Friday, April 24, 2015

National Standards Project, Phase 2 - Evidence Based Practices

 The National Autism Center has chosen World Autism Awareness Day – April 2, 2015 – to release its new review and analysis of interventions for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) based on research conducted in the field from 2007 to 2012. The new publication provides an update to the summary of empirical intervention literature (published in the National Standards Report in 2009) and includes studies evaluating interventions for adults (22+), which have never been systematically evaluated before now. This project is designed to give educators, parents, practitioners, and organizations the information and resources they need to make informed choices about effective interventions that will offer children and adults on the spectrum the greatest hope for their future.

Download the free report now!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Neil DeGrasse Tyson Talks Temple Grandin, Autism and the Brain

Autism Speaks senior vice president for medical research Paul Wang appeared on Star Talk Radio Wednesday, April 8, to discuss autism and the brain with host Neil DeGrasse Tyson. They were joined by comedian Chuck Nice for a lively discussion on famous autism self-advocate Dr. Temple Grandin You can listen to or download the podcast here.


Study Links Autism to Epigenetic Changes in Dads' Sperm

Researchers have found tell-tale “epigenetic” changes in the DNA from the sperm of men whose children have early signs of autism. These changes – which are likely passed on to offspring – may reflect, in part, the men’s exposure to environmental hazards. Epigenetics and environmental risk factors for autism A growing body of research has suggested that environmental influences – including infection and exposure to toxic chemicals – can produce epigenetic changes in the cells that make sperm and eggs. Sperm-making cells may be particularly vulnerable to such environmental exposures. Many experts believe that this explains why autism rates are significantly higher among the children of older dads. Their germ cells have been exposed to more environmental “hits” over the course of a lifetime. In their new study, the Johns Hopkins investigators analyzed the epigenetic markers on DNA in the sperm from 44 dads. The men were part of the ongoing Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation (EARLI). EARLI enrolls families that have a child with autism and follows them through subsequent pregnancies and the birth and development of younger siblings. Early in their wives’ pregnancies, the men provided sperm samples for DNA and epigenetic analysis. One year after birth, the younger siblings were assessed for early signs of autism. The researchers then looked at the likelihood that a child’s autism symptoms corresponded to an epigenetic change at a particular site in a father’s sperm DNA. They found 193 such sites. At each of these sites, epigenetic changes were significantly associated with children’s autism symptoms. When the researchers looked at which genes were near the “high risk” sites, they found that many are in or near genes crucial to brain development. In a related analysis, the investigators found several of the tell-tale epigenetic changes in the post-mortem brain tissue of individuals with autism – providing further evidence that these changes may predispose to autism.

 Read more here. 


How Can We Tell if our NonVerbal Teen Needs Glasses?'

“Our teenage son is nonverbal and has autism. He’s always putting on his sister’s glasses. We’re wondering if it’s because he needs glasses too. How do we know? He can’t tell us. He certainly can’t read off the letters on a vision chart. So how do we perform a vision screening with a nonverbal child? We have a number of effective approaches. Sometimes children who can’t respond verbally will play a matching game. We ask them to match pictures, letters or numbers on a card held near to them with corresponding images at the back of the room. This can help us screen for refractive errors. Refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism produce the kind of blurred vision that we correct with glasses. Another highly effective test – that requires no response from the patient – is called cycloplegic retinoscopy. “Cycloplegic” refers to relaxing the eye’s focusing mechanism with ophthalmic drops. “Retinoscopy” refers to the use of a handheld instrument to look into the dilated eye and measure how the eye refracts light. Here is how such an exam unfolds:
 Read more here. 


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Training - 12 Habits of Practitioners Who are Effective at Working withStudents with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Wolf Point - May 13

Miles City - May 14

This training is a free workshop provided by the Montana Office of Public Instruction.


Another study finds no link between MMR vaccine and autism

The vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella doesn't bring an increased risk of autism, according to a new study of more than 95,000 children. The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is the latest piece of research to debunk the myth associating the MMR vaccine with autism. Vaccine-autism connection debunked again Using a claims database from a large commercial health plan, the researchers paid particular attention to children who had older siblings with autism, or ASD, which puts them at a higher genetic risk of developing autism. "We found that there was no harmful association between the receipt of the MMR vaccine and the development of an autism spectrum disorder," said Anjali Jain, a pediatrician at the Lewin Group, a health care consulting firm in Virginia, who worked on the study. 'No evidence' of link The team of researchers examined the records of 95,727 children in an 11-year window. They studied the risk of developing autism in children who received the MMR vaccine compared with those who didn't. For children with older siblings diagnosed with autism, the study's authors said they "found no evidence that receipt of either 1 or 2 doses of MMR vaccination was associated with an increased risk of ASD."

