Using Talk Tools to Support Picky Eating and Speech with Risca Solomon

No progress with echoic control? An unexplained picky eater? What if your child or client simply doesn’t have the oral motor skills to make sounds or eat food? Risca Solomon, BCBA, joins me today to talk about her impressive work with Talk Tools on her UK farm. 

Talk Tools 

Talk Tools is a systematic approach to speaking and eating that takes into account and teaches specific oral motor skills to perfect each motion. This is a tool commonly used by SLPs, but Risca herself is certified as a BCBA and is completing extensive research on Talk Tools and ABA. Be sure to check out our previous episodes on Talk Tools for even more information.

Skybound Therapy

Living on a 120-acre farm, Risca operates an impressive autism center where families from all over the world visit for intensive therapy with her providers. Families stay present and work hard for 5-day increments and see wonderful results, with some families visiting up to 4 times a year. With over 10 BCBAs on staff, Skybound also reaches out to the community.

Risca and her team are truly impressive, and you will love her “fall into autism” story about her foster brother Dan. That’s where her career really began, and now she is continuing to impact so many lives!

Risca Solomon on the Turn Autism Around Podcast

Risca is a BCBA and founder of Skybound Therapies, which provides ABA, speech, and OT therapies in the UK. Risca is passionate about improving the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities. Risca was able to use ABA and positive behavior support techniques to help her foster brother with autism and challenging behavior develop language at 12 years old. She then launched Skyboard Therapies in response to many requests for help from viewers of her YouTube channel.


  • What is Talk Tools?
  • How to teach feeding and speaking skills?
  • Is it behavioral or skills based for feeding issues?
  • How to use talk tools to gain echoic control.
  • How to use talk tools if you’re a BCBA.
  • Visit Risca’s UK farm for intensive autism therapy.
Want to get started on the right path and start making a difference for your child or client with autism? SIGN-UP FOR DR. MARY BARBERA'S FREE TRAINING


Risca Solomon – Turn Autism Around Podcast Transcript

Transcript for Podcast Episode: 223

Using Talk Tools to Support Picky Eating and Speech with Risca Solomon

Hosted by: Mary Barbera

Guest: Risca Solomon

Mary: You're listening to the Turn Autism Around Podcast Episode number 223. Today I had my friend Risca Solomon from the UK. She is a BCBA and founder of Skybound Therapies, which provides ABA speech and O.T. therapies in the UK. She has a center on a farm where she brings in clients from all over the world to do five day consultations. She also does outreach in the UK and beyond. Risca is passionate about improving the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities and started out by trying to help her brother, who was in foster care with her family. And that really led her to doing all of her work and becoming a BCBA. So I met Risca in person eight years ago when I was in the UK presenting and she and her team were really positive and just had a great time presenting with them. So I wanted to have Risca come back on the show. Today we're talking about her, her journey, but also really diving pretty deep into the role of behavior analysts who can learn tools to improve speech through an oral motor, a program called Talk Tools. So we talk a little bit more about that. Then on most shows, we also talk about fluency and just how to collaborate with speech pathologists to improve speech. So let's get to this important interview with Risca Solomon.

Intro: Welcome to the Turner Autism Around podcast for both parents and professionals in the autism world who want to turn things around, be less stressed and lead happier lives. And now your host, Autism mom behavior analyst and bestselling author, Dr. Mary Barbera.

Mary: Okay, Risca, it is so nice to see you again. Thanks for joining us today.

Risca: Thank you. Pleasure to be here.

Mary: Yeah, So we met about eight years ago when you invited me through your company, Skybound, to come to the UK to speak. And I've been following your work online since then, and you're really just a real pioneer in the field. So I want to start out with your fall into the autism world because it is very unique.

