Parent Training Archives - Cultivate Behavioral Health & Education - ABA Therapy

Creating a Visual Schedule

Most children with ASD have difficulty with transitions and unexpected changes in routines. ​ Waiting until the last minute can make things worse​. Schedules help cope with unexpected changes.

Benefits of Creating a Visual Schedule:

  • It establishes routine to know what is coming and what to expect​ 
  • It informs the child of upcoming changes and how to prepare for them​ 

Keep These Helpful Tips in Mind When Creating a Visual Schedule For Your Child:

  1. Place in a central location​.
  2. Encourage your child to check the schedule – tag line or auditory cue.
  3. Review the schedule with your child and select the first picture (top to bottom, left to right)
  4. Encourage the child to say the activity or point to it.
  5. Child takes the picture off the schedule and takes it to the designated area.
  6. Complete the activity.
  7. Reture to the schedule.
  8. Place completed activity visual in “completed” box or envelope.
  9. Move on to the next fun activity! 

Parent Training: The Principles of Pairing

This week in our Parent Training series, we will be introducing the concept of pairing. The powerpoint presentation below provides audio narration for accessibility. Clink on the link below to follow along.

Parent Training: Pairing

Training Outline

In today’s discussion we will talk about what pairing is, how to pair, why it is important, and finally going through some scenarios of what pairing looks like.

Pairing is a way to establish yourself as a reinforcer for your child. Some people may also refer to this as building a rapport. During the pairing process, you want to establish yourself with things your child finds enjoyable.

How to Pair

When pairing with your child, there are a few important things to remember. First you want to keep your demands low. Asking them questions is considered a form of demand, so simple things such as “what are you playing with?”, “can you show mommy your toy?” and “show me what the car can do,” are all considered demands. Keep those minimal by complimenting those behaviors rather than asking questions.

Let your child take the lead. If they’re playing with dinosaurs, play dinosaurs with them rather than trying to get them to play with Legos or or a dollhouse instead. Be a giver by providing your child with preferred items and activities. If they’re building a really awesome Lego tower, give them some other cool Legos to build along with it.

Tell them all the great things you see them doing. This can include things like “I love how you’re playing,” “you’re sharing so nicely,” and “what a cool Lego tower.” And don’t forget, be silly and fun!

Why Is Pairing Important?

Next I want to spend some time talking about the importance of pairing. Pairing can lead to increased cooperation, compliance, and willingness to engage across activities and environments. When you’re working on pairing with your child, it’s important to work this across multiple activities such as play time, story time, and even meal times as well as different environments which can include their bedroom, playroom, kitchen and maybe even the park.

Pairing can also lead to a decrease in target behaviors because you will be working to establish appropriate behaviors that you wish for your child to continue.

What Does This Look Like?

Now that we’ve outlined some expectations on what pairing should look like, let’s go through a few different examples. In this example, Bobby is playing with Legos. Mom can comment on Bobby’s activities by saying things like “Bobby, I love how you’re playing!” , “What a cool Lego tower!” or “These look so amazing!”

Mom can also give Bobby more legos throughout the play session. As he’s building the tower, mom can hand over a couple of big blocks and then a few small ones. Mom can also help Bobby help build the tower by adding to the activity. Mom can further comment, “Bobby what a cool tower you built!” as he’s completing the activity.

For more scenarios and examples, check out the powerpoint link above.

To Summarize Pairing

Pairing is an effective way to establish yourself as a reinforcer with your child. Keeping demands low is an important step in the pairing process. Remember to keep commenting on the activity rather than asking questions. Think of ways you can add to the activity by providing additional reinforcers, and adding praise statements and comments.

For additional parent trainings on topics such as: crisis management, feeding and sleeping problems, visit our Parent Training page here.

We announce our new community resources on our social media channels as well! Connect with us to stay up to date:




How ABA Therapy Can Help Learners Acquire Vocational Skills

As your child ages, you may begin wondering when to start focusing on vocational skills. Throughout your child’s experience with ABA, the goal will be to support the development of independent skills that are appropriate for that individual. As learners mature and develop, goal setting is an opportune time to consider life and vocational skills. Related to these, one goal might be to achieve financial independence or to pursue a more meaningful life. To do this, many adults choose to enter the workforce. Individuals with autism have the same desires with more and more people choosing to go to college or pursue careers that fit their interests and abilities!

