Precision Teaching and Autism | Interview with Amy E. and Kelsey G.

A mom from our community, Kelsey General, joins me today along with Amy Evans, BCBA and Precision Teaching practitioner. The two work closely together with Kelsey’s children Brentley and Lincoln who were both diagnosed with autism at 25 months old. I talk with them about some of the struggles that Brentley and Lincoln face and the programs Amy uses with them that have made considerable progress in their fluency.

Amy describes the difference and importance of fluency versus accuracy. When working on fluency, learners have the ability to work for long periods of time on a skill. They can do the skill over and over and they won’t forget it and can even apply the skill to different contexts. Precision teaching is collecting data on these skills and the attempts at the skills. The Standard Celeration Chart is used to collect and chart the data and see progress.

Typical curriculums are not always designed with children like Brentley or Lincoln in mind. So practitioners like Amy who specialize in instructional design can help design programs and use precision teaching to make meaningful gains. Amy tells us about her roles in each of the children’s learning.

With Brentley, a child with severe autism and who is minimally verbal, Amy works with his data and helps break down the skills into very specific pieces based on his progress or tracking with skills. As for Lincoln, he is fully conversational and Kelsey’s goal is to get him into a traditional classroom eventually. Amy works directly with Lincoln, breaking down basic skills that learners would see in a typical kindergarten or first-grade classroom. The hope with this work is that Lincoln can work past perfectionism by focusing on speed and fluency and not shut down when he encounters difficulty.

Kelsey’s boys are truly one of our best success stories and the work Amy does with them could certainly be beneficial to many of my listeners. Kelsey reminds us that equipping ourselves with the tools to help our children can bring us a lot of peace of mind. Amy shares with us some of her great resources and a self-care tip that surprised me a lot!

I really enjoyed talking with these two and I hope you loved this episode as well!


Amy Evans:
Amy Evans has been a practitioner of Precision Teaching and Applied Behavior Analysis since 2008. Amy has worked in private learning centers, public school classrooms, home-based intervention, and homeschool settings, combining the principles of Behavior Analysis, Precision Measurement, and Direct Instruction to solve educational and behavioral challenges. Amy’s primary expertise lies in fluency-based instruction, precise behavioral measurement, visual and quantitative data analysis, and curriculum design. In the past five years, Amy has focused on dissemination and training, which included writing playbooks and guides, creating high-quality online professional development courses, contributing to books and research related to the implementation of precision measurement, presenting over 25 workshops and symposia, and transitioning more than 40 small to mid-size organizations to Precision Teaching and digital standard celeration charting. Amy loves being a go-to resource for all things Precision Teaching.

Amy is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and has previously held Special Education teaching certifications. She owns and operates a remote tutoring and educational consulting company, Flex Academics, serving families all over the US and Canada. Amy co-founded Octave Innovation, an organization dedicated to improving the skill sets of behavior analysts, teachers, and instructional designers. She served as the Vice President of Finance for the Standard Celeration Society For Three Years (2015-2019) and currently organizes and emcees the chart share at the annual conference. Amy holds a master’s degree in special education from Pennsylvania State University (2013), and a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in the Spanish language from the University of Nevada, Reno(2009).

Amy lives in Denver, Colorado, and enjoys hiking, travel, vegan food, and the occasional dance party.

Kelsey General:
Kelsey is a single mom to two boys living in BC, Canada. In 2016 her oldest son was diagnosed with autism at 25 months old. After learning he would not qualify for the support he needed, Kelsey began her journey of learning how to help him. Since then Kelsey has continued her education in the field in order to provide her children and others in the community the direct intervention they needed. Now, Kelsey homeschools both her kids with support from a team of consulting professionals while also working with other families providing behavior analytic services and parent coaching services. Kelsey and her boys enjoy spending their free time exploring and in nature hiking, biking, camping, and snowboarding. You can follow her adventures and learn more about getting children with autism outside safely on her Instagram page, @littleadventurefamily.


  • The importance of fluency based instruction.
  • What is Precision Teaching.
  • How we find and measure data.
  • Examples of precision teaching and fluency implemented.
  • Why teach fluency.

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Transcript for Podcast Episode: 131
Precision Teaching and Autism With Amy Evans and Kelsey General
Hosted by: Dr. Mary Barbera

Mary: So it's so great to have both Amy and Kelsey on the show. So thank you both so much for coordinating your time and being here. Thanks for having us. Yeah. So, um, Kelsey has been on the show episode number three, Kelsey was my very first interview in 2019 when we started the podcast and I just was telling Kelsey and Amy that we just surpassed, um, 500,000 downloads of the podcast, which is super exciting.

So we're, we are accelerating too. We're going to talk about. Celebration and going up on graphs soon because this episode is all about fluency and precision teaching. So before we get there, um, so Kelsey's episode is episode number three. So Mary forward slash three. Um, this episode is 131.

