Friday, July 23, 2021

DISCONTINUED - Online Autism Training from the OPI Montana Autism Education Project

When we went to renew our contract with the provider, they insisted on contract terms which are not allowable under Montana law. Thus, we can no longer offer the training. 

If you want to be informed of future training opportunities from the OPI Montana Autism Education Project, you can subscribe to our mailing list here

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Benefits of a Positive Behavior Support Plan for Autism


So what would be the ideal way to address problem behavior? When it comes to our children we just want difficult behavior to stop as quickly and effortlessly as possible. Whatever it takes…rewards or even punishment are frequent weapons in the parental arsenal against challenging behaviors.

But if the problem behavior has a function, or if the behavior is a way to express an unmet need, rewarding or punishing the behavior may not be the answer. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) teaches us that behavior occurs as individuals get something out of it; ABA specifically targets the four functions of behavior which are:

  • Escape: The child behaves in a way that may get him/her out of doing something  he/she doesn’t like, or the behavior helps him/her avoid it all together
  • Attention: Frequently a child’s problem behavior is simply a way to get attention from parents or teachers
  • Access to tangibles: The child may display problematic behavior to gain access to something he/she likes or enjoys, for example a tantrum may result in more time on the iPad
  • Automatic reinforcement: In this instance, the behavior actually provides the reinforcement; stimming (self-stimulatory behavior) is an example where the behavior itself feels good to the child

Understanding the function behind an autistic child’s difficult behavior often leads parents to behavioral research which suggests formulating a comprehensive plan to address the behavior appropriately with evidence-based principles and interventions.

Read more here at Autism Parenting magazine. 

Study finds toddlers with ASD do not differ in progress made in comparison of two treatment types

A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP), published by Elsevier, reports that the type of one-on-one treatment plans delivered to toddlers, aged 12-30 months, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) did not lead to any significantly different outcomes. Neither the type of evidence-based intervention provided, nor the number of hours of therapy were shown to have an impact.

The treatments, or intervention methods, delivered by specialized staff to the very young, during the study were either the Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) or Early Start Denver Model (ESDM). The researchers found negligible overall effects on receptive or expressive language development, nonverbal abilities, or autism symptom severity after one year of direct intervention, which also included twice-monthly parental coaching. 

"Our results should reassure parents who do not have access to the exact treatment type or the number of treatment hours that they would ideally like their recently diagnosed toddlers to receive," said Sally Rogers, PhD, lead author of the study and Professor Emeritus at the UC Davis Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and the MIND Institute. "Given the lack of differences across these four groups, it may well be that it's the common elements rather than the differences that are resulting in children's similar progress."

Read more here. 

Differential Diagnosis in Children with Autistic Symptoms and Subthreshold ADOS Total Score: An Observational Study

Background: Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) share some symptoms with children with other neurodevelopmental disorders (ie, intellectual disability or communication disorders or language disorders). These similarities can make difficult to obtain an accurate diagnosis, which is essential to give targeted treatments to the patients. We aim to verify in our study if children with autistic traits who undergo to Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule had specific clinical diagnosis.

Patients and Methods: We selected 73 children tested with ADOS-G or ADOS-2, for the presence of autistic symptoms. The whole sample did not reach the cut-off of ADOS and did not receive the ASD diagnosis, according to DSM-5.

Results: Results of this study showed that in order of frequency and early diagnosis, communication disorders (CD), mild intellectual disability (mID) and the attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) represent the most common final clinical diagnosis in children with autistic traits.

Conclusion: Our results showed as the CD was the common diagnosis of these children and that often associated with younger age. Moreover, analyses of ADOS domains and the difference of individual items between groups did not show the capacity to differentiate between different neurodevelopmental disorders in terms of differential diagnosis, and this confirms the need for integrating multiple sources of information during the diagnostic process.

Read more here. 

Sunday, July 4, 2021

2020 Child Count Data on Montana Students with Autism

 1876 = 1876

So here is the big news. The number of students with autism in the 2020 school year did not change from the number of students with autism in the 2019 school year. The Child Count for both years is exactly the same number - 1876 students with autism in Montana public schools. 

We checked by comparing the changes in year to year district-level data. We checked again comparing year to year county-level data. We checked a third time by comparing year to year data on race. For each set of data, the number of students with an identification of autism increased and decreased by the exact same amount and the net sum was zero. 

Perhaps COVID had a role: 

Spring pre-school screenings were cancelled, which meant that some some students who would have been newly-identifed in the spring may not have been evaluated. 