Risca Solomon on The Turn Autism Around Podcast

Risca: Yes. So my parents began doing respite and foster care for disabled children when I was 11 years old, and we had a lot of children throughout those, but they always said they never wanted children, particularly with autism, because they didn't feel they could necessarily handle the behavioral difficulties and things because they had some friends and things that had a child with autism that was quite challenging. And then somehow more children with more autism sort of features at that time started coming to visit. But then I also did some work experience in the local special needs school and happened to meet a child called Dan who had a lot of very significant needs. Whilst I was waiting to go to university, I did this work experience there and then I also got a part time job with a charity called Barnardos that did support work. And again at that charity I met Dan again and said, Well, I know him already. So they started asking, would I do some work, some support work, taking him into the community. And then I begged my mum to let us do some respite care because he was looking for a respite. I mean, he only came for a couple of nights. He was four years old, had very severe autism and a lot of other difficulties as well. And he came for a couple of nights across a couple of weeks. We were due to have him sort of once every fortnight for an overnight to give his mum a break. And after about the second night, we had a phone call saying, don't take him home. And unfortunately, after that, he rarely went home after that. That was 22 years ago now. And it turned out he wouldn't be able to return home due to the complexities of his mother's situation. So he has been in our family for 22 years. He just turned 26 last week. So yeah, he just shaped everything really, because I started looking at what interventions we needed to help him and to be able to keep him within our family because he was so challenged and so challenging. He was so aggressive, not toilet trained, no communication, and had to go through a care order here in the UK to make it official that he wasn't going back to his parents. And then we applied to officially long term foster him and then we eventually my parents eventually applied for a special guardianship order. And then when my husband and I got married and bought our own house, we applied to be respite foster carers. So he's always sort of gone back and forth between my parents and ourselves, and we're very fortunate now to live on two farms next door to each other. So he still comes back and forth between us, but in the search for finding how we could help him, I really got hooked on behavior analysis. Luckily, locally here we had a family doing behavior analysis local to us that used to have Vince Carbone come over as the consultant. So I got to know all about ABA, saw Vince every sort of six months and just fell in love with it. So then went on to do the Masters at Cardiff University. But it was all really to try to find what we could do to help Dan.

Mary: Yeah, and Lucas is 26 years old too, so very similar in terms of me trying to help Lucas me try and find, you know, techniques to help Lucas and then eventually finding my way to help other kids. So we have had a few foster families join our online course and that sort of thing. But it seems to be that, you know, kids, especially with very challenging behaviors, there's just not a whole lot of placements, whether you're talking about the US or the UK or it is certainly such a challenge and so.

Risca: Very, very challenging because the social workers are out of their depth. Oftentimes when it comes to these individuals with such complex needs and the level of support within the statutory services we found was just quite cruel with helping us with those complex needs. And A, they didn't know how much trauma damage they experienced because nobody really knows what went on for the first few years of his life. And so there were a lot of complexities and we just couldn't really get the answers. And it was only when we started to really delve into behavior analysis and we began to fight for funding, then to get a behave analysis program for him that, yeah, we've managed to find a path and a way through them, felt empowered then, but we still had to fight all of the system then to be able to get that funding. And as foster families, you're sort of fighting with one hand tied behind your back as well because, you know, you haven't quite got the same rights as biological families. So we had to also learn all the laws and the technicalities of being a foster family and what we could fight for and what we couldn't fight for and things. But in the end, we found our way through the system and managed to make the system work for us. But it has been difficult. And even when it got to 18 because we were special guardians by then, my parents were special guardians. At 18, I would have had no rights at all. So then we had to go through the system, then to become legal deputies. So myself, my mum and my husband, all three of us are now his legal deputy, so we can make those decisions for him.

Mary: Yeah, yeah. We got guardianship for Lucas when he was 18 as well. So in the United States, the same thing. It doesn't matter how disabled the child is, you know, at 18, we wouldn't technically be able to get medical information about him. Even though he can't converse, he can't make a phone call to find out for himself. He can't cross the street. He can't stay home alone. We had to get a lawyer, go to court. Spend, you know, $1,000 or more and get legal guardianship, which is like a whole nother animal. You know, I mean, we've done very little. We haven't done anything on guardianship, I think, on this podcast. But it is a real problem. So that really led you to become a behavior analyst, but also to found your Skybound Center, which is a multidisciplinary center. And tell us about the center and what you do and where it is located.

Risca: So I really didn't have a plan to run a business at all, just had a plan to become a behavioral analyst and help Dan and a few other children. But we really wanted to help Dan to learn to talk. And so we looked all over the place to look at what were the difficulties, because he babbled and he made lots of sounds. But using ABA alone, we could only get control, get echoic control of three of the sounds.

Mary: By what age was that?