So. If I say something's in the show notes, like Kelsey's first episode will be linked in the show notes. Um, all the show notes will [email protected] slash 1 3 1. Okay. So we're going to start out with describing your fall into the autism world. So Kelsey, why don't we start with you?

Kelsey: Yeah. So I fell into the autism world.

When my oldest son Brentley began showing signs of autism, um, before he was 18 months old. And then he was eventually diagnosed at 25 months old and, uh, And then eventually my youngest son Lincoln was also diagnosed when he was 25 months old. So it was a whirlwind of a year and a half. And I realized quickly I had to learn everything I could about autism and ABA to be able to help them. Um, Reach their fullest potential. That's really how I fell into it.

Mary: Yeah. So, and you joined my online courses starting in 2006.

Kelsey: Yeah. In, uh, November of 2016. So about six months after Brentley was diagnosed, um, because I was trying to find ways that I could learn to help him and a friend. Told me, she had seen this course for gung ho parents and that I was a gung-ho parent, so I should, uh, so I should sign up for it.

And I did. And, uh, yeah, that really started my learning journey about everything ABA and really inspired me to learn enough to become a professional and work with other kids too. And so it's been quite the journey since 2016.

Mary: Um, Yeah. And Kelsey has been one of our best and most successful success stories.

I mean, when she found my course Brentley was she had to drag Brentley an hour away, um, to a clinic, to an ABA clinic where they were working on the wrong things, unfortunately, and he was banging his head on hard services up to a hundred times a day. And, um, so she she's really made miraculous changes with her, both her boys.

And now she helped me, um, Providing videos and stuff for my toddler and preschool or course, which I started in 2017. That's been newly revised. She's helped me with that. She is a paid member of my team now, and she's our community manager in our online courses and community. So Kelsey is always great to talk to you and, and know that if you're out there, if you think you're a gung ho parent, You know, you can just look at Kelsey to go like, wow.

She is really, um, totally on all in. We will call it. So Amy, why don't you tell our listeners about your fall into the autism world?

Amy: Okay. Sure. Um, I've always kind of been on the outskirts of the autism world. I got started back in Reno as an undergrad. I, uh, had to change universities, um, in my junior year and had no idea where I was going with a psychology degree and kind of ran into someone who drugged me to, um, uh, Steve Hayes lab.

And I got to sit in Steve's lab and. I didn't, I didn't dare ask any questions, but I was really curious and we would debrief afterwards. And one thing led to another, where I got to be a research assistant for Nick barons and got to work at fit learning for a while, which is a really. Um, popular kind of growing learning center that now has locations all over the place.

And I fell in love with precision teaching and behavior analysis. There started into, um, working as a therapist and early childhood autism program for the university, and then decided to get my master's went to, um, Penn state with Dr. Rick kubina and really dug into what. ABA is all about, and I've been working with learners kind of across the board.

So I've got a lot of learners under, um, in my programs that are mild learning disabilities, ADHD, gifted, the whole gamut. And then I also work with learners on the autism spectrum as well.

Mary: Yeah. So, and what years were you on studying under Rick now?

Amy: That was 2011 to 2013.

Mary: Okay. And that's when we met, because as many of you probably know or may remember is Dr. Rick kubina ended up being my BCBA mentor. And he was also Amy's PCBA mentor. We met, um, up at Penn state and at a few conferences too. So, um, it's funny because it's almost like full circle because Kelsey found Amy among other behavior analysts. That first she started with the course. Which of course is, which really has helped her learn all she could.

And the more she learned, the more, the more intensive she wanted to learn and the more experts she managed to, um, surround herself with, including Amy to come in and help her kids, both her sons with fluency based instruction and precision teaching. And I know many of you out there are new to this whole discussion of fluency and precision teaching, but it can go very deep. Um, and Amy is certainly one of the experts. I also do want to make a disclaimer before we go back and forth to ask some questions. Is that usually like if I just had Amy on. Or if I was, you know, writing my book or, or talking, it isn't usually appropriate for me to say, oh, I have the single mom in Canada named Kelsey.

And she has two boys named Bradley and Lincoln. And, um, but. Many of my former clients and many of my online participants have given me video permission and written permission to share their, their names, their stories, their videos, some haven't, you know, there are some kids that I have worked with over the years that I have to change their names, their identities, you know, everything about them.

Um, to tell their stories, but Kelsey is not one of those people. She is in it to spread the word about what works and what doesn't. So normally, you know, so I just wanted to say that that we're here and we're talking about Kelsey and we're giving really pretty personal details. Um, and that she has given us written consent to do that.

Okay. So. Amy. What is fluency? Precision teaching. And why is it important for kids and adults to be fluent and not just accurate?

Amy: Okay. That's the three amazing questions. And you might have to keep me on track here cause I can go for days. Um, we'll start with fluency. Um, fluency is essentially the outcome of having practiced a behavior or a set of behaviors enough so that you can perform them after a period of no practice for long periods of time.