In order to be successful in a job setting, certain skills are necessary to navigate the social and technical complexities that come with a workplace. While traditionally vocational skills are addressed in a special education environment, did you know that many of those skills can also be worked on in an ABA program?

How ABA can work on vocational skills

Applied Behavior Analysis uses evidence-based practice to help learners acquire new skills that help them successfully navigate the world. This can include pre-vocational and vocational skills.

Pre-vocational Skills

Before an individual starts working on these skills, some foundational pre-vocational skills will need to be learned first. Learning to tolerate work sessions for a certain amount of time, sorting and counting, following a checklist, and learning to write your name are all examples of pre-vocational skills. While these skills are typically acquired at a younger age, it’s never too late to start working on these valuable pre-requisites.

Vocational Skills

When a learner is nearing transition age their goals may begin to focus on the hard and soft skills necessary in a post-secondary or workplace environment. These targeted skills can include:

  • Having back-and-forth conversations with a customer
  • Practicing good personal hygiene and understanding work-appropriate attire
  • Time management so you arrive at work or class on time
  • Counting money if you work in retail or banking
  • Resume development
  • How to interview for a job

Vocational Training Organizations

In addition to ABA programs, many communities have specialized programs that can support employment success for individuals with autism and other disabilities. Check out the following organizations in an area near you!










Parent Training – The Power of Words: Using Positive Phrases with Your Child

Next up in our Parent Training series, we will be discussing the Power of Words: Using Positive Phrases with Your Child. The powerpoint presentation below provides audio narration for ease of access. Click on the link below to follow along.

The Power of Words: Using Positive Phrases with Your Child

Positive Phrases Training Outline

Today we’re going to be focusing on:

  • Labeling expectations for your child
  • How to provide behavior specific praise
  • Talk through multiple examples
  • Role play scenarios

Labeling Expectations

Labeling expectations is something you can do across any activity with your child. This can include trips to the grocery store, outings to the park, or even homework tasks at home. So when you’re doing these activities, it’s really important that you label what’s expected of your child.

When doing this, you want to use really simplified language based on the needs of your child. If your child is younger, you don’t want to be using complex sentences but simple statements. And then, you want to tell you child the things you want them to do, not what you don’t want to see. We’ll walk through a few examples after this.

When labeling expectations, it’s important to use simplified language and to label what you want to see from your child. Let’s look at a few examples. You can say:

  • “Use two hands to carry your food”
  • “We walk in the house”
  • “Use a quiet voice”
  • “Share your toys”
  • “Put the toy in the bin”
  • “Hold my hand when we walk”

We’ll go through a couple more detailed scenarios so that you can try this on your own.

Labeling Expectations Example Scenarios

Now that we’ve talked through what it means to label expectations for your child, let’s try a few examples on our own. In this scenario, 6 year old Johnny wants to go outside and play in his backyard with his brother. What are some expectations you can label for him? Remember, we want to be using positive phrases that meets his needs. We also want to remember to tell him what he can do, not what he can’t do.

What are some expectations you labeled for 6 year old Johnny who wants to go outside and play? If they sounded like “we go down the slide”, “sit on your bottom”, or “take turns with your brother,” then you’re on the right track.

Let’s try another example: 10 year old Jenny wants to play video games in the basement. What are some expectations we can label for her? Remember, we want to be telling her what she can do, and we want to be using positive phrases. Keep in mind, Jenny is 10 so we can use a little more complex language in this example.

What expectations did you label for Jenny? Did they sound like “keep the volume low”, “set a timer for 10 minutes, or “take turns with your sister”? Are there other examples you can think of for this?

Providing Behavior Specific Praise

Now that we’ve talked about labeling expectations and what that means and sounds like, we’re going to move on and talk about behavior specific praise. Behavior specific praise is a really great way to reinforce the appropriate behavior of your child. Reinforcing these appropriate behaviors is going to increase the likelihood that those behaviors will continue in the future.

Similar to labeling expectations, we want to remember to use those positive phrases and positive voice. We want to be praising the behaviors that we want to see again. We can do this by using specific language and making sure it matches the needs of the child. Again, we can use more complex language for older children and simplifying it for the younger ones.

