A mum’s story

This is a really moving and heartfelt account from a mum of a child with autism of how ABA has helped her son, and just how hard ABA tutors work. Yes, sometimes, the job is really tough (and yes, I have been hit, kicked, bitten, spat on and had multiple items thrown at me in my time) BUT fundamentally we know (through the data and the science) that what we’re doing is right. And, ultimately there is nothing better than seeing a child learn new
skills, teaching effective communication, and broadening a child’s access to the world around them.
After all, some of the cornerstones of ABA are that what we provide is Applied (make a difference that is socially important) and Effective (behavioural techniques result in socially significant change).


Autism/IDD diagnoses and grief

I have done a lot of research and personal work with parents and carers, experiencing grief when finding out their child isn’t the one they dreamed of…these feelings and emotions are NORMAL!

This article from BSci21 sums up how Grief Theory can be applied to families of children with Autism and learning disabilities and provides us with a behavioural analysis of how to tackle the challenges that arise. It also shows that feelings of grief and the related behaviours are normal and something that must be taken into account when working with clients.


When meeting new clients, I always take this into account. I look at how can we find positives in this new, challenging situation, and how we can work with, not against the grieving process.

Repetition, repetition, repetition.

One of the most legendary coaches in the history of sport was John Wooden. Below is a great quote of his related to the laws of learning. What seems curious is that in certain fields, practice (or repetition) is accepted as a key component to building the competence, confidence and conditions for learning. Yet in other areas, repetition is seen as un-beautiful, archaic or unnecessary. 

Where it is acceptable? In sports, in theatre, in dance, in music; here, the learners are given multiple rehearsals, practice, repetition of scales, lines, moves, passes, routines – whatever they need to perform at some point, that becomes a focal point for practice till they have it- till its nailed down, mastered, fluent, flowing… they know the moves inside & out, they have their lines learnt and cadence and movement and execution clear. 

Where it seems unacceptable? In academic subjects, in social skills, in play – here, in these areas, it seems some illogical fallacy has taken hold whereby learners should either just do what they think is right, or just learn for the love of learning it… or just get it at some distant point in the future. piffle and waffle. If they need to learn it, teach it. If they don’t need the skill now, then why waste your time and theirs by teaching it? And the best way to learn something is by doing it. doing it so many times it becomes easy rather than hard… doing it so many times you don’t have to think about it- you can just perform those calculations, or critique the text, or identify the date or hold a conversation or take turns or win & lose or problem solve…

If you are failing to giving chances to repeat, to practice, to get effortless – then you are performing only two, at best three, laws of learning… you are teaching, but the students might not be learning…

So, follow Coach Wooden’s advice: 

“The four laws of learning are explanation, demonstration, imitation and repetition. 

The goal is to create a correct habit that can be produced instinctively under great pressure. 

To make sure this goal was achieved, I create eight laws of learning — namely explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, and repetition.”

-Coach John Wooden

If you’d like more- here is his TED talk… https://www.ted.com/talks/john_wooden_on_the_difference_between_winning_and_success/transcript?language=en&fbclid=IwAR0xhQ20GcpnAYJdSRlDhjDb8xxDHIwDDb91TSxU7hWh5J4zP2z75l3cMFU


This blog was inspired by The TLCs Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/tlcaba/


Welcome to Holland

This poem ‘Welcome to Holland’ is often used by parents and professionals to help describe what it’s like to be a parent of a child with additional needs.



The blog post below also gives another perspective…’Welcome to Italy’ (http://autismorsomethinglikeit.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/why-i-hate-welcome-to-holland.html) which recognises that every parent has expectations of their child, be they neurotypical or not, which will never be met and/or change on a daily basis. Ultimately, it’s ok and normal to have those expectations, it’s natural to be disappointed and angry and sad when they’re not met…when you have to move the goal posts so much further and work harder than you ever envisaged. And, although those original expectations may never completely go away, with the new ones you may begin to find successes, hope and pride and determination you didn’t know you had.

ABA uses the science of behaviour to enable successes step by step; to work towards those expectations, to widen those goal posts…it may not be the route or destination that was planned but that doesn’t mean the journey can’t be doable, rewarding, empowering, and…it may even be fun! 😀

Noticing the wood for the trees…

In this mad, modern, polarising, crazy world it is all too easy to get hooked on how mad🤯/bad🤬/sad😭 other people are…and not even notice the small acts of kindness and connections that happen every day!

I bet, if you were to go into the world today and took the time to notice, you will see so many acts of small kindnesses – to you, to others, between others. 🤗

What if I was to give you a challenge? To BE the person who makes eye contact and smiles to a stranger, who says “Good morning”, who stops and holds the door open for another person, who says to the cashier “have a nice day” and actually MEAN it! 🤩
And to listen, and hear for those times when others are being kind – to you, to themselves or to others.

The world may be a little hectic and crazy nowadays but you have control over how you can treat others, and it’s these moments that can make a person’s day.

Be kind. Notice the small things. Do small things. Connect. Take your time.

It’s going to feel good!

#TransactionalAnalysis #AcceptanceandCommitmentTherapy #Values#Kindess #Mindfulness #Noticing #Doing


Jargon, jargon, jargon…

Here is an interesting article – one that calls for ABA to stop with the elitist and often confusing terminology and make it accessible. I agree – why not use ‘added’ and ‘subtracted’ reinforcement rather than ‘positive’ and ‘negative’?

I always try to speak in layman’s terms…yes, we need the scientific language so we can communicate with other professionals…but we don’t always need to use it. Time to get off our high-horses and share our knowledge in a way that makes sense.

Treatment fads – how do we know what is and isn’t legit?

I regularly see, and hear about, ‘treatments for autism’ and how parents will try anything to try and help the child they love so dearly. For me, telling a parent a treatment will cure their child’s autism without the scientific evidence to support such claims in on a par with telling a recently bereaved parent, or widow, that they can contact their love one through a Medium or psychic…the person delivering said treatment is, as Tim Minchin would say, “lying, or mentally ill”. Not only can these treatments be expensive and ineffective but they can also be harmful – both physically and mentally, and can even be life threatening. Look for the science, look for the evidence, because “Science adjusts it’s beliefs based on what’s observed; Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved.”

This linked article is old but resonates a lot with me. I regularly come across autism ‘treatment packages’ which are not supported by science. Further, as I see more and more, I am a true believer of using a mixture of approaches to support a child. Every, single child is unique…and so their treatment should be approached as such.

How do we know if what we’re doing is useful? Data!! And we adapt and adjust accordingly.

Tim Minchin talks about this in his poem, named ‘Storm’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhGuXCuDb1U

Encouraging speech and communication

Encouraging speech…this is a fun little video in which we are shaping the little one’s speech sounds to be closer to ‘Swing’. This has been a long process…first, as she made NO sounds at all, we reinforced ANY sound she made whilst swinging (a HIGHLY preferred activity) with extra big/fast/more fun swings. Now, we’re waiting and modelling the sounds that we want…and when she makes a sound that’s closer to “swing” than before (e.g., “wing” vs “ing”) she’s getting even bigger/better/longer swings than if she just made an unrelated sound. This is so she knows when she’s got it right!
And listen to her trying so hard to make the sound “swing”. 😍

The most important thing is that we’re doing this when she’s having FUN and is highly motivated. 😁 Plus, what you can’t see is how engaged she is with us both, with lots of eye contact and sign!

She’s a little superstar!! 🤩


What is shaping?

Shaping is defined as differentially reinforcing successive approximations toward a terminal behaviour. It can be applied to any behaviour – speech, movement, sign language, length of time studying.