Without kind of fatiguing. So when a learner's fluent with a skill, they can, they don't forget it and they can do it for you. Maybe you practice for 30 seconds, but they can endure throughout to five minutes, even depending on the skill or the relevance to going longer. So. Those are two pieces. There's multiple additional steps to that or pieces of fluency.

So there's also stability being able to do it in the presence of distraction. That's another key feature of fluent behavior. So when a skill is fluent, these learners can engage in these. They're just more durable. Skills, if that makes sense. So being able to take that skill and then apply it to a different environment or a more complex version of that skill or something slightly about the task, if they're still able to do all those things, then that's when we consider a skill fluent.

So fluency based instruction is the process of building those fluent repertoires. And then precision teaching is essentially the measurement system that wraps around all of that and supports that process. So fluency based instruction can kind of be done on its own. It's this whole process of you practice something and you try to get a little bit faster.

Usually a lot of times there is some beat building speed in involved in fluency based instruction. Um, but it's not all about speed. I want to be clear about that, but a lot of times it is let's get it much faster than you're currently doing it in order for that skill to get to that level of durability.

But precision teaching is let's now collect data on each one of those attempts, each one of those time trials and. Let's collect data. Let's analyze the data on this very beautiful chart called a standard celebration chart, which I will try not to dive too much into, cause it's really hard to do on a podcast talking about a visual display, but what I'm really nerdy about is the visual display that we use.

To analyze data and make decisions about whether we're making progress toward that fluent outcome. So, precision teaching is just a measurement system that uses the standard celebration chart, and we define and, and measure behavior a very specific way. And then we analyze the data very specific way on a very specific chart.

And then fluency based instruction is kind of the process that we're going through to build the skills. Okay. So if you go ahead, um,

Mary: And I did, you know, my BCBA mentorship on Dr. Rick Kubina. And so he taught me about the standard of celeration chart. He was also helping with Lucas in terms of being a consultant.

So we would, you know, put some fluency programs in place chart on the standard celeration. And I definitely don't want to get into the standard celeration charting, but I think in general, I am more of a. Fluency really matters because you know, if, if you get a hundred percent on a test, but you do the test in five minutes and I get a hundred percent, but it takes me 20 or 30 minutes, you know, who's who knows the information better.

Almost always the person that goes faster. It also is, you know, really important, especially for kids with this has really nothing to do with autism. I mean, we all need to get fluent. Um, And all tasks. And you know, you think about driving a car, you know, um, in the beginning you're not flowing. You don't know, you really have to think about it.

It's very stressful when you start a new job or a new task, and you've never done it, you know, tying shoes or. Or, um, something even doing a button, you know, it's like, how do you put on a coat? If you, if you can't do it at all, obviously you can't go fast if you don't even know the steps to do it. So there's the, the steps to do a task.

And then you got to get faster so that you can retain the skills, the stability that doing it across environments with people. And I didn't really understand that until. I mentored under it. Kobena and, and, um, uh, learned a lot more about fluency, but I ended up doing my whole dissertation on fluency based instruction, and we can link that in the show notes that's available on my website, but we'll, we'll link that in the show notes.

Okay. So Amy, uh, Kelsey. Can you describe like the ages and ability levels of Brentley, your older son and Lincoln, your younger son, and, and then like, why did you feel the need to get to hire Amy for fluency?

Kelsey: Yeah. So Brentley is now seven years old. He just turned seven, just turned seven in March and he, um, is diagnosed as level three.

Um, Severe autism. Um, however, I would describe Brentley, um, as minimally verbal, he can get his wants and needs met. Um, he can talk about some of his likes in scripted ways, um, and he's quite imaginative and funny in that way. Um, but he's not conversational. Um, and he struggles a lot with language with intermediate language concepts.

Um, okay. And, you know, a lot of discrimination issues and we still have up and down behavior issues sometimes. And, and just general communication issues. Um, his, his, for his language skills are really delayed. And then, um, but his academic skills are quite, are quite solid. He enjoys them. Um, and Lincoln is now five and a half and he is fully conversational.

And very, very bright. Um, and however, he has some struggles with perfectionism and emotional regulation and, um, Just in general work, work tolerance and, and doing things he wants to be really successful at things. And we were kind of hitting roadblocks, uh, with him in that area. So that's kind of both boys.

Mary: Yeah. And so you heard about fluency from my courses and then also from the other behavior analysts that you surround yourself with. And so you decided, um, at some point, was it like a year or two ago, or when did you bring that up?

Kelsey: So I actually went to the, um, precision teaching conference in, uh, I don't even know what month.

I think it was right before the pain. It was in November of 2019, I think. And, um, I went, because I had heard all this stuff about precision teaching and I was really interested in how it could apply mainly to Brentley because a lot of the stuff I had read and watch about precision teaching and take teaching, it seemed to need.

