Sunday, 26 February 2012

IPAD for behaviour therapy

A magician never reveals her secret, but lucky for you I am not a magician, I am a here goes. For my birthday (mid Feb) I got an IPAD. I know all the ABA Therapists out there are gasping in excitement,, like I was upon discovery of the gift, so for this post I will sing my praises to goes. 
It may be old news that Apple is producing IPAD APPS that support language and focus in our kids, but until I had used it first hand, I could not have fathomed the results. I work with mostly early-learners; that means that whether old or young most of my clients are developing the foundational learning skills, which need to be targeted to ensure successful overall skill development. To say these skills are critically important would be an understatement. Again, this may be old news to some of you but bear with me as I get the ball rolling....
So my clients are always seeking early-learner profile goals, like for-example joint-attention (the ability to focus on the same thing, or subject, as somebody else), eye-contact (self-explanatory), following simple directions (come, sit, wait, say hi),  prolonged focus and increased attention-span, and willingness to accept feedback. Many early-learners on the spectrum struggle to reach these skills in a natural way, so we need to design systematic ways to teach them. Enter IPAD.

ABA has a bad reputation for being the jellybean science for exactly this reason. In the past, therapists were forced to motivate behaviour with reinforcement like edibles (jellybeans, m and ms, skittles, popcorn, chips, gummies) in order to create a motivating learning environment; of course, the principle of reinforcement is bang on, but the delivery is a bit flawed because it is hard to fade systematically, short of simply increasing the mean length of an interval, and it is not natural and not likely to occur as a natural consequence in the real world. My client is not likely going to have a teacher or a boss in the future that is going to say Nice work Jimmy, here is a bag of jellybeans for your hard work. (Unless you work for me, that is.)
*Disclaimer* There is a time and place for edibles, I am not knocking them and I use them occasionally on an a case by case basis, but...not as the universal way to motivate learning and never without a plan to fade it and pair with social reinforcement. Also, I use edibles freely as reinforcement with my staff and I do not think there is anything wrong with that :)
Bottom line is, in order to get away from the unnatural schedules of reinforcement, or modes of delivery (i.e. popping a jellybean into the child's mouth) we have to write programs that are intrinsically motivating for our clients. Enter IPAD.
The IPAD is just one way I have discovered that a teacher or therapist can capture a room, even when the room is full of early-learners AND competing stimuli. I use my IPAD to run manding sessions, receptive language targets, tacting sessions, vocal imitation programs, direct-instruction, verbal behaviour, speech, phonics, numeracy and so much more; I use it in a group, in one to one, with my pinky, with my a house..with a get it. 
The number of educational programs available is vast, and many are available for limited use without purchase. The number of sensory apps has impressed me, and the prolonged interest in the IPAD as a result, and as a reinforcer, is far beyond anything else available to me in-centre. It is rare that a single-reinforcer will serve as the motivating for an entire sessions, switching reinforcement helps keep things fresh, but with one IPAD I can not only switch the stimuli and reinforcement, and save time, energy and resources creating materials. Did I mention that voice-output systems are obsolete with the number of free assistance communication programs available in the App Store. I mean, they really thought of everything here.

To be continued...............

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