Risca: So we started ABA at seven and this was sort of ten and above. This was coming up towards 12 that I was still sort of thinking, well, there still must be something out there because, you know, he's learned to do everything else. And actually, it was a BCBA that we knew at the time that said, Well, have you looked at Talk Tools?

Mary: And so let me interrupt real quick. So we have a podcast episode with Mags Kirk, all about talk tools. She's a SLP CBA. I met her actually when I was in the UK in person. She took my online course in the very beginning. So that's a really good introduction to talk tools. We're going to be talking more about talk tools and also Tamara Kasper is an SLP BCBA and she was on the podcast talking about Apraxia and autism. We can link both of those in the show notes, and these show notes will be

Risca’s Farm and Center for Children with Autism

Risca: And we find out about talk tools and some tactile cues and things. And I started posting the progress Dan was making with ABA and these extra speech interventions started posting some videos on YouTube and it was quite amazing. Within only a few months we went from sort of only three sounds to him trying to say whole words, him trying to use words for manding, and it just took off. It was unbelievable the amount of people that were then contacting me, asking us to provide consultation and support. And also in the videos you could see the setting that we live in, which is a 120 acre farm. Here. It's only a small farm, but people could see how much we were using that setting with Dan and we were able to work on appropriate walking and being appropriate around bodies of water and things like that. So we decided to try and do a farm diversification project and open a center here on a farm where we have families come in usually for five days. So Monday to Friday they come in for intensive therapy. We only have one family here at a time. And so they work with our behavior analysts, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists. And we are very hands on all week. So some families, they bring stuff with them, bring behavior therapists, etc. Other families just come themselves and the parents and we work with the child all week. We do a lot of feeding, a lot of speech, a lot of toilet training. We do whole program reviews, whatever that child needs. Some families come for one week just because they want to tackle one particular issue. The families might come in three or four times a year and we might even see them in between. They fly in from all over. You know, we've had families from India. I think we've got families booked from Saudi Arabia, we've had families booked from Canada and all over the place to sort of fly in for that special service. And some of the families fly in for two weeks at a time and things.

Mary: Wow.

Risca: So we have that as our sort of center and then we do a lot of outreach consultancy. So we've got I think at the moment we are on target to have about 14 BCBAs by the end of the year. So at the moment I think we've got nine or ten and we provide outreach consultancy and do sort of home program school programs and well as well all over the UK then and abroad. So we cover Belgium a lot and Ireland and all over the place. Cool.

Mary: So I mean that's amazing that you can bring families and I know the Carbone Clinic when they were open in New York, used to do that, used to have like three day consults and that sort of thing. So. You can make a lot of progress in three or five days, five days, two weeks, you know, and I'm assuming the parents are pretty involved when they arrive with the child.

Risca: Yes. So we like one parent to stay the whole time because the main aim is for us to, you know, put the interventions in, test all the interventions, make some progress, but then handover it to the parents. So we coach the parents, use behavioral skills training and handover to the parents by the end of the week. So they're confident going back home.

Mary: Yeah. So let's talk a little bit about the speech and feeding work that you do with your clients and you did with them. And I just interviewed, I think, 220 podcasts to 20 with Dr. Barbara Esch, who is the, the. The author of the EESA. And I mean, she's just a wealth of information. But we really didn't talk about the correlations between feeding and talking. And I think that's related to these talk tools. I know you're certified in talk tools, so why don't you for our listeners who don't know what talk tools is, why don't you tell us what it is and. Like how you're certified or the fact that your behavior analyst is really a speech kind of tool?

