May 20, 2020
AnswersNow Chief Science Officer, Adam Dreyfus, speaks about the topic of Functional Communication Training as a part of the Parent Support University series.
Speaker 1 (00:02):
And we're off. Hello AnswersNow, families and everybody who's checking in with us on Facebook. My name is Adam Dreyfus. I'm the chief science officer of AnswersNow, what is AnswersNow? Why is this guy talking to me? Well, we are a mobile app. You can see us here on my little app store with a little purple butterfly, a downloadable for free on the App store. And in the Android store, you can also check us out and getanswersnow.com. And the idea is simple. We connect parents and caregivers of individuals diagnosed with autism directly to their own clinician like myself. I'm a board certified behavior analyst. So the idea is to reduce the barrier of entry to parents and caregivers to the experts that can help them with behaviors and IEPs and so forth. So definitely check us out at getanswersnow.com.
Speaker 1 (00:49):
You can either sign up for a subscription, kind of like going to a gym where you pay a monthly fee and you have unlimited access to a BCBA, or you can do a one-time video call where maybe you have a very specific question about a behavior or how do I help my kid learn a little faster? How do I maybe toileting? So there's all kinds of things. So you can either do the, just the one off video or sign up for a subscription. Our website's also got all kinds of other stuff like that blogs that are written by experts about all of these topics that we cover. And we have communities, parent communities where you can talk to other parents and trade war stories or victories communication stories. So check us out what we've been doing with these Wednesday Facebook live events or a Facebook group events is kind of unpacking all of this mysterious ABA stuff.
Speaker 1 (01:48):
Broke my heart the other day. I heard that a parent was in an IEP meeting, which is an individual education plan meeting with the school division. And BCBA was there and they were using so much jargon that the parents just didn't understand and it broke them down. They start to cry. That is a worst case scenario that is experts not doing their job very well. So what we did here is we took off the shelf, something that is an easy free, and you can check out whenever you want the national professional development center, about eight, 10 years ago made a list of all the things that we know just work, right. They just work. We're not testing them. We're not trying them out. We're not they just, they just work. It's like aspirin for a headache.
Speaker 1 (02:32):
And there's a little bit more than 20. And so we're going through them on a weekly basis. Today is a functional communication training, which sounds pretty straightforward, but it is a little trickier. Then it originally sounds like, cause most people that's the problem with jargon is they use a bunch of words in ways that you don't understand like differential reinforcement, differential reinforcement. That's I know a differential I know reinforcement kind of, I think put them together less so. So we've gone through things like differential reinforcement and cognitive behavioral interventions. And this is just a little bit of a primer kinda answer some questions and explain them so functional communication training started a long time ago, like in the mid eighties is when they first started identifying it and using it.
Speaker 1 (03:23):
And it's pretty simple. The idea is that all behavior, all behavior, this is one of those sort of precepts of behaviorism, all, all behavior that you see is communication of some kind. And so when you're working with kids on the spectrum, a lot of the time they're behaving in a way you don't understand, so it's not functional. So maybe they're flapping their hands around. And you're like, Oh, I'm not sure what that means. Does that mean they want me to leave them alone? Does that mean they want some attention? Are they thirsty? It's not functional because other people don't understand what it means. And you can say, Oh, that's their problem. Not really. We live in a world in which it's really important and advantageous to be able to communicate your wants and needs, whether that's vocally, like I'm doing right now using sign language using pictures, you name it.
Speaker 1 (04:16):
The ability to communicate is really crucial to having an independent life. So what functional communication training does is it says, all right, let's, let's take their behaviors that we don't understand. And most of the time, these are pretty dangerous behaviors, right? Like that's, that's usually when a behavior analyst gets called into the picture. And that breaks out into two categories. They're either self-injurious, I'm hurting myself or they're aggressive, I'm hurting somebody else and they can have the exact same function. Right. They can mean the exact same thing to somebody. I might bite my hand really hard so that you'll leave me alone because most of us take that as a fairly universal, like, I think if I'm standing here and they're doing that and I walk away, they stopped doing that. They want me to go away. So that's one way it can do it, but I can also bite my hand cause I want you to come over here.
