A Guarantee

There are a lot of things in life that are not guaranteed. I will make you these guarantees: 

  1. If you fully participate in your child’s learning program, they will do better.
  2. If you change the way you react to your child’s behavior, they will change the way they act.

How can I make these guarantees? It’s easy, the clients that I have seen have the most success are those with parents that implemented these two principles. The parents didn’t make us “shelf-help.” You know, that book you buy that just sits on the shelf. ABA wasn’t a particular time; it was all the time. They were willing to push their child to succeed. They were willing to and did provide us with the materials, the reinforcers, and their own time to ensure this happened. 

Much like your child’s teacher, love parents that want their child to be successful and are willing to make it happen. So, what can you do to help your child be successful?

  1. Take a more active role. 
    • Learn the treatment plan. If you don’t know what your child is working on, that’s a problem. You should be able to implement the plan when we are not present. You should also be able to tell if your child is working on a new task or a maintenance task by the level of reinforcement presented.
    • Do the Family Consultation. This isn’t a time for us to go over how your child is doing in their learning programs. This is a time for learning on your part, but with goals set to benefit your child. 
    • Schedule Team Meetings. This is when all members of your child’s team come together to discuss progress. We talk about what is working best for your child and we make changes based on this information. You are the Chair of this meeting and your BCBA is your assistant. 
  2. Learn about applied behavior analysis (ABA). I cannot say this enough… “ABA is a lifestyle change.” It impacts the way you see and do everything. Once you learn about the principles in the science of ABA and how to successfully implement them, you will see the world in a different way. 
  3. Get those materials. It can be difficult at best, but mostly impossible to teach anything without materials. That’s why we list the materials needed in your treatment plan. Think of it like this… You want me to teach your child how to fold clothes, but don’t provide me with the clothing. How much progress towards that goal do you think your child is going to make?
  4. Provide reinforcers. People learn through reinforcement, not punishment. Reinforcers are something we are able to provide to improve the chances of a behavior (we want to see) happening again. If you are not sure about an item being a reinforcer, speak to your BCBA. 
  5. Give your child your time. Many people feel that they don’t have enough hours in the day. Trust me, I get that. To your child, your time is the most important thing. You can do this in several ways. Start with seeing #1 above, then move on to things like spending time with your child by playing games or other things they enjoy.

I know parents who cried when their services were finished. Their children progressed to a point where direct ABA services were no longer need by a professional. This is the goal for all of our clients. How did they do it? By implementing the list above. You don’t need to implement all of these today. Start with one of these today and next month, add on something new. 

Remember: Change doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a process. Your child’s growth towards independence is what you would like to see. So, help it happen.

Meltdowns at the Mall

It happens to all of us… Especially this time of year… We all have seen it. What am I talking about? Meltdowns at the mall. 

It’s not limited to people with diagnoses and it can happen to the best of us. People are frustrated by the long lines and wait times, they may be aggravated with all of the noise, they could even just be hungry or tired. Someone’s nerves could be frayed for any number of reasons. Vocal individuals may yell, stomp, off or complain (excessively). For non-vocal individuals they may cry, drop to the floor, or start engaging in self-injurious behaviors. 

I’m not here to talk about the other adults we may encounter. The best I can say to you about them is to try to maintain the spirit of the holiday season. I already know that I may come in contact with all kinds of people while out shopping. I try to stay positive and keep myself happy and bright. I also try to compliment the store personnel that are doing the same. I have often found (non-scientifically speaking, of course) that happy people working behind the counter tend to greet people in a more pleasant way and keep their lines moving. However, my concern with meltdowns is our clients and what we can do to help them be more successful. 

Here are a few proactive strategies that may provide some assistance…

  1. Go shopping at off times. If you are going to the mall, try to be there when they first open in the morning. Most times the crowd is smaller in the early morning and it will likely be quieter. You can also try going right before they close, if you know exactly what you need to get and where it is.
  2. Make sure your child has eaten. I know I get a bit crabby when I haven’t eaten and I’m not the only one out there who does. Sometimes, having a snack or a meal before heading out can go a long way towards someone remaining in a good mood.
  3. Don’t forget their communication method or device. Behaviors are a way of communicating. If I have a easier way to communicate with you (signing, PECS, voice output device etc.) to ensure that I’m understood, then I won’t engages in other less effective methods. 
  4. Rest is important. Have you ever tried going to work to work tired? Shopping may be fun for you, but it could be work for your child. Make sure they are well rested before heading out.  
  5. Try a visual schedule and explaining what you all will be doing. Telling someone the plan can be helpful. Some of us may need a visual reminder of the plan as well. A visual schedule of the activities (in this case the stores you plan on visiting) can be an easy way to support your child. If you child can read, simply write out the list. If you child can’t read, then print pictures of the store’s logos (or signage) and put them on a list for your child. If you don’t know what stores you will be visiting, then let your child know that you all are going shopping for certain people and make a list of names (or pictures) for your child to check off. 
  6. Reinforcement is always key. Don’t underestimate the power of good reinforcement. A reinforcer is something that causes a behavior to increase. So, if you want to see continued positive behaviors when out, provide reinforcement. Remember, the reinforcer is not something you want. If your child doesn’t like cotton candy, then providing that as a reinforcer will not work. If your job switched out paying you in dollars for paying you in curtains, I doubt they would get the same level of work from you (if any). 
  7. Pack your patience. We all know the stores and malls can be hectic this time of year. Remember to be patience with your child and the others around you.

