IS ABA INTERVENTION POSSIBLE AT SCHOOL TO TEACH AUTONOMY?

THE TESTIMONY OF A MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER

“Every child deserves a chance to show everyone what they are capable of, every child deserves to learn all they can learn, every child deserves effective behavioral intervention”.Mary Beth Walsh

The entrance of a student with disabilities at school involves the activation of a network that involves teachers, classmates, family and any professional figures who follow the student, in order to ensure a linearity and consistency in the educational and inclusive path. Giving opportunities to learn, to improve one’s quality of life and well-being.

The starting point for a teacher is certainly to identify the characteristics of the student, to outline a profile, to define priorities and goals, always starting from the student and what can be important for him on the basis of his skills, preferences, age, values, so that he can be increasingly capable and active in the social context in which he is.

People with difficulties usually do not learn from the environment spontaneously, so they need to be taught.

Personal autonomy is part of the student’s repertoire of skills, it is possible to teach in school through the application of Behavior Analysis.

Below is the experience of a secondary school teacher who has been working with professionals in ABA for years. She tells us how she taught a middle school boy to hold a spoon and eat independently.

She started by observing the student, defined the goal and broke it down into sub-goals in order to make the task facilitating, defined a task analysis with the sequences of behaviors of the skill to be taught, defined the type of prompt to be used and the reward to be delivered that was highly motivating for her student. Everything was reported in data sockets for monitoring the teaching put in place.

A-How many years have you been working with ABA professionals? What has changed in the way you teach?

I have been collaborating for about seven years with ABA professionals, the experience has allowed me to enrich my professionalism but above all to know intervention strategies that allow to obtain the expected results with the students. Sharing an educational path is, surely, the key to achieving not only educational success but to solicit the well-being of the person and all those who are part of their lives. Understanding how a student’s behavior works means being able to anticipate difficult situations and implement appropriate strategies; this is possible when the shared work environment becomes a “training laboratory” focused on the person with all his or her personal characteristics.

B-How did you decide to teach a child first to eat independently? Is it possible to do this within the educational institution?

I have learned that it is necessary to start from what the students can do or try to do and to consider that motivation is the trigger. Deciding to teach something functional to the life of a student, I believe, should be a natural goal; planning an intervention of this type at school is like carrying out any other technical-practical activity. Before carrying out activities on autonomy, (previously included in the IEP), I essentially share with the family the priorities regarding the autonomy to be acquired among those possible, then simply by having a dedicated environment, structured in an essential way, with the appropriate reinforcers aimed at the person, I carry out various daily exercises. 

C-How did the teaching come about?

Preparatory phase: Identification of favorite foods, both sweet and savory, organization of the environment with the most appropriate choice of cutlery and plate, highly motivating reinforcer. In agreement with the family, a light breakfast at home; the first teaching occasions started with a reinforcer that was given when the boy held the cutlery and brought it to his mouth, obviously the reinforcer/work relationship was reversed over time. (Obviously prompts, physical aids, modeling were used, which made learning praxis possible).

D-How did you monitor learning progress?

The work was monitored, with a chart noting how many times he brought the cutlery to his mouth on his own during each predefined teaching occasion (I defined a number of times during the school day in which to do the teaching).

E-What if you had the ability to use an app that allows you to take data?

Granted that faculty should have minimal training in applied behavioral analysis, I believe that the ability to have an application that facilitates data collection would definitely be a resource that would help to have a clear picture for accurate and orderly progression of work.

F-In what ways do you think technology can help with student progress?

Technology, apart from supporting students as a CAA tool, through the applications allows you to find suitable for the needs of each student to carry out activities aimed at educational learning, also for students particularly compromised also allows you to develop the oculomanual coordination with ease thanks to the reinforcement entrinseco of ‘App (lights, movement, sounds, music), and finally the playful aspect is not to be underestimated both to learn and as a gratification to the work previously done. In addition to these aspects, technology can be useful for easy collection of information and data and for constant monitoring of learning and progress, for immediate sharing with the entire team of the student.

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