When schools moved to remote learning, new and currently-enrolled students may not have been evaluated for autism due to the difficulties of conducting assessments through virtual observation and testing.

This was the second Child Count year in which students ages 6-8 could be served under the identification of Developmentally Delayed (DD.) Although we have only one year of comparision (2019) we will be looking at the DD numbers and other age data for 2019 to 2020.

The number of all students with disabilities in the Child Count declined by ~500 students (19,645 to 19,156.) Since students with autism average around 9% of the total child count, theoretically that could mean that there were 44 fewer students with autism as part of that decline in the number of students with disabilities. 

We will be looking more deeply at the 2020 Child Count data to see what might be interesting and will share anything of interest or conjuncture that we find. Below some of the 2020 Child Count Data on Montana Students with Autism. 


Thursday, June 24, 2021

PECS Post-Training Survey Results

We conducted a survey of educators who had previously attended PECS Level 1 and 2 trainings sponsored by the OPI Montana Autism Education Project. The survey was conducted after they had been using PECS for three months to two+ years. 

Here are some of the results: 

(Doug - I think the *only* person who said, "No" might have had a slip of the mouse, since they also said they use PECS daily and PECS help them to better educate students.)

Additional Comments:

PECS has been extremely useful for students with limited communication.

This training has been of great help to me. Something that was applicable the day I returned to work.

I think all of our Special Ed staff should attend this training! We have multiple kids that use PECS and I think everyone that works with them throughout the day should know how to work with them in an effective way.

 Last year I had a three year old with autism who started the year with almost no ability to communicate other than to run and scream and flail. We introduced PECS and that beautiful little girl not only learned how to use PECS to communicate in sentences, she began speaking in sentences within a few months. Her progress was so rapid , and generalized throughout her day at school as well as home and within the community. I moved her from a self contained STAR class to my highest functioning class for kids with much less significant delays and she was the social and communication role model. All within a few months. I truly believe PECS changed the trajectory of her life!

If you want to know when we offer future PECS workshops, you can subscribe to the OPI Montana Autism Education Project mailing list here

Break Cards for Students Learning the Zones of Regulation

 Teaching How To Ask For A Break 

Compliments of Dawn Kindberg, Lima Public Schools. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Webinar - Treating Severe and Challenging Behaviors: Behavioral and Sensory Support

NCSA Webinar: Thursday, June 24, 2021

10:00-12.00 Pacific / 1:00-3:00pm Eastern

Robing Steinberg-Epstein, MD, UCI, will present 30 minutes on the neurological/sensory processing experience, underpinning of challenging and dangerous behavior in autism (30 minutes)

John Guericio, PhD will talk on his assessment tool for managing adults with severe behavioral challenges (30 minutes)

Erik Jacobson, PhD will talk on the cultural approach he and his team have embraced with the emphasis on their clients with severe and challenging behaviors by being happy, relaxed and engaged (30 minutes)

Indiana Resource Center for Autism - Virtual Conference

 IRCA staff are thrilled to announce our Inaugural IRCA Autism Conference: Learning Together. This year, the conference will be held virtually on September 29, 2021. Speakers will address a range of topics relevant for those across the autism spectrum and across the age span.  

Breakout Sessions

  • Positive Behavior Supports, Perception and the Pursuit of Happiness
    Presented by: Kelly Hartman, M.A.
  • Let Me In... I Can Learn Too! Strategies That Are Not A One Hit Wonder
    Presented by: Kris Baker, Special Education Coordinator; Leslie Brown, Autism Specialist and Sarah Reaves, M.S., CCC-SLP, Autism Specialist
  • Anxiety and ASD: Adults on the Spectrum Share
    Panel Presentation by: Kat Muir, M.A., CCC-SLP, Alexander Perry and
    Abe Shapiro
  • ASD & Assistive Technology Supports
    Presented by: Kelli Suding, PATINS Specialist
  • It’s Not One or the Other: The Excitement of Incorporating Mental Health and Behavioral Supports for Children on the Autism Spectrum
    Presented by: Kelly Dora, M.A., Behavior/Autism Specialist
  • ASD AND MORE: Autism and Co-Existing Conditions
    Presented by: Dr. Julie Steck, HSPP
Find more information and register here. 

Listen - A Short Film

A short film in which nonspeaking autistic people talk about how nonspeakers are represented in books, theatre, and film. They provide guidance for changing the narrative. Learn more and access transcripts, translations, and a toolkit here:

 You can view the 5 minute film here.