Written by Becca Byers

Laura Peterhoff is a BCBA and LBA in Rockland County, NY. Currently she works “very part-time” with teen and preteen clients, plus she consults at a school (pre-K through 6th grade) specializing in students with an autism spectrum diagnosis.

Like many mothers who are also Board Certified Behavior Analysts, Laura uses Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) with clients, as well as her own children (ages 3.5 years and 7 months).

Through her experience learning Precision Teaching with CentralReach, Laura has identified five powerful techniques for superior outcomes.

  1. Use free operant methods that truly free up responses
  2. Use short timed trials (starting at 5-15 seconds) to build fluency
  3. Adjust aims (goals) for age/developmental level
  4. Slice back if progress to the aim is slow
  5. Measure variability and rate on the Standard Celeration Chart (SCC)

Letter Sounds with a Toddler

During and after the 6-8 week Precision Teaching program, “I did a lot of work with my daughter (Ayra, 4.5 year old) on sound fluency, number identification, and more,” said Laura. For sound fluency, Laura used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. But the daughter “was having a hard time retaining the sounds with the lessons.”

In the chart below, you can see Arya began with four letter sounds (a, e, s, m), but she had some errors (displayed as x on the Standard Celeration Chart below).

Laura applied these techniques:


1. Free operant. Initially, Laura displayed letter sounds on flash cards, which she laid on a table and pointed at in random order. But then she changed to letters on a paper sheet, which freed up the learner to point/respond at her own rate (see red condition line above, “change to paper”).

2. Short timed trials. At first, Arya was asked to perform for 30 seconds at a time… but she was unable to perform for such a long period. Laura dropped to 15 seconds, which enabled the 3-year-old to better perform for the whole duration. Arya’s errors decreased.

3. Adjust aims. After about 2 weeks, Arya’s was performing near the frequency aim (yellow band). Though Ayra never achieved the full research-based performance standard (see The Precision Teaching Book), the aim was adjusted to 60-100 in consideration of her age and oral motor development.

Number Identification with a Toddler

Laura also worked on number identification. The chart below has some similar red condition lines — change to paper (free operant) and shortened timing. However, you’ll also notice the telltale crossover in the first condition: the incorrect Xs are increasing, and the correct dots are decreasing. This “snowplow” learning picture may indicate problems with discrimination.


4. Slice Back. When Laura saw the “snowplow” on the chart, she knew to slice back — to go from practicing numbers 1-4 down to practicing only numbers 1-2. Afterward, Ayra accelerated toward the yellow aim band, and Laura could re-introduce more numbers.

Using the Standard Celeration Chart with Clients

While Laura has worked with individuals with intellectual disabilities and/or emotional/behavioral disorders for 17 years, she’s now rethinking how to traditionally define the goals and record data and beginning to use it for her clients.

5. Measuring variability and rate. With a client who has autism, Laura is measuring how much the learner walks more than an arm’s length away from the staff, or cleans up his room. While the percentage is fine, “I don’t think the rate is that great…. The walk can be variable, and the program we’re using doesn’t show the trend,” said Laura.

With the digital  Standard Celeration Chart by Chartlytics, a CentralReach Product, Laura sees how many  responses she receives per minute when it comes to cleaning up the room and started a mand fluency program for lack of spontaneity with manding.

“I like how precise Chartlytics and the SCC is,” said Laura. “I love how you can see variability in the data, how quickly or slowly progress is occurring, etc.  It takes a lot of the guesswork out of the analysis.”