Sunday, February 28, 2016

Missoula Autism Spring Conference

RiteCare/SCHWA 4th Annual Autism Spring 

8:00 am 3:00 pm March 5th, 2016  
Ruby’s Inn 4825 N. Reserve St. Missoula, MT

Registration Information:Register:

Motivating Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder to Learn
By Ann Garfinkle
  1. Understand multiple reasons learners with ASD appear unmotivated to participate in the teaching-learning process.
  2. Understand when learners with ASD lack motivation or their lack of participation in the teaching-learning process is caused by other issues like lack of understanding, lack of generalization, or lack of skills.
  3. Understand several strategies to increase motivation in learners with ASD.

    Applied Behavior Analysis Intervention Working in Team Collaboration
    By Marie Middleton

Continuing Education: 6 OPI Credits, Certification of Completion, 6 MSHA CEUs

Fees (lunch provided):   Professionals $100, Parents and Paras $75, Students $60

Please email promptly if you require special accommodations

Registration Information:Register:

Upcoming in Great Falls

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Aspergers on the Mountain Top - A Comic

This looks useful for young adults.

Tommy Hilfiger Debuts Adaptive Clothing Line

A major clothing designer is launching a line of apparel just for children with special needs.
Tommy Hilfiger released a line of adaptive clothing on its website Tuesday.
The 22-piece children’s offering is comprised of items that look just like clothing in the company’s regular spring collection, but include magnets, velcro and other modifications to allow for easy on and off for kids with disabilities.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

PECS Level 1 Training - Glendive

June 13 and 14, 2016

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is used to rapidly teach communication skills to those with limited functional speech.  PECS promotes communication within a social context, without lengthy prerequisite training.  Training in PECS begins by teaching a spontaneous request and goes on to teach additional communicative functions such as responding to questions and commenting.  An added attraction for preschool children with autism and related disabilities is the high proportion of children who acquire independent speech.  Participants will learn how to implement the six phases of PECS, plus attributes, through presenter demonstrations, video examples and role-play opportunities.  Participants will leave the workshop with an understanding of how to implement PECS with individuals with autism, related developmental disabilities, and/or limited communication skills.

What You Will Learn:

  • The key Pyramid components to designing effective educational environments
  • Strategies to create an abundance of opportunities for communication
  • The relationship between PECS and traditional communication training approaches
  • How to implement all six phases of PECS with target individuals using a behavior analytic orientation
  • The criteria for transitioning from PECS to other communication modalities

To Register or For More Information, Please Contact:

Disability Employment Conference - Great Falls

The Montana SELN team is proud to inform you about the first-ever Disability Employability conference this May.  

The conference agenda, registration and other information can be found on this page.  

Archived Webinar - Sleep Challenges in Autism: Causes, Consequences, and Therapeutic Approaches.

Please join us on Tuesday, March 8, for a webinar with Beth Ann Malow, MD, MS, a nationally-recognized expert on the sleep problems of people with autism and other conditions.

View the archived webinar here. 

Comprehensive Programming for Students with High Functioning Autism - Helena

April 21, 2016

In this training from Ann Garfinkle, learners will focus on the multi-level comprehensive autism planning system or (CAPS) to program for students with HFA/AS. The topics will include sensory differences, cognitive differences, motor differences, and emotional vulnerability with reinforcement strategies for a comprehensive look at programming, service delivery, and progress monitoring. The attendees will leave with a new mind-set of how inclusive settings can be modified/adapted for a positive learning experience.

You can register for the training here.

12 Habits of Practitioners Who are Effective at Working with Students with ASD - Kalispell

April 14, 2016.  

This presentation by Ann Garfinkle provides an overview of the twelve things anyone working with children or students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) needs to know and do. Rather than presenting information on a specific intervention this presentation provides information about habits or ways of interacting regardless that will make all interventions more effective when working with children and students diagnosed with ASD.

Participants’ feed back from this workshop are “I wish I had heard this before I started working in the field” or “I need to hear this every year.”

You can register for the workshop here.