A language component that he didn't seem to have explaining to him about timings and what it meant. And if you go faster and it's goes up and, you know, um, so I was learning a lot about it, but I wanted to go to the conference to learn how it could apply to Brentley. And so I went to the conference and learn more.

I bought one of Rick's books, the implementing precision teaching, I think. And. I came home and read more about it. And as I was reading, I was like, I really think we need this for Brentley because Brentley can gain skills. Um, however, he does struggle to maintain them if you're not constantly teaching them.

And he also has a lot of issues with discrimination. So sometimes if you teach him one thing and then you teach them another he'll now only answer that other way instead of the original way, it's like he couldn't retain both answers. And, um, and that, so I thought, well, if we just get. All of these skills, he knows more fluent.

Maybe we won't see these drops in, in skills and, um, and may, uh, might be CBA at the time. And still is Megan Miller, uh, said, you know, I know of precision teaching, I know fluency, but I also know someone who knows it a lot better than I do. And I don't think we need to reinvent the wheel here. Um, and then.

Uh, and that's when we started discussing bringing Amy on. And, and so I found Amy through Megan, um, and Amy is also, you know, for Megan, I learned that Amy's quite skilled at instructional design, which also was going to help us kind of tailor Brentley's programming and break it down even more. And as we were getting into academics, No curriculums are designed for a kid like Brentley.

So it's like I needed someone to help me break that down into ways that we could teach them more effectively.

Mary: And you've been homeschooling for years.

Kelsey: Right. And yeah. So, yeah. So this is our second year homeschooling Brentley and first year homeschooling Lincoln.

Mary: Okay. Yeah. So, so all of that, and I remember with Lucas, when we were using a low bus approach before I knew anything about.

Fluency based instruction. You know, we would have maintenance, binders, like huge maintenance binders. And, you know, we had a, uh, once a month schedule, we'd have to get out the, okay. We have to check whether he knows colors and, you know, whatever. And then once we moved into mixed VB and then we moved into fluency, it was like, there's no reason for.

Whole known binders when you're practicing things to fluency, it does lead to longer-term retention, application stabilization, being able to do it in distractive environment. And I just wanted to also clear up the, the discrimination problems. I just want to give an example. So, um, you teach a child number one, right?

And, but then when, or one, two and three and maybe one to nine, and then you get to 12 and you know, the teens and then you get to twenties, like. Kids when, if you don't teach it right, and don't add sets, right. And don't maintain the numbers they already know. And to fluency, they will start to recite the number of the week on the probe sheet and the same thing per numbers, letters, words, the same thing for paper towel versus toilet paper versus, um, Those kinds of things, pencil, pen, marker. Crayon. Like I have whole programs in my intermediate learner course because it is such a common problem among intermediate learners to be so, yeah. It, it's not the learner being, not able to do it or confused. It's actually a teaching problem of not implementing it in the right order and getting these skills to fluency.

So not to get on my soap box, but it is such a big problem. And I think you guys are doing a great job and hopefully. You know, you don't mind me chiming in here, but like, I have just seen too many examples. So, Amy, um, why don't you tell us like the different fluency programs? Like I'm assuming they, they both friendly the older son and Lincoln have different profiles, have different needs.

Probably they have probably different fluency programs. Do you want to describe like how you manage both of them?

Amy: Sure. Um, so I, right now, what I'm doing is I'm really just consulting with Kelsey on Brent Lee's case because she's working directly with them. I live hundreds of miles away. Um, and I just kind of get to sit and watch and then we adjust as we go.

So I get to spend a lot of time with the data and in the observation and his programs are very, very focused on the instructional design. So that's really where I've. Gotten to flex those muscles is let's figure out. Some there with him. It's very clear. There's some moments or some days where it looks like he's got it right.

We've we're say he has this skill. And then the next day it looks like it's falling apart. So what we did was really just diving into those specific things that what's changing from day to day, or what's different about our stuff. Stimulii so I know you interviewed, um, Jannet Twyman awhile ago, and she did a great job talking about organizing your stimulate, but that's a big part of our process with Brantley. So really digging into the features of the stimulate that we're using.

Mary: What kind of skills would Brentley say fall apart over, like what, what, give an example just so that we can picture it.

Amy: Kelsey?

Kelsey: Uh, yeah, Brentley falls apart over a lot of skills, but like, so we were trying, um, one thing we were doing is we were trying to get him to name items a lot quicker on a sheet it's called a rapid what's it called?

Ramp automatic naming. Yeah. And, and the point of this was to just get him talking faster and talking more and just, you know, with the stimulant and some days he would hit. His aim. He would no mountain, no problems say the words zero issues. Um, and he would be fast and maybe we'd get that for three days. And then it was like, he couldn't say the words anymore.

