Wednesday, December 11, 2019

What's Coming Up at Kids First Behaviour Services.

 Laptop, Macbook, Home Office, Switched

With the new year fast approaching, here is a sneak peek at our newest service option that we will be launching in January. We are excited to announce that we will be providing online parent-training courses. One of our primary goals at Kids First Behaviour Services  is to make sure we have service options that allow parents to learn ABA techniques at a lower-cost and in a more easily accessible manner.  It's no secret that it's been a very challenging year with all of the uncertainty about government funding. We've all been struggling to ensure that children who need ABA have the ability to receive ABA. That being said, even if traditional ABA or IBI therapy is not an option at the moment, parents still should have the opportunity to learn about evidence-based strategies that they can use to help their children achieve their goals.

 There are many group training options in the community. However, they can still be prohibitively expensive, and it can be challenging to arrange childcare/get out of the house on a specific schedule. Our online group training sessions are designed to be a convenient and affordable option for families to learn specific and concrete ABA strategies that they can begin implementing with their child immediately. Families can participate in scheduled live group sessions or can purchase the video recording at a later date if the timing does not permit them to attend the live session.

Here are some of the benefits of our approach:
  • We will be offering evening and weekend live-session options to accommodate working families. 
  • Families can participate in their own home, as long as they have a computer and internet
  • These sessions will be designed to be a lower-cost alternative to traditional parent coaching
  • Participants will still be able to interact with the presenter and ask questions as they go along
  • Topics will be highly specific and allow participants to learn concrete information about strategies that they can begin using immediately 
  • Sessions will cater to a variety of different levels of ABA knowledge. We will have sessions for families just starting to learn about ABA, and also sessions for families with a more in-depth knowledge 
How does this work?
  • Live sessions: Participants can participate and view a live group coaching session on a particular topic at the pre-determined date and time. Following payment (payment can be completed online), the participants will receive the link to join the workshop. Workshops will take place via the Zoom platform (which is super easy to use, which is great for those of us who aren't super "techy". Participation and questions throughout the session are highly encouraged!
  • Purchase of the Video Recording: For those who can't make the live sessions, video recordings of the sessions will also be available to purchase.
Some examples of topics may include:
  • Toilet training Do's and Dont's
  • Finding Ways to Reward the Difficult to Motivate Child
  • Making the Morning Routine Manageable
  • Tackling Picky Eating
  • Teaching Basic Safety Skills
And more... if you have an example of a topic you would like to learn about, please let us know! We always appreciate suggestions!

We are so excited to get started with these courses and sincerely hope that we can help give parents useful tools to use with their children.

If you would like to ensure to stay updated with registration details, please sign up for our newsletter.

Friday, November 29, 2019

The Best Games For Teaching Your Children Social Skills (And Other Skills)

Games, Children, Child, Girl, Toys

Today is Black Friday and today is the day that many parents will seek to stock up their toy supplies for their children and maybe start doing their holiday shopping. It can be overwhelming trying to pick out activities that your children can benefit from and won't just be bored of after 3 days of playing with.

Here is a list of some of my favourite board games that have a variety of educational benefits for children. Playing board games with your children is not only a great bonding activity, but an ideal chance for you to help your child practice many essential skills. These games are ones that I repeatedly bring out when facilitating social skills groups or teaching the individual skills listed under each game. In my experience, these games are all simple enough to avoid frustration in many younger children (as many of the newer games can be too complicated to comprehend easily) and they are all just really fun for a child (the main goal).

When you play with your child, you're making learning fun (rather than learning just being more work).  I tend to gravitate towards many of the more classic games, and  you may even find that you have some of these games stashed away in your closet from your younger years.

1. Don't Break The Ice:

I don't think I've encountered a child yet that doesn't love this game (or an adult). This game really lets kids get into it and be a little rambunctious. This game is an excellent opportunity to teach a child to gracefully win or lose when played traditionally. If teamwork is an area of need for your child, you can also modify by making the goal to work together to avoid breaking the ice

Other Skills Practiced During This Game:
  • Turn-taking
  • Fine Motor
  • Critical Thinking

2. Operation:

 Many of us will remember Operation from when we were younger. It has definitely stood the test of time. It's no wonder as this game can have tons of benefits for children learning! This game is a fun opportunity to help your child learn to label or find the different body parts.

