Siblings

The Power of Siblings

One of the Merriam-Webster definitions of siblings is “one of two or more things related by a common tie or characteristic.”

But what if one of those siblings is a child with autism?

The relationship between children with autism and typically developing siblings is a varied, interesting and special one – much like all sibling relationships. And while that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges or issues that might arise –sibling relationships can be one of the most valuable interventions.

Most children naturally develop – learning language and behavior from those around them. Unfortunately, the imitation skills for children with autism are often not there. They need interaction to accomplish these milestones. Having a sibling who already has these skills is one of the biggest and best teaching opportunities.

Playing, talking, mimicking siblings – older or younger – can help children with autism develop language and behavior that will help them in school and in life.
In fact, peer modeling and peer interaction is one way Trellis helps children learn and build the skills they need for success through its school and various therapeutic programs. Children with autism that have typical siblings often can build this into their everyday lives.

Children without autism can sometimes act as parents, as nurturers and as teachers. This unique bond is one of the reasons Trellis invites typically developing siblings into school and programs for “play dates.” It helps foster the relationship and can benefit both children.

There is no doubt that having a child with autism can put extreme demands on a family. And every family and every sibling relationship is different. While there are many scenarios that can play out between children with special needs and their typically developing siblings, we think the first step to ensuring your children can make the most of this special bond is ensuring siblings understand why his/her sibling might act differently. This obviously depends on the age of the child, but chances are most children already sense something is different and love and accept their sibling regardless.

Trellis also encourages including siblings in family meetings and other discussions. Not only does this help ensure no child feels left out, but you might gain some insights from the unique perspective of your children.

There are many aspects of the sibling relationship to explore beyond this. In addition to your Trellis staff, some resources to foster interaction between your children include:
• Pathfinders for Autism Sibshops
• Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital Sibshops

Alphabet Soup: Understanding ABA & AVB

Chances are you’ve heard the terms Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and Applied Verbal Behavior (AVB) more times than you can count. So what do they really mean? And are they the miracle intervention for your child?

ABA, in the most complex terms is “the application of the principles of learning and motivation from Behavior Analysis, and the procedures and technology derived from those principles, to the solution of problems of social significance.”

In the simplest terms?  It’s using learning to change behavior. And AVB?  Basically the same thing except it’s all about language.

At Trellis, we use the principals of ABA and an AVB methodology to lay the foundation for success in school and life. We integrate ABA principles into all the work we do at Trellis and we primarily focus on using AVB in our Trellis School and Love2Learn programs.

How we use the principals of ABA

The goal of most families is to have children develop the basic communication, social and life skills they need to be successful. That’s what we focus on. Using ABA, we’re able to help teach new behaviors by breaking skills down into small, understandable steps that are taught separately. Once each step is learned separately they are strung together into a targeted behavior or task. For example, a child working on building a pre-requisite skill of sitting at a table might start with short intervals, gradually increasing the time and the seatmates. The goal isn’t just to have the child sit at a table during a group session, but to be an engaged participating member at the end.

How we use AVB

Using words, having conversations, reading and writing. We know that’s what you want for your child. AVB is a natural next step as children and students at Trellis slowly begin to trust staff and beginning developing activities. As activities are established, instructors are providing learners with all the language needed to talk about the items, what the items do, the parts of the items, etc. This is what facilitates communication. Motivation is key in this process. When a learner is motivated by an item or something fun that an instructor can do with the item, they will be motivated to “demand” or request that item or activity again. Multiple opportunities for the learner to communicate those “wants” are contrived throughout an activity, evoking the learner’s communication and repeated opportunities to practice that communication.

At Trellis, we emphasize the AVB methodology because aside from the scientific evidence, we believe that communication is the foundation for learning, and by rigorously focusing on communication we can better support a child functioning in school and the community.

AVB gives children the language they need to engage in social situations within the school and community. They are able to participate in those situations because of their increased ability to communicate their wants and needs. Also, for some, an increase in communication can contribute to reductions in interfering or challenging behavior.  Trellis understands that children need various ways to communicate too, that’s why we teach using a variety of modalities, such as vocal communication, sign language, through the use of pictures, or using an augmentative communication system (e.g., software on an iPad or another voice output device).

These are very simple explanations of what ABA and AVB are and how we try to integrate the principles into our work at Trellis. We invite you to read more on our website or contact us to find out more about how and why we use these interventions to create fun, motivating and individualized programs for each of our learners.

What is the NET? And Why Is It Important?

NET is code name for Natural Environment Teaching.

Research has shown that children with Autism learn better in a natural learning environment because they are not typically motivated to learn new things.

At Trellis the NET is set up in areas mimicking typical playrooms and in thematic centers (e.g., Housekeeping/Dress up, Vehicles and Blocks, Art Room, Sensory Room, Gross Motor Room, Library, Game Room, etc.).  Throughout the NET, toys are strategically placed in bins and/or on shelves, out of the learners’ reach to facilitate opportunities for communication.  When children are motivated to get something, they will attempt to communicate their desire for that item.  At that time, appropriate language is taught so the learners are more readily and easily able to communicate what they want the next time they want that item.

In the Trellis School, young learners at Trellis spend up to 90% of their day in the NET