His articulation would fall apart. Um, or he, maybe he was sick of the way it was set up and he would start laughing about it and it would just really slow down and, and, and fall apart with it. And also, um, Other things like you actually did a video blog on a question. I asked you Mary, on conditional discrimination and what you explained in that video blog of what I should do.

We actually move that to a fluency based program at one point, uh, because the, the, what, the, what color, what is it, what the name like those questions. Some days he would answer everything. Right. And other days it was like, I don't, I don't know if he was even hearing me. And so those were the types of skills that were really falling apart a lot.

And so we had to take like the, what name, what is it, what color? And like break that down even more.

Mary: Um, so that's where, well, I thought it was important thing cause like, I feel like I I've never met Kelsey in person or person, but I feel like I. I know them and their story. I mean, when she started with me, Bradley was two and Lincoln was a baby and one year old, you know what I mean?

[00:23:45] So, you know, Kelsey's been part of our community. Yes. She's, you know, a community manager, but she still can ask questions and stuff. And, and I do, I think it's, it's really complicated, not just for Brenley, um, but for so many kids. And it seems like the more skills they get. Um, the more conditional discrimination, errors, you know, chair versus stool, or is that important or chair versus so fun.

And then it's like, oh my goodness, it is complicated. Or if they can get into language for learning, but you got to adapt the language, we're learning so much for these kids that sometimes it's just a bad idea, right? Or some kids get really wrote with language for learning. I have a whole lesson in the intermediate learner course on language for learning and language for thinking with videos.

Um, because I like Amy have years of experience with instructional design and with adapting these curriculum to meet the needs of our kids with moderate, severe autism. And it's so complex. How about, um, so, so with, with, um, Brentley. You have some naming, some conditional discrim programs. Do you have any motor movement?

Um, I know Kelsey forgot to mention that both her kids can like ski and snowboard and like swim and they were like bike. They are physically like. Geniuses, like they just are, are so adept and Kelsey is such an outdoor kind of mom and, and really that's, that's like a strength of both her kids and her family.

So, Amy, do you have any kind of motor, uh, processing for, for preliminary programs?

Amy: Yeah, I'll tell you a little bit about what, um, what Brentley is doing, uh, for that specifically for the ran program, rapid automatic naming. The part of the process of this is to focus on quicker. More functional scanning and pointing.

So we actually worked quite a bit on his point response. It's not that he couldn't point to things. It's just that it kind of got in the way of being able to do this, this other skill fluently that required the point. So we were requiring a point and it would kind of fall apart and then his hand would kind of get in his way or.

He would be distracted by his hand. So we actually built up a bunch of programs and he's working with another precision teacher who specializes in motor movements. So we've, we've kind of tackled it from both sides. So there's. The motor skills are the absolute, most underlying skills in all of this. So they have to be strong and fluent in order for effective instruction to occur with these other more advanced skills.

So we knew that we need to make sure that all those things are in place. So we've done a lot of work with kind of playing around with holding the pencil and those kinds of things to just make sure that we can have this kid pointing. Writing holding onto his paper, some really basic things like that.

That just need to be so automatic that we don't have to stop and give him instruction and all this prompting, because then all of a sudden we've messed up the instructional environment. If he sits down to the table and we're getting all kinds of other behaviors that we have to get in place in order to just teach him.

Then we're not going to get to the point that we can actually make progress on the stuff that we're doing. So, Kelsey, if you want to talk more about the actual programs that you're doing. Go ahead.

Kelsey: Yeah. So I actually, when you started talking about the pointing Amy, I remembered when we first started with Amy, but like Brentley was doing a hundred easy lessons to read and, um, We also, Amy also broke that curriculum down for us to really small steps.

And Bentley's doing really well with reading, but one of his biggest issues when we were starting, that is he couldn't put his finger under the words and follow the thing. He was using his middle finger, or sometimes like his thumb. Like it was, it was just a mess and we really did need to work a lot on motor programs, like the big six, which is squeezing, pointing, um, Uh, I don't even need know, reaching, grasps.

Yes. And we worked with another behavior analyst, uh, Jonathan who specializes in motor movements and we got all of Bentley's. So even though Brentley could do these. Crazy things like biking and snowboarding. He just kind of learned how to move his body, but he didn't necessarily have these finer what they call tools, skills, fluent.

And so we were seeing a lot of problems with writing and reading just because he didn't have like these tiny things like pointing.

Mary: So the gross was really helpful or better than the fine motor movements and

Amy: oh, yes. Yeah. And well with handwriting, some of the handwriting and things, we were seeing the, we, we think it looks like a fine motor issue, but when you peel back the layers or when you really dig down, it's actually more related to core stability than it is to how he's holding his hand.

So you, again, that's the most basic thing you can do and. I think just about every learner with autism that I've ever worked with can benefit from building up some of those skills to more fluent levels.

