Today, all of us woke up homesick, as we’ve been away from our families and friends for one and a half months now. Even though we were on the same page of homesickness, we were also on the same page of being excited for meeting with the teachers and families to conduct our sixth training in this program entitled, “Data Collection”.
In the first slot of our session, we did a recap about our last two trainings on expressive and receptive communication to ensure that the participants got a full grasp of the differences between them and to prepare them to build on these skills in the upcoming weeks. Also, we did one of the most fun activity for our families and teachers: role playing; where we split them into groups of three and asked them to embody the role of a child with autism, a teacher, and an observer. The main purpose of this activity was to help the participants better understand what it is like for children with autism to understand and respond to other people’s requests as well as giving them guidance on what to observe and how to properly replace any problematic behaviors. As demonstrations are an essential part of our sessions and trainings, Amal and Sarah performed some examples on these subjects . One demonstration that they did made the participants laugh out loud because Amal drove Sarah nuts repeating one instruction over and over using different wording every time she said the instructions. Sarah looked really confused even though Amal was enthusiastic about it. When teachers asked to reflect on this activity, Fouza, a teacher in our program, commented, “I thought I was helping my students respond faster to my instructions by repeating them over and over. What I realized from Sarah’s reaction and from hearing somebody else other than me repeating something over and over that this would be actually pretty annoying and distracting.”
The second slot was dedicated to presenting about data collection, a practice that distinguishes the behavior analysis approach from any other approach in the field. We taught teachers and parents some efficient methods they can use to gauge their children’s behavior, and measure if a specialised intervention or replacement is effective for the child they work with. We also practised using graphs and data sheets by observing some of the example behaviors Sarah illustrated and writing down information like frequency, duration, and percentage on her behaviors. Lama, one of the parents, really liked this method, and added, “Data collection was used with Reema when she used to attend a special-needs center in Syria. I didn’t know that my daughter couldn’t use a straw one year ago until I looked through her file.” By the end of the training, we were surprised by how fast some participants grasped the concept of data collection and noticed some behaviors that some of our team members frequently do during sessions and cooperatives. One of their many remarks was about how I flip my hair to the other side 55 times a minute. I was really shocked by the fact that I do this behavior because I was not conscious about it.
After this intense training, we went home to prep for tomorrow’s community outings, the first community outings since coming to Mersin. We also planned for parents/sibling support groups, which are getting more exciting with every session. We are can’t wait to see siblings and parents put their talents into display tomorrow!