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Episode #104: Social Engagement with Young Autistic Learners – Dr. Jamie Hughs-Lika

We need to step back and wait so that the child has a chance to find their voice, whatever that looks like, so that they can spontaneously and independently connect with us.

Dr. Jamie Hughes-Lika is a BCBA-D, an Early Start Denver Model Certified Therapist, and has been working in the field for 26 years. We discussed what you can do when social engagement is difficult with your child or students and why is it so important to work on this skill.

Social engagement and attention begin as early as infancy, with eye contact and small coos from your baby. When this isn’t present, and the pattern of limited social engagement continues, Dr. Hughs-Lika says differences in social attention are one of the first early signs of autism. Children with autism are less motivated to engage socially, and Dr. Hughs-Lika covers the three pillars of social motivation:

Social Orientation: This is responding to communication and social attention with eye contact, gestures, etc.

Social Seeking: This is initiating communication through gestures, imitation, showing toys or items, etc.

Social Maintaining: This is ‘maintaining’ a social connection through turn-taking and social reciprocity.

Dr. Hughs-Lika is also an autism mom and shares a little about her journey for connection with her son Liam. When she works with him and other children she “takes a pulse” of the interaction with these questions.

  1. What captures the child’s attention?
  2. What are the distractions?
  3. Where are the motivations?
  4. How close can I get to maintaining comfort in the activities?
  5. Are there interfering behaviors that are becoming inflexible or rigid?

Social communication is the cornerstone of more advanced communication. Having fun, being positive, and building a personal connection with your child are important strategies for working on social engagement and communication. During our discussion, we talked about the assessments available, Dr. Hughs-Lika’s courses, and the nuance of working on this critical skill. You can find out more about her courses and other information by finding Sage Learning Systems on social media or visiting their websites.

#autism #speechtherapy

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Today’s Guest:

Dr. Hughes-Lika is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst at the doctoral level (BCBA-D), an International Behavior Analyst (IBA), a licensed behavior analyst (LBA) in the states of Nevada and Iowa, and an Early Start Denver Model certified therapist. She has been providing evidence-based services for children with autism and related disorders for over 26 years, and for the past 10 years, she has specialized in interventions for infants and toddlers with ASD. She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Sociology from Saint Ambrose University, her Master of Arts degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from The Ohio State University (advisor Dr. Stephanie Peterson), and her Ph.D. in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities from the University of Kent (advisor Dr. Mecca Chiesa).

She has been certified as a BCaBA (2001), BCBA (2004), and BCBA-D (2015). She is an international speaker, published author, and active member of the ABAI Behavior Analysis SIG on Supervision. Her applications for the use of technology for BACB supervision have been featured on the ABA Inside Track podcast and she has presented her work on supervision and behavioral systems for several Behavior University webinars.

She has taught both undergraduate and graduate level in the US and abroad. She is passionate about the dissemination of behavior analysis. In 2015, she was the recipient of the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis (SABA) International Development Grant for her work to promote research, education, training, and behavior analysis for professionals and families in Albania. She presents her research at national and international conferences and her research studies are published in peer-reviewed journals. Her current research interests and publications are focused on the use of technology to disseminate evidence-based behavioral training to parents and caregivers of children with ASD (OPT-In-Early) and the implementation of Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions (NDBIs) for infants and toddlers with ASD.

Dr. Jamie is the founder and Chief Product Officer for SAGE Learning Systems, an organization dedicated to using technology to deliver high-quality education, training, and resources for ABA providers and families. Our courses are designed to ensure that the sage advice offered is easily applied in your practice and we provide you with the tools to do so.

What’s Inside:

  • Is social engagement an early sign of autism?
  • What are the three pillars of social motivation?
  • Available assessments for social skills.
  • Strategies and Questions to guide interactions with your child or student.

Mentioned In This Episode

SAGE Learning Lab
Sage Learning Systems
Sage Learning Systems on Facebook
Chevalier et al article
Fun visuals for teaching strategies
ABA Speech: Home
ABA SPEECH Your Autism Resource

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