Joint Attention

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Joint Attention happens when two people share interest in an object or event. This may typically be done through eye gazes, or verbal and non-verbal communication. Some examples of verbal communication may come in the form of gasps or even using statements such as “Look at this!”. The most common form of joint attention done through non-verbal communication is pointing. Typically when a child sees something of interest they may point at, or towards, the object which brings attention to it so that others may share in their excitement!

Joint attention typically develops in young children between the ages of 8 and 10 months old. However, many children with ASD do not develop this skill on their own and may need some additional supports in order to fully grasp it. Some reasons why it’s important to include joint attention goals for our learners is because it can help increase communication, see another person’s point of view, and help with other social skills.

Below is a list of activities that I have used in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) sessions to help increase joint attentions with individuals with autism. You can also use these at home to help your young learner to increase their joint attention skills:

  • Referencing the same page on a book – Sit down and do story time with your young one. Try and make it fun and engaging, by pointing to different items in the book. You may even ask your child to point to something too. Always reinforce their pointing by commenting on what they point to by providing statements such as “Oh that’s cool” or “Oh – you found a duck, I see another duck hiding on this page!”
  • Picking items blindly out of a bag – You can take a bag, one that you can’t see through, and place a bunch of fun items inside. Be sure to use some of your child’s favorite toys/items. Once you’ve filled it with a few items, be sure to sit across from each other and take turns taking objects out. Once you take something out, you can wrap your hand around it, bring it up to your eye and say “Ohh.. look!” and wait for your child to look at you. Once they do, be sure to show them, and then let them know it’s their turn to pull something fun out of the bag!
  • Turn taking – Find an activity such as puzzles, coloring, Legos, etc. Be sure to place a few of the items you need between you and your child. For example, if you are both working to color a picture, place a few different crayons on the table between you. Let your child know that they can’t pick up a crayon until they guess which crayon you want them to use, be sure to tell them they have to guess the right one but you wont use any words to tell them, instead they’ll have to look at your eyes. When it comes time to pick a crayon, be sure to point your eyes down to the crayon you want them to use. If your child guessing incorrectly, point to your eyes and then down to the correct object. Once they figure out which is the correct one, be sure to tell them how amazing they are for guessing the right one!

If you have any more questions on joint attention, or how Rising Star Behavior Services may help assist you, be sure to contact us today. We provide in-home services for children with autism and ADHD in the following counties, and surrounding areas in Colorado: Boulder, Jefferson, Broomfield and Adams.

Rising Star Behavior Services – Free Parent Workshop

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As a way to give back to the community, Rising Star Behavior Services is offering a free potty training workshop to any family who may benefit. It will be held at the Boulder County Library on Saturday February 23 between 12 – 1pm.

Spaces are limited, only 20 seats are available. If you are interested, please email our clinical director, Star London at starlondon@risingstaraba.com to reserve your seat.

The purpose of this workshop is to provide strategies that will help to build confidence for any parent getting ready to potty train their toddler. Alongside toilet training basics, you also will learn how to identify when your child is ready, and what steps you should do to help ensure that you are ready.

For parents who are getting ready to potty train their child with autism or sensory processing disorder, Star will also discuss strategies to assist in those areas, including a few tips for using public restrooms. She will also discuss some ways you can encourage your nonverbal child to initiate having to go to the bathroom as well.

Over the past 10 years, Star London, M.Ed, BCBA has been supporting a variety of parents through the potty training process. She is really looking forward to the opportunity of being able to give back to the community and offer this free resource!

 

 

Rising Star Holiday List Idea – Kinetic Sand

 

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Before moving to Boulder, Colorado, I used to live in North Carolina. As a college student, I longed for days when I wasn’t working or didn’t have anything to do for class, so I could go and escape towards the beach. I loved it! Walking in the sand, swimming in the salty water, and taking naps in the sun are some of my favorite memories of being back home.

Which brings me to our next toy idea, I sometimes like to think the creator Kinetic Sand is someone like me, someone who traded the beach for the beautiful landscape of the Rocky mountains!

