The Huge ABA Picture Book for Autism – Danni Bloom
This is an introduction to ABA written by one parents for others. There’s a bit of the ‘grief/horrifying realisation/don’t give up hope’ talk in the introduction before moving onto an explanation of what ABA is and some explanations of the terminology used in ABA.
The descriptions themselves are fine – after all Bloom is only providing definitions and there isn’t any loaded language used – but I was reminded of another issue with ABA with one particular section:
For responses and behaviors to be mastered and to become functional, the response time should be very short. In other words, once you give the child the instructions, only allow 2-3 seconds for that child to ponder. If you don’t have the correct answer in that short amount of time, prompt the correct response, reinforce and run a transfer trial.
This is probably a part of why ABA therapy sees difficulty in generalisation – where the child responds to the requests in therapy but not anywhere else in the world. I couldn’t give you the numbers off the top of my head so I won’t try, but autistic people can have processing delay and would not be able to respond within 3 seconds because they’re still processing the original request. Some of the children I have worked with will take 10+ seconds to respond to a request or question. One child once gave an answer to a question a full week after the question was asked of him. Some of these children, if they received a constant cycle of Request-Prompt-Request-Prompt, would simply meltdown from the difficulty involved in trying to process so much information.
After all the definitions we move onto ‘Instructions for Picture Pages’ and on the first page of this is a ‘Progression Chart for Language Development’, of which the second step is Verbal Imitation. There’s absolutely no advice concerning what to do if your child doesn’t or can’t speak. Do you just keep doing the same thing over and over in the vain hope that one day your child might say ‘dog’ and then do the next thing with ‘cat’? Surely it’s better to provide them with an alternative means of communication if your child does not speak, rather than sit and attempt (and possibly fail) to drill single words out of them.
I then came across a section I thought was quite useful – a list of pairing activities, physical exercises and oral motor exercises, later followed by some sensory integration activity suggestions and some over general activity suggestions. This is contained within an example ABA program that is based on the one that Bloom’s son, Christian, received. Of course under the section ‘Behaviors we are trying to help Christian overcome:’ a number of stims are listed, I think I’ve already made my views on stopping stims clear. Then there are some Appendices which detail the different trials/requests/instructions to carry out as part of Christian’s ABA. This includes imitation, labeling shapes, labeling actions, and providing animal sounds. At the end of this chapter are some data sheets.
Then follows a whole load of printable sheets with various pictures on for you to get your child to point at/identify/verbally label/pick up and so on. Basically the resources you need to do the various ABA trials. I might actually take some of these pictures and print them off for work. Not to do ABA or anything but because some of them can be co-opted into different uses and new resources are always handy.
Then that’s the end.
A lot of this book is descriptions and explanations. It was interesting to read Christian’s ABA program – but it didn’t do anything to convince me that I’m going to change my mind on ABA. I know that sometimes (in America) things are called ABA that aren’t just to get funding or to be accessible for parents, but this book is about ABA and all the things that I’m not so keen on. To be fair though, it does live up to it’s name of a Huge Picture Book and as I said I will probably take some of the resources for myself.
I just won’t be using them for ABA.
Is it worth reading? It’s an accessible enough introduction to ABA for anyone who wants to do ABA and on that front it does it’s job – I just don’t do, like or recommend ABA. Might be worth it for the visuals though – you could probably find a use for them.