Problem: Oregon Department of Education (ODE) has a tendency not to hire outside consultants to oversee students with autism/developmental disabilities or train teachers and aides in appropriate Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) procedures. This puts the onus on parents to learn and execute ABA for their own child and also continue to push ODE for this service in both Early Intervention and Special Education.
Design direct instruction curriculum, ABA evaluation system with graphical tracking, and on-line ABA programs via Open Education Resources (OERs). These OERs will be available for free under a Creative Commons or like licensing. They are usually created via a collaborative structure such as http://en.wikiversity.org, http://wikieducator.org, and http://en.wikibooks.org. Once curriculum and evaluation systems are designed and available for free, parents and educators can participate in honing the program and in spreading the word.
Acquire a building to house an Oregon Autism Center between Portland and Eugene. The center will be a hub for support groups, trainings, materials, and evaluations.
WHY? ;-) Gee, ask them WHY NOT? Unless your child is only a few months below his chronological age in all areas, there is not any reason for why, only why not, which I bet they could not really answer rationally.
WHY = faster acquisition of objectives means new objectives can be added. (OH NO
WHY = Because he, age unknown, has a better chance of developing play skills sooner, and that gap that widens every six months has less chance of materializing into a chasm.
WHY = Because then you can divide up your priorities and teach some things at home without worrying as much he will not get it and be over burdened, and the school is supposed to be helping all preschoolers do what typical kids do.
WHY = Because the waiting list for group homes gets ever longer, and you should not be planning for a group home, but elementary school and beyond with hope.
Scenario: Oregon Department of Education (ODE) does not want to hire outside consultants competent in ABA to learn and execute ABA in a competent fashion. This puts the onus on parents to learn and execute ABA for their own child and also continue to push ODE for this service delivered in a competent and intensive manner (for younger children).
Solution: Package and sell ABA to parents with children with autism (especially newly diagnosed), school districts, Regional Directors, ESDs, and Early Intervention Programs.
Prerequisite reading in order to package and sell ABA: Ideavirus (short free book available for computer and Palm/Pocket PC)
Create an autism community by creating an Oregon Autism Consortium
Solicit parents and professionals to be added to the Oregon Autism Consortium address list via a website and literature already available in Oregon (like websites, membership forms, and various organization's literature)
Ever wonder how the school system can dismiss a medical diagnosis of autism? They can because they have a loophole in the autism evaluation to qualify for autism services: the disability must be shown to inhibit learning during three 20-minute observations. There are some other parts of the evaluation but I suspect this is one that might keep some kids from qualifying for autism services, especially in the special education (ages 5+).
In addition to differences in diagnosis, both systems have vast differences in treatment. Here is some comparison between a medical approach and a school-based approach to treatment:
Oregon currently does not have the competent, let alone certified, personnel to carry out appropriate ABA programs that are well supervised with qualified and trained therapists. They have bought into eclecticism via Janice Janzen, a long time Oregon autism educator. Their reasoning? We can't offer only one solution because each child is different. However, by only offering an Eclectic solution, they have chosen a single methodology on behalf of our children and families.
Eclecticism is, in itself, a methodology.
Ever hear people say that one methodology doesn't work for ALL children? Somehow, the answer is to have NO methodology. This is known as an eclectic program. A little of this and a little of that. Take the best of various things. The tool-belt method. Sounds good, doesn't it?
You cannot do research on programs that are vastly different from one child to another. So what ends up happening is that these ineffective, sometimes harmful programs are continually used on hundreds of children, year after year, decade after decade.
Nothing like hiding under "one program doesn't fit all kids" and "we don't need no stinkin' research."
Big-ol' ABA misconception #1: ABA is Lovaas Discrete Trial
I think one very common misconception, especially with Oregon Department of Education (ODE) folks, is that ABA is synonymous with discrete trial teaching (Lovaas). ABA is a methodology that can be applied everywhere, with anyone, at any time. It involves noting responses to an instruction while keeping in mind the motivation aspect of the subject's response (something is motivating to the child when it increases the appropriate response when that motivating thing is given to the child). Behaviors are strengthened by positive reinforcement and diminished by non-reinforcement or replacement by something else. It is effective because you constantly monitor the program by collecting objective data and analyzing it - then modify interventions based upon the data.
