Eating Disorders Awareness Week

This week has been Eating Disorders Awareness Week (26th February – 4th March). To find out more, visit the BEAT website.

There are four main types of Eating Disorders which include

  • Anorexia (Anorexia Nervosa) – categorised by restricted diet and excessive exercise.
  • Bulimia – categorised by occurrences of overeating, followed by purging (making themselves sick), restricted diet, or excessive exercising.
  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED) – categorised by overeating, consuming large portions of food in one meal, which can be followed by feelings of guilt or shame.
  • Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder (OSFED) – this diagnosis is given when the symptoms or behaviours don’t ,meet the criteria of the other Eating disorders.

beat info2

It was reported a few weeks ago that there are almost twice as many admissions of Bulimia and Anorexia in England, compared to figures from 2012 (Sky News). These figures are worrying as so many people struggle with Eating Disorders, but promising that people are able to seek help. Unfortunately BEAT report that it takes people three years to get the help and support they need. There may be many factors that contribute to a person developing an Eating Disorder. There is typically a stressful event in the person’s life, but a lot of emphasis has been placed on social media. Children, teenagers and adults can feel pressured by the images of others they see on social media, to be more attractive, or thinner.

Beat info.jpg

In August 2016, I reviewed Eating Disorders in the Busy Analytical Newsletter. Compared to other disorders and topics, Eating Disorders is not as widely researched within the field of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA).

-> Read the August edition <-

However ABA and the principles, may help us understand the behaviours associated with Eating Disorders and may help us develop successful interventions to support recovery. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a therapy that may help people seeking support with an Eating Disorder. ACT derives from Relational Frame Theory (RFT) which is a theory associated with the principles of ABA and how we learn behaviour and language. Researchers have shown that ACT can be successful (Lillis, et al, 2011), with people with Eating Disorders. Lillis et al (2011) found that people who were binge eating reported a reduction of binge eating, following attending an ACT workshop. They also observed a reduction in their weight which supported the reports of less binge eating. This is promising and further research is needed. As admissions are on the rise, the social significance is huge and could help many people struggling with this.



BEAT, Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Retrieved from:

Lillis, J., Hayes, S. C., Levin, S. C. (2011). Binge Eating and Weight Control: The Role of Experiential Avoidance. Behaviour Modification, 1-13. doi:10.1177/0145445510397178.

Sky News, Eating disorder admissions in England double in six years, Retrieved from:


March edition

Welcome to the March edition

-> Open the March Edition <-

In this edition we review approaches to supporting reading skills. We also celebrate the career of Patrick McGreevy, look at Premack Principle in the terminology section and Kinect Sand as a Natural Environment Teaching activity. There is also events, study tips and some product suggestions.


Unfortunately this edition is not an Interview edition, Interviews will resume in June.

Have a great month!

Echoics in Whales

Recently in the news we heard of Wikie, a Killer Whale, who has been successfully taught to say “Hello” and “Bye Bye”. In addition, Wikie can count up to 3 (“1, 2, 3”). The Telegraph reported about Wikie, and included a video of Wikie speaking.

On one instance the trainer says “hello” and Wikie responds “hello”. In the video you can also hear Wikie copying “bye bye” and counting when she hears her trainer say “1, 2, 3”. This is a fantastic achievement as Wikie is the first Whale to be recorded saying human words.

This is the first controlled experiment that shows that Killer Whales can imitate sounds of humans. In relation to Verbal Behaviour, this skill is known as ‘Echoic’.

Echoics is imitation of vocal sounds. The speakers vocal behaviour matches the vocal Discriminative Stimulus (SD).


In this example, the Whale’s behaviour is prompted by a vocal prompt (SD) and has point-to-point correspondence and formal similarity.

echoic example.jpg

This is very exciting experiment as it helps us understand more about animal behaviour and the development of echoics. If you want to learn more about Wikie and the experiment go to the Telegraph article.

February Edition

Welcome to the February edition

-> Open the February Edition   <-

In this edition we review the reinforcement schedules, the career of Ivan Pavlov in the People who inspire Us section and Group contingencies in the terminology section. There is also a review of ‘Guess Who’ in the NET ideas, and a wish list of products for Visual Performance skills in the Product section.