See more here:


Friday, April 17, 2015

Zones of Regulation April 2015

The Zones is a systematic, cognitive behavior approach used to teach self-regulation by categorizing all the different ways we feel and states of alertness we experience into four concrete zones. The Zones curriculum provides strategies to teach students to become more aware of, and independent in controlling their emotions and impulses, managing their sensory needs, and improving their ability to problem solve conflicts.

The Zones of Regulation incorporates Social Thinking® concepts and numerous visuals to teach students to identify their feelings/level of alertness, understand how their behavior impacts those around them, and learn what tools they can use to manage their feelings and states. (Leah Kuypers has practiced as an OT/autism specialist in school and clinical settings, specializing in self-regulation and social learning, and has worked with students of all ages and challenges, including anxiety, ADHD, and ASD. Leah created The Zones of Regulation®, a concept designed to teach self-regulation, and is author of the book and app by the same name.)
Who Should Attend: Speech & Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Regular And Special Education Teachers, Guidance Counselors, Case Managers, Specialists, Social Workers, Psychologists, School Administrators, Educational Paraprofessionals, Behavior Therapists, Parents

This free workshop is funded by the OPI Montana Autism Education Project.
April 15 - Havre
April 16 - Great Falls
April 17 - Missoula

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Archived Webinar - Top 5 Tips for Teaching a Child with Autism

Early Intervention and Beyond:

Top 5 Tips for Teaching a Child with Autism

Early intervention can be crucial in helping children with autism be successful in school and in life, but effective intervention can begin at any age. Teaching a child with autism can be easier than you think and fun for you and your child or student! Whether you're an educator, parent, or caregiver, there are practical things you can easily do to integrate effective teaching into your everyday routine. In this free, 60-minute webinar, Rethink's Angela Nelson, will discuss practical tips for educators and parents who want to learn more about how to effectively teach a child with autism in a fun and natural way!

Watch the archived webinar here.

About Our Guest:

Angela Nelson, MS, BCBA

Angela Nelson currently serves as the Executive Director of Family and Clinical Services for Rethink. She has devoted her career to supporting children and adults with a variety of disabilities in their classrooms, homes, and communities for many years. Aside from her interest in Applied Behavior Analysis, Angela enjoys spending time with her daughter and husband, going to the beach, and playing sports.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Shrinking pupils may mirror autism risk in babies

It’s been six years since researchers reported the eye-opening discovery that the pupils of children with autism constrict unusually slowly in response to light. The finding raised the intriguing possibility that eyes could act as a window into autism risk, or a biomarker for the disorder. A new study published 3 March in Molecular Autism nudges this possibility closer to reality. It reports that infants who have a sibling with autism — and therefore a 20-fold increased riskfor the disorder themselves — have an altered pupil reflex. But here’s the rub: Unlike the slow pupil reflex seen in children with autism, the reflex in these so-called ‘baby sibs’  is unusually fast.

 Read more here. 


Gestational diabetes increases autism risk

Children are slightly more likely to develop autism if their mothers were diagnosed with diabetes early in pregnancy, a new study shows. Women newly diagnosed with diabetes by the 26th week of pregnancy were 42% more likely to have a child diagnosed with autism, according to the study of more than 322,000 children born between 1995 and 2009. Overall, about 1% of all children in the study were diagnosed with autism by a median age of age 5½. Having gestational diabetes, the kind diagnosed during pregnancy, increased the chance of having a child with autism to 1.4%. Researchers found no increase in autism risk if mothers were diagnosed with diabetes after 26 weeks of pregnancy. A typical pregnancy lasts 40 weeks.

 Read more here. 


Archived Webinar - Teaching Social Skills to Reduce Challenging Behavior

Challenging behavior in the classroom is one of the most highly discussed topics in public education. Teachers frequently report that disruptive behavior is their greatest concern and has a significant impact on their job satisfaction. This session will focus on what teachers do best - facilitate student learning and teach students new skills. Direct instruction in social skills promotes skill development in pro-social behaviors and reduces challenging behavior. When students have social skills in their repertoire they don't have to rely on challenging behavior.

 Watch the webinar here. 


Friday, April 10, 2015

An Online Course - Evidence Based Practices for Autism


 More information can be found here.


7 Things Every Kid with Autism Wishes You Knew

Every kid is different. So is every individual with autism. But if you’re looking to connect with a child living with autism, Ellen Notbohm, author of Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew, and the mother of an autistic son, says keeping these things in mind can help. My senses don’t work like yours. For a child living with autism, the sensory impressions of daily life—noises from machines, , the flickering of fluorescent lights, cooking smells— “can be downright painful,” Nothbohm writes. Remember, a world that seems unremarkable to you may be overwhelming to them. I’m a concrete thinker. “Idioms, puns, nuances, inferences, metaphors, allusions and sarcasm are lost” on children with autism, Nothbohm writes. Instead, communicate with literal language. Read more here.