Big-ol' ABA misconception #2: ABA doesn't work with older kids
Another myth is that ABA only works for certain kids. You can use ABA principles on siblings, employers, parents, etc (see Don't Shoot the Dog).
Big-ol' ABA misconception #3: ABA take away from the child's personality
I read the Greenspan/Wieder book, attended a "Floor Time" training session, and implemented a full Floor Time therapy program with my son. We even went so far as to remove all the furniture from our living room and to place fun toys/activities around the edges of the play carpet. We turned off the TV (haven't turned it back on yet--four years and counting!), turned on the answering machine, and played with our son10-14 hours a day for almost 18 months. I am NOT exaggerating! I even hired a speech path graduate student to play with him 10-15 hours a week to give me a break. The result? Nothing. It was a waste of time! (Read on, I have some good things to say about it later.)
Fortunately, we then began an ABA program. In only two weeks of ABA/Lovaas, my previously non-verbal son gained 75 words and was using two-word sentences within a month. Now, with ABA/AVB, my son is conversational and social and is fully mainstreamed (still has an aid to help him, but we're fading her out). PLEASE do not recommend Floor Time for beginning children. You will lose critical time!
A letter I sent to the reporters (and a letter to the editor, which wasn't printed.) I refer to a table from the ODE. Incidentally, this email was cced to Susan Castillo and some early education activists.
When my son was younger, we had a speech therapist who followed Stanley Greenspan's Play Therapy. We also were doing ABA (Lovaas style) at the time. Now we are doing VB.
As I understand these methods there is one major difference...in any ABA program, it is very important that the therapist have instructional control...that doesn't mean tying the kid to a chair, but it does mean that the therapist is in control of what is being taught and is also in control of the child behaviorally.
On the other hand, Greenspan's play therapy is CHILD LED....that's the term he uses. In this therapy, you let the CHILD determine what happens...for instance...if he picks up a ball, you start talking about the ball, if he picks up a shoe, maybe you start talking about the shoe - or playing with it, etc. If he had behaviors, the therapist would try to talk to him, saying, "I know you're mad", "Tell me why you're mad", "say, I'm mad because you took my ball"...lots of stress on "affect" and following the child's lead.
Training, training, training -- data, data, data -- analyze, analyze, analyze -- fun, fun, fun --creative, creative, creative -- positive, positive, positive -- compassionate, compassionate, compassionate -- motivation, motivation, motivation -- it's never the kid's fault he/she is not learning, you need to be better at teaching.
Ever wonder how a parent and school official don't see eye to eye on resources and your child? Well, let's say it can have a lot to do with perspective. I have no idea of how parents (especially ones that advocate hard) and teachers and administrators (especially as resources are dwindling and unions are stratifying the benefits between overwhelmed newbie teachers and teachers with seniority).
Give "go play" and pull child back to you by back of shirt. Do several times. It usually builds a smile and a lot of times when you don't grab the shirt the child will back up to you to do so.
"I'm gonna eat your toes!" take child's foot toward your mouth with pretend chomp with sounds-- every kid i work with likes this one. Doesn't seem to make a difference in child has rec. language or not--just the anticipation. after first or second time of trying to pull away with laughter, child usually gives you other foot.
Say "do this" and make roar sound. When child does, act terrified and fall off chair. May take a few do thises but most kids love the idea of making you react.
Instructor head into child stomach, tickly burrowing of head--real laughter zone.
Wind up your hand like its a toy til your wrist hurts (almost)--use cranking sound effects-then let it go and flap your hand wildly over the table and child in flip flop motion.
Fall asleep and snore loudly on child's lap then wake up suddenly for the school bell--ding ding ding.