Preview of Feb
Preview of the February edition





World Mental Health Day: 10/10/2017

Today is World Mental Health Day. According to the Mental Health Foundation, one in six adults suffer from a common Mental Health issue (anxiety, depression, work related stress) and Mind reported that 1 in 4 adults will be affected by a Mental Health Issue each year. Unfortunately, many people who suffer from Mental Health issues feel isolated and struggle to discuss their mental health. Many charities and campaigns aim to support people with mental health issues and reduce the stigma and discrimination around mental health including, Mind, CALM, Time to Change, and Heads Together. They want us to start talking about Mental Health.

In the hope to raise awareness and help others who are suffering from a mental health issues, I want to share my story.

Two years ago (almost exactly), I was diagnosed with stress and depression. I went to my doctor as I was struggling with my mood and I was signed off work for a week. In my teenage years I had suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression so I knew the symptoms, and understood the importance of getting support. The symptoms I faced were low mood and lack of motivation. I found it difficult to get out of bed some mornings and I slept a lot. I also wasn’t a very pleasant person to be around and when I was on my own, I cried a lot. I had a loss of appetite, began to lose weight and I wasn’t take care of myself. My GP was very understanding and I was referred for counselling. Looking back I think a year prior to that the symptoms began to appear, as I started missing days off work and became irritable with friends and family. I also had many issues with my sleep, but didn’t really pay any attention to this at the time! The symptoms slowly worsened until I received my diagnosis. There were several aspects impacting my mental health in the run up to that diagnosis.

I was in an unhappy relationship, and we were saving for a mortgage. The stress of this and the relationship did not help my mood. Unfortunately, a few months before I received my diagnosis this relationship ended, which was the final straw for my confidence. This was an important aspect that affected my mental health, although another main issue, was my work.

I was preparing for the BCBA exam. Which as many of you know or have heard is very hard. I spent a lot of time revising, which added stress to my relationship, and was hard on me. I failed on my first attempt so I was very anxious to do well on my second attempt. I had a very limited window to pass, as my Masters degree would no longer qualify me to do the BCBA exam, as the board had added additional hours of training to the curriculum. I put pressure on myself to pass so that I wouldn’t have to do additional work to obtain my BCBA certification.

I also lack a lot of confidence, generally and in my work. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to become a BCBA as I hadn’t had many years’ experience and was uncertain of my capabilities. It’s very hard when you look at your colleagues and peers and feel that they are more knowledgeable and confident in the field and you wish you could be more like that. Unfortunately, not focusing on your own strengths only knocks your confidence more. As my mental health deteriorated, my confidence decreased more and more. I got caught in a cycle of feeling incapable, and feeling unable to restore my confidence.

Even though I am better and healthier now, I continue to see a counsellor and am open with my supervisor about my personal struggles. I am lucky that she is very supportive. It’s important to recognise when you need support with your mental health. Ways you can do this is by speaking to your colleagues or supervisors (especially if you’re preparing for the BCBA or BCaBA exam). Also it is very important to take good care of yourself. Have a good work and life balance, exercise and find time to relax. You can also turn to GP for advice or a referral for counselling you feel that would suit you.

I also spoke to Jane McCready from ABAA4All to get her perspective on Mental Health as a parent

I was talking to another autism mum the other night who is under huge stress with her teenage autistic daughter and a marriage which has nearly broken down. We talked about her stress levels, day in day out. She looked tired, drawn and desperate. Her girl nearly broke mum’s arm the other day –  she was reaching for a phone to call for help and her daughter yanked back her arm violently. She is pretty sure next time she will actually break a bone, she is getting big and strong.

 I empathised with her as can remember a similar time, when Johnny was little, had only just been diagnosed, and I was still hoping for great things from his eclectic school (hadn’t yet started ABA). 

 I felt I must be a terrible mother. The worst in the world. At soft play centres and the like, all the other mums sat drinking coffee while their little ones scampered around happily and played with each other, safely and co-operatively. I marvelled that they could just let their kids run off. I needed to be with Johnny every single second, clambering one step behind him on the wobbly slide. Why? Was I an over-protective mummy?

