Saturday, September 27, 2014

Today's ABA-Based Home Programme is Different from "Previous Generation's": A Family's Experience

A family in Kuala Lumpur shares what their family's therapy is like. Hopefully the info will help new families.


Dylan started play-based ABA in January 2014 when he had just turned 4. Prior to this, we have been using the flashcard method (rote learning way) to teach him which we found Dylan quickly grasping, but needed a lot of effort from us as parents to keep him motivated and focused on his tasks. In addition, he language skill is limited and we found it challenging to prompt him to request for anything around him when he seemed so aloof.

(Photo above: So interested at the pet store, during a supervised community trip to the shopping mall.)

Intan was truly a blessing to Dylan when she introduced play-based ABA. Dylan has since shown tremendous step-by-step improvement in the areas of cooperation, compliance, cognition, language and community skills. Play-based ABA offers a home-based therapy which has the fundamental ABA principles coupled with many funfilled activities and practical strategies which are tailored to Dylan's needs and interests. Typically for Dylan, his therapy covers table time, floor time activities (book reading, play dough, etc.), play time (Thomas train, bubbles, etc.) and physical activities (fitness ball, throwing beanbags into basket) and community trips. Overall, play-based ABA keeps Dylan well-engaged during therapy especially in the areas of eye contact and language content, and most importantly, builds his love for learning and interaction.

(Photo above: Practicing staying close to a family member in public, without needing to hold hands.)

As with any 4-year-old, Dylan loved the outdoors and enjoys going to the shopping malls, However, bringing him out was a challenging task for us as he used to dash about to anything and everything that interest him and occasionally wandered off from family members. Sometimes, there were also moments of meltdowns in the crowded places. The introduction of supervised community trips, such as to a shopping mall in Dylan's case, definitely plays a pivotal role in overcoming these problems. The community trips help groom Dylan to behave appropriately and eventually ensure safety in those environments. Moreover, the trips allow Dylan to apply functional skills beyond the comfort of his home. As a bonus, we get the chance to enjoy every minute of time spent with him in the outdoors.

Team meetings are held at least once a month between parents/carers, therapists, and Intan. The meetings provide in-depth communication about Dylan's progress and challenges. Any new problems, obstacle or resistance are discussed, In addition, the meetings allow feedback and ideas from parents' perspectives to be incorporated into the programs as such the ABA programs are individualised to suit Dylan in order to achieve the best outcomes.

In short, we are pleasantly grateful to be part of this play-based ABA therapy in helping Dylan in the journey of life-long learning,

-Parents in Kuala Lumpur, 2014

*****both photos published with parents' permission*****

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Relationship & Social Skills: Going Beyond "Turn-Taking" in Guided Peer Play Sessions

All photos used in this post have been approved by both boys' parents.

This is the glimpse of a month in the life of 2 boys: "Robert" and "Luke" (both pseudonyms), who needed help learning to play and work with others in a meaningful, interdependent way.

Because Luke was moving away, we had only 4 weeks to work on our goals, mid-July until mid-August, 2014. This ended up being a module of 6 sessions at 1.5 hours each time. In addition to this face-to-face time, therapists who worked with each boy also reinforced some of the goals about once or twice a week on other days, in a 1:1 setting (therapist and child).

Goals were listed as:

A. Physical Coordination

- matching/adjusting one's body movements (speed, direction) to that of another peer
-practising sustained attention to another peer
-practicing working towards a common goal with the peer (rather than parallel actions)

B. Being Flexible
(a huge indicator of ability and predictor of school/life success)

- flexible about whose turn it is in an activity
- flexible in choice of activity
- tolerating disliked activities
- living with the "unknown" (you can be OK not knowing what's coming up next)

C. Personal Space

- practicing adjusting "just right' distance between 2 people
- practicing that what is "just right" depends on the activity/context and is not fixed (static).

D. Losing Gracefully (at a game)

E. Reciprocating Statements

- Congrats / Thank you
-Thank you / You're welcome
- Sorry / It's OK

F. Conversation Skills (goal during snack time)
- Statement - Statement
( example: "I like juice." "Well, I like water.")
- Question - Response
(example: "Can you help me open this?" "Sure!")
*The goal was to encourage both responding to a statement/question from a peer, and also to initiate statements/questions spontaneously.

G. Interviewing Skills
-finding out about each other.

Above: Coordinating my actions to my friend's actions, so that we can reach a common goal (aligning and gluing the snake pieces.)

Whether it's carrying and putting away a heavy box of toys together.....

....or carrying chairs to set up the snack table, these activities help the boys learn to focus on the movements (speed, direction) of each other, and continuously adjust their own actions. Sustained attention to another person is a challenge for many children on the spectrum. Activities like the above can help. 

Finding Out About Each Other: A little was done at every session. Each boy learns that other person have realities and interests different from his own ("Oh, he has a sister, but I don't. And guess what, he doesn't have a brother, but I do." "He likes cars but I like animals." "His mum has a different name from my mum.") Many children on the autism spectrum have challenges with understanding/accepting Other People's Perspectives. This activity can nudge that awareness along.

At the end of the 6 sessions (across 4 weeks), we could see some progress (defined by the reduced need for scaffolding/prompting by adults) in most* of the areas. However, it is clear that a longer module would have helped even more!

