Increasing the Pace to Connect the Dots

In  my old post Teaching out of Autism, I wrote about my “discovery” that “simple” activity of stringing beads was, in fact, a complex one.  I found out that it was composed of a few steps which had to be taught separately.  In that post, I listed those steps, described Robert’s strong resistance to learning, and concluded  that mastering the skill , despite previous vehement opposition,  was  reinforcing in the end.

At that time, I was not aware of the existence of ABA  with its  concept of a reinforcer as a tool that entices learning.  Thus my struggles to keep Robert seated, and bruises on my chin.  Nonetheless, when I look back on that experience and compare it with later teaching through ABA, I have to make those important observations.

1. Robert learned stringing beads very quickly when compared to  gross motor imitation introduced through discrete trials.

2. Robert did not receive any reinforcers during learning to string beads, but the activity itself became reinforcing later.

Since placing beads on a yarn is a complex activity comparing to touching a nose or clapping  why there is  such a difference in learning times?

Of course, the partial explanation would involve the fact that in the first activity he had to look at objects, in the second he had to look at a person in front of him and copy her movements.

The first activity had a clear result at the end of the of chain of actions.  The bead was on a thread.  Repeating the activity lead to the string getting longer and thus looking  better and better.  In the second activity, after completing the movement, there was no visible change.  After touching nose, Robert was back to touching nose, and then again to touching nose with pieces of M&Ms in between.

Today, almost 18 years later, I have the feeling that we missed some important variables, and were too slow to connect the beads.

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