 No. I knew from bitter experience the whole range of things that could go wrong if I left him to his own devices. 

 1) he would simply disappear, run away, maybe even out of the centre into the path of a car. He would not come back if called, did not even seem to know his own name. Had no idea that cars were dangerous. 

 2) he would hurt himself or others. Either by accident because, eg, he did not know it’s not safe to hyperactively jump off a 20ft piece of equipment. Or because he would bite, kick or headbutt other kids if in his way. Or headbutt a wall or punch his own head if some small thing did not go his way. 

3) he would destroy property or another kid’s toy or eat something dangerous (I lived in terror of him choking as he would eat everything, off the dirty floors, old bits of rubbish out of puddles etc.)

4) he would not be able to tell me if another kid hurt him, as was non verbal. Though not non vocal. All day long he never ever stopped a high-pitched squealing – sometimes happy, sometimes sad, but always very loud. People would stare and then complain. 

5) he wasn’t yet toilet trained and nappies could leak. 

 Oh I could go on. It was the same at home, only worse as he had developed a mania for trying to flood the house or post everything he could find down the floorboards or behind radiators. If asked to stop? Tantrums, headbanging on (concrete) floor, biting me. 

 I lived in fear he would break someone’s nose as he had a habit of suddenly headbutting violently forwards or backwards. I spent literally 18 hours a day (he didn’t sleep much) stopping him from hurting himself or others. His sister was only a bit older than him, and I had to protect her often from his rages or headbutts. 

 Mealtimes were another battle: he literally only wanted to eat chicken nuggets and chips, would throw all other food at me or all over the floor. I remember crying as I cleaned ketchup and peas off 100 soft toys in the toy box.

 I am a very strong person, I had come from a very challenging senior director role in an American investment bank. But I was on my knees living like this. I think I was close to a nervous breakdown. My husband too. 

When I finally decided to try this thing called ABA (which I was highly sceptical about as my lovely council autism experts had told me it was ‘very intense’ and even ‘horrid’) everything started to change very very rapidly for the better. I learned strategies to redirect his behaviours, and he learned to communicate his needs with words not his fists. 

 So when people ask about the stress of setting up a home ABA programme, I say yes, there were strains. Finding and keeping tutors. Having people trooping in and out of the house all day. Finding the money. Borrowing the money. Fighting the LA for a statement. Fighting the LA to say eclectic didn’t work and ABA did. Hiring legal help when they refused to look at that fact objectively. Writing a million reports. Keeping the house ever-so-slightly tidy. Day-long team meetings. Learning new techniques. Sticking to those techniques after an 18 hour day. Finding more money. More legal battles. 

Yes, all that was hard.

But compared to the heartache of watching your beloved, golden boy headbutt a concrete floor or his grandfather? Wondering if he would ever talk, or read, or put on his own socks, or use a toilet?”

I also asked her what helped her most to deal with her mental health and stress and she responded

In my early days (pre Facebook!) I found a lot of comfort and help on the Mumsnet SN Children board. Plus, I found comfort with friends willing to lend an ear as I ranted endlessly about autism – often on long, therapeutic park walks. I recommend Mumsnet and Facebook groups to share experiences. A problem shared is a problem halved – talking to others in the same boat can really help

I think there are so many supportive Facebook groups for parents now – my own page ABAA4ALL, Focus Autism UK, Autism Support UK, Child Autism UK.

Special Thanks to Jane McCready for her insight.



Further information/reading


Busy Analytical Bee Newsletter

Busy Analytical Bee: December edition – Depression and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)


Mumsnet: Special Needs Chat


World Mental Health Day

Time to Change

Mind Charity


Heads Together


CALM: Campaign Against Living Miserably

Mental Health Foundation




South East Association for Behaviour Analysis Annual Conference

I hope you have had a fantastic summer holiday reader! Before the summer holidays began I went to an amazing conference that I want to tell you about.


