Thursday, July 4, 2019

FREE Online Autism Training from the OPI Montana Autism Education Project

The OPI Montana Autism Education Project is offering 84 hours of 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 can provide 79 OPI Continuing Education Units.

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

New groups start the beginning each month and you will be sent information then to begin your training. 

You can find more information and register for the online training here.


Information for Speech-Language Providers

ASHA members and/or MT state licensed SLPs are qualified to earn ASHA CEUs for completing the online Relias Learning curriculum. In 2011, a MT licensed SLP completed the ATS training as an "Independent Study" course and earned ASHA CEUs.

ASHA requires that Independent Study activities are approved 30 days prior to the start of the learning activity.

Independent Study forms should be dated at least 30 days prior to the date of the first certificate for completing a module. Below is a link for the ASHA Independent study form. Independent study plans are limited to 20 hours. 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:

Friday, October 5, 2018

Supports for Students with ASD, Emotional Disturbance, and other Behavior Challenges

Miles City
November 1st.

1. Discuss how to design interventions based on assessment data.
2. Plan IEP's that include the logistics of service and how to target skills across the day.
3. Consider how instructional control impacts therapy and progress.
Round table discussions
Lunch is on your own, and will be available at the County Club, 6 renewal units will be available.
Presented by Lorri Coulter & Chelsea Phipps, Consultants for the OPI Montana Autism Education Project.

Early interventions, explained

Here’s what researchers know about early intervention.

What are the main types of early intervention?
ABA is the most popular of the therapies offered early in childhood. ABA now refers to a broad group of therapies that use reward to encourage and reinforce a set of skills.

One such treatment, the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), applies the techniques of ABA during play to help a child express feelings, form relationships and speak. By facilitating positive interactions, the therapy is designed to help the child build social-emotional skills alongside cognition and language.

Another leading intervention based on ABA, called pivotal response treatment (PRT), is also applied during play. It targets pivotal areas of development, such as motivation and self-management, rather than specific skills. This approach teaches a child how to respond to verbal cues. For instance, when a child requests a toy, the therapist or parent asks the child to name the toy; the child gets the toy once she complies.

Other treatments based on ABA target specific skills.

Read more here at Spectrum.

PECS Level I and II Registration Now Open

October 29/30           Great Falls - Level 2*
November 1/2            Billings - Level 1
December 3/4            Kalispell - Level 2*
December 5/6            Missoula - Level 2*

​​(Training locations to be determined. *You must have attended a PECS Level 1 training to attend a Level 2 training.)

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is used to rapidly teach communication skills to those with limited functional speech.  Training in PECS begins by teaching a spont​aneous request and goes on to teach additional communicative functions such as responding to questions and commenting.  Participants will learn how to implement the six phases of PECS, plus attributes, through presenter demonstrations, video examples and role-play opportunities.   

CEUs: 12 OPI renewal units. ASHA CEUs are not available.

PECS Level 1 Training: 

This intensive two-day training is designed to teach participants the theory behind the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and the protocols for how to appropriately implement the six phases of PECS.

PECS Level 2 Training: Prerequisite: PECS Level 1 Training

This two-day training focuses on creating lessons and activities to promote communication throughout the day. Beginning with a review of the Pyramid Approach to Education as it relates to PECS, we guide you in refining your PECS implementation and discuss current challenges you have experienced within the six phases.

NOTE:  EACH ATTENDEE MUST BRING THEIR OWN COPY of the Second Edition PECS Training Manual to the training. Manuals may not be shared among attendees.  You will NOT be admitted to the training if you do not bring an individual copy of that manual.

You can register here. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Ph.D. candidate April Boin Choi looks to identify ways to increase early detection of autism in infants.

As a possible pathway to earlier diagnosis, Choi is examining forms of communication, specifically hand gestures. Although researchers have long studied gesturing in preverbal children, less is known about gesturing in high-risk populations. Working in the Boston Children’s Hospital Lab of Cognitive Neuroscience, directed by Professor Charles Nelson, Choi has been able to study a cohort of infants at high risk for developing autism.