Kinetic Sand is a great discovery. It’s one of the few toys I played with at a client’s a house and turned around and immediately bought some when I got home. Unlike Play-doh it doesn’t dry out, nor does it stick to different objects. It’s also easier to clean up, which is a huge win for parents!

There are so many creative ways to play with Kinetic Sand, for example you can work on fine motor skills by hiding objects within the sand and having your learner dig through and find them. You can expand on this idea by playing “hide and seek” with different objects. For example if you build a castle and a seahorse, you can hide items underneath. To get your learner to ask where something is, you may say something along the lines of “Can you give me the scoop?” Now your learner has a chance to look around and try to find it. If he can’t he may either say “Where is the scoop?” or you could prompt him by saying it for him and waiting for him to repeat your question, which gives you the opportunity to say “Oh yeah, I buried it under the seahorse”. Some other things you can do to target fine motor skills is cutting and pinching the sand as well.

Kinetic Sand can also help with basic math skills such as “more”, “less”, “some”, and “none”. This happens best if you’re playing with your learner and can find fun ways to control the amount of sand you both have access too. Maybe you split the sand up evenly and ask your learner to build a big sand castle, at some point they may have to ask for more sand. If you end up giving up all of your sand, you can ask him “Oh no, how much sand do I have left?” You can even make piles and use those piles for molds, and talk about how the castle mold uses some sand, and how the turtle mold uses less sand than the other molds.

Some children with autism may not know how to play with toys the same way that other kids their age might. Sometimes we need to model how to play with different objects as a way to warm them up to different toys. A great way you can do this is my creating a play scenario with the kinetic sand. One that I’ve used in the past is to start off by building a sand castle with the mold. I then make an animal, for example a turtle, and think of a reason why the turtle may need to visit the castle. Maybe he’s hungry and needs to make something to eat in the castle’s kitchen. In the past I would set up plastic food and bury it under the castle. I would then have the turtle go in and make a mess while making “eating” sounds as he finds his food. I’ve noticed that the sillier I am, the more my learners are engaged in what I’m doing! Now you get to be creative in coming up with ways to end the activity. What I’ve done in the past is say that the turtle is tired after eating such a big meal, so we place sand over him and make him a bed. HINT: Be sure to making burping and snoring sounds while playing! You can encourage your learner to make the same sounds too!

Of course what I wrote above is only a suggestion, there are many different play scenarios you can come up with on your own! You can even use the same one each time you play too, and just vary it a little bit to add on to your scheme.

Kinetic Sand has become very popular over the years. Here in Boulder you can find it at most places where toys are sold such as Walmart and Target. You can even search on Amazon for new ideas and themes too!

 

Rising Star Holiday Idea List – Find It

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I am very excited to speak about our gift idea, Find It. It’s one of my favorites to use in ABA sessions and it can be a fun toy for any child! Find It is basically a portable treasure hunt for your kid. Hidden within the pellets are about 40 different objects, and the goal is to try and find each object by shaking the Find It capsule. Watch as objects appear and disappear with each shake! This can keep a child entertained for awhile as they try and find all 40 objects!

I also like this game as you will find it comes in many different themes, for example there’s one specific for Elmo, Dinosaurs, and even Where’s Waldo? This is great if your little one has specific interests that you want to build upon, or if you would just like to have a variety of different Find It’s around to expand on!

Find It can encourage many great skills for our learners. One being turn taking, you can take turns handing off and shaking the Find It tube. You can turn it into a game and see who can find the most items.

In the past I have used this game while working on increasing length of utterance with some of my learners. What I mean, is if one of my kids typically speaks in 1-2 word sentences I can use this game to expand on that average. For instance I may encourage them to say things such as “I see a car” instead of just saying “Car”. I do this typically by modeling my language first, meaning every time I shake the Find It game, I will say “I see a hat”. I typically keep with the same sentence frame, and wont change it up until I feel confidant that my learner is using it consistently (e.g., starting with “I see a” and then moving to “There’s a..” or “I found a..”).

This game can also be used to talk about different features or categories of objects too. For instance, I may shake the Find It game and say something like “Oh – I see something you find in the sky at night”. This allows my learner a chance to think about all the things that may appear in the sky at night. This play idea also helps to keep my learner engaged in the toy when it’s not their turn, as they are responding to my questions. When it is their turn, I may even tell my learner, “Okay, tell me something about the item you see and let me try and guess what it is!” to encourage speech using features and categories as well!

