learning & behavior support

The Empowered Preschooler Series at Wellington Bilingual

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Lead Learning & Behavior Specialist, Shanghai

Lead Learning & Behavior Specialist, Shanghai

During the month of April, Jamie Fanelli, Lead Learning and Behavior Specialist at LIH Olivia’s Place, delivered a three-part parenting workshop at Wellington College Bilingual to an enthusiastic group of parents and caregivers. The workshop, entitled “The Empowered Preschooler Series,” introduced learning principles that are key to understanding child behavior and provided strategies based on these principles. The parents and caregivers gained better insight on “why their child keeps behaving in that way” and were given ideas for addressing negative behaviors using positive methods.

During the initial workshop, “ABC’s of Behavior & Beyond: Connecting Learning, Behavior and Positive Parenting,” the parents were educated about a new way of looking at behavior. Ms. Fanelli introduced the basic principles that govern how children learn and discussed how these principles shape child behavior. The parents learned that the building blocks of behavior include antecedents, what comes right before or ‘triggers’ the behavior, and consequences, what occurs immediately following the behavior. The parents discussed their child’s problem behaviors with one another and learned how altering the triggers and consequences can change the behavior over time. They discussed how prevention should often be their first goal and learned how to identify and anticipate the triggers to their child’s problem behavior. Ms. Fanelli outlined some prevention strategies, including:

• Establishing clear expectations and consequences
• Giving their child more choices
• Redirecting their child’s attention to another activity
• Breaking down difficult tasks
• Helping their child prepare for transitions using time warnings and/or visual schedules

Ms. Fanelli and the parents then discussed the different types of consequences, or ways to respond to the behavior. Ms. Fanelli emphasized that traditional discipline around the world focuses on punishment; however, research has indicated that it’s far more effective to focus on reinforcement. In contrast, parents also learned that sometimes no attention is better than negative attention as attention from an adult is powerful and can sometimes increase the problem behavior. Ms. Fanelli suggested parents try ignoring inappropriate attention-seeking behavior, especially when a child is whining or pouting. Behavior management systems, such as reward charts, were also discussed and examples were illustrated. Ms. Fanelli emphasized that rewards should be linked to specific behaviors and always delivered consistently.

Ms. Fanelli then discussed the differences between positive reinforcement and bribery. She stressed that bribing children with the promise of a reward while they are misbehaving is ineffective and counterproductive. The parents and caregivers then actively participated by turning bad behaviors ‘upside down’ by looking at behaviors in a new light. They learned that almost every bad behavior they are tempted to punish could be turned into a positive behavior they can positively reinforce. For example, parents could positively reinforce their child when he puts away a toy as opposed to only reprimanding him when he doesn’t clean up. The parents learned specific ways to teach positive behaviors, including:

• Explaining the desired behavior to the child
• Modeling it
• Practicing it
• Positively reinforcing it.

The parents and caregivers returned on the second day to learn about “A New Way to Say No” and promote positive behavior in children. The workshop reviewed the building blocks of behavior and focused on using the power of positive reinforcement to improve children’s behavior. Ms. Fanelli emphasized that positive reinforcement is one of the most effective tools a parent can utilize and can be delivered in many different forms, such as praise, given a reward or access to a favorite activity. The parents learned the most effective ways to use praise and encouragement, such as:

• Be specific and tell their child exactly what they like
• Keep the praise simple
• Avoid combining encouragement with criticism
• Be very generous with it
• Use the magic ratio of 5:1—praise 5 more times than they criticize or correct

The parents left the workshop empowered and ready to try some new ways of using positive reinforcement that they discussed.

The third and final workshop, “Tame the Terrible Tantrums: Understanding and Responding to Challenging Behaviors,” outlined effective parenting strategies to use when responding to problem behaviors. The parents put on their detective hats and learned more about understanding why the behavior occurs in the first place: the child is trying to communicate something, such as ‘I want you to pay attention to me’ or “I don’t want to stop and clean up.” Ms. Fanelli reviewed and emphasized the effectiveness of positive reinforcement as well as the problems with physical punishment. She discussed that physical punishment, such as spanking, models aggression and often portrays the parent as the ‘bad guy’ rather than focusing on the bad decision the child made. Children often respond to physical punishment by hiding and do not always change their problem behavior. Extensive research shows physical punishment is harmful, counterproductive and linked to antisocial behavior and mental health problems. Ms. Fanelli outlined alternative strategies, including using logical consequences and time-outs.

