We've had a busy week. We are embarking on a big new adventure for T - starting a Verbal Behavior home program for him. Verbal Behavior is a type of Applied Behavior Analysis, a treatment program that has been used with autistic children for decades. Here's a definition: ABA is a teaching technique that enables autistic children to learn and communicate by identifying skill deficits and then breaking these deficits down into manageable units. Through procedures of reinforcement, shaping, prompting, and generalization development skills are taught and expanded on into more meaningful units. Verbal Behavior (ABA:VB) focuses on the acquisition of speech and communication. Since T's second diagnosis is Severe Receptive and Expressive Language Disorder, this made sense for us to go down this road for him.
So what does this look like? How does it work? The first step was finding a consultant. She comes from Indy once a week to train me, our team of VB therapists, set up and maintain the program. If we do this as prescribed, T should have 25-40 hours/week of this therapy. We'll see if we get it up to that. Last week, my big task was to go through the ABBLS (the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills): 26 categories of skill sets (visual performance, imitation, requests, labelling, etc.) with 10-52 tasks each - assessing T. Whew. The ABBLS assessment clearly shows us which tasks he has not mastered yet, and we use these tasks as the basis for his weekly program.
Teaching the tasks is done by breaking them down into small steps and rewarding each step completed successfully. We're doing this to help with toilet training - another post for another day. Rewards can be food, use of a toy for a few seconds, a video or music for a few seconds, or even tickles or praise.
It's a huge undertaking, and I'm exhausted from the week. Thomas, however, is already really responding to the techniques, and I'm thrilled and filled with hope for what it can do for him. I'll post soon about the potty training - that will give a clear example of how this works (even though potty training isn't verbal, the technique can still be used.)