Speech and Feeding with Talk Tools

Risca: Yes. So I switch back to level four and I teach four talk tools, mostly around just pure, you know, just autism. I don't necessarily cover all the other disabilities with regard to the talk tools and how it's used. But what was fascinating to me was when I realized that talk tools had tasks that analyzed every sound that we make, as well as all the movements needed for feeding, and had broken it all down into the individual behaviors that are needed. So where does your jaw need to be? Where does your tongue need to be? Where do your lips need to be? And what does your voice need to be doing? Is it voiceless or voiced? Is it nasal? And so what talk tools have done exceptionally well is task analyze each of those sounds and the movements for feeding. And then they've developed lots of different programs and tools to be able to prompt the child into those positions. So if you want a child to be able to say the mmm sounds, they need to be able to keep the jaw up high, they need to be able to close their lips. They need to be able to send this, this the sound nasally. And so if they can't close their lips, if they haven't got that fluency, then we're not going to be able to get an echoic mmm from them. So we need to first work on making sure that they can push and close the lips. So talk tools have lots of different tools and techniques. They have a sense of the lip grasp that vibrates. So they have a lot of different tools with a lot of different prompts. You can have vibration, but you can add texture, you can add food, all of those sorts of things. So they just have this amazing selection of tools that you can then use to find what will prompt that child to do the movement you need. So if a child can't say the LLL sound, there's all different tools and programs that you can use to be able to teach the child first the movement and then how to put it into speech, and then how to put it into speech functionality.

Mary: Yeah, So way back probably in 2003 or four, I started learning about talk tools. And I never use talk tools for Lucas because Lucas always had speech. But I had a friend whose speech therapist used a little bit of it, and I started looking into it after I was a behavioral analyst. And in my first book, The Verbal Behavior Approach, I do actually mention talk tools as an option, and actually I've gotten some flack for that way back. And flak from speech pathologists who don't quote unquote believe in it. A lot of flack from behavioral analysts. I mean, most behavioral analysts do not think that working on... the see, this is this and I'm glad we're talking about this because I think behavioral analysts in general have this idea that oral motor is like putting peanut butter on the side and putting your tongue over to lick it. That's not what talk tools are. Talk Tools is a systematic way to get like if a child can't, like you said, close their lips or they can't kind of half smile for the E sound, then they're not going to be able to produce it. You can't just take your fingers and pull their lips out. But through these talk tools, through straws, blowing bubbles, biting on blocks, kind of chewy, like not handing a kid a chewy tube for sensory things. It's systematic, biting, blowing.

Risca: Yeah, it's all very systematic. And really, I often look at the individual child. I don't just put a generic talk tools program in. I look at the individual child and say, What behaviors have they got and what behaviors have they not got? And then based on the behaviors that I'm not seeing, and typically I very much think of it in the same way as you would with precision teaching and six plus six, you know, when you're looking at the fine motor skill and gross motor skills..

Mary: So a lot of my listeners aren't going to know what a six plus six is. So can we back up to that? Because I have had lots of fluency precision teachers on the show, Rick Kobina, Janet Twyman, among many others. So we can link those in the show notes. But six plus six is something that I know about I don't really talk about. So let's break that down. What is the six plus six?

Risca: Six, four, six is basically a selection of movements looking at the gross motor and some fine motor r with the hands. So squeeze, reach, grasp and release. They're all different movements. And there's actually been a study to show when they worked on those movements. And Isolation bit self-help skills improved because you need all of those to be able to do the pinch action, etc. to be able to do buttons and all of those types of things. And so that's really how I see talk tools is that we need to be able to open our jaw without our jaw sliding all over the place. And an awful lot of children I see their jaws sliding all over the place when they open their mouths. So that's why you were talking about the, you know, the bite blocks and the chewy tubes are very much to strengthen the jaw. If we've got a jaw that's moving all over the place because a jaw sliding left and right, when you're then trying to elevate your tongue is not going to be stable enough to get all of those other fine motor movements that we need for speech. So I look at it, you know, we need fluid jaw movement. We need to be able to close our lips. We need to be able to open the door to the height needed. We need to be able to move our tongue to elevate it, to get your alveolar sounds and your palatal sounds. You need to be able to attract your lips round your lips So there's always very specific movements we need. And if a child hasn't got the movements they're not going to be able to combine the movements to then make the speech sense. So if you're looking at all you need to have a lower jaw height. You need to have your lips open and you need to have that stay stable while you then elevate your tongue to be able to produce the sound. And then you need to also understand the difference between voiced, voiceless and nasal and know which of those to use at which times. Because you've got oh, and then you've got the, you know, the jaw and the lips and the tongue are doing almost the same thing. But one's going nasal, one's going all. So really, talk tools is about checking can the children do all of those movements? Because then each of those movements has to be combined in different combinations to produce each of the speech sounds we need. And yes, there was a lot of flak for it because people think, well oral motors are random stores. It's random. It's certainly not. You know, if I use horns, I'm working on specific things. What am I using the horns for? And oftentimes I'm working backwards going, what is the behavior the child can't do? What are the tools and techniques I can actually use to be able to prompt that child? And then, as with any prompts, I'm trying to fade those prompts out and make them less intrusive until I can get them to the imitation or eventually to the echoic. Because we're always thinking, function, function, function. How do we get it into function as quickly as possible?

