The Penny

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

[Thursday, June 25, 2009]

For Heather, Ethan's Mom

Hi Heather, nice to meet you. Your son is adorable. From reading your blog, it looks like you have enough cause to pursue testing for an autism spectrum disorder. I'm sure it feels like forever until fall, though! I do not have a child with autism, so I cannot know how it feels, but I do want to say that children and adults with autism have been some of the most wonderful people I have known.

Although I am still new to the field, I have had the opportunity to work with children on the spectrum who have been educated or learned language using a variety of methods. I have done research on several. Autism is a special interest of mine. As is aural habilitation, you have probably gathered. Anyway, the research does point toward some language growth using ABA and VBA (also called VBI). However, in practice these methodologies too often produce little "robots," who use language skills only in the narrow context in which they are learned. I don't care much if a child can use the word red to refer to a specific picture that has been use as a stimulus tool, if the child never says red in real life. VBA is supposed to prevent this by doing "fluency trials," where the child practices several targets in rapid succession. But prompt dependency is a concern with VBA, because of the way prompts are given. To me, it doesn't look any better than ABA. However, for lower functioning students, these types of strategies may be the only way they can learn. And I will say that behavioral strategies are useful for, of course, modifying behavior.

For language development, I have been impressed with what I have seen of Hanen and Floortime. Also, Pivotal Response has shown excellent results in the limited articles that have been published, although I have not seen it in action. I so want to try that one when I have a student who is appropriate for it. Probably in the fall. I also think that PECS, when done correctly, is great for teaching initiation. Even verbal students can benefit from PECS if they do not typically come up to you and initiate communication.

Good for you, keeping an antecedent-behavior-consequence chart. The teacher/behavior specialist/psychologist will appreciate that. Sometimes it is surprising how we inadvertently reinforce undesirable behavior. I remember feeling pretty dumb one time when I realized that I was reinforcing a slide-out-of-my-chair-and-lie-on-the-floor behavior by scolding the child when he did it. He was reinforced by negative attention! That certainly changed my perspective on handling behavior.

Let me give you a few more resource links for autism:


Anonymous | June 26, 2009 at 12:57 PM

Holy crap this is great! I can't thank you enough! He is such an overwhelming case with his varieties of issues contributing to his language difficulties. Hearing loss, apraxia, cmv related cognitive things that remain unclear, and now possibly an autism diagnosis. And that's just the tip of the iceberg as far as caring for this little guy is concerned. Thanks for taking the time to put up such a thoughtful reply with all these resources! Nice meeting you as well!

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