Teaching Children with Autism, continued
- Determine what the child already knows, and starting where the child is, teach the next step or steps in the curriculum, using the Antecedent-Behaviour-Consequence model.
- Use small teachable steps
- Collect data, to keep track of what is being learned
- Use the data as a guide to adjusting your teaching
If a program has the components listed above, then it is an ABA program. However, that still allows for considerable variation among ABA programs. Some (mainly older) programs employ massed trials, i.e., presenting the same antecedent-behaviour-consequence pattern over and over again until it is fully learned, while others prefer to mix and vary their teaching targets. Some (older) programs use “No, no” prompting as a way of alerting the child to his errors, while other programs prefer to strive for “errorless learning,” using a lot of what is known as “most-to-least” prompting (I will explain all this in just a few moments). Some (older) programs think of language as being either receptive or expressive, while other programs choose to approach language in terms of its functions: imitating, requesting, labelling, etc. And, of course, what works best can vary from child to child and moment to moment anyway. That is, there is no one approach that will work best for all children all of the time. To be most effective, treatment has to be individualized. The question then becomes “Which approach is going to work best for your child right now?”
Personally, I prefer, as the starting point for any formal ABA-based program, a particular set of effective teaching procedures that are associated with what has come to be known as Applied Verbal Behaviour (ABA/VB, AVB, or simply VB):
- Always try to start and end your interaction with your child on a high note.
- Use “Most-to-Least” prompting.
- Think “Transfer Trial” – a transfer trial is an opportunity to respond without being prompted, or with a lesser degree of prompting (It is provided after a prompted response)
- Mix easy and difficult tasks.
- Mix/vary targets and tasks.
- Teach to fluency.