Other Skills Practiced During This Game:
  • Turn-taking (most of the games listed in this article will have this benefit)
  • Fine Motor
  • Critical Thinking: 

3. Guess Who

Another classic from our younger years! This is one of my favourite games to play with kids, as it has unlimited conversational benefits. It's always tricky to find a way to teach conversation skills  in a manner that doesn't feel artificial, so this game is a great way to work on conversation in a more natural manner. This game is especially beneficial for teaching your child to ask and answer questions about defining attributes (for example: "does your person have brown hair?")

Other Skills Practiced During This Game:
  • Turn-taking (are you starting to sense a theme?)
  • Scanning an array
  • Critical Thinking
4. Jenga

One of the primary educational benefits of Jenga is that it teaches children to wait for their turn (there is often a long wait as other children spend time deliberating on what next move they will make). It is also a perfect opportunity to work on decision making.
Other Skills Practiced During This Game:
  • Turn-taking
  •  Fine Motor
  • Patterning
  • Graceful losing and humble winning
  • Colour  recognition (if using the newer multi-coloured version)

5. Snakes and Ladders

This game is always my go-to when working on emotional regulation. It's a perfect opportunity to teach a child to focus on dealing appropriately with frustration (what's more frustrating then thinking you are in the lead, then having to slide down a snake, putting you in last place).

Other Skills Practiced During This Game:
  • Turn-taking
  • Graceful winning and losing
  • Counting/number recognition

If you would like more information about teaching your children social skills (or other skills), we would love to help! Please visit: or contact us at

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Toilet Training is About More Than Just Child Readiness

Toilet training is one of the top five most common goals that parents have requested my assistance on. This is not surprising, as toilet training can be really hard! One of the first things I do when working with a family, is to assess toilet training readiness. We always do a thorough evaluation to ensure the child is displaying some of the signs of readiness that will ensure they are successful. However, we also take a close look at parent readiness. Whether or not a parent is ready for toilet training, is just as important as if a child is ready. However, it's often overlooked. Below, I have listed some factors to look at when determining if you as a parent are ready for toilet training.

  • Do you have the time to commit to this process? Parents often have jam-packed schedules. Between work commitments, extra-curricular activities for your children, and attempting to maintain some semblance of a social life, it can be hard to add anything else into the mix. That being said, when you take on toilet training, it is imperative that you have at least a few uninterrupted solid chunks of time to devote to it. In most cases, it's unrealistic to completely clear your schedule for a week to devote to this, but you do need to have a bit of time. We generally recommend that you block off an entire weekend for the initial toilet-training process(if it's feasible). Long weekends can also be a great time to get started!
  • Are you going on vacation any time soon? You want to wait until the toilet training skills are well established before requiring your child to try them out in an unfamiliar environment. When you are on vacation, there may be factors that could make it much harder for a newly potty trained child. Things like bathrooms that are not readily accessible, having to go to the toilet on an airplane, and just having a general disruption in the routine could make it hard for a child to maintain their new potty training skills. Also, who wants to be stressed about potty training when trying to enjoy a relaxing beach trip? If a vacation or trip is in the future, try to avoid potty training directly before if at all possible.
  • Do you have a support system? Like I said before, toilet training can be hard! It can be very helpful to have another person around for moral support, and also as an extra set of hands. If you have another child in the house, definitely make sure there is someone available to help tend to their needs, as toilet training will probably require your undivided attention in the first few days. It's also helpful to have someone around to help throw a load of laundry in if you are focusing on your child who is trying to use the potty.
  • Are you prepared to be consistent, even if it gets tough?  Speaking from my own experience, if your child doesn't pick up on toilet training right away, it can be tempting to throw in the towel and say that this just won't work. However, accidents will most likely happen and you will probably be doing quite a bit of laundry, but you need to be prepared to continue on. From the perspective of your child, they are learning many completely new skills (recognizing that they have to pee or poo, getting to the toilet on time, and actually going in the toilet) so it will most likely not be an overnight process. Toilet training is an on-going process that we need to support our child through. Remaining consistent with strategies is integral to helping your child understand that this is the new way of going to the potty.
  • Do you have realistic expectations?  I always warn parents that some children don't potty train in a day or weekend (and some do). For some children, it can take weeks or a month until they fully "get it". Also, once your child is potty trained during the day, they most likely will still require a diaper or pull-up for sleep times. They may also require additional training to be able to use bathrooms in different environments like school, public washrooms, etc. Lastly, sometimes children may be fully potty trained for pee, but don't learn to have bowel movements in the potty until much later. I don't have this conversation to discourage or scare parents, but just to ensure that they understand that this will most likely be an on-going process that may require trouble-shooting along the way.
  • Are you willing to reward your child for success? Toilet training is a huge under-taking for a child, so they may need some motivation to keep going. For a child, it is a lot easier to go to the bathroom in a diaper or pull-up, rather than use a potty.  When first toilet-training, using some form of motivating reward can help your child see that their hard work is "worth it".  It will also make them more likely to use the potty again in the future (this is called reinforcement). Prior to toilet training, we try to identify what your child will find to be most motivating to earn. Some children may need a treat, some may love stickers, and some may find applause/high fives/and praise motivating enough. It's important that a parent understands the importance of providing something (it doesn't have to be big) to acknowledge their child's success and help continue building the toilet training skills. As the child gets more comfortable, the reward can be gradually reduced.

