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Community Skills Matter: planning to decrease supports and to increase community participation

Community Skills Matter: planning to decrease supports and to increase community participation

Sunday 1st April 2018
By Roni Dunning, B.A., M.Sc., BCBA of Blossom ABA

It's a joy for any parent, community member and ABA team when they see a child who was once not able to understand a simple instruction such as 'come here' in a queue without any direct supports ordering his drink.

It takes many skills to do that. Some of them are as below:
- tolerance to wait for the delivery of a preferred item (in this case drink)
- resilience, regulation come with the above
- waiting in a queue and for one's turn
- understanding when he pushed in and adjusting his behaviour
- requesting from others
- decreasing prompts and increasing independence
- choosing from options given
- carrying his drink to the table
- and so on...

This is the result of repeated practice with parents in downtime and ABA tutors when out and about over time, of using a task analysing breaking down steps involved in different routine activities which incorporate reinforcement and ABA techniques.

Our kids can learn and they make us proud!

But we must never take their learning for granted or forget the fact they need planning, prioritising and that they need pre-requisites building up for more complex behaviours.

Teaching a child to order a drink by himself takes more than just a task analysis.
* It takes many other skills that have been generalised over time.
* It takes reinforcing these different behaviours and then putting them all together so that all the teaching makes sense in the real world.
* It takes collaborative work between a multidisciplinary team.
* This list is not exhaustive.

It is by no means something some of our learners just 'pick up' or 'common sense' as some practitioners may say, without actually seeing what goes behind teaching our learners skills using ABA techniques. Common sense is a great word, as we want our teaching to make sense to the world out there, but it is by no means just acquired without planning and the correct reinforcement procedures in place so our learners can gradually acquire skills that have been broken down in small steps whilst also enjoying the experience.

And suddenly they ask you for a drink and you think: hang on a minute...you can do this! Go and get your drink... and they do it! :)

As this child grows, the team is focusing on community participation and skills that can serve him across different environments whilst still focusing on his specific targets intensively on a one to one basis.

It's common that some learners still tend to do their own thing when they see someone is not watching them closely at times or revert to past habits if there's someone new but I guess it's part of a person's developmental milestones to also perform these behaviours at times.

Prioritising the right skills and leading our learners into continuing to achieve their individual milestones whilst generalising and performing meaningful behaviours is so relevant for these learners. These skills will help increase their quality of life and consequently, enable them to access more opportunities in the community and this matters a lot to parents 😉.

Attached are references for a couple of papers I've found useful especially now as I lead some learners into secondary school transition.

With a caseload that ranges from 20 months to 14 years, and being an autism mum as well, it has paid off to plan well in advance and programme learning objectives based on where each learner's individual priorities lie.

And you see your child sitting and drinking the juice they ordered themselves feeling so proud. An adult then comes to you and says: 'He chose orange juice and I hope it's okay!' and you tell them 'that's fine thank you so much!' and you think: 'This is amazing!'.

To anyone else watching it's just an average type of chat, but to us witnessing it, it's the type of joy that we get when we know what it takes to teach our learners skills when they need more careful programming.

Learn more about Roni