As we start to get used to living life in isolation during the current Covid-19 pandemic a new part of my life is Zoom. I am not sure I had even heard of Zoom 3 weeks ago. I have now used it several times to interact online.
For the past two evenings I have been attending an online workshop on a parents guide to managing challenging behaviour. It was delivered by PECS® UK who kindly gifted me a place due to our ongoing relationship. For those unfamiliar see my posts relating to the Picture Exchange Communication System. So I am going to share a bit about the workshop and the experience of doing it online with you.
Workshops and training online
I like to attend training courses, workshops and exhibitions related to autism, communication and SEN. I have two young autistic children both with significant communication challenges. My full time role is mum and the reality is I need training and advice from experts to be a better mum and support my boys as much as possible.
However as a full time mum (youngest is 4 so not yet in school) with a husband at work 9-5 I don’t often get the time to attend courses and workshops that are available. Travel is often a big issue, particularly when my kids were smaller and I really needed the training. So when PECS UK got in touch to say they were going to continue their workshops online and did I want to try one I said yes straight away.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been used to zoom for meetings and catch ups with friends. It has been great to interact with people outside my house even if it does mean putting make up on again. I am also looking forward to attending the Bristol Autism Support Zoom catch up next week. The major benefit of not having to travel is access to the topic you need at a convenient time.
A Guide to Managing Challenging Behaviour for Parents
The PECS UK Guide to Managing Challenging Behaviours for Parents online Training took place across two evenings. From 6-9.30PM which worked out well for me as my husband was happy to put the kids to bed. Registration was easy and a delegate pack with the slides was sent out in advance.
I have attended the PECS level 1 training before and worked with PECS consultants in the past. I knew the session would be professional and actually helpful.
As it was a small workshop with 5 attendees this allowed us to interact and have discussion time. There were three PECS consultants also in the sessions. One who led the sessions (an experienced SEN teacher) and two others that supported (specialists in behaviour analysis and speech and language). They were all incredibly professional whilst being friendly and relatable at the same time. They all knew the topic well and could easily answer questions or offer advice on the specific issues raised.
The course covered:
- creating supportive learning environments;
- identifying behaviours that require intervention;
- identifying the functional control of the behaviour;
- developing a behaviour plan; &
- assessing the effectiveness of an intervention.
We had the opportunity to discuss particular behaviours we were finding challenging with our own kids. These were then discussed as we went through the training. On the first evening we covered the Pyramid Approach to Education and the importance of functional communication that is meaningful and relevant.
We discussed that behaviour is contextually inappropriate rather than inappropriate. Analysis of why the behaviour is happening and finding the right strategies to reduce or replace the contextually inappropriate behaviour.
We looked at functional behaviour assessments using the ABC format. This is looking at the antecedent, behaviour and consequence and is similar to the STAR process I have used in the past. We discussed the process of collecting information on behaviour on the first evening to give us a chance to try it the next day. Then on the second evening we discussed how we got on and how we can use the strategy moving forward. I found this a good reminder of the importance of stepping back and looking more objectively at behaviour. Something I think many of us parents struggle to do because it is so emotionally involved for us.
The session also covered finding functionally equivalent alternative behaviours. Strategies we discussed included making a deal with visual reinforcement, teaching how to request breaks (something we need to work on with my eldest) and other critical communication skills alongside the importance of fun and powerful motivation which includes praise.
Was it useful?
Yes it was really useful, most of the concepts I was already familiar with but it is so important to go over them with experts with the opportunity to ask questions related to our current circumstances. It provided me with the confidence that I have the right strategies to support my kids and more understanding of how to better implement them.
Some further sheets and information we had discussed were sent round to attendees afterwards. I also received a certificate to prove my attendance.
I am used to sitting in front of my computer so the format was easy for me. The sessions had been well split between talking to slides, videos and discussions. We also had a 15 minute break in the middle. The only irritation was both my cats wanting to sit in front of my screen!
I have sat through many online sessions where after half an hour you realise its a bit of a waste of time. The person doesn’t know what they are talking about or doing. So it was really great to have three professionals delivering useful content.
Both my boys get DLA funding and we try to use a proportion of this to cover training for my husband and I. We will always be a constant for our kids and the more equipped we are to support them the better. I know how hard it is to decide how best to use limited funds to support our kids. However I would genuinely recommend workshops and training offered by PECS UK.
Support at home from PECS UK
PECS are doing what they can to adapt their services now they are working from home. They have created a support at home page on their website. It includes resources, ideas and information about upcoming workshops / training. I have just spotted a new idea on there for a movement scavenger hunt which I might try out tomorrow. Here is the link:
There are a number of online sessions coming up. A great opportunity for those of us that usually struggle to attend in person.
Have you been on a workshop or training session with PECS UK before? How did you find it? Have you been using zoom or other online interaction platforms?