“We found that high-risk infants produce fewer gestures, and that infants with fewer gestures at age 1 were later found to have more language difficulties by age 2 and were more likely to receive autism diagnoses,” says Choi.

Even in the hands of a skilled clinician, says Nelson, reliably diagnosing autism in children under two years of age is next to impossible. “April has convincingly shown that before the infant’s first birthday they are already showing early motor signs of the disorder,” he says. “If April’s work can be replicated with a larger sample size and perhaps in low-risk infants as well, it may well pave the way for clinicians to identify infants who will develop autism before their first birthday.”

Read more here.

Quashing sex bias in autism research calls for participant rainbow

In 2010, a group of psychologists pointed out that behavioral researchers overwhelmingly rely on participants from Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic societies — what they termed a ‘WEIRD’ sample — to draw conclusions about human characteristics1. They demonstrated that theories drawn from this subpopulation may not apply to the rest of the world. In fact, they contend that results from these samples often represent outliers.

In autism research, much of our knowledge is similarly drawn from a WEIRD population. But there is further ‘weirdness’: For far too long, autism researchers have assumed that what they’ve learned from males applies to people of other sexes and genders.

This is perhaps understandable given the history of the field. Initial reports of autism were primarily in boys, and researchers have long considered autism a male-dominant condition. In the past two decades, the consensus has been that the ratio is four or five boys for every girl diagnosed.

But work over the past 20 years points to a lower ratio for the condition. For example, a meta-analysis published in 2017 showed that in prevalence studies that rely on direct assessment in the general population instead of on clinical or educational databases, the ratio falls to 3.25-to-1 or so2. Studies of younger siblings of children with autism have similarly revealed that in this group, there is a 3.18-to-1 ratio3.

Read more here at Spectrum.

Save The Date(s) - STAR Trainings

The OPI Montana Autism Education Project is planning a series of STAR trainings across Montana in the spring of 2019. The STAR Program teaches children with autism the critical skills identified by the National Research Council.

The ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) instructional methods of discrete trial training, pivotal response training and teaching functional routines form the instructional base of this comprehensive program for children with autism.

Tentative* dates are:

Kalispell: March 4-5
Missoula: March 6-7
Sidney: March 26-27
Billings: April 8-9
Great Falls: April 10-11
Registration will open in late January/early February.
* Pending approval of the State Superintendent

Archived Webinar - Self-Injury and ASD – Updates

Listen to this Q&A as Lauren Moskowitz discusses self-injury and other challenging behaviors.

View the archived webinar here at the Autism Research Institute.

Autism and Wandering Resources

A short video about autism and wandering.

Wandering Prevention Resources from Autism Speaks.

An Investigator's Package with specific questions on page 3 of a subsection that educators should have when contacting law enforcement.

Other resources on wandering (elopement.)

Does prenatal Tdap vaccination increase autism risk for infants?

This new study, however, sought to assess whether there was a link between prenatal Tdap vaccination and development of ASD. Researchers studied more than 109,000 mothers at Kaiser Permanente Southern California hospitals between 2011 and 2014. The children of the vaccinated mothers were followed for several years, and ASD was diagnosed in 1.6% of the children of mothers vaccinated during their pregnancies.

The report reveals that the incidence of autism diagnoses declined throughout the study period, from 2% to 1.5% in children of mothers who were not vaccinated during pregnancy, and from 1.8% to 1.2% in mothers who did receive the vaccination. Overall, researchers note, the incidence of ASD in the vaccinated group was 3.78 per 1000 person-years compared with 4.05 per 1000 person-years in the unvaccinated group.

“We found no evidence of increased risk for ASD diagnosis associated with Tdap vaccination during pregnancy,” the report concludes.

Read more here in Contemporary Pediatrics.