Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

February 07

Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

When Colors Don't Come Easy

"That's the craziest strategy I think we've ever tried," said Sarah's mom. "But hey, it worked!" Sarah is a 5-year-old child with autism. She made rapid progress learning to identify concrete objects, action pictures, and even room labels, but she struggled with learning the names of different colors. Her mother and the rest her therapy team were perplexed because Sarah loved to draw and even colored using appropriate colors – the sun was always yellow, the grass was always green - but naming the colors just wasn't easy. Jennifer LaMarca, Sarah's behavior consultant from the Lovaas Institute eventually turned to her colleagues for ideas when some basic strategies proved unsuccessful. What eventually worked for Sarah? The answer is as amazing as the number of other ideas Jennifer received via email from the behavior consultant discussion group set up by the Lovaas Institute.

The following list of ideas was generated:

In Terms Of Materials

  • Try using colored squares
  • Try using neutral objects that don't really have names (red plastic, blue rod)
  • Try using identical objects of interest (e.g., different colored trains)
  • Try using M&M containers of different colors. A correct response results in opening the container for that color M&M.
  • Try using preferred objects. Conduct the program as a requesting program first (e.g., give her a picture to color, have her request for the color "yellow" before giving her the crayon to color the sun).

In Terms Of Teaching Progression

  • Try teaching one set of different colors, then generalize to novel objects.
  • Try generalizing one color to different objects, then teach a second color.
  • Try including the name of the object in the SD (red fish, blue fish, etc.)

In Terms Of Prompting Strategies

  • Write the name of the color on a colored square, in the same color, as a prompt. Gradually fade the word from the paper (write it lighter).
  • Use both matching and imitation as a prompt. Say, "red" and have her watch the instructor match two red items. Rearrange the items on the table and then hand the same item to her to match. Gradually fade handing an object and then modeling the response.
  • While she sorts objects by color, the instructor names the colors out loud. After the objects are sorted, ask her to point to different color(s).
  • Teach colors on a large rainbow chart so that they are always in the same order. Next, have her place colored objects on correct color of the rainbow and identify the color. Then, have her name the color of the same objects away from the rainbow chart.
  • Associate words with colors ("banana is...(yellow)" "grass is...(green)"). Once pairs are memorized, show pictures/objects and ask, "What color?" vs. "What is it?" Facilitate generalization to new pictures/objects.

And The Strategy That Ultimately Worked For Sarah?

Combine coloring, general knowledge facts, and identifying colors expressively.

Question 1: "What color is the sun?" (while showing a black and white picture of the sun)

Response 1: "Yellow."

Question 2: "Color" (with an increasing field size of crayons out).

Response 2: Sarah colors.

Question 3: "What color?" (after cutting away part of the picture).

Response 3: "Yellow"

As time went on, more and more of the picture was cut away before the instructor asked the third question. Initially, the picture looked like a yellow sun. Then, it looked like half a yellow sun. Then, it looked like just a yellow square (all parts of the sun had been cut away). Sarah continued to refer to these pictures by the correct color and was then able to identify other color cards by color. Sarah was on her way to naming colors in any situation.

Do you have an experience with a creative format to typical programming? Share them with us here

The names of all children in this newsletter have been changed in respect for family confidentiality.

From the Editor

In 1995 when I was asked to help a family whose son had recently been diagnosed with autism, additional information on behavioral treatment was hard to come by. Fast-forward eleven years and the amount of information now available to families is incredible. Still, from the number of emails the Lovaas Institute receives every day, one thing is apparent: families want more! Therefore, I've been given the opportunity to supervise the publication of what the Lovaas Institute hopes is new and relevant information for you and your family. I'd love to hear any feedback you have.

Vincent J. LaMarca
Lovaas Institute Newsletter

On the Lighter Side...
...5 outrageous reinforcers sure to add fun in therapy

Basket Airlines! Put the child in a laundry basket and pick them up and fly them around the room as if they are the pilot of a jet plane (with sound effects).

Squirt Gun Attack! Let the child squirt you with a squirt gun. Be sure to act up like you don't want them to get you. Let them chase you around the room.


Searching for Answers
Part 1 of a 4-part series

"When our daughter was diagnosed with autism," says Bronwyn's mother, "it was not the diagnosis itself, but what happened afterwards that was the first real disappointment for us.

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