YETI (Youth Engagement Through Intervention) Social Skills Camp

YETI (Youth Engagement Through Intervention) Social Skills Camp University of Montana RiteCare Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic YETI Explorers Camp June 15-19th, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm (sack lunch required) YETI Arts Camp June 22-26, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm (sack lunch required) YETI Camp is for school age children (2nd through 7th grade) who have social skill challenges secondary to a diagnosis of autism or related disorders. YETI provides social skills intervention (speech/language therapy) in a fun and safe environment with a 1:1 ratio of adults to children. Typically developing peers attend and evidence based practices are employed throughout the Camp experience. The cost is $265/camp or insurance may be billed (prescription required). Interested parties should To secure your spot, a non-refundable $25 fee is required for one camp, $40 for both camps. Please call 243-2405 to request your registration packet.


Missoula - REACH MORE: Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation

Play has crucial and wide-ranging benefits to children and the people around them. When children of all abilities play together, kids learn to appreciate the differences between people and respect the perspective of others. Playing together connects our community and creates fun, happy memories we call all share. These programs are designed to allow people with and without disabilities to recreate together. See more here. REACH MORE Summer Camp Our newest camp is perfect for kids looking to explore a variety of outdoor activities. Low participant-to-staff ratios, specialized equipment and activities make this a perfect summer camp for youth of all abilities. We will explore a wide range of activities from ropes courses to team sports, floating the river to arts and crafts. Give your child a well-rounded and fun camp experience. Time: 12 - 4:30pmFee: $110/$95 with CityCardMeet at: McCormick ParkAges: 5 - 21 Dates June 15 - 19 June 22 - 26 June 29 - July 3 July 6 - 10 July 13 - 17 July 20 - 24 July 27 - 31 August 3 - 7 August 10 - 14 August 17 - 21 Adaptive Recreation for Adults McClay Flats TourWednesday, May 13, 5:30 - 7pmCelebrate the 25th anniversary of the ADA with a nature tour through this beautiful wheelchair-accessible trail. We will wind our way through this area rich in riparian vegetation, river ecology, and bountiful wildlife with representatives of the Montana Wilderness Association. A snack will be provided. This event is free. Meet at McClay Flats. To get to McClay Flats, head south toward Lolo on Highway 93. Turn right on Blue Mountain Road at the light. Follow the road until your able to take your first right. You'll pull into a large parking lot. We'll meet here. Fishing ClinicsWednesdays, June 24 and July 8, 5-7pmLand a huge trout in Silver's Lagoon in McCormick Park. The lagoon is ADA accessible, making it the perfect place to cast your line. Parks and Recreation and MONTECH will provide equipment, instruction, and bait. Meet at McCormick Park. Hand Cycle RidesWednesdays, 5-7pm. Dates below.Join us for group hand cycle rides on Wednesdays. Staff trained in adaptive sports will help instruct, lead the rides, and give clinics on techniques and use of the bikes. If you don't have a cycle, no problem. Register early and we'll reserve one for you. No experience necessary for these family-friendly bike rides. Meets at McCormick Park. Fee is $5 per session. Dates: June 17, June 24, July 8, July 15, July 22, July 29Look for future dates set for off-road hand cycling clinics on Blue Mountain and in the Bitterroots. Paddle PracticeFridays, 5-7pm. Dates below.Learn basic paddle strokes and the different types of paddle crafts on different flat-water areas around Missoula. Equipment provided. Fee is $7 per session. Locations TBA.Dates: June 26, July 10, August 14

Learn more here:


There's An App For That!

Here are 5 apps to help children and adults with autism develop skills, learn, and interact better with others. 1. ABA Flash Cards, FreeDesigned for young children with autism and other learning disabilities, has created flash card apps to stimulate learning and provide tools and strategies for creative, effective language building. Different apps include the alphabet, animals, sports, actions, emotions, earth science, famous places, and many more. Each category is a different app with stimulating pictures and a soothing voice to go along with each flash card. 2. iPrompts, $39.99Developed by the parents of a child with autism, iPrompts provides several useful visual prompting tools to help impaired individuals transition from one activity to the next, understand upcoming events, make choices, and focus on the task at hand. This app is used by parents, special educators and therapists of those with disabilities, including individuals with autism, down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and apraxia of speech. This convenient app allows caregivers to not have to carry around physical cards and pictures, and displays everything on one handy screen. 3. Speech with Milo: Interactive Storybook, $1.99Developed by a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist, Speech with Milo is a series of apps that help teach children with learning disabilities about verbs, nouns, parts of speech, and now with this app, interactive stories. An original story, this will keep any child interested in this book with interactive features on every page and the ability to record their own story. This app helps build storytelling, boost confidence, and develop narrative skill. 4. Choiceworks, $6.99Choiceworks is an essential learning tool for helping children complete daily routines, understand and control their feelings, and improve their waiting skills. this app is designed for caregivers to provide clear and consistent support to foster a child’s independence, positive behavior, and emotional regulation. Key features include the schedule board, waiting board, feelings board, and image library. 5. NLConcepts Autism: Sort & Categorize, FreeNatural Learning Concepts is a website that is known for producing top quality products for autism, speech and language, and special education. They created this app to help children with learning disabilities differentiate between items, understand their function, and sort items into broader categories.



