Friday, July 10, 2020

FREE Online Autism Training from the OPI Montana Autism Education Project


The OPI Montana Autism Education Project is offering online training in Teaching Procedures, Behavior Interventions and Focused Topics to public school staff in Montana who educate students with autism spectrum disorders. The training provides 77 courses and up to 109 OPI renewal units.

A listing and description of the training content can be found here. The training can be taken for OPI renewal units, ASHA CEUs and SWP/MFT CEUs. 

New groups start the beginning and middle of each month and you will be sent information then to begin your training. You will have 90 days to complete the training.

You can register for the online training here.


ASHA members and/or MT state licensed SLPs are qualified to earn ASHA CEUs for completing the online Relias Learning curriculum. Independent study plans are limited to 20 hours. ASHA requires that Independent Study activities are approved 30 days prior to the start of the learning activity. It works best to get the ASHA approval BEFORE registering for the courses.  

Participants fill out the form and send it to the Montana MSHA rep. Contact Doug Doty at for information on whom to send it to. The link below will take you directly to the Independent Study form:

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Eye tracking reveals early communication problem in autistic children

At 10 months of age, infants later diagnosed with autism rarely draw others’ attention to an object or event, a new study suggests1.
The results hint that early treatments that focus on joint attention — a behavior in which two people focus on the same thing — could ease communication problems in autistic children.
The study is the first to use eye tracking to assess how babies initiate joint attention. It fits with other research over the past few years showing that joint-attention measures may help identify autism before other autism traits emerge, and with long-standing work showing that initiation of joint attention is particularly relevant to autism.

Autism Mostly Caused By Genetics, Study Finds

In what’s being called the largest study of its kind, researchers say that the likelihood of developing autism is overwhelmingly rooted in a person’s genetic makeup.
Nearly 81 percent of autism risk is hereditary, according to findings published this week in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
Heritability accounted for a varying level of risk across the countries studied, with a high of 87 percent in Israel compared to 51 percent in Finland.
Overall, however, the study found that the vast majority of autism risk was associated with genetics. Environmental factors “contributed minimally” and maternal effects such as the mother’s weight played a “nonexistent or minimal” role.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Unusual eating behaviors may be a new diagnostic indicator for autism

 Atypical eating behaviors may be a sign a child should be screened for autism, according to a new study from Penn State College of Medicine.
Research by Susan Mayes, professor of psychiatry, found that atypical eating behaviors were present in 70% of children with autism, which is 15 times more common than in neurotypical children. 
Atypical eating behaviors may include severely limited food preferences, hypersensitivity to food textures or temperatures, and pocketing food without swallowing.
According to Mayes, these behaviors are present in many 1-year-olds with autism and could signal to doctors and parents that a child may have autism.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

ASD Intervention: How Do We Measure Effectiveness?

Question 1: “What behaviors should change as a result of the intervention?”
Virtually any ASD intervention that is truly effective will result in observable change in behavior. For example, a speech intervention may very well result in increased spoken language (e.g., novel words, greater rate of utterances). An academic intervention should result in specific new academic skills (e.g., independent proficiency with particular math operations). An exercise purported to decrease the occurrence of challenging behavior will, if effective, result in a lower rate of specific challenging behaviors (e.g., tantrums, self-injury). 
As “consumers” of ASD interventions, you and your family member have every right to expect that the marketer will identify specific, objective, and measurable changes in behaviors that indicate treatment efficacy. Scientists refer to such definitions as “operational definitions” – these are definitions that are written using observable and measurable terms. If the marketer insists on using ill-defined, “fuzzy” descriptions of treatment benefit (e.g., “increased sense of well-being”, “greater focus and intentionality”, an increased “inner balance” or “regulation”), then “Buyer Beware!” These kinds of outcome goals will leave you guessing about treatment effect. Insist that operational definitions of target behaviors be agreed upon prior to starting the intervention.

Autism Non-Verbal Medical Alert Seat Belt Cover

$26 on Amazon. 

Autism Behind the Wheel: Teaching Teens and Young Adults with ASD to Drive


Monday, July 8, 2019

Great Ways to Improve Life and Social Skills In the Kitchen

Kids with autism are more likely than their peers to have food aversions, which leads to a poor quality diet. Inviting children into the kitchen to experience various textures and temperatures is often the first step to eventually tasting something new. Research shows that children are more likely to eat a meal when they are involved in its preparation and that children who are exposed to food outside of meal times tend to have diverse diets.
The benefits of cooking extend beyond diet. Cooking is a valuable life skill that fosters confidence and independence. Being in the kitchen with others can improve communication and social skills. Following a recipe teaches reading, listening, math, and sequencing. Learning to prepare food can promote sensory integration and focus. Finally, many parents find that cooking with their child is a gratifying opportunity for connection.

Math Teaching Tip: Build a Bridge from Concrete to Abstract with the "Concrete–Representational–Abstract" Approach

When working on math skills, it can be helpful to take more abstract concepts and demonstrate them with concrete objects and pictures. This allows students to obtain an understanding of the core concepts behind the math problems they're learning (Witzel & Little, 2016) and can help close gaps in mathematics knowledge (Allsopp et al., 2008).

One way to achieve this is to teach using an instructional method called the "Concrete-Representational-Abstract" (CRA) approach.

Episode 9: Gender and Autism

As our understanding of autism grows, researchers are finding that the way we diagnose autism may be biased.
They're also finding, through early research and small studies, that gender fluidity may be more prevalent in people with autism than the general population.
In this episode, we'll dive into both of these topics through the experiences of three autistic advocates.

Subscribe at the below platforms to get new episodes as they are released:

From Autism Speaks.