So I got to chatting with our Alpine lead teacher (A) when I picked Dominic up. On Tuesday she went to Audobon and observed Dominic for the entire morning in an effort to try to figure out why Dominic’s verbals have taken a nose dive at Audobon but not at Alpine.
Her first bit of feedback was really positive. She said that oftentimes they observe in public school classrooms and see kiddo’s that are truly being neglected. That is clearly not the case here. Our teachers really WANT to work with Dominic and help him learn but they clearly do not have the training / tools / experience to. She theorized that he’s likely the only kid in this elementary school who responds so well to classical ABA as opposed to a relaxed learning environment.
So there is positive, but there’s also a lot of room for improvement. She provided immediate feedback while there, and wrote up 3 pages of suggestions for the school to try to implement to make things a bit easier.
Now the bad.
Dominic has apparently adopted a “my way or the highway” attitude at school and is being allowed to get away with it. Specifically, if he doesn’t want to do something, he flings himself on the floor and screams. A observed this occur multiple times in a few hours and was horrified because its something they’ve seen at Alpine maybe 3 times. In 17 months. We see it maybe 1-2 times a month, and honestly our way to handle it at home is to leave the room and give NO attention at all to the fit. At audobon, they’re physically lifting him off the floor and setting him the chair. We’ve seen trending at Alpine before that when compliance goes down so do verbals, so now we know why the verbals have dropped so much at Audobon – the non-compliance is out of control.
One of the things we know about Dominic is everything he does, he does for attention. Regardless of whether that attention is positive or negative – he LOVES it. So if he is non-compliant, and told NO or Stop, or Yuck – that’s attention paid to the mis behavior. Instead, they need to be offering fairly steady positive reinforcement (“thank you for listening”. “good sitting” “good walking nicely” “thank you for having nice hands”) at the rate of once every 30-60 seconds. And they need to entirely ignore and provide no attention to negative behavior. This is textbook ABA, and one of the things we know our Audobon para is not trained in. Its not her fault, she wants so much to work with him, she just doesn’t have the tools.
We are actually really horrified to realize that what’s happened – Dominic went from being really compliant in the beginning of the year (coming off of full day Alpine) to figuring out that he can control the situation at school and only do what he wants to is whats happened. And it corresponds to him being more non compliant at home too. So we’ve GOT to get the environments a bit more standardized for all of our sanity.
A believes the situation at Audobon is salvageable if the para is given the toosl and training she needs, or if he is given a para with the appropriate tools/training/experience to work with. I’ve sent over to the Sped teacher who supervises the para the 3 page document with tools from A. I’ve also asked for them to request more training from the school district. There is a behavior consultant on staff and I believe that if she came over and work for a couple of hours a day for a week or so, that would be helpful. There’s also a Lab setting that the school could send the para over to.
I’m going to go in next week and observe for an hour or so – try to catch the speech therapists time too. Then I’ve asked for a formal parent/teacher conference in the second half of December to review the data and see if the para has been able to gain any more instructional control over Dominic (which leads to increased verbals). We’ll talk about additional options at that point if we do not see an upward trend.
I got an email back from our SPED teacher today, after receiving my email requesting more training for the Para, etc and reading A's 3 page list of suggestions. She has decided to change para's, and Dominic will now be working with a more experienced, more trained Para. Starting the Monday after Thanksgiving. I think this is excellent because instead of changing the rules for one therapist (very difficult), its a matter of setting new rules with a new therapist, who I dearly hope won't fall for his manipulations.