Let’s look at a few examples of what it means to be providing behavior specific praise. It can sound like:

  • “I love how you cleaned your room”
  • “Great sharing with your brother”
  • “Nice walking”
  • “Way to go finishing your homework”
  • Great playing”

We’re going to go through a couple different scenarios so that you can practice this in a little more detail.

Behavior Specific Praise Example Scenarios

Let’s try an example here. In this one, Bobby is playing cars and trains with his brother Joey. What are some ways you can provide behavior specific praise to each of the boys?

We could say things like “great sharing boys”, “nice job driving your trains on the tracks”, “I love how you built the train tracks”, or “great job cleaning up.” Can you think of a few additional examples?

Let’s try another example. In this one, 4 year old Katie is playing dress up with mom. What are some ways that mom can provide behavior specific praise to Katie? Keep in mind, she’s 4 so we want the positive phrases to meet her.

Some ways that her mom could provide behavior specific praise are: “I like how you spin in your dress”, “you picked a fun outfit”, and “good sharing Katie.” Are there other examples that you can think of?

Positive Phrases: Putting it All Together

Now that we have talked about outlining expectations as well as providing some behavior specific praise, let’s try some examples of this across different scenarios. So let’s take a look at the one below.

5 year old Minnie is about to help mom make lunch. What are some ways that her mom can label expectations for her as they make lunch together? What are some ways that her mom could provide behavior specific praise along the way?

Labeling Expectations: Mom could say things like “make sure to stand on your stool”, “wash your hands”, and “keep your hands down.”

As they make lunch, mom can praise her by saying things like “nice job listening to mommy”, “you hands are so clean”, and “what a yummy lunch you made.” Are there other examples you can think of for these?

Let’s try another example here. 8 year old Jeff is about to play catch with dad. What are some ways dad can label expectations for Jeff as they play? What are some ways dad can provide behavior specific praise along the way?

Labeling Expectations: Dad can say things like “get your mitt from the shelf”, “stand by the tree”, and “wait for me.”

As they play, dad can praise Jeff by saying things like “great catch”, “such a good throw” and “nice waiting for me bud.” Can you think of some others?

In this next example, we have 6 year old Tommy who is about to go to the grocery store with mom and dad. What are some ways they can label expectations for Tommy and what are some ways they can provide the behavior specific praise along the way?

Some ways his parents can label expectations for Tommy are saying things like “stay next to mom and dad”, “hold onto the cart”, and “use a quiet voice.” Some ways they can praise his behavior along the way are saying things like “great walking Tommy”, “nice job filling the cart” and “great listening to mom and dad.”

Training Summary

To summarize this presentation, we want to remember to outline expectations with your child across activities and environments. This can be across any activity that you complete throughout the day. When you observe your child following these rules, it is important to provide behavior specific praise. We want to make sure we use language that meets the needs of our child and we always want to use positive phrases that tells them what they can do or what they did that was correct.

That concludes this presentation on The Power of Words: Using Positive Phrases with Your Child. For additional parent trainings on topics such as the principles of reinforcement and creating visual schedules, visit our Parent Training page.

We announce our new community resources on our social media channels as well! Stay up to date by connecting with us on:

Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!

Parent Training: Principles of Reinforcement

This week in our Parent Training series, we will be exploring different principles of reinforcement. The powerpoint presentation below provides audio narration for accessibility. Click on the link below to follow along.

Parent Training: Principles of Reinforcement

Using Reinforcement

Reinforcement is a powerful tool that we utilize when we are teaching new behaviors as well as when we are maintaining behaviors. Reinforcement is a consequence that increases the future frequency of that type of behavior that immediate precedes it.

We often talk about “positive” and “negative” reinforcement. Positive reinforcement offers when something is added to the behavior that increases the future frequency of that behavior. Negative reinforcement occurs when something is removed following a behavior that increases the future frequency of that behavior.

It’s important to note that for these terms, positive and negative, that we are thinking in the terms of “adding” and “removing”, not “good” or “bad”.

Choosing Appropriate Reinforcers

When we’re looking to choose appropriate reinforcers, we must consider a few variables in order to keep the reinforcement differentiated. This includes thinking about the value of the reinforcer, the frequency in which the reinforcer is being provided, the amount or how much of a reinforcer is being provided, and the variety of reinforcers available.

Now, let’s take a deeper look at each of these.