Webinar - Top 5 Tips for Teaching a Child with Autism

Early intervention can be crucial in helping children with autism be successful in school and in life, but effective intervention can begin at any age. Teaching a child with autism can be easier than you think and fun for you and your child or student! Whether you're an educator, parent, or caregiver, there are practical things you can easily do to integrate effective teaching into your everyday routine. In this free, 60-minute webinar, Rethink's Angela Nelson, MS, BCBA will discuss practical tips for educators and parents who want to learn more about how to effectively teach a child with autism in a fun and natural way! Attendees Will Gain practical knowledge on effectively teaching children with autism Learn how to make teaching effective AND fun Learn easy to implement strategies for for successfully motivating a child with autism Wednesday April 22 12pm EST 6pm EST

See here:


10 autism myths debunked

Myth #2: People with autism are violent - People with autism do not typically act violently and pose no more danger to society than people who do not have autism. Myth #3: Autism is fairly new - The first recorded account of a child now believed to have been on the autism spectrum was written back in 1799. In 1943, a scientist by the name of Leo Kanner described autism as a distinct condition. Before the 1960s, many children with autism were excluded from schools, having been deemed incapable of learning. Myth #4: Individuals with autism are cold and unfeeling - Individuals on the autism often feel more empathy than others, but are unable to express their feelings in a manner that is easily recognizable to those around them.

 Read more here.


Canines benefit autistic kids in Butte area

Levi Balentine has already bonded with Bridger, a service dog who helps him cope with his autism. Levi is the first autistic child in Montana to receive such a specialist dog. K9 Care Montana, Inc., of Philipsburg is training Bridger and other dogs to help at least two Butte families. While Bridger has yet to join Levi and his mother Misty Balentine at home full-time or at school, the chocolate lab knows what spaces bother Levi so he can soothe his fears. He gives Levi and his family a confidence boost. “He’s trained to recognize my son’s triggers,” said Misty. “Levi hates elevators, airplanes, school buses, and he’s not fond of the gym at school.” Think of Bridger as an older brother. In dog years, he is 14. Levi is 8 and a second grader at Ramsay School. “Bridger definitely has a huge calming effect,” Misty said. “Levi is a little more willing to do more if he’s with him.” Levi did not talk until he was 5 years old. Now mainstreamed in the regular classroom most of the day, he anxiously awaits when Bridger can come home for good. After completing his training with K9 Care Montana, the dog returns to the Balentine residence to open arms this summer.

 Read more here.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Webinar - Assuring Comprehensive Care and Development for Children withASD/DD

As part of its Autism Awareness Month activities, SPHARC hosted a webinar that highlighted programs to improve ASD/DD screening, early identification and evaluation services. Presentations included lessons learned from the Assuring Better Child Health and Development (ABCD) Initiative and Oregon's state implementation grant project - ACCESS: Assuring Comprehensive Care through Enhanced Service Systems for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other Developmental Disabilities. Click on the links below to access materials from the webinar. Developmental screening, referral and linkage to services: Lessons from ABCD [Slides]Jill Rosenthal, Senior Program Director, National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) Community-Based Autism Identification: Oregon's ACCESS Project [Slides]Robert Nickel, MD, Medical Consultant, Oregon Center for Children & Youth with Special Health Care Needs .
Related Resources:

See webinar here:


Friends of Autism Great Falls - web page with resources

You can find the page here. 


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Curriculum in a Box - Resources for Training Educators

Curriculum in a Box Overview

The Curriculum in a Box includes the following resources to help support teacher training and professional development:

Format Type Title

Supplementary Training Manual
Understanding Autism: A Guide for Secondary School Teachers

Life Journey Through Autism: An Educator's Guide to Autism **Available on backorder**

Life Journey Through Autism: An Educator's Guide to Asperger

Detailed information about the contents of the Curriculum in a Box can be found here. To navigate directly to a specific tool, use the links above.


Autism Fundraiser in Wibaux - Beaver Creek Brewery

If you live in a town with a brewery or distillery, I would urge you consider using their pint night or other weekly community fundraiser in April of 2015 for autism awareness. Many of the people who visit breweries are a good demographic with whom to share information about autism. If you are interested in coordinating statewide autism awareness in April of 2015, please email me at