This guest post is from Trisha Pranjivan at The Children’s Place. You can check out The Children’s Place here. TCP have clinic’s in Clapham and Marylebone that offer speech and language therapy and occupational therapy. I have a good working relationship with the guys at the clinic, and it’s wonderful to work together. Over to Trisha….
Since meeting James, and attending the trainings that he provides at our clinic, I’ve learned so much more about ABA than I knew before and my perspective on ABA therapy has changed dramatically and positively. In the last year, thanks to the wonderful trainings that James has provided our clinic, I’ve come to the realisation that everyone uses ABA principles in one form or another. Speech and Language Therapists are no exception! We use certain principles of ABA in our sessions in order to help children reach their speech and language targets. Below is a description of ABA principles as it relates to speech and language therapy.
ABA principles in Speech and Language Therapy
This is a principle that I never had a label for before learning more about ABA. Pairing is the process of building and maintaining rapport with a child so that they want to play with you. This is so important because the more paired you are with a child, the more willing the child is to do what you ask of them. In Speech and Language Therapy sessions, we often have to do a lot of repetitive practice of speech sounds or language concepts. It can be very difficult to engage a child in these sorts of adult-led, tasks if not properly paired. If the child isn’t interested in playing with the therapist, they will definitely not be interested in practicing their speech sounds. However, if properly paired, the child will be excited to see the therapist and play with them, and will therefore will be more willing to fulfil the demands that are placed on them.
Positive reinforcement is most definitely the most commonly used ABA principle used in Speech and Language Therapy. Whenever a child engages in a behaviour that we want them to engage in, we provide the behaviour with some form of positive reinforcement. The behaviours that we might be working on include, correctly producing a certain speech sound, using a certain word structure (e.g. a preposition) or engaging in a targeted social skill such as making eye contact when requesting. Depending on the child and/or the demand, the type of reinforcement that we use will differ. We may provide verbal praise (e.g. “Wow! Well done making your ‘s’ sound!”), provide them with high-fives or tickles, or give them an item that they want. By doing this, they will be more likely to engage in the same behaviour again in the future. If every time a child makes eye contact they are given a toy that they really like, they will be more likely to use eye contact again in the future. The same can be same for all speech and language targets that we work on.
Negative reinforcement is the removal of something that the child doesn’t like. This is the type of reinforcement that we use when teaching children to use language to protest. For example, if the child’s target is to use the phrase “I don’t want it” instead of pushing the toy away or crying, then this is our go-to ABA principle. I might present a child with play-doh knowing that the child hates playing with play-doh. When the child uses the phrase “I don’t want it,” I will remove the play-doh so that he doesn’t have to play with it. If he cries instead, I will keep the play-doh on the table and prompt him to use the phrase before removing the toy.
Negative Punishment and Extinction:
Negative punishment sounds like a scary term but it’s not as mean as it seems! What negative punishment means is to remove something that the child likes as a consequence of an unwanted behaviour. In speech therapy, there are a few different reasons why we might use this. The most common way of using negative punishment in our sessions is ignoring unwanted behaviours and removing preferred toys. By removing the attention/a preferred item consistently, we can reduce the unwanted behaviour. Unwanted behaviours might include, refusal to do an activity, throwing, biting, hitting,crying, or throwing a tantrum. While we want to be sensitive to a child’s frustrations, we also don’t want to reward the child by paying attention and reacting to these behaviours. Instead we will remove attention and any other preferred items– we will try not to make eye contact, change our facial expression, or respond verbally. The child will soon learn that crying or hitting is not getting them what they want and in the future the challenging behaviours will be minimised.
Collaboration with ABA Consultants and Teams
Although we often use basic ABA principles in our sessions, there are still many occasions in which we are unsure of how to deal with certain behaviours and/or a child’s challenging behaviours are impacting upon the child’s success in speech and language therapy. In these instances, it is important to refer the child to a behavioural consultant so that the child can receive tailored support to their needs. Whenever a child has an ABA consultant or ABA team, we will work closely with them to ensure that we are all on the same page. Consistency and collaboration is key to ensuring success in both speech and language therapy and in ABA therapy. While there is overlap between the two fields, we are each experts in our own fields and by working together we can provide the best therapy possible!