Logical consequences are negative consequences for problem behavior that the parent decides upon and are logically connected to the behavior. For example, if a child throws a toy at his friend, the parents take the toy away. Ms. Fanelli emphasized that children are not born with an ability to make decisions and accept the consequences and therefore need lots of practice and encouragement to learn how to take responsibility for their actions. Ms. Fanelli encouraged parents to begin by targeting one to three problem behaviors and explicitly teaching the child the rules through modeling, role-playing, using photos, and providing consistent feedback and encouragement. She also emphasized to use positive commands by telling their child what to do instead of what not to do. For example, a parent may tell their child to kick the ball into the net instead of telling them to stop kicking the ball at me. Ms. Fanelli and the parents then discussed using ‘time outs’ as a way to increase the child’s compliance and decrease problem behaviors. During the ‘time out,’ the child would be taken to a quiet area free of toys and given minimal attention. ‘Time outs’ are widely recommended as they are effective, nonviolent and give everyone time to cool down.

The workshop concluded with a discussion about ways to improve children’s emotional regulation skills. Developing strong emotional regulation helps the child control his own behavior, develop empathy for others, follow directions and focus. Ms. Fanelli recommended that parents encourage children to:

• Label their and others’ emotions,
• Help the child identify the triggers that lead to the emotions
• Help the child identify the physical reactions, such as tightened muscles or difficulty concentrating, that happen afterward.

Throughout the workshops, the parents and caregivers shared their own experiences and asked several great questions about their child’s problem behaviors. At the completion of the workshop, they left with a toolbox of strategies and resources to better respond to challenging behaviors and promote positive behaviors.

For more information or to schedule The Empowered Preschooler o similar workshops for parents at your school, please contact Penny Fan by email or at 86 21 5404 0058/59.

To schedule an appointment with Jamie Fanelli, Shanghai Lead Learning & Behavior Support Specialist, please contact intakesh@lih-oliviasplace.com or call 86 21 5404 0058/59.

Clinician Profile: Jamie Fanelli, Lead Learning & Behavior Support Specialist

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Learning and Behavior Support Lead

Learning and Behavior Support Lead

Jamie Fanelli has extensive experience working both with children with special needs and typically developing children in educational and clinical settings. She holds an M.S.Ed in Special Education from Simmons College in Boston, US, and a professional educator’s license. Before joining LIH Olivia’s Place, she worked as a psychometrician for the TRANSCEND Research Program, affiliated with Harvard Medical School and MIT, at Massachusetts General Hospital. As a psychometrician, she administered a full battery of neuropsychological assessments and diagnostic interviews and provided behavioral management support to infants and children while they underwent neuroimaging. Jamie has also been a special educator, with experience developing and implementing Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and Behavior Support Plans (BSPs) and educating children with special needs using an ABA methodology and a variety of instructional approaches, including PECS, sensory integration activities, differentiated instruction, and incidental teaching methods. She has provided reading support utilizing specialized instructional approaches and conducted educational and functional behavioral assessments. She has worked with children with a variety of diagnoses, including autism spectrum disorders, sensory integration dysfunction, dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, developmental delay, seizure disorder, and traumatic brain injury. She is especially passionate about helping children from disadvantaged backgrounds and enjoys giving trainings to the local community. Jamie leads our team of learning support and behavior specialists in Shanghai and Beijing. She also provides the following services:

  •             Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy
  •             Individualized Learning Support
  •             Functional Behavior Assessments
  •             Functional Skills Assessment and Curriculum Planning
  •             Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Development
  •             Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) Development
  •             Behavior Consultation for Parents or Teachers
  •             Professional Trainings and Workshops for Schools and/or Parents
  •             Joint Neuropsychological Assessments


How long have you been in China?