Mary: Yeah. And I remember when I got back from the U.K., I started my online course in March of 2015. So we are just celebrating, and have celebrated our eight year anniversary. I came to the UK, I believe in May, and I was already in. Quote unquote into talk tools. I learned about it. I had met the creator of it. I've even tried to do a little bit of research on it. But then when I got to the UK to present you and a few others, Mags Kirk was there. There were a few other people, mostly speech pathologists, I think, and you and some other behavior analysts who were really into it and certified and all of that. So when I came back, we started using it more with the speech pathologist that was on to make the case for because I had started my course, but I was still seeing clients 1 to 1, including Jack and Cody, which they're in my courses and I have permission to talk about them. But Cody, for instance, had a big problem with trolling and I didn't realize that talk shows were amazing for drooling and he was drooling. He was probably four at the time and he was drooling for years and with some pretty simple talk tools, methods and 15 minute sessions of talk tools a day. The other thing is it's not it's not like you hand them this bite block and they walk around. It is very systematic. Okay, Now it's time to talk to us and it's sitting in a chair and it's and you can't do it if a child is resistant or has any problem behavior. So, I mean, everything is shaping and it's very gentle and that's super important, too. And then we also had Mags Kirk do a couple of video consults with my client, Jack, and he had major feeding problems not chewing and swallowing, but the sight of mushy food, utensils would freak him out. So he just looked like an extremely picky eater. But the problem is, is that well, one of the things I've seen over the years is that if you see an extremely picky eater or somebody that's not doing well or not progressing off of a bottle or weaning or progressing from soft baby food to crunchy foods or insisting on crunchy foods and no, nothing mushy can touch your mouth. A lot of times that is very much related to their issues with talking to. So talk tools are not just to help talking. It's also to help things like drooling and feeding, which in my latest book Turn Autism Around, the chapter on Feeding It Chapter ten. I worked with Keith Williams to review that chapter, provide additional resources. But there's actually a 2019 study that shows that picky eating and feeding issues can be a diagnostic factor for autism. And I'm sure you see it in your clinic all the time, feeding and talking go hand in hand.

Behavioral versus Skills for Feeding Patterns

Risca: We get referrals a lot for children. We're told that it's behavioral, that they're storing their food. And, you know, particularly those children who are storing their food in their cheeks and things, it's often actually because they can't chew properly, they can't use their tongue properly, they can't move the bolus around to get it into the between their teeth. So they're holding it in. They're waiting for saliva to break it down a little bit, to then be able to swallow it. And you see those children that are packers and packing it in. And again, often it's because they haven't got enough range of movement with their tongue to be able to move the bolus around. So they're packing it in so they can push the food to the back of their mouth to swallow. So we see an awful lot of children that are referred to us for behavioral feeding when actually we have to go further back and do some oral placement work and make sure they've got all the actual behaviors they need to feed. Have they got chewing, Have they got appropriate jaw strength? Have they got appropriate tongue actualization? We need to get all of that done first to make sure they're safe to feed.

Mary: Yeah. And we also interviewed Melanie Potok, who is a feeding expert, and she has a lot of great tips, too. We can link her in the show notes. But yeah, so I feel like you and I risk we're, you know, hand in hand. Like, we totally agree on talk tools, especially for children that have speech issues that are not vocal or minimally vocal, that can be used for articulation issues, drooling and beating. So where's the research?