The South East Association for Behaviour Analysis (SEABA) formed in 2012 and is a non-profit organisation. They meet four times a year to discuss and share information about Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). There began offering an annual conference last year, which allows professionals and parents to come together and learn from one another and share information about ABA. This year the conference was held for two days in June in Tunbridge Wells. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend for one day, but it definitely did not disappoint!


The first speak was Tony Balaaz who spoke about ABA professionals working alongside other professionals, including Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs), Occupational Therapists (OTs), Teachers, etc.. Tony Balaaz is a parent of a child who received ABA therapy and now works as a Behaviour Analyst and is a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst. It was great to hear him discuss such an important topic.

The second speaker David Miland. David works in Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) and discussed the importance of teaching skills for children and adults to access community and included some real life examples. This is important for many of our clients so this was a very useful talk.

After that we heard from Rosie Crathern and Susan Tirella from Forest Bridge School. Their talk discussed incorporating language and ABA targets into a daily routine. Some parents find it difficult to support ABA therapy in the evenings and weekends, but Rosie discussed about how easily targets can be embedded in a shopping trip or other weekend events. These ideas were really helpful!

After a short break, Serina Tomlinson discussed the use of telehealth in delivering ABA training. Telehealth involves an ABA consultant connecting with a client via a video connection and giving feedback as they conduct a session or practise certain skills. This method has helped in very rural areas, in particular in America, when travelling to some clients can be long and difficult. This has shown great success in supporting consultants to support their clients deliver effective ABA therapy. It was interesting to hear about this development.

Tracy Mapp presented a case study after this. This case study was very interesting as it discussed supporting a young girl developing maths. The programme involved an audio recording that helps pupils learn to be fluent and accurate of multiplication. The girl reported that she felt confident following the programme. It was great to hear such positive results from this programme.

The last speaker before lunch was Sian Kelly, who is an Occupational Therapist. Sian works with children who are receiving ABA therapy and discussed how the team work together to achieve amazing results. It was great to hear how well the team collaborate to help support a child develop stronger motor control and balance.

After lunch, Sarah-Jane Scott, a teacher, discussed about developing curriculum targets that support her child’s needs and incorporate their ABA targets. She showed many of the wonderful activities her children get to do, including water sports and climbing. It was fantastic to see how much these children enjoy these activities and how much they learn during them!

Nick Barratt from Dimensions supports many clients with learning disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder. He also serves on the UK Society for Behaviour Analysis (UK-SBA) board.  Nick works with many other professionals delivering ABA services. Nick gave an interesting talk about developing ABA interventions and challenging behaviour.

The last talk of the day was from Amy Miland. Amy discussed a case study of a boy she had been working with. The boy’s parent, Laetitia Castle, joined her to share with us all the wonderful skills they have taught. It was great to hear such a positive story and also the parents perspective of ABA programme and her child’s progress.

As you can see there is a large variety of information available at this conference, including research, practical work and case studies! It was also a great opportunity to network with professionals from many backgrounds, and parents too! There were also stalls with further information at the back, where I picked up information about PECS, Blooming Tree, Step by Step School and Autism Partnership.


Thanks to SEABA for organising such a wonderful and informative event! I will definitely be returning next year for the 2018 conference, and hope to attend both days!


If you want to learn more about SEABA, you can check out their website, and their Facebook page.

The next event I will be attending is in Edinburgh on September 25th and is being hosted by Keys For Learning. The talk is by Bobby Newman and Daniel Mruzek, so if you want to attend this event too, check out the website and register online.


Happy Birthday Bee!

So yesterday was Busy Analytical Bee’s third birthday! Hooray!

Just a quick message to thank you all for your support for the newsletter. I am truly grateful to have so many people interested in the newsletter, without the subscribers I would not be able to continue producing it! I enjoy reading and learning about so many different applications of ABA and sharing them with you, so thanks for subscribing, and reading!

Taken from:

This  June edition is an interview edition and this month I got the chance to put questions to Robert Schramm MA, BCBA! Robert is one of my ABA heroes and has been working in the field for more than 14 years. This edition the article discussing safe driving behaviours, some playground games as Natural Environment Teaching (NET) activities and much more.