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Catching students being good makes them smile

Catching students being good makes them smile.

We’ve been educating students with learning and behavior disabilities for nearly 40 years, and have served hundreds of families and over 30 San Diego area school districts.  That’s a lot of questions and answers.

As unique as each student and family is, some questions get asked fairly often, at least often enough that we have compiled some of those that have been asked most frequently and have provided an answer.  Just click on the question.  You may want to know more.  If so, please contact us.

What is a nonpublic school (NPS)?

Nonpublic schools are private, nonsectarian schools that are certified by the State Department of Education. Such schools must meet all of the requirements specified in California regulations for public schools, including having credentialed teachers. State Department of Education certification permits Children’s Workshop to provide special education and Related Services according to student IEPs on contract with public school districts.

What is ABA?

ABA is the acronym for Applied Behavior Analysis, which is a science of behavior in real-world settings. ABA provides us with a way to think about our students, ways to teach them, ways to evaluate their progress, and ways to develop new teaching strategies according to well-established principles. ABA is central to our teaching and therapy methods at Children’s Workshop.

What is a BCBA and how does it affect my child’s program?

The BCBA stands for Board Certified Behavior Analyst. The certification is granted by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board to professionals who have completed at least a Master’s degree, coursework in the area of Behavior Analysis, a supervised practicum, and have successfully passed a written examination. BCBAs are certified to provide expertise in the development of programs for individuals with Autism, other developmental disabilities, and severe behavior problems. Because the Director and Program Coordinator of Children’s Workshop have the BCBA in addition to California Special Education teaching credentials, parents can expect that their children will be provided advanced Applied Behavior Analysis programming.

Does ABA create rote responding?

A response is said to be “rote” when it requires no thinking, when it’s routine, or memorized, or when it does not depend on the context. An enormous amount of factual information is memorized, not dependent on context, and, therefore, essentially rote. For example, the responses to, “What is your name?” “What is this thing called?” “What is the capital of California?” “Who is the current U.S. President?” “When is Independence Day?” “What is four plus four?” and so on are essentially rote responses. They are memorized and they do not depend very much on the context. ABA provides teachers with methods to teach such facts efficiently and effectively, so students often learn lots of facts, and the rote responding that results is desirable.

A problem arises when the desired response depends on the context, including recent events, imminent events, the person to whom one is speaking, and what one has just said or done. Take, for instance, the common question, “How are you?” On most occasions, the response “fine” is acceptable, but there are many circumstances in which “fine” is not the desired response. Suppose that the child was sick or injured, or the child received an award at school, or the child did especially well at school and was about to receive a special treat at home, or the child’s father just returned from a six-month Navy tour of duty, or the child was about to go to Disneyland. Under these and many more conditions, the child’s response “fine” is just not a desirable response. It suggests that the child’s responding is rote, depending only on the specific question and not on any of the circumstances that typically would lead to a different, and more desirable response.

Any method, including ABA methods, which could teach the child rote responses could have taught the child to say “fine” when asked “how are you.” But, there are other considerations. If the child is very limited in what s/he can say, it may be that “fine” is all we can expect at this stage of learning, and we will need to teach the child to say many more things. It may be that the child is not very sensitive to the circumstances that would lead to a modified response, in which case we will need to teach the child to be more sensitive to such conditions, particularly the most significant ones like injury, dad’s coming home, and so on. It may be that the child is not very sensitive to the questioner, in which case we will need to teach the child to be more sensitive to the questioner’s needs and wants. Accomplishing these goals for students with autism is very challenging and ABA provides us with the methods to accomplish them.

Does ABA create “robotic” children?

To the extent that the term “robotic” merely refers to the undesirable version of rote-like responding that children with autism can display, the explanation above reveals that any teaching method can encourage it and, if used properly, ABA methods can overcome it. However, it seems that something more is meant when a child’s responses are called “robotic.” It’s not only what the child says but it’s also how the child says it. There is likely to be some feature of the child’s speech that resembles the voice production of a computer. Perhaps it’s that the voice is too loud, or it’s unmodulated, or it’s nasal, or the child speaks in a kind of staccato. It might also be that the child does not look at you when speaking or the child makes facial grimaces or emits other unusual behaviors. The extent to which the child’s verbalizations and other behaviors appear unusual encourages people to assume that the child cannot know very much. As a result, the explanation for the child’s display of knowledge, especially sophisticated knowledge, is that the child is a “robot,” which, of course, could not be further from the truth.

Behaving “naturally” in social interactions is very challenging for children with autism and it is also very challenging to teach. It is much easier to teach the child to say sophisticated things than it is to teach a more natural way of saying them. At Children’s Workshop, we place great emphasis on normalizing the way in which our students respond so that they not only display the knowledge they have acquired but they do so in a “natural” manner. ABA methods are especially suited to accomplishing these goals.

What Related Services are offered at Children’s Workshop?

Students enrolled at Children’s Workshop can receive any of the Related Services permitted under law. Children’s Workshop provides both a licensed speech pathologist and an occupational therapist, who provide both direct service and consultation. Other DIS that are necessary for a student to benefit from her/his special education program must be delivered by the home school district or an agency with which the district contracts.

What is your model for delivery of Related Services?

Children’s Workshop implements an integrated service delivery model instead of the more common “pull-out” model. In addition to receiving direct services, our specialists train all team members on how to implement tasks and utilize strategies that have the best educational or therapeutic potential. This delivery model allows for student programs to be implemented throughout the school day, providing our students increased opportunity to practice essential skills. In this way, Children’s Workshop aims to increase the rate at which its students achieve goals beyond what would typically occur in a “pull-out” program.

How do you monitor student progress?

Children’s Workshop is an ABA program, so regular data collection of student performance, charting of the data, and interpreting of the charts is central to our program. Our program of data-based teaching encourages timely and appropriate program changes. In addition, our program of supervision, coaching, and training ensures these results while at the same time ensuring that programs are implemented with fidelity.

What protocols do you have in place for parent communication?

We believe that collaboration between school and parents is essential to optimal growth of our students and critical to quality collaboration is regular communication between parent and school personnel.  Regular contacts are established between the teacher and the parents.  Communication may come in the form of email, phone conversations, or live meetings, and may involve a detailed report of how the student is performing across goal areas.  Planned communication allows for families to share exciting news, learn about goals so that they can assist with generalization of the skills to the home environment, or have their questions answered.

Do you provide “sensory diets” and sensory integration therapy?

We rely on our Occupational Therapist to evaluate our students for their sensory and motor needs as well as to prescribe those activities that have the greatest therapeutic value. Our facility has the space for all types of sensory and motor activities and we have the equipment available that our Occupational Therapist has deemed appropriate. In general, the IEP goals that have been developed for Children’s Workshop students pertain to gross-motor and fine-motor tasks, and we tend to favor those tasks that are functionally relevant.

How do I get my child into the school?

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