I didn’t realise ABA is controversial. How can improving communication be controversial?

I didn’t realise ABA is controversial. How can improving communication be controversial?

ABA can be used for anything from improving behaviour to teaching curriculum subjects. The key tactic is to engage the child using individual rewards or “reinforcers”.

At Treetops, which uses a type of ABA known as verbal behaviour or VB, each child is “paired” with an assistant who carries a bag of “rewards” – toys or props the child enjoys using. Whenever they perform a task correctly, or behave as they are being taught to, they get a few minutes with their reward. In one of the older year groups, a teenage boy is treated to five minutes on the Nintendo DS, while another runs a wooden toy up and down his arm. In the nursery, a teaching assistant simply blows bubbles around the room as a reward for her pupil correctly saying his numbers.

“It works because it’s so individualised,” says Jennifer Hubbard, an ABA teacher and manager of the school’s VB programme. “Each child’s programme looks very different and we make it specific to what’s going on in their life.


The Devil Is in Your Snooze Button

The Devil Is in Your Snooze Button

Next time Mephistopheles whispers in your groggy ear, try rejecting his bargain. Don’t cheat yourself out of restful sleep or waking life. Sleep scientists suggest going to bed earlier or setting your alarm for later, but never giving into the cheat of the snooze. Rather than negotiating that Faustian bargain every morning with the snooze, try setting a second alarm for 30 or 40 minutes after the first. If you find yourself too sleepy to rise when you first intended, let yourself get real, restful sleep before trying again. It’s a war on snooze, but one we can win one morning at a time.

What’s The Prescription For Better Medicine?

What’s The Prescription For Better Medicine?

Afterward, I tell this story to two doctors.

One recent medical graduate insists it was entirely reasonable, offering a mother-of-two like me, with my medical history, a lumbar puncture. He thinks me reckless for refusing.

The other doctor is Dr Ranjana Srivastava, a consultant oncologist who sees general hospital patients as well as those needing cancer care. When I tell her about my hospital experience, she understands why I left that day, happy to take the 1 per cent chance that I was having a stroke.

Srivastava’s recently published essay, Dying for a Chat — The Communication Breakdown Between Doctors and Patients, looks at why patients end up having unnecessary, expensive tests. She also questions why the old and dying are often subject to relentless, painful treatments in their final days.

The author is a kind woman, frank and intelligent. She has written widely on the challenges of doctor-patient communication, including a book, Tell Me The Truth — Conversations With My Patients About Life and Death.

Natascha McElhone: it’s time to find an app for gender equality

Natascha McElhone: it’s time to find an app for gender equality

I handed over my money. I was going to grab a Kinder egg from the box on the counter for my son after school but the new-style box offered a pink/blue alternative. Even chocolate has joined the ranks and is emitting the same nullifying message.

Neither sex should be predominantly portrayed in one way. There’s nothing wrong with sexual images, nothing wrong with that at all, but it’s the focus of those images on women rather than men and the passive portrayal of women in the images that seems so immensely unreflective of our real lives.

I started to wonder about the viability of an app for gender equality.


This is an edited extract of a speech given on 18 October at Wired 2013 in London; wiredevent.co.uk