Mary: Then the core is really important. Yeah. Any disabilities or anything? Yeah. Um, uh, I just interviewed last last week, um, um, a physical therapist where we talked a lot about core strength and that is a role of a PT. I'm wondering, have you ever gotten him, your kids evaluated by a PT?

Kelsey: They've both been evaluated by PTs OTs. Um, yeah. And the, the big issue with both, um, we're just especially for Brentley. I mean, Lincoln's an easier learner is they, Brentley is just a really complex learner and. The way to teach them is really complex and they didn't really have the expertise in autism needed to move them forward.

So Brentley looks like a super active kid who wouldn't have all these motor deficits. We've been working with Jonathan for about the same length as Amy and. His core programs come along slowly. And, and we do have a lot of core programs in place and he can't have any physical guidance because then he just puts his whole body into your hands.

And physical therapists just don't understand that. They're like, well, this is how you teach them. It's like that we can't teach brentley that way. And so, um, that's why it's really great that you, you know, you have such a team. Um, and if you have a physical therapist, If you had a behavior adolescence too, that could work together with the PT and the OT and the speech and in a coordinated way with really what I find though, and sometimes in early intervention, which I was an early intervention provider for a number of years, is that everybody works in a silo.

Everybody goes different times and everybody has their own separate goals. And without a big behavioral focus, um, It's it's quite frustrating to see the lack of progress that can happen. So I think, you know, obviously if somebody is listening this far into this podcast, we're kind of preaching to the choir, but I think that it's great that you had a PT and OT about it does make sense to me just because I know how complex Lucas is to program for, and I can.

Tell how hard it is and complex it is to program for Brantley. Let's talk about Lincoln a little bit. So he's fully conversational. He can snowboard and ski like a champ ride bikes and he's five and a half. So, so what, what is the concern and what is the fluency programs that he really needs?

Kelsey: Um, Amy can probably speak to this more than me.

Amy actually works directly with Lincoln. Um, so. Lincoln. The big concern for me when I reached out to Amy to help Lincoln, is that, um, if Lincoln is not super good at something he shuts down and the hope is that Lincoln will transition to public school, uh, and not be homeschooled. And my concern was if something was too hard for him in the classroom, um, that he would have behavioral issues because he does really, really shut down if he's not really good at something.

And so I wanted Amy to take. You know what kindergartners or first graders learn and really, really break it down. So it could be really fun for him really fast and build his skills, um, in a way that was positive to him. Cause he, um, for some reason, Just was really resistant to any school work. He does not like being asked to do things or he just likes to do things in his own way.

And so when he first started with Amy, I mean, there was like a couple minutes maybe of instruction, even though technically he can do all the skills, but he just. He just doesn't. So it's kind of, it's a very, what people would think. He probably doesn't need fluency based instruction, but Amy can even explain what happened what's happening now and why it's been so important to him.

Amy: Yeah. I think, I think it's, it's been really fun for me because he is just a cool learner to work directly with. But, um, we did have to fade our way up to being able to really. Push and, and try to hit some goals with him. So we started with just sort of hanging out and, um, making it clear to him that he could, he could engage or he could opt out.

And we made that really clear at the beginning to build that relationship, because that seemed really important for Lincoln. It's a lot of what we've been working on is him knowing that maybe. Uh, he's gonna attempt something and it's, it might go well. And if it doesn't, he gets another chance and that's kind of how we've built that up.

So that process of fluency based instruction actually doing multiple timings makes it really clear that I need his full focus. For up to a minute, we started with 15 second timing. He's doing a minute. No problem now. But we started with really short timing. So I could be like, I just need you to get six.

And if you get six, we've hit our goal for today. And we're going to shoot for hitting two goals today. And he kind of gets to pick, do we want to. Get 30 points today. Do we want to get two goals or do we want to just run four programs and get it over with? And he pretty much always goes for the two goals.

Um, and he's meeting them almost all the time, but when he doesn't, he will persist. So I can say, oh, sorry, you didn't hit your goal. And because he's had such. So many repeated opportunities to see his success. And he actually looks at his charts. So, um, I'm charting his data on the standard celebration chart, but I use a digital version so I can just share my screen with him.

And he says, let's see my dot and we see if it went up or if it went down and then we decide together what we're going to do about it. So if he, if his dot goes down one day and we're just working on basic, um, letter names, letter sounds just the stuff that I would want someone to know before they enter a kindergarten or first grade classroom.

Um, we're doing letter names, letter sounds some basic reading. He's even spelling now. We're just kind of, I just keep trying stuff and he keeps succeeding. So it's been really great. He is. Academically flourishing. And I don't think that will be an issue for him where recently we're targeting handwriting, because that was an issue where I think he was a little bit on the perfectionist side.

So what we're doing there is just go as fast as you can. And I actually haven't spent much time working on his accuracy, but it's already there. What's been great about that is he's learning to continue to. To try new things and to kind of trust the instructional process. So now he's receiving feedback, even if it's sometimes it's that one's not quite right.