These are just a few items that should be considered prior to getting started. As a parent, look honestly at your own readiness. If you are not ready right now, wait a few months until you are! There's no shame in that! Making sure that the parent and child are both ready is one of the best predictors of toilet training success.

If you have decided that you are ready to begin the process of toilet-training and would like some extra support, please contact us at:

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

A Parent Guide to Choosing An ABA Service Provider from the Perspective of A Service Provider

Finding a service provider can sometimes feel similar to finding a romantic partner. It's an overwhelming process because the options seems endless, the stakes are high, and you may need to go through many avenues to find the best and most compatible option for you. Parents have to make it through the initial wooing and courting phase to hopefully find a long-lasting partnership that works for them and for the service provider.

I wrote this article in the hopes of making it just a tiny bit easier for parents to make an informed decision about their ABA and IBI services. Never be afraid of judgement and never be intimidated to ask the tough questions before signing on. As a BCBA and service provider myself, I expect and appreciate the opportunity to have a transparent and honest discussion about why I am qualified to work with your child.

1. Credentials matter: If I could stress any piece of advice, it is this. ABA is currently an unregulated field in Ontario, so unfortunately not everyone is as qualified as they present themselves. When looking for your ABA service provider, you want to look for the acronym BCBA (which stands for Board Certified Behaviour Analyst). A BCBA should always be overseeing your ABA or IBI services, as they have gone through a rigorous qualification procedure to attain and maintain that credential.  They have a Master's level education, extensive supervised practice hours, passed a comprehensive exam, and have to abide by strict practice requirements to maintain their license. In your search, you may encounter other professionals practicing without a BCBA, who have other degrees or diplomas that they claim are sufficient. However,  be very wary if you choose to go forward and do your research, as many techniques absolutely do need the educational background and expertise of a BCBA to be performed correctly. If performed incorrectly, there is actually the potential that harm can be done or skill regression could occur. I cannot stress this enough to make sure a BCBA is involved in your child's care!

2. Ask about the size and nature of the supervisor's caseload:  Often times, a supervisor may be overseeing a large number of cases and covering a large geographical region. This may end up making it difficult to see them or contact them outside of your scheduled supervision sessions if questions or concerns arise. By asking a potential service provider about their caseload, you can gauge if they will be accessible and responsive enough to your family should you need them.

3. Ask the service provider about how much supervision your child will receive: While there is a necessary minimum amount of supervision that needs to occur for families receiving funding, the answer to this question is that supervision should occur "as much as is in the child's best interest". When starting fresh with a new family or when training a new therapist, a supervisor should be present much more frequently. If programming challenges are occurring or if there are behaviours of concern, supervision should also increase. The supervision amount should rarely be static. This being said, if extra supervision does need to occur, the service provider  also needs to also work with the family to ensure it is feasible financially and logistically. This is also why it's important to ensure the supervisor does not have too large of a caseload to accommodate extra supervision if it is needed.

4. Assess the provider's ability to speak in plain language: Any BCBA has demonstrated their clinical knowledge in order to get their credential. However, outside of the therapy sessions, there should always be an extra goal to empower the family to continue to use the strategies with their child. This is usually done though parent training. Parent training is a big part of ABA and should be adapted to be suitable for people without a behavioural background. The ability to explain concepts without using jargon is an essential, but often over-looked, skill that a Clinical Supervisor should possess. From your first interaction with the service provider, listen to make sure they are explaining things in a non-technical and easy to understand manner.

