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Where Magic Lives

Every week in my graduate program, I’m tasked with completing online video content which culminates in an exam at the end of each week. It takes most of my weekend to complete the material so I will be able to focus the rest of the week on practicum work with clients, supervision and further study time. But folks, the video content is honestly some of my favorite hours spent because it is in the quiet of these moments that I hear Jesus speaking the most.

My first thought ~ I could listen to Dr. Patrick McGreevy talk for hours.

My second thought ~ His testimony brings tears to my eyes.

My third thought ~ This is the stuff Jesus is made of right here.

Dr. McGreevy was in the middle of stressing the importance of not responding (other than physical management if necessary) during disruptive, problematic or dangerous behaviors to self or others that can often be seen while teaching alternative more functional behavior. This would include not providing reactions such as directing attention to the person or allowing their ability to leave the situation.

This task of strengthening across the verbal operants is a super fancy term for teaching God given needs inherent in every living human person on earth. Because it is teaching a repertoire that allows us to fully and meaningfully connect with others including God. Without this repertoire or with lower functioning areas of this repertoire, we can exhibit a lot of inner or outward pain displaced as ugly hurtful behavior.

Behavior as believable to the person in their reasons for doing it as breathing is to staying alive. Yet along with it, a persisting void in the human heart.

You know what Dr. McGreevy said about this kind of behavior? Do not respond with attention but do not allow the person to get away from the more functional task either. Why is this so important? Because enough people have let them. Dr. McGreevy challenged those of us serious about behavior analysis to understand the urgency of staying the course. He used the words ~ Person up.

His strong words immediately took me back to my introductory coursework on ethics. Ethics…quite a loaded word right? I don’t know about you but I’m certainly not without human fault in the area of ethical perfection. As far as I’m concerned the only human who lived with perfect ethical conduct was Jesus. It is why Behavior Analysts have ethical guidelines a mile long because “person-ing” up can not cross the lines of other relationship.

Stopping the cycle means a person needs a human connection who will not leave. Only then can we ever begin to develop connection on progressively higher levels. Friends, this is why knowing Jesus is so important.

Person-ing up is to exemplify the character of Jesus and that is gigantic responsibility. For the purposes of my work, it is also the responsibility of a behavior analyst.

Testimony from Dr. McGreevy:

A boy he worked with named Stephen was in and out of special education programs who exhibited dangerous problem behavior when being taught to interact with others. Stephen had a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder. In the past the boy was left alone, allowed to stop activities with others or in some cases moved to an entirely different school setting when his behavior had become so dangerous that getting away from him seemed the only viable option. Dr. McGreevy worked with Stephen over the course of some time, not allowing him to escape the alternative functional tasks. In some cases it meant starting again the next day but the same task began again exactly as it had been before. Sometimes physical restraint was necessary when Stephen’s behavior was so dangerous it was harmful for those involved. The process was always the same, the alternative task did not go away and the dangerous behavior did not make it go away.

Over time, Stephen made so much progress that he was placed in a general education setting with his peers. Stephen would come back to visit Dr. McGreevy at times and on this particular day that Stephen visited he was working with a younger boy who also had behavioral challenges. As a matter of fact during this particular visit and in that particular moment Dr. McGreevy was holding the boy from attempting to stab peers around him with a pencil. Stephen approached the classroom and asked if he could talk with the boy. He didn’t ask to let him go from the restraint but simply asked if he could talk to him while he remained held. After having permission, Stephen kneeled down next to the boy and offered a statement. His advice…you can stop doing this now because he isn’t going any where.

What happens when children like Stephen become adults with dangerous behavior and unlearned connection? At best, protective equipment and/or numerous psychotropic medications. At worst, behaviors ending in death.

This is deeply important stuff. A void in human connection can and will create pain even a small child can recognize on some degree. In its absence we see destructive behavior in its place.

Because God created our hearts for connection.

There are days my job requires the very most of this truth and it is the reason why behavior analysts do this work. Last week one of my young learners did something similar to Stephen when instructed to do a task. She stood up from the chair, walked over to me, grabbed the top of my head with both hands and twisted her fingers around my hair. With hair in tote she pulled me up out of the seat laughing during the entire episode. If it weren’t for her BCBA in the room for supervision I would have needed more help. Once my head was released from the grab she continued to climb the partition up the wall to get to the exit. After a few minutes of scaling the partition she climbed down and tried to grab my head again. These attempts continued among other self-sensory alarming behaviors. All the while no reaction from us even during the most dangerous of the aggressive behavior which thankfully stabilized and physical restraint as was the case in the Stephen testimony was not necessary.

This momentarily delayed the task with behavior that has reliably gotten her out of situations because enough people have left her alone. In Applied Behavior Analysis, the alternative task may be delayed but it is presented again in its original form no matter how many times it takes to get there.