Let's fix it. He's receiving that instructional feedback in a much more positive way, at least from what I can tell, would you agree with that, Kelsey?

Kelsey: Yes, much more positive. Much more positive and he's, and he's just much more confident. And I think if, if he would've went to school and it would've just been like here, we're doing writing and it wouldn't have been broken down as it has been.

Uh, he, he would have struggled, not because he can't do the academic side of it, but because of, uh, some of his barriers to learning that precision teaching and fluency based instruction have helped break down.

Mary: And I've seen that when I was in the classrooms consulting for a number of years, um, is the kids that were float fully conversational included for all or part of the day, and really were almost indistinguishable in a lot of ways.

Um, They kind of got lost and, and if they would throw a fit, then it's, they're labeled a bad kid or let's put in emotional disturbance diagnosis with this child. Let's send them turn to learning support and have an untrained aid sit next to him. And that, those kinds of things like, no, you know, we have to, these, these, you know, Kids have a real chance to, you know, go to college and learn to drive and, and, you know, just do all the typical things.

If we don't just kind of toss them aside and say, well, they have their ABA and there, they know they, they can do it. They're just being stubborn. And, and, you know, I had a child once that. In an IEP meeting. I said, listen, what we do now. And he was nowhere as indistinguishable as, as you're describing Lincoln to be.

And he was in second grade. Um, and I said, you know, I hate to say it like this, but what we do this year and next year could be the difference between him. Living in a group home when he's 25 or going to college. And like, you could see like the horror and people's faces. And I, I almost felt badly about that statement, but I truly felt that because I had worked with his kid from age Two years old. And he was in second grade and, and he really had so many skills, like you're describing with one kid who it's like, we can't, we can't give up.

We can't, you know, just go like, well be because it's not the student issue, it's a teacher. It's we need to learn more about how peel back the onion, see what skills are missing.

And, um, I know I'm preaching to the choir, but it is really important that we not just say, okay, Hmm, Lincoln's good.

Amy: Yeah. Well, I just want to reemphasize that I work with a lot of learners who are a little older. Typically the clients that I take are, um, third, fourth, fifth through eighth grade. I usually work with those kids and that's the point where they've already kind of been beaten down by the system and they come to me thinking they're not good at math thinking that teachers don't like them.

And a lot of the work that I do is more on the emotional side of their learning experience. And precision teaching and fluency based instruction is just a really cool model for doing that because there are so many opportunities to just be like, hurrah. You did amazing, you bet you beat your best score before.

[00:39:45] And so there's kind of this competition and they can see their growth and it really helps with confidence. But having come from that perspective, when I get the opportunity to work with a younger learner, I take it very seriously. Like we need to not make that mistake with this kid. So I really feel that when you say that, Yeah.

Mary: And it's, it's really important that. Even if you have a third or fourth or fifth grader, who's, you know, with a learning disability and they're, they, they have probably dyslexia and, you know, um, math, learning, disability and stuff. They really do get a lot of negatives and not much positive. And they, they really, um, feel like they're dumb and, you know, and I think, you know, gung ho mom's like, Kelsey, who's just going to be like, you know, I don't care what you call it, your, you know, I want the very best for my kids and, and in the public education system, at least in the United States, you don't want to say best.

I want the best, actually. You're only entitled to free, appropriate public education, not the best. So, yeah. Uh, you know, I learned all of those, all of those rules about what to say and what not to say, but, you know, um, uh, when you see Bradley making gains, when you see my son Lucas making gains at 24 by fluency programs, you know, anytime there's a new skill, we have to teach it, break down the steps, teach it, and then teach it to fluency.

And at the same time, you're managing a zillion, other things that may be interacting, um, variables that are at play, but the better you get and focusing on this, and this is not just for kids on the spectrum, like if I need to learn my social security number or a new phone number, you know, doing fluency trials, or if I get a job as a waitress, and now I need to learn, uh, all the drinks or the prices or whatever.

Teaching yourself to fluency, memorizing, teaching yourself to fluency. It's just going to make your life so much better. And that's why it's so stressful when you learn new skills.

Amy: Yeah.

Mary: But it�s worth it. You know, when you drive now, for those of us that drive, it's automatic, we're fluent at driving, but if we learn to drive a tractor trailer, Then we would be put back in the, you know, almost novice seed and there'd be new controls or, or you learn to drive a stick shift, you know?

Um, and we have to like approach kids, like learning new skills like that. Like anything can be learned. It's just a matter of breaking it down.

Kelsey: Yeah. And, and it's been quite amazing. I mean, through fluency based instruction, I mean, Bentley's. Close to grade level in a lot of his academic skills, even with his language struggles and, and it's pretty, it's pretty amazing.