Talk Tools and ABA Research

Risca: So that is why we're working really hard. And I'm glad you asked because we all make it really hard. I mean, when I was looking at speech interventions, for Dan I was actually really quite shocked and upset to find a study back in 1968 that was done in London, here in the U.K., that looked at tactile cues to prompt speech sounds and operant conditioning. And I just thought, wow, back in 1968, collaborations like that were happening and came out with good outcomes. And yet that research where is that research now on using these tactile cues and things like that. So we actually were very fortunate to get a European grant. This was prior to Brexit. So it's still happening at the moment. We still got the grant money up until October this year, so we had a three year fully funded. He had PhD students. So we've actually got a PhD student in collaboration with the University of South Wales and the ABA department. Richard May is the supervisor there and they've been brilliant, really supportive. And, this research grant is called a Cast two and it's about bringing universities and businesses together to do research on something that the business chooses. So of course we chose Talk Tools and ABA. So we've actually collaborated with a school in London, in Ealing Blooming Tree School, and they've actually got a BCBA there that's just gone through certification and talk tools, and she approached me, Alice, quickly and approached me and said, Could you give me some supervision on implementing this to some of our children? And I said, Well, actually we're looking for a place to do the research so we can really control the training and make sure the fidelity of the interventions. So we are working with them to implement the talk tools. We have got extended baselines and randomization and all sorts to get good experimental control. And Sophie Bradbury's, our student, and she's worked so hard, she's spent so long during COVID was when we first got the grant. So she was having to work a lot in isolation at the time and did all her sort of literature reviews and everything and really got to grips with what talk tools all about. And now we're in the intervention phase. So we're currently taking data with you to finish taking the data in July, and then Sophie will be writing up then hopefully for the next few months after that. So I don't know what the outcomes yet will be, but the children are starting to make some good progress, which is very exciting. Already quite a few of them have got new sounds and things. And the interesting thing is, we're actually doing it with a selection of non-verbal children and verbal highly vocal children, but they are missing some sounds. So it'll be really interesting to see what the results are with the different facts that all tools might have with these different ranges of children.

Mary: I know when I came back from the UK years ago, the speech pathologist that I was working with didn't know much about it, and she did get online training, at least to the first level of certification. Is that first level of certification still available online and is it still available for people that are not speech and language pathologists?

Risca: Yes. So they have got what they've just relaunched their certification, actually. And so the course that I teach with Renee Roy Hill for them about ABA and talk tools is part of the optional package now for level two. So you can get level one, which I believe now is sort of two courses and introductory to what used to be called the three part treatment plan and then program planning. So that's level one. And then you go into level two where they look at feeding, but also then you can take optional units in the top four, the populations that are most relevant to you because Talk tools has got sort of courses now for adults that may have had strokes and things like that as well. So yeah, there's certainly different levels of certification. So there's a level one and two that can be done online. Level three, they have been experimented with online, but often it is. Has been done previously in person and then level four has been done in person. So I'm level four, but specifically for autism. So a sort of limited level four, if you like, because I'm not an SLP, I'm a BCBA.

Mary: Most of the people that do the certification are SLPs?

Risca: They are SLPs. Yes, but we are, as I say, looking at different options because the way I use tool tools completely adheres to the seven dimensions of behavior analysis. And so now with this research and how we are refining the data collection on the exercises and things that certainly we're looking to make it more accessible to behavior analysts so as actually we can look at it with a behavioral analytic lens.

Mary: Sounds fascinating. We'll be interested to see the research and maybe we can, you know, in the fall or winter or whenever it's published or available, we can add that to the show notes. So if you're listening now, you can look at the show notes. We're going to have anything we mention Link there. And, you know, I do want to say that it is something that you need training on. You can't just, you know, go out and buy the talk tools staff and start messing around because you really do need to know what you're doing. The other things you can do. If this sounds a little bit too overwhelming to just tackle, right, Right. The second is, I think if you read the term Autism Around book, especially the chapters on talking and the chapter on feeding, you will get some ideas about ways to, you know, bottles and pacifiers really do need to be weaned. We need to look at getting kids not to graze all day, to be eating and drinking things with calories throughout the day so that they're not hungry for meals. And just, you know, I have an easy, medium, difficult food list that you can easily do, you know, just kind of things you can do to have your child eat better. And, you know, if they are still on a pacifier or bottle after age one or they're still on baby foods pureed, you know, that is part of you need to progress. And if the child is not willing or able to progress, then you need to seek help and seek an evaluation and a feeding program, or at least talk to your doctor about it.

