With April just around the corner we are gearing up for Autism Awareness month with Light it up Blue on April 2nd, where we encourage everyone to Light it up Blue to support Autism Speaks and spread awareness of autism spectrum disorder. We are also participating as vendors in the pavilion at the Autism Speaks Walk for Autism on April 18, 2015 at the Pasadena Rose Bowl from 8:00 am – 1:00 pm. We are big advocates in the work that Autism Speaks does and spent 2014 pushing for autism awareness.
Now, in 2015 we have noticed that awareness is reaching new levels. Autism events, news, and programs are growing and people are more and more aware of what autism spectrum disorder is, so this year we want our focus to be on autism acceptance. It’s important to not only be aware of the growing rate of autism diagnosis, but to also spread acceptance of those who are diagnosed with autism. So what is the best way to spread acceptance?
- Remember that autism does not define a person. It is merely a condition that they have. They are not autistic, they HAVE autism, but they are first and foremost a person, a child, a family member and a friend.
- Remember that each person, both typical and someone on the autism spectrum are all individuals. Having been diagnosed on the autism spectrum does not make them the same as everyone else on the spectrum. They have their own interests, their own strengths and their own weaknesses, so get to know them and don’t just assume you know who they are because of their diagnosis.
- Remember that children who have been diagnosed with autism deserve to be with other children, they have the right to interact with their peers. Do not separate or segregate them because you don’t know how to handle them. Allow them the support they need and let them learn from their peers and teach others, as all children do.
- Remember that each child deserves to be part of society, to work, to build relationships and grow up to be educated and motivated enough to make the world a better place; and to live to their fullest potential.
Most of all remember that autism acceptance means valuing people who have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum instead of being afraid of them. Be kind, be open-minded and know that we are all people learning and growing at our own pace. Some of us need a little added support, so be the support that someone needs, open your minds and your hearts , stop categorizing those that are not like you, and honor human diversity by making sure that everyone is valued, included and contributing what they can to society.
Sometimes behavior problems arise in children that can be difficult for many parents to deal with. When this happens, it is always good to know which reinforcement strategies work best on your kids. To start, here are four different types of reinforcers:
- Primary Reinforcers: Unconditioned, automatic and unlearned. These are naturally reinforcing to individuals. EXAMPLE: food
- Secondary Reinforcers: These are the reinforcers that a child learns to enjoy. EXAMPLES: high fives, stickers, and prizes
- Positive Reinforcers: to add something preferred or pleasant to the situation. EXAMPLES: candy or juice
- Negative Reinforcers: To take something non-preferred or unpleasant away from the situation. EXAMPLES: allowing your patient to leave the work table OR turning off a loud vacuum.
Since different situations call for different reinforcers, it is always good to first assess the situation and then figure out which of the above strategies to put into play in order to help your child decrease behavior problems. Many times parents turn to primary reinforcers, which are snacks or favorite foods. Although this is a good way to start reinforcing behavioral changes, it is important to find different things your child is interested in so that increased amounts of junk food or snacks are not introduced into your child’s diet, which can create other problems down the line. Take the time to find out what types of secondary or positive reinforcers your child likes. What are their hobbies? Are there specific games or toys they like to play with, etc. Also pay attention to things that may irritate your child and cause negative behaviors to come out; and try to either avoid these items or situations, or work with your child to help them become acclimated to them. Once you find reinforcers that work, make sure they are ONLY available to your child when working with them on behavior modification techniques. Allowing your children to have access to reinforcers all the time decreases the effects of the reinforcer until it no longer serves its purpose. By keeping it locked away and out of site, the reinforcer becomes a powerful tool for a parent.
Another great strategy to use to get your child to participate in activities they are not fond of, such as cleaning up, homework, therapy, etc., is it use what professionals call the Premack Principle. Simply stated the Premack Principle is a reinforcement strategy that places a preferred activity after a non-preferred activity. For example,” first you finish your homework and then we can play video games”. By enforcing this strategy in your home, your child learns that once they are finished doing what they have to do, they get to do something they like.
There are several ways to make reinforcers applicable and different ways will work for different people. Here are some ways that we found to make reinforcers effective:
- Let your child select the reinforcer.
- Only give reinforcer if your child responds correctly
- Use social reinforcement/verbal praise to bridge the delay between correct response and the delivery of the reinforcer. Example (saying “good job” or giving a high five)
- Vary your reinforcers so that your child doesn’t get used to it and it no longer serves as something that reinforces good behavior
By using these and other methods that you find helpful, you will be able to start working with your child on ways to modify their behavior and increase their tolerance for less preferred activities.
Let’s do our best to put these tips to good use!
Longino Barragan, Behavioral Therapist, Beautiful Minds Center
In the month of March, Beautiful Minds Center would like to honor Longino Barragan for being our Shining Star. Since starting with Beautiful Minds Center in November of 2013, Longino has been an essential part of our behavioral therapist team and continuously strives to excel in his field.
Longino started his career in 1994, working with behavioral modification techniques. Growing up he was challenged with authority and felt misunderstood. Due to these challenges, he was given a teacher’s assistant position in high school where he was assigned to working with severely handicapped youth. This experience taught him that some people need extra help during different times in their lives and this inspired him to pursue a field of work that provided assistance to individuals with special needs.
What Longino loves most about working with Beautiful Minds Center is his ability to make a significant difference in the lives of the children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. He is very passionate about the work he does and truly loves improving the world. He believes his work changes people’s lives for the better because he is able to offer a certain understanding of life and how the world works, while at the same time, providing as much normality as possible to the lives of his client’s and their families. The countless techniques that Longino incorporates into his therapy sessions help support various challenges that his clients may be experiencing and improves relationships and the quality of life between the client, their families and everyone else involved in their lives.
Longino also spends his free time working within his community to spread autism awareness and for the past 18 years has volunteered as a high school coach for several sports, including football, soccer and softball. He is also a running coach for the Special Olympics.
Beautiful Minds Center is lucky to have someone like Longino Barragan on our team. His contributions are changing the lives of our clients and have given them the tools needed to grow, learn and progress. We thank you for your hard work and dedication.