Thursday, 20 November 2014

New Compliance Program for Alex

One of the goals we're working on with Alex's behaviour program is having him follow directions without whining about it.  A lot of the time he will do what we ask but he's complaining at top volume while he's doing it.  At first, we accepted it, telling ourselves that at least he was doing what we were asking.  But as he gets older, we realized it would be less and less acceptable.  Bosses, for example, tend to react badly if you whine and complain about what they've asked you to do, even if you do the task perfectly.

Our first foray at this was to have set times during the day where he had to listen and follow directions without complaining in order to earn his screen time.  We chose instruction-heavy points in the day: breakfast, after school and dinner-time.

However, after five months, he's really not showing any sign of connecting earning the screentime with not complaining and following directions.  So our behaviour therapist came up with a new plan.  Now we have a clicker and every time he follows ten directions without complaining, he earns screen time.

Sadly, part of the idea for this came from a documentary on how they train cats and dogs to do stunts and tricks for movies and TV.  The trainer has a spoon with a treat as well as a clicking device.  When the animal does what the trainer wants, he clicks the device rapidly and then gives the animal its treat.  The animal learns that it's doing the right thing when it hears the clicks and that it's earning a treat.  We've discovered there are a lot of similarities between teaching someone with autism and animal training, which I suppose makes sense.  In both cases, the understanding of complex social nuances is missing.

Now Alex gets an audible click when he's doing what we've asked and he can look at the counter to see how close he is to getting his reward.  If he whines, we tell him "no click" and can show him the counter is staying the same.  It's a clear, unmistakable audio signal as well as a visual one, which should help him to connect the dots.

Luckily, I don't have to train him to play the piano, jump through a hoop or tolerate Tom Cruise.  Just keep his inner monologue on the "private" setting.

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