5. Look for chemistry with you: In ABA, we tend to avoid talking about feelings and focus more on observable behaviours. However, just like when meeting a romantic partner, your initial reaction and impression of a service provider is usually accurate. When meeting face to face, evaluate the service provider's sincerity, honesty, respectfulness of you and your family, and your general rapport.  Since you will be interacting with that person frequently, it's important for both sides that you mesh well.

6. Look for chemistry with your child: The service provider should definitely want to meet your child before going ahead with service. This is a great opportunity to see how he/she interacts with your child. Does he/she greet your child, attempt to engage them, get down to their level, ask questions about them? Once service starts, there will be also be a more involved "pairing' process, which involves building a trusting instructional relationship with your child prior to beginning any programs.

7. Inquire About how programming goals will be developed:  All ABA providers should develop program goals through an evidence-based assessment like the VB-MAPP, AFLS, or ABLLS-R. However, programming also needs to address what goals are meaningful for the family. These goals may not be captured on the standard assessments. The provider should be willing to work with the family and include goals that are individualized and contextual to their needs. Examples could be teaching a child to sit in church, perhaps eat with chopsticks, or perform a specific cultural ritual. The service provider should demonstrate that they are flexible and adaptable to customizing the plan for the individual child.

I  hope this post is helpful for parents that are searching for an ABA or an IBI provider. There are many more questions to be asked, in addition to these, but hopefully this will be a good start. In the end, the ultimate goal for parents and for the service provider, is for your child to receive the services that they need to be successful and fulfilled in life. Please feel free to comment if you have any feedback or additional suggestions.

For further information about Kids First Behaviour Services, please visit:

Practicing What I Preach: 5 Ways I Use ABA in My Own Home

 When I went off on my first maternity leave, I assumed that I would be taking a year long vacation from my BCBA role and stepping into the new role of "Mom" until I returned to work. I packed away my textbooks, token boards, paperwork, and materials and anticipated that they would collect dust until the following year. However, I quickly learned that being a BCBA and a Mom do not occur in isolation. Once we emerged from the foggy newborn phase of sleepless nights and endless feeding, ABA started to creep back into my life. I look back on videos of my daughter when she was as young as 6 months old, and I can see that I was still using ABA with her...and it was working. ABA works for all sorts of individuals. It is a scientific method that uses the principles of behaviour and learning to create some form of meaningful change. Here are some of the ways that I incorporate ABA principles into my parenting of two spunky toddlers.

1. Reinforcement, reinforcement, reinforcement: Reinforcement is probably the most well known behavioural principle used in ABA. Basically, by rewarding a behaviour or skill with something that is motivating for that particular individual, they will remember that in the future and be more likely to demonstrate the skill or behaviour again in the future. The person does not need to be able to consciously understand that they are being rewarded,  learning occurs naturally through the experience of accessing something desirable after an action. As a baby, my daughter absolutely loved adult praise and clapping. We used this to our advantage when teaching her new skills. Every time she even attempted to do something like roll, babble, walk, you can guarantee that I would be right there cheering, clapping, high fiving. To an outsider, it probably looked so over the top, but she loved it! She would be so excited for this reaction, that she would try again. I will never forget the moment that I took her on a visit to an extended family member's house and she began to play with her shape sorter. We were all chatting and not paying much attention to her. She completed the shape sorter and then stood up, walked over to us, and began to clap (while looking at us questioningly). We realized that she was actually reminding us to reward her for finishing the shape sorter. Once we all started clapping, she got the biggest smile on her face and proceeded to do that shape sorter about 10 more times!

2. Shaping: Shaping is a technique that helps teach a new skill by assisting and rewarding attempts of the skill, and gradually reducing the amount of help given. This is probably the technique that I used most (and still use) with my toddler. One example of how I used this, was when teaching my daughter to put on her pants. At first, I would have to help with all of the steps. Gradually, I was able to let her do a bit more independently. For example, I would help her get her leg in, but she was able to pop one foot through the foot hole. Later, I was able to guide her feet into each leg, but she was able to put both her feet through and pull the pants up. I also use this technique with teaching my younger daughter new words. As she is just starting to speak, her pronunciation is still getting there. When she first tries a new word (for example, water), we will praise any possible attempt of that word, even if it sounds nothing like the actual word (she started out by saying "wa"). After she gets comfortable with saying "wa", we will start trying to get her to say a closer version of the word ("wat") and praising her for saying the closer version instead. We keep doing this (wa becomes wat then wata then water) until she is saying the complete word of water. Shaping is such a powerful tool for teaching our toddlers, as they have so much to learn in the early years!