Mary: Yeah. Yeah. And he's come a long, long way. And just because a child has level three autism or has been diagnosed with moderate, severe autism, I mean, I have seen kids. You know, make remarkable gains even after seven. Um, and so you just keep pushing and, you know, the goal for all of both Mike's sons. All of the people that I interact with are for every child to be as safe, as possible, as independent as possible, and as happy as possible.

Nothing in there says double digit addition or double hook fasteners or anything like that. You can, you can, um, have a very happy life with, with a lot of skill deficits. And I have a lot of skill deficits in a number of areas. And so, and I can still have a happy life. So, um, I think we need to remember that.

Okay. I know this is a new concept for some people out there listening. So Amy, how can they, um, if somebody wants to learn more about fluency based instruction, I know I did attend a precision teaching conference. That's an annual, but of course, with COVID that probably got messed up, like everything else in the world.

Um, So I'd been to a few, I presented my dissertation at one, uh, precision teaching conference. And then, um, Kelsey got started kind of there. And then I have a bonus video within my course, but how can people, um, learn in my courses, uh, learn more about fluency and precision teaching.

Amy: Yeah. So just to plug the standard celeration society, because that organization hosts the precision teaching conference.

Um, and it is every year in November, but I wanted to let you know, because I'm not sure how widely it's been marketed yet, but they are going to put on an autism, uh, charting in autism conference for the first time. I think that's going to be in July. And my business partner and I will be presenting on instructional design for learners with autism.

And Liz will also be presenting. There's going to be a heavy emphasis on ascent based learning, which I think is a really good thing for parents to be learning about. Um, so I think that would be a great place. If anybody has the opportunity to attend in July.

Mary: Is that standard

Amy: it's is the website.

Yeah, for, for members, there's all kinds of, I think their membership is pretty cheap. I'm not sure how much it is, but they have more opportunities to watch recorded videos and conferences and stuff. Um, that's probably the first place to start. Also their Facebook group tends to have some good conversations.

Um, and then. My business partner and I have two companies. One is flex academics, and that's kind of where I do my work with parents and learners directly. And then I also just launched in the last year, a new company called Okta innovation, Liz Lefebvre, and I have joined forces and we're mostly training practitioners, other behavior analyst.

And some teachers that's that's our primary focus currently is to do training for practitioners to implement precision teaching fluency based instruction and ascent based learning. Um, and we'll be, we'll be building some things on instructional design as well. Um, yeah, go ahead.



Mary: and

Amy: Yes. And you were going to say there's one more place. Yes. There's also a video that I created for those parents who are working with their young readers. Um, the direct instruction curriculum teacher, child to read in a hundred easy lessons is a nice, cheap and easy and very, very well designed program.

One of the best, um, and it's all scripted so that it should be very easy. And it's designed specifically for parents to work with their kids, to teach them how to read. I've created, um, a set of fluency materials and a few instructional videos about how to use them. And that should be free. We're gonna send you a link to that as well in the show notes.

Mary: Okay. Cool. All right. Well, we're going to link all those in the show notes and you can contact Amy, um, or if you're a professional, you can, you know, parents or professionals can go to any of these sites. And we're going to put all of that in the show notes at And before I let you guys go, um, part of my podcast goals are for parents and professionals to be less stressed and lead happier lives.

So, um, Amy, uh, do you have any self. Eye care tips or stress management tools you use.

Amy: Well, I know that this is very counterintuitive for so many people for me, my security blanket, and what makes me kind of relax at the end of the day is knowing that I've made a difference in one day and sometimes taking lots of data helps me with that so that I know that it's Counter-intuitive, but that is something that makes me, um, much more pleased with myself. Even when the big things don't feel like they're moving. I haven't moved a mountain yet, but I've gotten one more response per minute or a little bit, um, gotten through a few more programs today than before. So that's been good for me.

Mary: Taking data. That's a new response out of, since for two and a half years. I haven't heard that one yet. Kelsey, What are your self-care tips busy mom?

Kelsey: They wouldn't, they wouldn't be taking data, but I, I do agree that when I do see the Amy's data on my kids, it does make me feel more calm. Um, but, uh, self-care wise. I mean, we get outside.

Uh, my boys are the calmest outside. They're the happiest outside. There's not as many, you know, rules. So we get outside, we hike, we bike. Uh, we go on the lake. Um, that's a big one for me. Um, and I think, like I said, two years ago, one of my biggest self cares is actually learning and knowing that no matter what happens, that I have the tools to help them.

And. That just gives me so much peace at the end of the day. Um, yeah, and recently I have been taking time away from them and going and doing outside things without kids. They both are really low problem behaviors and canal have sitters and I can go, you know, take some time for myself since it's just me.

Mary: That's awesome. I love that. Love both of what you said there and, um, really enjoyed this conversation today. All about fluency and precision teaching. Thanks so much for joining me and I'm sure my listeners are going to love this episode as well. So thanks a lot. Have a great day.

Amy: Thanks. We had so much fun.

Kelsey: Yeah. Thank you.