This is the same child who will throw herself on my lap and sit there in my arms asking for a hug so many moments of the day. At times it pushes me to the limits of my own humanness and every where in between.

It is where the magic lives. 💗

Love by Grace,

Top Reason Every Child Deserves ABA in any Learning Situation

I wrote a previous blog post about one of the kiddos I work with each week who is learning to ask for a break. One of the most important things we do in her ABA programming are measuring and recording data.

I could talk all day long about the benefits of ABA but ultimately the data shows us the evidence.

You know that girl I talked about who fractured a wrist? This is her now. 💗

Reason #1: It is based on scientific evidence.

Some topics we teach along the way are coping skills, calming strategies and how to manage anger.

That 100% asking independently without prompting or reminder occurred this week and to say I’m proud of her would be understatement.

Loved By Grace,

Overcoming Obstacles in Children with Autism

I work with six year old identical twins both on the autism spectrum along side an ABA team for which we provide Center based early intervention therapy services several days per week.

One of the programs I’ve been writing and introducing with them currently has been focused on tolerating instruction that is aversive to them and/or accepting stimuli that blocks access to otherwise preferred items or activities.

If that isn’t a mouthful right?!!

Anyone who spends any amount of time with children on the autism spectrum may immediately understand the amount of chaos one can unleash with the kind of goals associated with the word no…not right now… wait… first we have to do this…or it’s time to do this activity you don’t want to do.

In our kiddos case it means sitting and participating in group instruction. An activity that can trigger all sorts of emotions and you might think their heads could explode. But seriously, if left to their own desires these two would be front and center in the middle of Bourbon street collecting as many shiny beads their little hearts could acquire. Our twinsies, they may very well be the future generation of bead manufacturing entrepreneurs in the heart of New Orleans. Love them. ❤️

But before we can get them to that dynamic duo multi millionaire bead making powerhouse we need to shape a tolerance to group instruction. Why you ask? Not because they need to sit still and be quiet for my sake or for ultimate survival in life but because they need to be able to attend to group activity. Doing so allows us to learn in a group setting and in order to learn we have to be able to tolerate activity that allows us to get an education.

This past week was none other than chaotic in the pursuit of twin sittings. Ha ha, get it? Twin cities, twin sittings. Okay maybe I just humor myself.

Day one of the week begins with running away from the teaching space delaying the activity. This was accomplished by continually taking off our shoes. All sorts of chaos with us messengers trying to put the shoes back on in order to get back to the seat. All behaviors that have most likely been reinforced in the past since it has essentially delayed the task of sitting in group instruction and successfully allowed us to escape the situation. More over the people around us keep putting the items back on our feet which provides all sorts of attention AND escape from learning. Bonus!

What do you think these littles are likely to do? Keep taking their socks and shoes of course! Until we stop reinforcing it.

Sure enough without attention for a period of time the lack of socks and shoes on the feet becomes uncomfortable. We now have their own motivation for help putting them back on. The messenger (that’s me) is still the bad lady at this point but will help with the shoes back on after sitting first.. We sit for a minute, help put shoes back on and we ask the messenger (that’s me) for a hug. I’m the all good lady now, Until we get back up from our seat and bite the messenger in the arm. I’m the all bad lady again and yes, being bit in the crack of the arm pit hurts like a mother!

This was all to successfully help the child sit through one education task lapsing approximately five minutes in time and then have the choice to leave the class. We finally sat through one task and could leave the class.

Follow through is the critical element here along with extinction of attention for problem behavior, extinction of problem behavior for escape followed by reinforcement for completing the task. Reinforcement immediately after the tolerated response. Snacks, beads, hugs, praise and encouragement. And we could be done with the task.

Day two of this week begins with a reminder we would be heading to group instruction along with a preference check of their preferred item. Which simply means using what is motivating or reinforcing for them at that moment for the desired response. For my super sassy kiddo this is probably a Little Debbie honey bun. A favorite most days.

Will work for honey bun. Will work even more for beads. Lord help us if they ever actually discover Bourbon Street. But seriously. Lol.

We are now heading to the class area without taking our shoes and socks off. Until we get to the hallway and throw ourself down to the floor. Crying and attempting to kick the messengers face (that’s me again). I’m the all bad lady again and my face is the target. I’d like to keep my face but there are definite moments we are close to losing it.

We see honey bun in sight. We stand up again and begin walking to our seat. We are asking for a hug clinging to my arm as we walk together to the seat. I’m all good lady again. We make it to the seat but throw ourself down to the floor again. This time pulling the messengers hair and hitting my face. Well crap, I’m the all bad lady again. We stop pulling hair and ask for another hug. We sit down in the seat and ask again for a hug.

Sitting down in the seat immediately gets the hug. We sit for the teachers instruction and get hugs AND the honey bun. Hugging tight to the good lady again.

