Being able to match items means that a child is able to recognise that two things are the same or that two things go together. This is a really important cognitive skill and a huge part of child development. We use matching in our everyday life, from matching the socks when they come out the washing, to putting cutlery away after they've been in the dishwasher.
Children start to learn matching skills when they are young, with objects, pictures, colours, shapes and patterns to start with and this becomes increasingly more advanced, recognising and understanding words and letters. Learning to match builds the foundations for later concepts.
However, sometimes children don’t naturally pick up matching skills and so they may need some extra help to learn this vital skill!
At Roots Autism Consultancy, we start with the basics and then gradually build up the difficulty as the child progresses. For example, we might start with the child learning how to match 3D to 3D identical objects e.g. matching toys, matching shoes, matching household items. Using repetition and reinforcement, the child can learn how to match and start building the foundations to be able to learn more complex skills later.
There are loads of available resources to work on matching skills, such as matching lotto boards, or downloadable resources from teaching websites. You could even just use your own drawings/pictures or items you have around the house!
Orchard Toys have some wonderful resources on their website here:
The use of evidence based interventions are becoming more popular, particularly for children with a diagnosis of Autism. The practice of ABA has changed over the last 20 years but often misconceptions still exist. As awareness of both Autism and ABA increases, alongside this often runs a theme of criticisms.
Here are 5 common myths that we often hear about ABA programmes;
1. ABA programmes are expensive
It is true that there are some expensive ABA programmes and a full time programme can cost in excess of 25,000 per year with tutors working with a child for up to 40 hours per week. Many families do not have access to this level of resources.
Many ABA professionals are being flexible and working within the available resources that a child has. More affordable programming structures that can result in positive outcomes include;
Parent ran ABA programmes - where a consultant trains parents to implement the ABA programme
Volunteer ran ABA programmes - where a consultant trains volunteers, often from a local university to implement the ABA programme
School ABA programmes - where a consultant trains the child's existing school LSA to implement the ABA programme
Part-time ABA programmes - usually with at least 15 formal teaching hours per week
There are charities that give families a grant which can cover the costs of assessment and initial training, these grants are usually means tested.
2. You can attend a basic training course to become an ABA consultant
The path to become an ABA Consultant takes approximately 7 years of study. To become a board certified behaviour analyst, a practitioner will need a degree, relevant Masters degree, have studied a minimum amount of coursework on applied behaviour analysis and have a minimum number of supervised experience hours.
Furthermore, not all BCBAs have sufficient experience of working with children with Autism. The ABAI Autism special interest group suggests that as well as the BCBA, professionals consulting for children with Autism should also have;
At least one year of full-time training in providing ABA services to children and/or
adults with Autism under the supervision of a BCBA with at least 5 years of
experience in ABA programming for individuals with Autism.
This must include;
- at least 8 children of different ages and abilities
- functional assessment of challenging behaviour
- providing ABA training to at least 5 teams and/or families
3. ABA programmes are unethical
Historically, education as a whole has a history of punitive and coercive practice. ABA programmes should focus on establishing motivation and making learning and social communication fun. This doesn't mean that bad practice doesn't exist, it is important to realise that this is an example of a bad ABA programme rather than ABA as a whole.
ABA professionals should follow a code of standards and responsibilities. This code is very thorough and protects families and clients against unethical practice. See the professional and ethical compliance code for behaviour analysts;
4. ABA programmes aim to eradicate self-stimulatory behaviour
ABA programmes should not aim to eradicate self-stimulatory behaviour as a primary target. Self-stimulatory behaviour is often an individual's way of coping or occupying themselves. Self-stimulatory behaviour would be a target for change if it is harmful for the individual or is a barrier to learning. In these cases the ABA team and parents would aim to identify replacement behaviours to teach the individual that meet the same function.
5. ABA programmes always use extrinsic motivation
ABA programmes always use a child's motivation as a starting point for learning and take a child's preferences in to account when selecting targets and materials. As an example, if a child requests bubbles we would blow bubbles as a reinforcer rather than give the child an arbitrary item such as a smartie. However some children have a limited range of interests when they begin an ABA programme, in these cases arbitrary extrinsic reinforcers may be used whilst more natural sources of reinforcement are being paired and developed.
Marianne Wooldridge BCBA, MSc
Consultant Behaviour Analyst