Another great reason why I enjoy this game is because it travels easily. It’s portable and you can bring it with you anywhere. For instance, if your learner struggles waiting at doctor offices, or if they don’t enjoy long car rides, you can take this along for easy entertainment.

Are curious about where to find this game? In Colorado I have found it select Targets and small toy shops around the Boulder and Denver areas. If you can’t find it in stores near you, you may also try looking on Amazon.

 

 

Rising Star Christmas Idea List – Pop the Pig

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Pop the pig is game that is great for our young learners! The concept of the game is simple, and therefore easy to learn. You roll the die to select which colored burger you’re going to feed the pig. After you choose one burger in that color, you look at the bottom to find a number. That number tells you how many times you push down on the pig’s head.

For example, if I roll the die and a red circle is displayed on top, I will pick up a red burger from the pile in front of me. Once I pick my burger, I will turn it over and see, for example, the number 3. Next I’ll feed the pig, and then place my hands on his head and push down 3x. As I do this we will all see his tummy getting bigger. The more burgers he eats, the bigger his tummy gets. The object of the game is to not be the person who pops the pig!

I love this game for many reasons! Not only is it a fun way to promote turn taking and waiting for young learners, but it can also be a fun vehicle to work on different play, social, academic, and fine motor skills.

One way to focus on social skills is to evoke questions from your learner. Some ASD children need to learn how to ask questions. For example, some learners may have learned to say one word, instead of an entire sentence to get their needs met. In these cases a learner may say “Milk” and their parents understand that that means “Can I have some milk?” However this can lead to some confusion, and possibly frustration, later on when a new listener doesn’t understand that “milk” is the speakers way of asking for that item.

Some suggestions for practicing questions with Pop the Pig include bringing in other animals into play. You may say “Oh, someone else is hungry!” to evoke the response “Who’s hungry?”. You can even hide the die or burgers in fun places so that your learn may ask “Where are the burgers?”. Something else you can do is find other small toys and instead of feeding the burgers to the pig you may say “Pig is tired of burgers, he wants to eat something different” in order to get “What does he want?”

By being creative with how you play the game, you will find many different skills to work on with your young learner. For example, matching, colors, counting, and adjectives, just to name a few!

 

Reinforcement vs Bribery

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Almost every behavior analyst has heard the following, “Aren’t you just bribing my child?” And it’s understandable that this question gets asked often, because reinforcement is frequently mistaken for bribery. But what if I told you there was an important, yet subtle, difference between the two?

Let me start off by going over what reinforcement is. Reinforcement is something that happens after a behavior has occurred that increases the chances of that behavior occurring again.

For example: A child who eats all of her vegetables at dinner and is given desert afterwards. Or a child who has cleaned their room and then gets to play a game with his mom.

*Remember reinforcement only works if the behavior increases in the future. Otherwise it’s just a neutral stimulus.

Now, let’s look at bribery. According to the Merriam-Webster definition, it says that a bribe is “something that serves to induce or influence”. Bribes can be used to sway another person’s behavior.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, that both reinforcement and bribery still sound similar. So, here’s that subtle difference I was speaking about, bribery happens before the behavior occurs.

It’s kinda like standing in Target and saying, “Okay Jimmy, I’ll buy you this video now, but you better clean your room when we get home!”

So, now that we’re clear on the definition, let’s compare the two side-by-side.

Reinforcement: “Great job cleaning your room Jimmy! Would you like to go play your new video game?” vs. Bribe “Here’s your new game, now go clean your room”.

After looking at these two closely, hopefully their differences become more obvious. Another difference is that a consequence of reinforcement is learning. When a person realizes, “Hey, if I do X then good things may follow” then they have learned a new behavior. For example, if we want Jimmy to learn to clean his room the first time we ask, and he knows that he will be able to play a game afterwards, than the chances are more likely that he will continue to follow through with instructions to clean his room. However if he is given a chance to play video games, before cleaning, then the chances are that he will continue to play games and ignore his room. Because, really, what’s his motivation to comply?