Throughout my experiences, I have had the privilege to observe and assist many children with varying skill levels. During my first interaction with the kids, I usually try to hang out and see their current skills. It almost always surprises me when I notice a kid (and these children of ALL ages) with little to no functional communication skills, i.e., children without the ability to request desired items (through sign language, vocal language, PECs, etc.). Then I take notice of the types of activities that people want to teach these kids: games, puzzles, identifying numbers, money, and more. This got me thinking…by what means are we measuring “success” for our kiddos with intellectual disabilities? Does “success” mean the ability to complete a puzzle? Is it the ability to sit quietly at a table while the teacher talks? What about the ability to color within the lines?
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) focuses on socially significant behaviors in an individual’s life. We, as behavior analysts, choose to teach skills that will directly impact the quality of life for that child. So, with this being said, the next question becomes: What skills are most important for this child? I have the experience that the skills that benefit my kids the most are… MANDS, is the ability to request preferred items and activities. Could you imagine a life without being able to communicate with others your top 3 wants (for me, that is chocolate, bread, and cheese). With our kids with no functional communication, they currently do not have the ability to tell others what they want. This is why, for these kids, our priority needs to be teaching them to ask for these items. Because, in their lives, I am fairly certain requesting cheese, bread, and chocolate (if it were me) would be more successful than learning to complete a puzzle.
-Written by a member of our Clinical Team. Learn more about our services at Bierman Autism Centers here.