I moved to Shanghai in October 2012. I’m originally from the U.S.A but have also lived and worked in Germany and South Korea.


Why did you choose to work at LIH Olivia’s Place?

I visited a few different centers and schools in Shanghai but chose for work for LIH Olivia’s Place for their multidisciplinary team approach and mission to improve therapeutic services in China. From the moment I met with the founder, Nelson Chow, it was clear that the center was dedicated to not only providing high quality pediatric therapy to their clients but also to building relationships with the local community to help educate the local public and spread therapeutic services and inclusive education throughout China.


Why did you choose your field?

In college, I worked at an inclusive preschool and was absolutely moved by witnessing firsthand how children with ASD could fully access the curriculum when given the right supports. It was a life changing experience and led me to focus my studies on children with special needs.


What are some of the most rewarding experiences you have had in your chosen profession?

Watching the pride on a child’s face when s/he has realized that s/he has accomplished a skill that s/he originally felt was out of reach. Also, in China, it has been especially rewarding to support the many parents and teachers through LIH initiatives who are unable to receive ongoing services. It’s truly worth its weight in gold.


What’s your favorite thing about living in China/working at LIH Olivia’s Place?

No one day is ever the same at LIH Olivia’s Place or in Shanghai. Even after three years, I discover something new everyday. It’s very rewarding to be a part of such a skilled and diverse team, who truly embrace the multidisciplinary approach and continuously support each other to help both the clients and each other grow.


What would you like to be doing in 5 years’ time?

I started my adventure in East Asia 5 years ago and could not be happier at the moment. I am very passionate about continuing to work in this field and see myself in an environment where I’m continuing to broaden my knowledge while helping children and their families and other clinicians reach their full potential.


SSRC Parents Learn About Positive Behavior Support

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Shanghai Sunshine Rehabilitation Center (SSRC) is the largest and most comprehensive nonprofit local rehabilitation center in East China. The center was unveiled in 2007 by Xi Jinping, former Secretary of the CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee and Hui Liangyu, the former Vice Premier. SSRC is located in Songjiang District and has over 300 beds. The center specializes in pediatric rehabilitation, neurological rehabilitation, orthopedic trauma, and sports rehabilitation. The site also contains the training center for the Shanghai Special Olympics.


Sunshine 3 Sunshine 6In December 2015, the staff at Sunshine invited Jamie Fanelli, Lead Learning Support and Behavior Specialist, to return to the center and give a workshop on positive behavior support. Several families attended as well as the clinicians from the center’s pediatric therapy department. The first part of the workshop reviewed the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis and introduced some key concepts to understanding and addressing children’s behavior. Jamie then introduced evidence-based strategies for promoting positive behaviors and teaching new skills. The workshop was a success, as several of the parents who attended shared their child’s behavior problems and asked informative questions. The length of the workshop was extended and many families stayed after to further discuss strategies with Jamie. She noted that it was an especially rewarding experience as many of the parents who attended were brought up with more punitive forms of discipline and had never heard of positive reinforcement and how it could be applied in everyday life. A few of families commented on how eager they were to further research the topic.

ABA Services Lead Our Beijing Learning & Behavior Support Offerings

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Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), originally developed in the United States in the 1970s, has become one of the most widely-used interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder, as well as a number of other conditions and behavior-related concerns. ABA is an intensive approach to teaching children to improve socially significant behaviors. We are delighted to announce that Ms. Pengsi Shen has joined us in Beijing to deliver ABA based on the latest research from the United States in this field. Pengsi, originally from Hunan province, first worked as an ABA assistant in China and then attended Columbia University in New York, US to study ABA. She graduated with a Master’s degree in ABA and successfully passed her Board Certified Behavioral Analyst examination (BCBA), one of the highest credentials in the field of ABA. She is now one of only three only four people in mainland China to hold this credential. Pengsi is available for assessments, therapy, consultations, and training. Pengsi is the first member of a Beijing Learning & Behavior Support team that will be able to provide intervention in the clinic and in children’s natural environments, for children and families with a wide range of needs from early intervention to services for school-aged children.