The Value of Reinforcers

When selecting an appropriate reinforcer, the value of that reinforcer must match the amount of work it takes to earn the reinforcer. What this means is that for new or difficult tasks, we must use a more powerful reinforcer. If something is going to take me more effort or more time, there must be a bigger payout in the end so I must use a more powerful reinforcer.

This is different when we are working on mastered skills or something that is easier. We still want to use a powerful reinforcer, but this can be something slightly less valuable.

For example, if I am being taught to tie my shoes and this is a very difficult skill that takes a few minutes I want to earn something powerful such as 5 minutes with an iPad once I’m finished.

But if I’m simply being told to sit in my chair, I might get a high five when I complete that task.

Frequency of Reinforcement

How often should a reinforcer be provided? Sometimes we can use specific schedules of reinforcement as we’re working to increase and maintain behaviors. Two common examples that we frequently use are: continuous schedules and intermittent schedules of reinforcement.

Continuous schedules of reinforcement work to provide a reinforcer for every occurrence of a targeted behavior. So, in this example of targeted behavior, this can be any particular skill that we’re placing a focus on. These continuous schedules of reinforcement should be used when we’re teaching brand new skills as well as when we’re teaching difficult skills. This means that every time that particular skill is observed, a reinforcer is going to be provided.

In our previous example when we talking about tying shoes: every single time I were to tie my shoes, I’d be provided with a reinforcer.

This is different from an intermittent schedule of reinforcement which works to provide a reinforcer for some but not all occurrences of a particular behavior. This type of reinforcement schedule is often utilizes when we’re working to maintain previous skills or skills that are a little bit easier to complete.

In our previous example when we talking about sitting in a chair: since that behavior is pretty easy for me, I might get a high-five every five times that I complete that task rather than every single time I sit in that chair.

Amount of Reinforcement

Another way to differentiate our reinforcement is to look at how much of a reinforcer is being provided. We can do this by providing the same reinforcer across these examples but by providing a different amount or for a different amount of time.

So for example, we have a small cheese burger and a large cheese burger. When I complete a really difficult skill, or something that’s new for me, I might get a larger portion of that cheeseburger. If I’m doing something that’s easier, I’m going to get just a couple of bites.

The same can be done with something like an iPad. We can vary the amount of time that we’re allowed to play with the iPad depending on the task that we complete. For example, if I’m completing something new or difficult, I might be able to get 5-10 minutes with the iPad. If I do something that’s pretty easy or standard, I might only get to listen to one song or watch one short video.

Variety of Reinforcers

As we continue our discussion on reinforcement, we also want to consider the variety of our reinforcers. It’s very important to consider a wide variety of reinforcers to be able to provide so that the child does not become satiated or become sick of the reinforcer being provided over time.

We can provide edible reinforcers which can include things like candy, goldfish, grapes, raisin – basically anything that the child enjoys eating and finds preferable. You can vary the quatity of that reinforcer being provided as well.

Sensory reinforcement is another way that reinforcers can be delivered. This can include simples things such as tickles or maybe even a song being played.

Tangible reinforcement is another one. This can include either toys or games that the child can physically access for completing a task. Again, making sure that we’re picking a toy that the child really enjoys, not one that we think he enjoys.

We can also include different activities as reinforcers. This can include maybe reading a story with mom and dad or playing a board game together.

We can also include social reinforcers. Hugs, high-fives, social praise such as “good job, buddy!” and “awesome work!”

It’s important to make sure we are varying these reinforcers. So the first time a child completes a task, they might get something like a goldfish. And the next time they’re going to get a hug and a high-five from mom and dad.

Preference Assessments

Preference assessments are a really powerful tool that we can utilize when we’re trying to identify reinforcers. It’s important to note that we never want to assume that an item or activity is serving as a reinforcer. We need to look at the child’s behavior and the reinforcer they are selecting to really see if that item is truly a reinforcer or just something that they prefer over time.

Preference assessments can be used to identity what is serving as a reinforcer as well as how an individual ranks the available reinforcers.

This type of assessment can be conducted by asking the individual what they want, looking at opportunities for them to select reinforcers, and obverving the child in their natural environment.

For example, we can ask them choices. “Did you want a goldfish or did you want a cookie?” We can also select a different variety of snacks and put them on the table in front of the child and ask them to pick one.

