Jack Riley has been having a hard time being nice to his little sister Lainey. In reaction to that, his parents are trying out some positive reinforcement to get him to behave nicer. They started a system called ‘happy points’ where every time Jack Riley is nice to his sister, they give him a ‘happy point’, and once he gets enough happy points he is able to get a fun prize. Simultaneously, with his therapist Jessica, they work on writing a social story about ways in which he should interact with his sister. Hopefully, with enough reminders he will be nice to his little sister all the time.
Jack Riley is now 4 years old. A lot has changed in the last few years. He’s a lot more verbal than he used to be, but occasionally his language isn’t functional. Today he keeps scripting the same phrase while he’s doing tasks like unwrapping his birthday present, or playing with his toys. Echolalia is fairly common with kids with autism spectrum disorder because it’s a self-stimulatory behavior and is intrinsically reinforcing. The behavior comforts, and helps regulate themselves no differently than body rocking or hand flapping; it’s just a different form of stereotypical behavior.
This week, Jack Riley’s supervisor, Diana, visits to check on his progress. Jessica and Diana discuss how going to the bathroom has been an issue with Jack Riley. They problem-solve to see what they can do to change his behavior.
A lot of Jack Riley’s program are is about getting him to socialize with his peers. Jessica is working on a program with him called “statement-statement” which has him practicing making a statement after he hears someone else make one. For example Cheryl says, ” I am laying on the floor.” Jack Riley then responds, “I am playing.”
Playing is learning. With constructive play, a child learns how to imitate others, and to use their imagination to generate structures. With functional pretend play, the child is givenan opportunity to practice using items appropriately and to work on his conversation skills by having him narrate his actions.
Jack Riley began preschool this year which has been a challenging adjustment for the family. On top of the stress of starting school, the family had an IEP meeting. Typically an IEP meeting happens annually after the child’s birthday, but this year they are having two meetings.
Cheryl and Mike sit down and talk with Nick, who recovered from autism in 2001 at the age of four. They discuss what he remembers from being in therapy, and what school was like for him. Nick is candid about his experience with bullying, and gives Mom and Dad some insight on what it’s like growing up with autism.
It’s been over a year since Jack Riley was diagnosed with autism and ten months since he began ABA therapy. Cheryl and Mike discuss how feeding used to be a nightmare and how this has radically changed for the better. Jack Riley used to not feed himself and his diet was limited to apple sauce, yogurt and bananas. His diet has since expanded greatly and he is now more willing to try new foods.
The big day is finally here — potty training. With the aid of Jack Riley’s parents, therapists, reinforcers, and pottylog, success is bound to happen. Watch how the principles of ABA can be applied to teach potty training.
Jack Riley is more aware of others and gets excited when he has visitors. When Jessica and other therapists first started coming over, he wouldn’t acknowledge their presence, but now he does with enthusiasm. At the same time however, Jack Riley has been having behavioral issues and has been very inflexible. Cheryl and Mike share with Jessica what his behaviors have been like. Jessica and Jack Riley continue working on categories as Mom and Dad help as interpreters.