Running an ABA programme can be very time-consuming and costly. There are a few valuable ‘must haves’, which can potentially affect the outcomes of your programme. An ABA programme should be credible, consistent and evidence based. Below, I have recommended my programme essentials in no particular order. These basic items are affordable and very easy to implement.
1. Tally counter/Clickers
This handheld tool allows you to count how many times a child communicates during a period of time. You can easily monitor the increase of verbal behaviour and draw comparisons, giving you the opportunity to explore alternative teaching methods if necessary. Not only is this counting device portable for data collection, but it can also be used to monitor responses to behaviours.
Whether they are bought or tailor made these cards are essential when running an ABA programme. Flashcards are excellent language builders and a simple way to teach word associations. Irrespective of a child’s level of development, these cards can be used through each stage of development from basic to more advanced stages. Here are some examples of programmes that can be created using flashcards:
- Object functions
- Object features
- Picture sequences
I would always opt for creating your own flashcards as not all images bought in a pack may be suitable for teaching. Remember not only is creating your own cost effective in the long run, but your images can be made identical to items that the child uses on a day to day basis.
Sometimes a child can encounter problems with their visual perception, such as picture discrimination. In such cases, a plain background image (white preferably) can be used. Thus, items are clear and easy to identify without any distractions.
3. Writing tools
Writing is a motor skill. There are many physiological factors such as poor muscle tone that can affect how well a child can write. Teaching a child to write can be very difficult to begin with. Don’t worry too much, as there are tons of supportive writing materials to help a child practice this skill with ease.
A child may struggle with holding the pencil correctly (tripod grip)... If this is the case, creating fun activities using tongs, pegs or playing games that require the use of their fingers and thumb to pick up items can help improve this skill. Encourage pencil control and formation with drawing and tracing over basic shapes.
You may be wondering why I have included writing tools... Well, handwriting supports key skills in areas such as:
- Motor skills
- Visual attention
Writing is a functional skill, so it’s worth thinking about!!
This is another simple handheld tool that can be useful when working on areas of attention and time management skills. For instance, you work with a child that finds it difficult to sit at a table. First, you may require them to sit at the table with an enjoyable item for a very short period of time (20 sec). You can then gradually increase the duration of each sitting once they have mastered the allocated time given. Using a timer will help to accurately measure each trial. In addition, timing equipment can be used to support the concept of teaching time and task completion.
5. VB tools/Assessment guides
Assessments are crucial when monitoring the progress of development. Assessment tools should allow you to measure knowledge and performance over time. The VB-MAPP by Mark Sundberg is an excellent guide to begin with. There are a great deal of materials out there so check them out!
ABA programmes are unique as they can take on a holistic approach. Your ABA programme should incorporate a good mix of curriculum and life skills with clearly defined goals and objectives. Make sure when choosing your assessment guides, it measures the goal, it is intended to measure and monitored efficiently.
This is the most essential of all, reinforcers are used for motivation and to strengthen behaviour. Reinforcement is likely to increase the chances of a desirable behaviour, to occur again. Your child’s preference to desired items can change very quickly, so make sure you keep a list of preferred items that you can refer to if necessary. Try to mix up the reinforcers and ensure that the most desirable items are given during more difficult or spontaneous tasks.
Reinforcers should be fun and given as frequently as necessary to motivate and strengthen behaviour. Ensure that the level of reinforcement given reflects the difficulty of the task. Once your child has mastered a generalised skill, 80% of the time, delayed reinforcers can be incorporated into the programme.
7. Play activities
Play is a fantastic way to encourage language production… When working with children it’s important that they are able to play with a range of stimulating materials. You can teach many concepts through the use of play. Play materials can advance over time to become more age appropriate. Several researchers have shown how significant play can be, to brain development. So not only should play be fun and perhaps structured depending on your goal. Make sure you take advantage of the social benefits play can offer.
8. ABC datasheets
Applied behavioural Analysis is based on understanding behaviour through observation. The ABC datasheet is a simple form that can be filled indicating the antecedent (what happened before the behaviour occurred?). Behaviour (what did the child do?) and the consequence (what happened after?). ABC datasheets are the perfect application to use when looking at behaviour. By using this datasets you can assess behaviour, look at the function of behaviour, and then put forward strategies to address the behaviour. This form also gives you the opportunity to look out for behavioural patterns. You may find that a behaviour occurs regularly on an activity, with a person, or during a particular time of day.
An ABA programme can be very expensive and making your own materials is not only cost effective, but can be a beneficial learning aid. You are able to create flashcards or learning materials that are suitable to your child’s level (as stated above). Materials can be made clearer and easier to read. To achieve this you will need your very own stationary table full of pens, paint pots and colourful paper etc.
My must have stationary equipment to make materials for a programme are:
- Laminating sheets
- Laminating machine
You will be amazed as to how much stimulating materials you can create and the how easy you can adapt your resources.
All too often we forget to look back on how hard our child has work over the years. Sometimes we focus too much on the next target and forget how much progress they have made. We have a tradition at School of ABI… Remember the saying ‘It’s the little things that count’... We do just that!!
We write down each milestone reached by our clients, no matter how big or small.
So, this is your progress notebook... As time goes on, I would like you to note down anything the child did, that you didn’t see or realise they could do before and date it. Every so often you feel disheartened or need some encouragement, I would like you to open your notebook. When you look back you will be amazed at how much they have accomplished and how far they have come.
I hope this helps in your progress to success!!