You know what happened that day? She could choose to leave the class instruction after one task but she chose to stay for more and by doing so she got to pick the next song. It was Pete The Cat, one of her favorites of course.

We chose to leave group instruction after Pete The Cat but I could not feel more proud of this super amazing kiddo.

Eventually we will get to sitting through the full class but will do so in the right amount of time and on a schedule best for us. Small steps lead to big outcomes.

Parents or people who love them through the all good and all bad…Know that we see you. 💙

It is incredibly hard to bounce back and forth from good to bad and back again. It means we walk into the ever changing fire with them potentially getting hurt or watching them hurt themselves. And being okay with it.

But do not ever believe for a single second any child is not capable of achieving great things.

We are their calm in the chaos and it’s all good.

And please remember, unlovable human moments does not equal an unlovable person. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Loved By Grace,

For Real Though

Featured post

Teaching for Teens with Autism

I work with a fourteen year old girl with autism along side a team of ABA staff for which we provide in-home therapy based services several days per week. I could work on programming for this kiddo all week long because she is simply the best.

Which I had the chance to do this week. 💙

One of the projects I’m working on currently has been writing a program for teaching the differences between friendships, close friendships and romantic relationships. Additionally these teaching targets will help our learner be able to distinguish the difference in heathy/unhealthy relationships and between appropriate/inappropriate behaviors across social interactions.

It is not uncommon for children and teens on the autism spectrum to exhibit deficits in the area of social skills and therefore teaching programs in their ABA plans serve as an effective means for strengthening these skills.

From an essential living perspective, it is important for all children and teens to understand behaviors in social interaction and be able to discern healthy and appropriate circle of relationships into their adult lives.

Who can use these targets?

  • Parents and teachers can use this resource.
  • All kids can benefit from understanding circle of relationships.
  • Kids with autism who have a hard time understanding differences in social interactions.

How to use these targets:

  • Print out target cards (double-sided) and laminate each sheet.
  • Cut each sheet into individual (double-sided) index cards.
  • For kids who have a hard time understanding social interactions it may be helpful to not cover every card in one discussion.
  • Consider introducing or discussing 1-3 index cards at a time until they independently respond with the correct understanding of target item.
  • Prompt discussion or redirection of correct understanding as needed.

If you would like to download the index card materials you can find it here:

friendship-romantic-healthy-unhealthy-relationships-program-target-cards.pdf

If you would like an electronic or app friendly resource of the index card materials you can find it here:

https://quizlet.com/439821787/friendship-romantic-relationships-recognizing-healthy-unhealthy-behavior-flash-cards/?i=21hdso&x=1jqY

Note: Be sure to download the quizlet app on your mobile device before use.

* Tip: Many teens love their mobile devices. Use it to increase motivation for learning! If applicable of course.

* Tip: Star the cards you are working toward mastering OR star a few to break it down into smaller steps for them.

Feel free to reach out with any feedback or if you found this resource helpful. Email: ajarchow@braintrustmi.com

And please remember…

Loved By Grace,

Space Stalker

It is possible to control ones reactions and feelings even when one is faced with frightening hardships. The psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl has been credited with the following:

Between a stimulus and a response there is space.
It is in that space where we find our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Many call what I do for a living the behavior super hero’s. I don’t know about super hero but I do know we hold this space mentioned as sacred. We are some epic space stalkers. Major ninjas and we wear black on Friday’s. Just kidding we wear flannel Friday, it’s almost Fall.

We are space stalkers because we will keep you in this space until you get it right. Whatever “right” might be that brings about meaningful change in the persons lives.

Not going to lie, sometimes people get super pissed. I mean, don’t we all want this space to ourselves? I know I do! Do not space stalk me and error correct me when I’m doing it wrong. WTF right? Then it means I have to change. That’s too much work. No thank you. Insert scar on the arm and bruise on my elbow from the past week.

You know what? Jesus space stalks all of us when we let Him. It might even feel like He put our sweet little selves on extinction when we aren’t getting it right. That is a fancy word for ignoring. Nobody there, yep crickets. But the minute we try it His way Jesus is right there beside us. Actually He never left. Perhaps we were just escaping the space stalking? Food for thought.

One of my kiddos learned this escape trick the hard way. Yes, the consequence was horrible. She was probably thinking WTF? If I don’t escape this space stalker lady it means I have to change and that is too much work. No thank you! I’m out of here.

You are probably curious what happened? Well…she stood up to run from the work, fell down mid escape over a chair, landed on her wrist to brace the fall and fractured it. All while we were trying to help her in this space with the different choice. This happened about six months ago and while her broken wrist healed quickly, the memory of it remains for everyone involved. Today she is learning to ask for what she needs by asking for a break instead of trying to escape. Which essentially is her learning that asking for help in this space can be life changing. At the very least it is a heck of a lot better than the six weeks in an arm cast.

