Rising Star ABA -Premack Principle

Screenshot (99)Premack Principle is a common tool we use in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). It’s a principle that states a person will be more likely to engage in a non preferred task if it’s followed up with a preferred task. Basically, by offering a “first/then” schedule, a person may perform a low probability task (i.e., something they are not interested in) if it’s completion is contingent upon being able to engage in a high probability task (i.e., something they are interested in).

For this reason, Premack Principle is often referred to as “Grandma’s Rule”. This is because Grandmas are really good at reminding their grand kids, for instance, that they can’t have their deserts if they don’t finish their vegetables! In other words, grandma is able to increase the chances of their grand kids finishing their vegetables if she makes cake available afterwards. What do you think would happen if she offered cake first? That’s right, you wouldn’t expect their grand kid to eat all of their peas!

Of course, this doesn’t work just for eating deserts, there are many different applications of the Premack Principle. For instance, your child has a hard time collecting their things and getting their shoes on before leaving the house. If you know you’re going to go to a place your kid enjoys (i.e., the park, a certain store, so on) then you’re kid may be more likely to get their shoes on if they were told “Get your shoes on, then we’ll be able to go to the park”. You can also use this tool by trying to get your child to  clean up their room. If you just ask them to do it, there’s a chance they may take a long time, or not actually follow through and finish cleaning up. However, if you knew you wanted to make cupcakes as a family later that day, you may tell them “Hey, after you clean your room, we can make some cupcakes”, which may motivate them more to complete their task. The same applies to being able to watch TV, or have access to screen time, after homework is completed.

One thing to note is that it is very important that you follow through with your requests. For instance, if you tell your child “First clean your room, and then you can watch Netflix”, but you allow your child to watch Netflix, for whatever reason, before they’ve finished, then there’s a good chance their room wont get cleaned. And there’s also a chance that in the future your child knows that in order it access a preferred activity, they don’t always have to follow through with your requests (i.e., non preferred activities).

This also applies if you tell your child “First do your homework, and then we can read books together”, assuming your child loves reading books with you. However, when they’ve finished their homework you tell them “Oh, wow I didn’t realize how late it was, maybe we’ll read a book tomorrow instead” (i.e., you’re not following through), then your child may not trust you in the future and may be less likely to complete those non preferred activities when you ask them.

If you would like to know more about the Premack Principle, be sure to send our clinical director, Star London, at Rising Star Behavior Services a message ( Our company provides in home applied behavior analysis, or ABA, to children with autism and ADHD. Currently, we are serving Boulder and North Denver counties and surrounding areas in Colorado.

Home based ABA for children with Autism

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At Rising Star Behavior Services you will find a team of individuals who will work with your family needs to make sure your child receives the individualized attention they need in order to be successful.

At this time we do not have a wait list for services in the following, and surrounding areas: Boulder, North Jefferson, Bloomfield, and Adams county. We currently accept the following insurances: Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, Cigna, and Colorado Medicaid.

Our services include working directly with your child to help with social, emotional, play, and communication goals. We also work with families on decreasing specific behaviors such as yelling, hitting, throwing, and tantrums. Rising Star can even help assist in potty training and community supports as well.

If you would like to know more about our services, contact us today for a free evaluation!

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 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!