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The 7 Steps

The Seven Steps to Earning Instructional Control with your Child

By Robert Schramm, MA, BCBA

 

Parents working to help their children overcome the effects of autism face many challenges on a daily basis. As a supervisor working with the sciences of Applied Behavior Analysis and Verbal Behavior I seldom get through a day where I am not asked a question that entails the phrase “How can I get my child to ______?” That question typically ends with “stay seated during meals”, “not run into the street”, “use the toilet,” or any one of a thousand different things that children with autism might not choose to do when asked. The problem with these questions is that they are all symptoms of the same problem. Brainstorming ideas to affect one of these symptoms only provides a patch until the next symptom arises. The root problem for all of these questions is that the family has not effectively earned their child’s instructional control. Until they do, life will always be about trying to put out one fire after the other and hoping to get some teaching in amongst the flames.

 

Earning Instructional control is the most important aspect of any autism intervention or learning relationship. Without it you are powerless to consistently help guide your child. Void of your guidance your child’s skill acquisition is reliant on his interests. Unless you are able to help your child to overcome his own desires and participate in your learning activities you will not be able to help him in meaningful ways. Instructional control can be thought of as nothing more than a positive working relationship. Depending on your choice of interventions you might have heard instructional control described in terms such as, compliance training, developing a master/apprentice relationship, or earning your child’s respect. Regardless of what type of intervention you use with your child, you are not going to be able to teach your child everything you want him to learn if you do not earn his willingness to follow your lead.

 

To better help our families develop a lasting relationship of instructional control, I began to pioneer my own guidelines based on the methods we used to resolve the problems families were still having due to the weaknesses of normal instructional control procedures. These guidelines eventually became a series of 7 steps that allow parents to enlist the environment as an ally in their battle against autism.

 

Once you have systematically applied these seven steps to your child’s environment, you will no longer need to actively control your child. Your child’s natural desires will become his motivation to participate in joint activities, follow instructions and share in the responsibility of maintaining social interactions. He will begin making the choice to actively engage in increasingly more difficult tasks because you have earned his desire to maintain your interaction. It is only when your child is making the independent choice to maintain and prolong your interactions that you can begin teaching beyond the limits of what he was formerly willing to learn.

 

Not only parents, but also tons of professinals world wide are now using the 7 steps to gain meaningful, positive relationships with their learners. If you would like to find out how the 7 steps can help you with your child, please visit my new website:

 

www.robertschrammconsulting.com