All the best, "Robert" and "Luke"!

*we did not have time to work on the Personal Space goal at all. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Parent's Experience with Play-Based, Naturalistic ABA Therapy

Photo shared by parents and permission given to publish.

When our son was suspected of being on the spectrum, we decided to move to Kuala Lumpur, where better access to therapy was available. Since the move, we have tried different types of therapy for speech and also other skills, and we were happy to see steady improvements.

After about a year in Malaysia, we came to know of Intan and play-based, naturalistic, ABA* therapy. We decided to try ABA  therapy to see how our son would respond to it. It was one of the best decisions we have made regarding his therapy. In just one month, we already started to see amazing results. His conversational skills really improved, and we started to notice how he became more and more aware of his surroundings. He started interacting more with us and his brother. He became more conversational - we started to see more impromptu short conversations between him and his brother. He communicated a lot better his wants, this also helped with the decrease of his tantrums. At school, his teacher also mentioned how he started to join in during the activities at school.

Over the course of the next few months of therapy, we have seen him just take in whatever was being thrown at him. Some things came easily, other things he needed practice. But the good thing was how he started using the skills he learned during therapy in his every day life.

We are forever thankful to Intan, who designed and supervised his programme, and the 2 wonderful therapists who worked with our son. He loved his sessions with his teachers and always looked forward to it.


* Applied Behaviour Analysis

Friday, May 23, 2014

ASD Behaviour Workshop #2: Increasing Flexibility, Improving the Capacity to Deal with Changes & Managing Self-Stimulatory Behaviour

Children on the autism spectrum often prefer routines over novelty, and changes to their routines frequently cause much distress.

Through description, discussion, video clips, and role play, the trainer will explain strategies which have been shown to improve the capacity of children with ASD to process changes. In addition, strategies for managing self-stimulatory behaviour will be covered.

This workshop is limited to 25 participants, so kindly register as soon as possible, The registration details are listed in the flyer.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Behaviour Workshop #1: Strategies to Manage Task-Avoidance and Attention-Getting Behaviour

This workshop is for educators and caregivers/parents of young children on the autism spectrum.

I will build an understanding on the various functions (reasons) for behavior, describe that I've selected 2 functions for this workshop (task avoidance / escape and attention-seeking), go through each one using a combination verbal description, visuals including video clips, and discussion (audience-trainer and audience-audience) in order to introduce some strategies which have been known to be effective (either from published research and/or from my own field experience). We would also be breaking into groups to practice some of the strategies. 

To register, please use the directions on the attached flyer.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"Travelling by Airplane with a Young Child on the Autism Spectrum": Presentation

Audience Feedback: 

I really liked that you broke down every step from that time that you leave your house to the actual in flight travel.  I think a lot of times, one doesn't really realize how many steps it takes to travel by air (especially over seas travelling) with children, but especially with  children who do take every step very literally.  I've had the topic of travelling by plane come up a few times from a couple of different families;  as a person who works closely with the autism community and doesn't travel by plane often,  it can be difficult to remember all the steps you have to go through to even get on board.

Your presentation was very insightful --
I think you were exactly right when you said that being prepared before you even leave the house is the best advice to give anyone who is travelling with a child with Autism.

- H.F., Senior Therapist, De Pere, Wisconsin

Originally, this talk was presented in the USA at the ASW Conference in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin in April 2013. 

Due to interest locally, ANDI Initiative will be giving this presentation again, this time here in Malaysia. Kindly register your interest in the comments or email us at

Friday, April 11, 2014

Promoting Success for Children with Special Needs in Inclusive Environments through Mindful Shadowing - Workshop

This workshop for shadow aides and teachers was a full house this past January. ANDI Initiative intends to conduct a similar workshop in the next few months. If you are interested to attend, please email us.


Thursday, April 10, 2014


Shared with express permission of the parent

Client confidentiality is VERY important to ANDI Initiative, that's why you won't typically see videos or photos of children we work with. Nor do we ever share out personal communication and information. However, occasionally, a parent gives express permission to share. For that, we thank them, because this is very valuable. These glimpses give other struggling parents MOTIVATION and HOPE, for their own children.

A few days ago, this parent sent me this and gave express permission to share the SMS as well as permission to leave her son's name is the SMS. Dharman's mother always downplays her effort and dedication. However, in the last 2 years, she has been a good student herself, learning everything she could, asking a lot of questions, and then taking the advice and implementing tirelessly with her son after work and on the weekends, and coming back to me with problems to troubleshoot. She also learned to take my advice about relaxing :-)

Parents, does this sound familiar? If so, can you see that you are not alone? Keep up your good work.


JH Rocks!

Client confidentiality is of utmost importance to ANDI Initiative, that's why you don't typically see videos or photos of children we work with. However, occasionally, a parent gives express permission to share. This is very valuable, as these glimpses give other struggling parents MOTIVATION and HOPE, for their own children.

Here, JH's mother has allowed me to share a video she sent me. Both she and I know that with good guidance on appropriate programmes, good implementation from therapist and mother, and the tenacious everyday effort of JH's mother, JH has come out from the depths of autism and can learn, and participate in the world. He is seen here learning to play the guitar.

May JH continue to reach for the stars!