Saturday, May 25, 2013

Summer! and Shut the Front Door!

I know it has been a while since I posted last. I'm practically starting a new blog now! No, I know, I was fairly unreliable before so even I am wondering if I'll be able to keep this up. It's worth a shot though!
This summer I am staying home with my children. We now have 3, as we adopted another child a little over a year ago. She's the oldest, 10 years old. We also have a 9 year old girl and 7 year old boy. :)  People told us that going from 2 children to 3 would be huge but I'm not sure we realized how much. It's been interesting folks!
I think I'll have a lot to write about this summer as I'm tackling some target behaviors with each of the 3 and planning on working on academics with them each day. Shoot, I'll probably even work in some new chores!
I'm still (and always will be) a behavior analyst, specializing in *my own* children and children with Autism. I've worked in the field for nearly 17 years and it would be impossible for me to leave the field completely. I'll throw in some resources and program ideas for those little guys (and for MY little guys) throughout the summer. These programs will have steps of instruction but, as always, feel free to tailor them to your needs (or consult with a behavior analyst!).

The goal of today's program is to teach children to "come in or out". You see, when you have 3 kids coming in and out of the house all summer and the air conditioning is running, it can be pretty annoying to have the door open all of the time. Yes, I'm speaking from experience. My kids either come in or out without closing the door completely or they stand in the open doorway to talk to someone inside or outside.  Sigh. Here's my plan to take care of this...

I've already made it clear that I would like for them to close the doors when they come in or go out... that is, if you count me just "telling" them to do it as making it clear. This doesn't usually work, unless I tell them EVERY time they come in or out. So, I'm going to implement some positive reinforcement in the form of descriptive verbal praise ("Thanks for closing the door!") and occasionally a tattoo, sticker, popsicle, or whatever treat I've made that day (homemade cookies, granola bars, energy bites, etc.).  My kids have a pretty long history of responding in the presence of reinforcement so I think this will work pretty well, as long as I fade the schedule of reinforcement pretty gradually and make efforts to maintain the skill.

Fading reinforcement: As they get pretty reliable at closing the door, I'll fade how often I am reinforcing them. First I'll fade out the little treats, then I'll fade out the verbal praise. I've just started using this same procedure with having them take off their shoes when they come in the house and I have every confidence it will work, too. ;)

Of course, there will be times that they come in or out without closing the door. I find that physical or gesture prompts are WAAAAY easier to fade than verbal prompts, meaning that I can STOP reminding them to do what I want them to do WAAAAAY sooner when I've taught them using physical prompts (moving them) or gesture prompts (pointing things out, facial expressions) rather than when I'm telling them everything I want them to do. So, when they come in or out without closing the door, I will direct them back to the door by pointing towards the door and turning them in the right direction (if necessary) to make sure that they go back and "fix" the problem. If I don't catch it right away and they are already in the basement or upstairs, I'll call them down (or up) and point to the door. I'm sure they would much rather close it when they come in or out than have to come back to the door from whatever they are doing. If they are outside, they will be called back to shut the door. Gradually I'll fade the level of prompt when correcting them (maybe from a physical prompt, to a gesture to "the look" to nothing).

Normally, I like to prompt BEFORE the mistake happens, meaning I will "remind" them with a prompt of some kind before they "practice" doing the wrong thing. However, in this case it's a little tricky as verbal reminders to close the door haven't taught them to do it (unless I remind them every time) and their backs are usually turned so I can't use other prompts (like gestures).

What do you think? Are there things you'd like to know how to teach? I have thoughts for future posts but I'm open for suggestions!