Speaker 1 (05:13):
But because you don't understand it, it creates this kind of breakdown and anxiety on both ends. So functional communication training is we're going to try to teach the individual to communicate that thing that they're trying to communicate. I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, I'm tired. I want you to go away. I want you to come here. I would like more of that. I would like less of that. I would like the music louder. I would like it quieter, whatever it is in a way that other people understand it. This is where sometimes the conversation around sign language comes up cause people will say, well, yeah, you can teach him sign language and that can be effective, but hardly anybody knows sign language. So you're sort of defeating your own purpose. I think that's a somewhat valid but if you've got someone whose communication is so difficult to understand that you're seeing intense self-injurious and aggressive behaviors you're going to go with whatever communication modality works, whether that's pictures pointing at pictures like a device of some kind, whether that's talking you name it.
Speaker 1 (06:20):
And so it's a, we talked about differential reinforcement a couple of weeks ago and it is the same principle. So I bite my hand because I want you to go away. So what we can teach them is if you want me to go away, you raise your hands, right? It's a very similar behavior. But you can't just raise your hand and bite your hand. So you want to, it's, it's nice to choose behaviors that are very similar but get you out of, kind of the danger zone. So you would teach them to raise their hands. So when you were close to them and they wanted you to go away, they raise their hand, you go away. One of the keys to teaching functional communication training is you have to honor, you have to honor communicative intent. It's one of my favorite sort of two words together, communicative intent.
Speaker 1 (07:10):
If they're trying to communicate with you something, you want to honor that and figure that out, it might not initially be exactly what you want. But what you want is for them to understand, understand it's kind of a weird word, but for them to be looking at you, being like, Oh, that person gets what I'm doing, right. They're responding appropriately to what I'm doing when I'm biting my hand. Cause I want them to go away. They're going away. So we teach them something else, functional communication training. It's again, it's, it's a, it sounds easier than it is. Because what you're up against is behaviors that have been really effective for them. That's why they do them. They're very effective. It might seem almost horrifying on our end, especially you're hurting somebody else you're hurting yourself. Like, why would you do that?
Speaker 1 (07:59):
What do you, cause it works right? It's the same reason that you do the behaviors that you do that work really well for you it's working really well. So you're competing with a, a communication system that's very effective for them and getting their wants and needs met, or at least it's the best that they've go, might not be the most effective communication system. But it's a, it's what they've got. So you have to, you're, you're, it's not something that you're going to do in just one day, it's going to take some time and this is the perfect kind of thing to work with a clinician about. It's what, it's why if you have in home therapy, probably one of the main things they're working on, it's what you talked to about your BCBA. The whole point of answers now is that we make it much simpler to get really quick answers and to have somebody walk you through some of these procedures so that you can do it, or you might have a BCBA in your house and it's Saturday, and you're not sure exactly how to deal with the behavior that is in front of you: AnswersNow.
Speaker 1 (08:58):
So check it out. This is about the halfway point here. So I don't want to do a little quick check-in. I am Adam Dreyfus, the chief science officer of AnswersNow you can learn a ton about us on our website, getanswersnow.com. You can sign up for a subscription where you get a clinician in your own pocket. Whenever you want to text them, set up some calls, that's a subscription service. But also if you just have a, we recognize that a lot of the folks that come to us have just one big question. And so we have a, what we call kind of the one-off videos where you can sign up to talk to a clinician for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, it's up to you. And get that question answered. Some of the questions that were asked are mostly around behaviors.
Speaker 1 (09:39):
You know, why does my kid do...fill in the blank? But there's also, can you help me out with talking to my teacher you know, I, I'm not sure how to communicate with my teacher about my child's needs and behaviors, and I've got some concerns. That's a big one IEP, individual education plans. One of the things that you that to this topic right now, functional communication training a BCBA advising you on an IEP, we'll say like, you got to make sure you've got communication goals in there. A lot of times the IEP won't have that. Either because it's been really hard to work with the kid for a long time, maybe they're 14, 15, 16 years old, and they haven't made much progress. And so speech and language goals sometimes get written out.