If you have tried these options and feel like you could use a little help, contact a professional to assist you. A board certified behavior analyst may be able to provide you with the extra boost to help you reduce the meltdowns. 

As always, we at Breakthrough Developmental Services are here to help. You can start by viewing our website and clicking “I’d like to take the first step.”

Have a great week,

Barbara Erby-Young


Dear Reader:

I sent this link out in our recent newsletter, but I wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to respond. So, I am making our ultra quick survey about workshops available to all of our readers.

Click here to take this 1-minute survey.

Your input is greatly appreciated and it helps us plan better. Don’t let your voice go unheard!

Thanks for your input and have a wonderful day,


What are your intentions?

Our choices reveal our intentions.

~Simon Sinek

Think before you act… Act, don’t react. I think it’s important to consider different aspects when making decisions. What is the end goal you are trying to accomplish? Where is it you want to be? I also consider that my actions have an impact on the generations that come behind me. This includes my own children, family members, and friends as well as those of the children and adults that I work with.

Sometimes, it can be hard. The decisions that we make everyday are not always the easiest to come to. I think we make the best decisions that we can based on the information we have available at the time. Sometimes, you have to pivot from your current path and make a small change that can have a big impact. Sometimes, you have to change paths all together.

A good example of this is the construction of a Service Treatment Plan (STP). When I sit down to determine the best course of action within a STP, I need to take several things into account. Medical history, likes/dislikes, the assessment I will be using, every bit of information about a person that I know. Once we have the STP in place and I need to make changes, I have to consider all of this information again plus what I have learned over the time that we have worked with the person and their family. Sometimes it’s not the chosen goal, but the objectives and the details (targets or teaching methods) that I need to change. Sometimes, we need to re-examine the assessment and results for something we may have missed. Regardless, I have to consider what we want as the end goal.

When it’s all said and done, I want my children and those I worked with to say that I tried to make the world a better place for them and others. I hope the choices I’ve made (especially as an adult) have shown that.


Back to School

I awoke this morning to a crisp, cool weather that reminds us that it’s almost that time of year again… Time to head back to school! What have you done to prepare for the first day of school? Are you taking a last minute vacation? Have you already started your school shopping? Well here are some tips from the staff of BDS to help make the first day of school a success.

Get those school supplies, but remember that each teacher may have their own list. However, items such as hand sanitizer and tissue are always welcome in classrooms.

Prepare a study space at home for children to do their homework in and make it conducive to learning. Let children take an active role in choosing the space as well a decorating it (if you can). This space can double as a space for therapy sessions. 

Get those sleep schedules back on track. We all allow children’s sleep patterns to get a bit off during their time out of school. Now is the time to get them back on track. Children should probably wake up or be woken up at the time they need to get up for school. 

In Maryland, children 4 and under are required nap time in school. If you know what time the school/classroom schedules naps, you may want to plan for that too. If you don’t know, try to get in contact with the school to find out when it will be. Remember, teachers go back before the students do.

Make meals match the school schedule. If you know what time your child will eat lunch at school, switch their lunch at home to that time. Include any snack times they would have at school. Once again, if you don’t know contact the school or teacher. 

Gentle reminders can help. Remind students that they are going to school next week. If your child does well with visual reminders, make a countdown calendar. 

Be creative with it. On the last page, put “The First Day of School 2019” with the date, a picture of the bus (if your child rides one) and the school. Include all fun facts about your child and don’t forget to take a picture of your child. 

Get your child to help you prepare for the first day. Have your student help lay out their clothes, fix their lunch (if they take one), and pack their backpack. These steps can also help with independence later in life. While you’re picking out clothing you can talk about colors, what the weather is supposed to be like for the week, and why the clothing is appropriate (think long pants versus shorts or long sleeves versus short sleeves). Take every opportunity you can to teach. 

Remember to lead with positivity and optimism. Discuss how you are both hoping for a great school year and how wonderful it will be to meet some new people or see some old ones. Students see so many people throughout their days. There are school administrative staff, teacher, other students, bus drivers, janitors, nurses… that’s a lot of people. I’m sure there are bound to be some old and new faces. 

We also want to talk about behaviors and skills the student will learn. Let your child know that you have some set expectations and goals in these areas. You may want to use phrases like, “I’m so excited to see what you learn this year and I’m expecting you to be on your best behavior.” If you think that is too much something like, “I’m really expecting the best from you,” might be the way to go. 

Most of us know what’s on the calendar for our students to learn this year, but we want to continuously provide encouragement and reinforcement for the behaviors and skills we want to see. Set your expectations high, but reasonable. I’m not expecting someone who is just learning to count to understand principles of macroeconomics by the end of the school year. 

If you need a bit more guidance and assistance getting ready for school, feel free to contact us at Info@BDSHelps.com. You can also give us a call at 855-255-5270. 

Wishing you a wonderful school year,

Barbara Erby-Young, BCBA, LBA