when he's been at school in the morning. But I don't know - GM's target of 500-800 trials a day keeps running through my head. Still not sure how much intensive work he gets at school.

Bullet - I'm sure you're right about the quiet atmosphere. But I did some work with DS2 this afternoon in the living room, with both my parents watching - much less structured, let him wander around, take breaks more or less of his own choosing. And he was pretty good - less focused but still able to do most things he can do at the table. I'm definitely going to continue doing this sort of work some of the time - it's a much more natural situation.

Davros Thu 27-Sep-07 20:28:05

I do think that for "teaching", esp in the early days, the table and its environment is better.

My DS does something, as does one of his schoolfriends, we call "looming", i.e. stares very closely at someone and gets right in their personal space, all very friendly but a bit scary sometimes! When he first went to his school they reported that he was "seeking attention with excessive eye contact", something I thought was hilarious as a "behaviour" for a child with ASD!

sphil Thu 27-Sep-07 21:46:21

Yes, 'looming' describes it exactly! He only does it to people he knows very well though.

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