By Morgan Andreanopoulos,
In May 2020, West Lafayette BCBA Karlee Greives was searching for life skills practice for an 18 year old client. When the pandemic presented challenges with community outings, Karlee began looking for opportunities for her client to gain these life skills while at the center. This is when the idea of the CornerStore was born.
The CornerStore is a room within the center that’s set up to imitate a grocery store. Food, beverages and household items line the shelves along with labels and prices listed. The “store” has a cashier station, with a conveyer belt and “employee” aprons. There are signs posted to wear a mask upon entering. This mirrors what many stores have implemented since the spring of 2020. Some of Karlee’s clients have a mask desensitization program. She reports they have been able to wear their masks during this time of programming because they love going into the “store.”
Clients can practice shopping, making decisions, counting money, understanding a budget and engaging socially with others. This includes asking store “employees” for help, finding items, asking for prices and much more. Their ABA therapist is there to guide them through these steps. The therapist can take on the role of the CornerStore “employee” when they are ready to check out their items.
The store acts as reinforcement alone for some clients. Others are able to work on these skills and earn their favorite reinforcement afterwards
“We’re Maximizing Those Who Struggle. We give them experiences they may not be able to have with COVID or behavior problems limiting their community involvement,” said Greives. “It also gives them practice in the mock store that may then increase their ability to go into a community store. We’re Embracing Those Who Love by providing skills practice that will help the parents. They may be able to enjoy more activities as a family.”
Once the store was up and running in West Lafayette, our Madison Avenue location thought this was an amazing opportunity for their clients, as well. A month later, they created a version of the store at that location as well.
For this new location, BCBA Angie Robbins began the inventory list, finding a variety of brands, gluing boxes, giving the store aisles, and developing “employee” badges. When the clients saw the store on the first day it opened, you could see the look of excitement in their eyes as they browsed the aisles and wrote their shopping lists.
What were some first impressions of the store?
“I spoke with the staff in the morning about how they could use the store with their clients to increase certain skills,” said Robbins. “It was amazing to watch them make it come to life. I saw lots of smiles, laughter, and great pretend play. The first impressions were priceless!”
This room has enhanced many of the opportunities for different programming for all ages, but especially for our older clients who are starting to work on more vocational skills.
One of the clients independently came up with the idea of adding “gift cards” at the check-out aisle. Robbins immediately followed through on this addition, as she felt it would make the store even more realistic.
How does it relate to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) based therapy?
ABA involves changing the environment to promote socially significant behaviors. Ultimately, we aim to generalize those behaviors to other settings.
“By creating a store within the center, our clients are able to work on vocational skills to help them be successful. They also can work through problem areas they may experience in the community in the comfort of the center,” said Robbins.
One of the tools Cornerstone uses in programming is the Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS). This tool offers a wide range of targeted skills that are appropriate for clients to learn.
The CornerStore allows clients to work on these skills within the center and then generalize those skills in the community when they are out with their family.
“This really opens the opportunities for success for our clients and our families,” said Robbins. “Our BCBAs have already started to put these targets into their clients’ programs and they are working on them daily. The potential for growth is vast. I’m so excited to see where this takes our clients’ development.”
The many hours of concept-creating to developing the details of each store have all been worth it for Greives and Robbins, but most importantly for the clients. They have been able to improve in these skill areas and have fun in the process!
Learn more about Cornerstone Autism Center’s Greenwood Madison location here.
Learn more about Cornerstone Autism Center’s West Lafayette location here.
May 3, 2021, Morgan Andreanopoulos