3. Potty  Training: Where do I even begin with potty training, I could write a whole post on it! There  are so many methods out there claiming to have your child potty trained in a day, but I stuck to what I knew. Having worked with many families on this particular goal, I used the same techniques that I had taught so many families. The way we potty train in ABA involves assessing readiness, ensuring there is a highly motivating reward for success, also rewarding staying dry,and scheduling frequent potty visits at the beginning. I also created a story for my daughter (called a social story) that gave her all of the specifics of what she would be expected to do, but is in a fun story format that had her as the main character (contact us if you would like us to create a social story just for your child as well). I'll be honest, potty training was not a fast or easy process like I expected it to be, but in the end, ABA principles are what got us there (with lots of troubleshooting along the way).

4. Visuals galore!: When presenting a program plan to a family, I usually included visuals as an additional supplement for teaching a new skill. Anyone who has ever worked with me, knows that I love visuals, especially for the younger kiddos! Extensive research indicates that when used in the right way, visuals can help an individual learn a skill faster or more thoroughly. Also, I don't know about your children, but mine will usually tune right out if I talk too much and present too many instructions. A visual gives them something concrete to look at that explains something about the particular task or activity. Some visuals that have been especially helpful in my house include visual schedules, token boards, and a timer. If you would like help creating visuals customized for your family and goals, contact us today to ask about our resource development consultation option.

5. First-Then: Any parent who has ever had a picky eater has probably tried using a "first-then" statement to get their child to eat something. "First eat your broccoli, then you can have your macaroni" because it works like a charm. Like many other parents, I also use first-then as a motivational tool at meal-time  for my older daughter, who would survive off of bread, pasta, and rice if I let her. In our household though, first-then extends past meal-time. With a toddler who loves to test the limits, I find myself constantly using first-then statements throughout the day. Some of them sound like "first clean up your toys, then you can read your Frozen book", "first take a nap, then we will go to the park", "first you have to have a big sleep, then it will be Halloween in the morning", "first you have to share the doll with your sister, then you can have a turn by yourself".  There will usually still be some grumbling, but it definitely gets the job done!

So as it turns out, you don't need to be in a clinical setting with therapists, formal program plans, specialized materials to use ABA. ABA is all around you in your parenting, even when you don't know it.  If you would like more information on how you could use simple ABA strategies to help your child learn essential skills or reduce their behaviour, please reach out and schedule a consultation. My goal is to make ABA accessible to an average parent with no behavioural background.

Thursday, November 7, 2019


Welcome to Kids First Behaviour Services!!

When we created Kids First Behaviour Services, we had to think about what was going to make us different. Parents have endless choice of ABA and IBI providers in York Region, many of which are fantastic and highly skilled practitioners. With so many companies and people to choose from, how will families choose the provider that best suits them? Please see below for some of our core beliefs and values. If any of this resonates with you, feel free to contact us at to set up a no-pressure discussion of your child's needs! 

1. We are keeping our business small on purpose: Many companies have a very large service region which can lead to difficulty getting staff, management, and families in one place when needed. By only taking on a limited amount of families at a time, we make sure that everyone (including our Clinical Director & Owner) have the time available to directly connect with families on a regular basis. We encourage families and staff to keep in close contact, and no question is ever too small. 

2. We will always see your child as a child first. Yes, your child may have a diagnosis and we may ask you questions about it in order to better serve your child. However, we are primarily concerned with what makes your child unique. What are his or her interests, preferences, abilities, needs. A diagnosis is only a small part of what makes your child themselves. 

3. We believe in using science to accomplish our skill development and behavioural goals. ABA has a huge body of research supporting it's efficacy for many goals. We refer to that literature and only use techniques that have been rigorously tested. We will also help families look at the science behind any techniques that they are considering. 

4. We believe that ABA is a super-power and can be incorporated into every household. Many ABA techniques are techniques that you may already be using, but don't know it. One of our goals is to make ABA accessible to an average parent who may need some new strategies for use with their own children. We offer low-cost workshop options to help share these techniques with individuals who may not be able to attend a full consultation session.