A day in the life…

written by a TLC tutor

This is an account of an after school ABA program for a 13 year old boy with an ASD diagnosis attending mainstream school with 1:1 support.

I arrive at 4.30 say Hi and have a chat with his mum. I see this boy every two weeks because my supervisor does sessions with him alternate weeks. We catch up about what he’s been up to, how things have been going at school and what homework or projects he’s got for us to look at. He is usually upstairs so I’ll either go up and get him or he’ll come down. We do most of our work on a large table in the living room, it’s quiet there’s not too many distractions and there’s space to spread out, however, we also move around the house during our sessions. 

We start our session by making a plan of what we’re going to cover, usually I write a list of things I’d like us to do and the young teen can make suggestions and add things in, I then let him choose what order we do them in. Usually we do two activities and then have a break so he also gets free choice over what we do in the breaks. 

First choice to look at his maths work from school. He doesn’t have homework but his school INA/1:1 has a really proactive relationship with the parents and is really good at communicating what he has been working on in class and what things he’s maybe finding more difficult so that we can practice them at home to increase his fluency and confidence with them.  Today there are some questions on fractions that they didn’t manage to finish in class so we go over a couple of the questions together and then, because is doing well with them, I give him the last three questions to do on his own. We’re also working on the ability to do independent work, so whilst he’s doing these I take data on how long he takes to do them and how often he asks for help. 

After maths we do piano practice, he has lessons so we go over what he needs to practice and help him to look at what his piano teacher has written in his book for him to practice to help him be more independent with this.

Then we take a break, he has chosen to show me a video he finds funny on you tube. We watch it and then have a chat about it, this is also a good opportunity for us to practice ‘cool’ conversation skills. This is a topic that we’ve worked on explicitly before but are now practicing in more natural situations and look at things like asking follow up questions to the person you’re taking to, not exclusively talking about one topic that you’re interested in, making eye contact and respecting the other persons personal space. 

After our break we work on a TAPS exercise. TAPS stands for ‘Talk Aloud Problem Solving’ and involves working in pairs, one person being the ‘problem solver’ and the other being the ‘listener’. The problem solver works on a logical written language problem and explains their thought process whilst solving it. The listener needs to understand the process the problem solver is doing and is allowed to point out if they think the problem solver has done something wrong, but cannot tell them the right answer. The point of this exercise is to improve comprehension, verbal reasoning and language skills, the young teen has gotten so much better at them since we started and his progress and confidence with them is great to see!

Next we go outside and do some skipping and some balancing, both skills that he finds difficult but it’s important to practice these gross motor skills. We also have a quick go on the trampoline and talk about L’s favourite films. 

The last academic skill we work on is a writing programme. We have started using precision teaching techniques and a number of different writing exercises to increase fluency in writing to help him eventually be able to compose long pieces of written writing like essays which he will need for school. The first exercise we do is a dictation in which I read a passage from one of his preferred books and he has to copy it down, we do three one-minute bursts of this and then count and graph the number of words he has written in order to chart his progress. The second exercise we do is called ‘see/write sharp words’ in which I give him a list of quite dull words to use in descriptive writing e.g. good, hot, tired and he has to write three more exciting words that could be used to describe the same thing. Again we do three one minute bursts of this and then count how many words he has written and graph the results so we can chart his progress.

At the end of the session I get him to answer two questions about what we’ve been doing. The first is ‘What one thing we did today do you need to practice?’ this is to get him to reflect on what we have been doing and to think about what things he finds tricky. The next question is ‘What two things did you do well today?’ this is to help him boost his confidence and to help him think about the things that he is good at and is a nice end to the session because we get to chat about the things that he did really well. 

The last thing that we do is relax. This client has been doing this for a number of years so is quite independent with it, we work on breathing exercises and techniques that he can use when he is stressed to feel calmer. We spend about five minutes on this and then he is free to go, I say bye and tell him how well he’s done, I spend about ten minutes writing up session notes and then talk to his parents about how the sessions gone. I then tidy up, say goodbye and I’ll see you in two weeks!