Risca: And that is really important. I remember attending an ABAI presentation by Piazza and the title was What You Don't Know Might Harm Somebody. And it was she was actually covering things like she showed some videos of you using chewy tubes and things and saying you need to get the oral placement message checked. So even for us as professionals and that's really where I ended up looking down this route is because, you know, I wanted that collaboration with the people that knew what to do because Dan had major feeding issues at the start of this as well. He would nibble tiny bits of food and we just were treating it behaviorally. And then I worked out well, no, actually he hasn't got the skills to be able to do it. And so, you know, through using that food, finding talk tools to help with his speech, we helped with his eating. So the point now is really anything we ask him to and he can handle it all and eat it all proficiently.

Mary: Yeah, that reminds me of, like, little Jack that we had Mags Kirk do a little bit of video consultation where he refused utensils like he could finger feed, chew, swallow. So you were like, What's going on here? He refused utensils and that was because he couldn't, like, get his lips around it and and, you know, get his lips around to clear the spoon, which is a talk, talk, tools, kind of skill and a language kind of skill. We started out with a corn chip on a spoon and progressed from there. So I have a bonus video in my courses on, you know, with these videos showing exactly what we did. Again, we didn't, we didn't. I don't think we have any videos of talk tools we might have, but for the most part, I just say like, be aware that this isn't all behavior of a kid screaming with utensils. It could be a lot more.

Risca: Yeah, talk to us about side feeding spoon programs and then they have front feeding spoon programs. And yes, so many children cannot round their lips and get the seal to be able to clear their spoon. And so they've got techniques to actually prompt those behaviors.

Mary: Yeah. Yeah. Well, you sound like a wealth of information, especially with this area. But I know you have expertise in your center, do verbal behavior, you do peak, you do RFT, you do so many things. And just eight years ago when I was there, I was super impressed just by the people in the audience and by the collaboration and the positivity that has always been just part of you and your team. So thank you for sharing all that knowledge. Before I let you go, I want to ask a final question. Part of my podcast goals are to not just help the kids, but help the parents and professionals be less stressed and lead happier lives. So you're a mom of two boys. You've got your foster brother, Dan, you have a farm, you have a center. How do you keep yourself less stressed?

Risca: It has to be acceptance and commitment therapy. It's always science, I'm afraid, Mary. It's no easy answer. I do find myself using ACT everyday. So as you said, we use RFT's, Peak, we use acceptance and commitment training or therapy, and I literally use it on myself every day. I have to use all the different techniques.

Mary: So I did a session with Jonathan Tarbox on ACT. We can link in the show notes. But just quickly, how do you use ACT every day? Like what?

Risca: Yeah, so I have my values listed on my phone in my notes. So as you know, if you have worked your values out, if you've identified what's important to you that your long term reinforces. So when I've got to make tough decisions and do tough things, I can easily refer to my values and I literally refer to those on a daily basis. I use a lot of diffusion techniques and a lot of progressive movement techniques. So you know, your mind is there to beat you up. I am constantly the guilty mother. Am I doing enough? And all of the rest of it? Oh, I've missed this, so I can't do this at school or I can't spend every holiday with them. So the guilty mother story. So I use a lot of diffusion techniques like naming the story, and I use a lot of present moment, a lot of committed actions. So making sure when I'm looking at my values right, what are the actions I'm doing this week towards those? And yeah, it's a lot of that. Every part of the hexaflex I am constantly navigating around and the Joy of Parenting Book actually was a really good book that I read recently on holiday, and it was just so brilliant to read that book, to know how to use it with my children as well as, you know, in work and everything else. But yeah, it all comes back to the science to behave now, since I'm constantly using the science in all its ways, shapes and forms, whether I'm in work or out of work and managing, Yes, my own mental health and everything, I don't know how I would do it without the science, to be honest.

Mary: That's great. That's great. All right. Well, I will let you go. Thanks again for all of your time and expertise and wishing you the best and can't wait to read the research once it comes out.

Risca: Thank you, Mary. Lovely to join each day.

Mary: If you're a parent or an autism professional and enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out my online course and community where we take all of this material and we apply it. You'll learn life changing strategies to get your child or clients to reach their fullest potential. Join me for a free online workshop at where you can learn how to avoid common mistakes. You can see videos of me working with kids with and without autism, and you can learn more about joining my online course and community at a very special discount. Once again go to for all the details. I hope to see you there.