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Focus Parent Shares her ABA Journey

Updated: Apr 18, 2021

Focus Surrey parent, Hoi Rimmington, has shared her ABA journey in the hope of inspiring other parents to follow her lead.

Hoi's daughter Lauren, was diagnosed with ASD when she was 3. "She is a very gentle girl, and most of the time she is happy albeit a bit passive. She is verbal, she can read and write simple sentences and do simple adding up and taking away, but she struggles with understanding some abstract concepts and also with social interaction. Her co-ordination is not brilliant" says Hoi.

"Lauren enjoyed going to Focus Surrey every Saturday afternoon. This is how we started knowing about the ABA method. Focus Surrey is a Saturday play group for children with autism, which uses ABA principles to teach play, social and communication skills."

Hoi initially approached BCBA Tracey Tibbals, who co-supervises the club. Tracey established a home programme for Lauren. “Tracey helped us a lot with Lauren’s behaviour and independence and made us realise how important life skills are,” Hoi said. “Focus also invited a lot of specialists in the SEN field to come and give talks to parents. This club gave me a lot of support socially and psychologically.”

Hoi started a home programme with SLT Bethan Mair Williams in April 2020, just as lockdown was commencing. “It has provided us with a structured framework which covers the academic side as well as life skills, “ said Hoi. “We are doing the program on a daily basis for at least 2 hours a day - one hour every day with table activities and one hour with various life skills activities. “

“Over the period, according to my daily recording and Bethan’s carefully guided text messages and videos I can see progress, which reinforces me to continue the program and I enjoy doing it more and more.” With Hoi in Surrey and Bethan in Wales, so far, Hoi and her husband Alan have only met Bethan face-to-face once, the rest of the time they have used videos to communicate.

“We never realised before that video is so powerful and that therapy can be done remotely and over time produce results. Using video enables you to re-watch and review the process. This in turn helps you learn from your own mistakes and shows you how much you have changed over the course of the process. It is so fascinating,” Hoi said.

“I have found the most important part of this program is continuous monitoring and homework recording which is the key for moving up to the next stage. I now understand that clear and simple instructions can achieve far more than talking to your kids with long comprehensive sentences. You can encourage your kids to talk in a more meaningful way with less words. Sometimes making your child understand the world is more important than making sure their grammar is correct!”

The prime teaching methods Hoi has been using with Lauren include an SLT resource called Language for Thinking; a calendar and home/school diary to develop Lauren’s language and use of time;

Headsprout On-line Reading Programme to develop her English; Numicon to develop her maths, and a colour coded Active Support system so parents and even kids can visually see how well they have done.

“Lockdown gave me the chance to spend more time with Lauren and get to know her a bit more. I do the program with her every day and it gradually became part of her routine. I can see she has benefited a lot,” Hoi said.

"Before we started this program with Bethan, Lauren was still struggling with some of the concrete questions such as What?; Where? and Who?, but now she has started to understand them and is commenting much more than before", Hoi said. "Before the program she needed me to be with her to help her finish getting dressed. But now she can dress herself without me at all and prepare her own breakfast—doing the toast, buttering the bread, warming the milk in the microware and adding chocolate powder into the milk herself without any reminders at all. I truly believe life skills are just as important as academics, because it is these that give your kids the foundation towards becoming independent.”

Hoi described Active Support, which they do on a daily basis, is setting 10 realistic targets for certain periods and making sure your kids work on them every day. Active Support uses a red, yellow, green traffic light system to mark their progress, so kids can visually see how well they have done. Over time you could see the green side will eventually take over the red side. The chart needs to be adjusted if the targets are too high or too low. It’s straightforward, but it is very powerful and data driven.

Hoi admitted that "implementing ABA principles as a parent at home is not easy, particularly when working around other work commitments and especially during the lockdown period. You need to be consistent, prepare yourself and think of the causes and consequences all the time. In addition, I’ve found you have to be positive and very calm (even when your natural instinct tells you otherwise!) Not everyone wants to go through this, but I feel that the process has been very rewarding and when looking back I can see just how much progress has been made.”

“During this period from April last year till now I also feel I have unconsciously changed a lot myself. My husband Alan, has told me that I have become much calmer and more observant than before. I think it is probably true. Because you need to train yourself before you can train your kids. I hope my experience can help you as SEN parents. The journey is not easy but it can be very rewarding.”

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