By Allison Bickelman, a member of the SkillCorps Kenya April 2016 team

As a BCBA and program supervisor, I spend my work days writing behavior plans and skill building programs. I was beyond thrilled to start working at Kaizora alongside Pooja, the only BCBA in Kenya, and her well-trained and passionate staff to help the kids’ ABA sessions be as effective and fun as possible. We have only been working at Kaizora for 4 days and have already seen amazing progress with all of the kids!

We presented to the staff about mand training (requesting for items, activities, and attention that one wants and needs) and PECS (the Picture Exchange Communication System), in which a child who cannot talk exchanges a picture for the item that they want, instead of vocally asking for it. Mands are the most important aspect of verbal behavior for a child to learn, as they allow the child to access what they want and need, thereby giving them more control over their environment. Typically when a child begins to mand more independently and spontaneously, their challenging behaviors decrease as they learn more appropriate ways to get what they want and need.

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We created new mand data sheets for each staff to use every day and track spontaneous versus prompted mands for each child they work with. We set a goal of 100 mands per day per child, and modeled how to contrive opportunities for mands during ABA and TEACCH 1:1 sessions, as well as during group activities, such as lunch, storytime, and art. We then made a graph for each kid that the case manager will fill out at the end of every day with how many total prompted versus spontaneous mands the child emitted. These graphs are posted on the wall so that Pooja or the clinical manager can assess at any time how a child is doing towards reaching their goal of 100 mands. We also hope that the graphs will create a sense of accountability among the staff to ensure that they are contriving mand opportunities in each session.

So far we have seen all of the kids become more independent in their abilities to mand for what they want and need, whether it be one boy discriminating between 3 pictures of preferred toys and exchanging them to gain access, another boy actually saying “hug” at conversational volume instead of merely standing in front of someone waiting for them to embrace him, or a girl saying “I want yellow bead” during art.

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I am so grateful and honored to be able to share my knowledge with the staff at Kaizora and to be able to learn from them and from these amazing kids. I can’t wait to see what else we accomplish during the rest of our time here; together we are getting these kiddos one step closer to their full potential.

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