Instead of broken bones she has healing.

I often think of the scars on Jesus when He chose the cross. Jesus also had a choice in the space and He chose to heal us. It takes work to let the space stalker change us. In fact we might escape to a few broken bones until we learn differently.

When we accept the help and no longer engage in the escape…Jesus will be our space stalker.

I don’t know about my super hero title in people’s lives with ABA but I do know the super power of Jesus. If we embrace our imperfections, I know love will do the rest. ❤️

Proud to be a space stalker.

Loved by Grace,

Aimee

What Makes A Good Christian?

Have you ever wondered what makes someone a good Christian? Well you can really never know everything about this topic but there a few things that are known traits that make people good Christians.

One thing that makes someone a good Christian is they follow Jesus’ example at all times as best they can and love others with their whole heart. This makes sense because Jesus loves everyone equally so one thing you can do is try your hardest to love everyone equally in your life.

One other thing that will really help you in life is acknowledging that you have faults and sins and instead of just being sorry about those things repent, change your attitude and pray.

This next thing you can do is something a lot of people do on a daily basis. It is to read the Bible and do what it says and along with that allow God to change you. Now I know it sounds simple like it won’t help you become a better Christian but it actually helps you see other situations in life in more of a faithful manner.

Another thing that you need to be able to do is understand that you will be persecuted for your beliefs.

One other thing that you need to do on a day to day basis is set aside time for effective and meaningful prayer because not only will it aid you to becoming a better Christian, it will also give you relaxation time away from the rest of your life.

The next thing you can do every day whether you are with friends or even if you are just out and about is trying to see the perspectives of others around you. In other words the point of view of others. I know that sometimes I get into little fights with my friends and I sometimes need to just think about what they feel like and think of if I were to put myself in their shoes how hard this fight is for them. This helps you become a better Christian because you are thinking about others and not only yourself. This also goes along with being patient with people who do not make you happy or even with people who make you upset. This trick helps me a lot. Sometimes if you are just so upset about something and you can’t forget about it just work and pray for others to the best of your abilities because if they are that bad of people they really need it. This is a trick I got from my mom.

Lastly, it is very helpful to think about keeping your faith through everything because if you are constantly worrying about things you will never live your life to the fullest. All of these things together if you try to work at them every day you will slowly become a good Christian.

This was written by one of my students and to say I’m proud of them would be an understatement.

Loved by Grace,

Aimee

Tuesday Truth

Today on this national teacher appreciation day, Tuesday thoughts.

How can one possibly know all there is about the mysteries of life if they’ve never written with its color? It is those who have been brave enough to write with different colors who have always moved us beyond the black and white.

The greatest teacher of this was and is Jesus Christ on this earth. Here is to the many others who live in that truth. ❤️

#keepteachingtruth

Loved By Grace,

Aimee

Little Rosa

You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right. ~ Rosa Parks

A few weeks ago I had an encounter with a third grader that has stayed on my heart ever since we sat together. It’s a story of little Rosa.

As a teacher we spend time reading with the kids and having them read to us which is important in the growth of developing readers. It is usually these moments that stop me in my tracks because children will tell you their fears, hopes, dreams, you name it they tell you. On this particular day A, initialed for privacy, asked if I would sit down with her to read and because she had some questions. She was reading an non-fiction book about Martin Luther King Jr. and was already a few chapters in to the book. At the end of the chapter, the paragraph she began to read out loud to me about the woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus. We all know from history this woman is Rosa Parks.

What A and I read about Rosa was no less inspiring than any history book might cover but it was the question A asked me which hit deepest. The paragraph described a time when black people would have to stand in line at the front entrance of the bus, enter on the bus, give the bus driver their ticket, then exit off and walk to the back of the bus where they were allowed to re-enter to a seat in the back.

We all know Rosa Parks changed the trajectory of this practice, a misguided belief system which was unjust but A just read it. A paused, looked up at me and asked if this could or would ever happen to her on a bus. If I keep in mind she is a black female student in a predominately white community I can immediately begin to sense her concern. It sounded as though she wasn’t quite sure this could or would never happen again.

It was hard to fight back tears. What do I say? I can’t promise her without a doubt that injustice will never happen to her and that means every one of us holding accountability in continuing to speak up at injustice. I can reassure her that Rosa Parks is a hero because she stood for truth and empower her to hold tight to what this incredible woman did in history. To remind her that she has the same freedom regardless of any fear that surrounds us.

A is a little Rosa legacy. At the end of the day I reflect and remember the book of Esther when fear feels too great of thing to change. Rarely has choosing it over love changed the world.

Love demands that we start to push back on shame, and start showing up in our own lives. For many of us, this will be a risk. A huge leap of faith into the hopefully present but sometimes seemingly invisible arms of love. ~ Hillary McBride

Loved By Grace,

Aimee

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