This can also be done with toys. You can take all of their favorite toys available and then you can watch to see which ones they are actually going to select.


The timing and delivery of a reinforcer is a really important thing to discuss. Ideally, reinforcement should be delivered within 3 seconds of the behavior in order to be the most effective. For example, if we are teaching a child to clap their hands: we say “clap your hands” and the child completes the task, and then we immediate deliver that reinforcer, we are guaranteeing that the reinforcer being provided is as a result of the child completing that task.

If we were to say, “clap your hands” and then the child ends up walking away, and then we provide the reinforcer, we are actually reinforcing a different behavior: walking away in that circumstance. So we want to make sure that the timing matches up with the behavior that we’re hoping to continue in the future.

Remember, for those new behaviors, we want to use that continuous reinforcement to reinforce every occurrence of that desired behavior immediately following its presentation.

That concludes this presentation on principles of reinforcement. For additional parent trainings on topics such as: crisis management, feeding and sleeping problems, visit our Parent Training page here.

We announce our new community resources on our social media channels as well! Connect with us to stay up to date:




Navigating IEPs

If your child is struggling in school, or if your child has received a diagnosis by a medical professional, they may qualify for an Individualized Education Program or IEP. It’s hard to know where to start or what to expect during this process, and the law can be confusing. We’ve written up a brief overview to get you started! 

WHAT is an IEP? 

It first helps to understand what an IEP is. Simply put, an IEP is a legal document that details your child’s needs to ensure they are successful at school. It will define specific supports, accommodations, and services your child needs as well as individualized annual goals they will work on with your child. IEPs are governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 

WHY is an IEP beneficial? 

IEPs are individualized, child-specific documents that help educators navigate the best approach for helping your child learn. Collaborating with your child’s school to make sure everyone understands the different ways your child learns best sets them up for success in the long run. 

WHERE to start? 

The school will have to first conduct an evaluation to see if your child qualifies for special education services. This can be confusing, especially if your child has already received a diagnosis like Autism or ADHD from a doctor or psychologist. The school will review that information during their evaluation, but they will be conducting their own tests and assessments to see if that diagnosis is impacting your child’s ability to be successful in a school environment. See the 13 IDEA disability categories here:*1g58718*domain_userid*YW1wLXNlUkFONWFjdXFvSGo1VVd1RUpVbWc

WHO is involved with IEPs? 

Once your child is evaluated and the school has determined they qualify for special education, the team (which includes you!) will work together to create the IEP.  Your child’s IEP team will consist of a number of people from your child’s school, but must legally include at least one of your child’s general education teachers, at least one special education teacher, a representative from the district, someone who can interpret evaluation results, you the parent, and your child once they reach the age of 16. It is common for the IEP team to also include other professionals like speech or occupational therapists. As the parent, you can also invite people to be team members like other family members or an educational advocate.  

WHEN do we meet? 

Once the IEP is written, a meeting is held to review the draft and discuss any needed changes to the document. This meeting is a chance for you to provide your input about your child’s needs, additional goals you would like to see, and to discuss their individual strengths. Once the team is in agreement with the draft and all changes, you will sign off that you approve of the document. If you want some more time to review the document, you can also request to not sign right away. The school will grant you a certain number of days to review on your own.  

Once the IEP has been reviewed and approved, the school will be responsible for implementing everything that is outlined in it. The IEP will have an effective date that the implementation must begin and that IEP version will be valid for one year. At the one year mark, the team will gather again to review your child’s progress and discuss any changes the team is suggesting for the next year. It is important for you as a parent to know that just because IEP meetings are held on an annual basis, any IEP team member, including you, can call an IEP meeting at any time during the year.  

The IEP process can be overwhelming and complicated, and this write-up just scratches the surface of the complexities to preparing and executing an IEP. We recommend reaching out to the special-education department at your child’s school to learn more about the process or reading more through the US Department of Education: 

Parent Training Series

Cultivate Behavioral Health and Education is committed to helping you navigate the autism treatment journey. Our Parent Training resources provide information on issues in the ASD caregiver space. In addition to our full webinars and presentations, read through our Learning ABA blog series specific to caregiver support and resources.

Funding for ABA Therapy

Let’s Look at the Data

The Ins-and-Outs of an ASD Evaluation

3 Phases of the Insurance Authorization Process