Speaker 1 (10:23):
They're not, they're just not going to talk. They just it's they're not making progress. That's the worst idea that you can have for someone who said that he has difficulty communicating is stopping things like I'm working on speech goals. I run a very large school for kids with severe disabilities. And no matter what the age, we always work on trying to promote vocal communication. Why? Because most people talk even if you've got four or five words and you started with zero that can make a dramatic difference in your social opportunities where you live how big a world you're dealing with. So functional communication training should be one of the first things that your therapist will talk to you about. And it should be something that should be in the front of your mind about making sure if your child has impacted communication deficits and social skills deficits that these are built into any kind of plan that you've got and what a good one of one of our clinicians can help you with this.
Speaker 1 (11:26):
How do you promote that just around the house? I'm not talking about making you a clinician, like where you're walking around with a clipboard and clickers and doing all that, but how can you promote, like, if your kid says a hundred words, how can you help them get to 200 words? If they have a you know, one friend, can you help them get three friends? So how do you build towards a meaningful outcomes? It's not about just getting them to do what you want. That's the furthest thing. It's about how you can give them a voice. That's really what functional communication training is, is they're taught, they're trying, a lot of parents will say, Oh, there's I know there's somebody in there. And I know they're trying to communicate. Yes, yes they are. Don't know how many words that they might have, but don't know how effective that communication is going to be ultimately, but is it always the goal to promote as much communication and social skills as possible.
Speaker 1 (12:18):
So FCT functional communication training is a great way to do that. You can learn a lot about it. Like I said, we're just taking the, sort of the encyclopedia behavior Taneka off the shelf, and we're at the FCT chapter. So the National Professional Development Center in NPDC has done a great job at putting these all in one place. All of these evidence based practices, these really the whole, basically the encyclopedia behavioral tannic, that should be the name of this. And they have modules where you can learn about how to implement it, how to do it. It's free and they call them the afirm modules, A F I R M modules. And they're very easy to find and you just sign up for a free account and you can either do, like, we're doing just go through them all in order.
Speaker 1 (13:05):
They have them alphabetically, which sort of makes sense, but that's probably not how you would want to learn them. But again, that could be something that you talked to your BCBA about at AnswersNow say, Hey, I want to take these courses. Can you kind of help me out mentor me through them, translate some of this stuff. Cause even though the NPDC does a really nice job they made it accessible as possible, but here it is this free resource and hardly anybody uses it. So yeah, that's what we're doing. We're just walking through these Wednesdays and introducing you to these terms and making you a the CEO of your own empire. So that's about how much time we've got for today. Again, just introducing you to the idea of functional communication training, some of the I mean, there's just, they're all benefits to it and the more you can help somebody communicate, it's always for the best. Resources that you can go to.
Speaker 1 (13:58):
The NPDC National Professional Development Center has afirm, A F I R M modules. They've got one, a standalone, one on functional communication training. That'll teach you kind of how to do it. But even with that, you probably, you do want to talk to somebody who has a really good idea because your child has very individual needs and you know, that better than anybody. And that translation between all right, here's this really good evidence based practice. And here's where my kid is at and what do I do right now? What do I do when I'm standing in the kitchen, cooking dinner and they're standing next to me, and it seems like they're asking for it, but I'm not sure exactly what to do. That's a great scenario. I'm in a, I'm in the bathroom. These were all kinds of high intensity areas for most families, bathrooms, kitchens, place where you eat and place where you clean yourself up. So definitely check us out at getanswersnow.com or go to the App store, your app store, either Apple store or the Google Play store and download the app for free and try us out. So thank you very much for listening. I'm Adam Dreyfus, chief science officer of AnswersNow. You can find out more about us at getanswersnow.com and hopefully you and yours are doing well in this very challenging time. Thanks very much.