Behavior Management Forms

Use these printable charts, forms, and contracts to monitor your students' behavior. Evaluate their ability to work as a team with forms on student productivity in group settings. In addition to student-teacher contracts that establish behavior expectations, you'll find a variety of behavior management forms to document discipline issues in your classroom. Encourage students to make better behavior choices with our decision making worksheets. Notes, awards, and certificates make great rewards for good behavior.

See more here.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Insurance Coverage for Autism Treatment Varies by State

Read more here and on the site you can move your mouse over states to see coverage.

Study maps genetic variability in autism brains

The first effort to sequence genes tied to autism in postmortem brain tissue reveals a range of harmful mutations in people with the condition.
The findings, reported 2 December in Neuron, underscore the tremendous diversity of genes that can contribute to autism. They also lend support to studies that flagged the same genes in more accessible tissues, such as saliva or blood1.
“A significant proportion of brains in the postmortem autism collections have identifiable, deleterious mutations that are likely to be causative,” says lead investigator Christopher Walsh, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. The results allow researchers to compare the effects of the different mutations on the brain, Walsh says.
Sequencing studies have shown that most of the genetic risk for autism is inherited, whether through rare mutations or common variants. These studies have also uncovered hundreds of autism-linked genes that carry de novomutations, which arise spontaneously in a mother’s egg or a father’s sperm.

Preparing Students with Autism for Audiological Exams

An article in Seminars in Speech and Language provides several strategies for preparing children with autism for an audiologic behavioral examination. The exam determines whether any signs of unresponsiveness by the child are due to the autism, or whether they may be due to the child's hearing problem. The report also points out that hearing loss is significantly greater among children with ASD as compared to their typically-developing peers. Because the rate of ASD is nearly 7% among eight-year-old children who are diagnosed as deaf or hard-of-hearing, it is important for these children to be evaluated as early as possible in order to facilitate early intervention. 

Because many of these hearing tests will be unfamiliar and may lead to anxiety, strategies are described to help these children participate in listening and speech imitation tasks. Some of the suggestions include showing pictures and/or videos of the assessments, such as a photo of the practitioner who will be examining the child. In addition, children should practice wearing headphones to familiarize them with the sensory experience.

Devising spectrum of tests for different types of autism

One of the biggest challenges in studying autism is the condition’s heterogeneity. By definition, each person with autism has difficulties interacting and communicating with others and engages in repetitive and restricted behaviors. But the nature and severity of these features vary significantly. This diversity represents a major hurdle for developing treatments for individuals on the spectrum.
Most studies ignore this diversity and instead focus on what makes people with autism different from a ‘neurotypical’ control group. No single psychological or neurobiological feature has emerged that characterizes all people with autism1. Rather, there appear to be distinct subtypes of the condition that vary in their cognitive profile, underlying biology and prognosis.
This variability means that subgroups of people with autism may need different treatments. A certain treatment may be effective for a subtype of the condition, but clinical trials that include people of all subtypes may not pick up on its benefit.

My Autistic Brother's Quest for Love

He takes off his glasses and wipes his eyes with his index finger and continues. "I think true love is out there, but I know it's hard to find. Yes, I am handicapped. Yes, I have special needs, but my disabilities have nothing to do with love whatsoever." 

Slumped in his bedroom chair, Randy scrolled through profiles of single women. He was exhausted and slightly sweaty, and hadn't felt like doing much else. He certainly didn't want to clean; clothing was piled high on the floor, Cheetos stains dappled his unmade bed. After a few clicks, in a dating group on Facebook, he came across the woman he would later intend to marry. He was instantly drawn to her round face and beaming smile, and he built up the courage to send a friend request. Farah (not her real name) quickly added him back, and they began chatting. Like my brother, she had distinct quirks, repeating odd phrases in rhythm like a metronome. She was the only girl who seemed to fall in love with him instantly—the only person in the world who cared to understand him. 

Randy is now 27, one of 3.5 million Americans on the autism spectrum. He suffers from what is officially called PDD, or pervasive developmental disorder, a condition whose symptoms vary enormously—hence the term "spectrum"—but are generally characterized by delays in the maturation of socialization and communication skills. Doctors have not yet uncovered its root cause (or causes), leading many to put faith in disproven theories such as vaccinations, pesticides, prenatal exposure to traffic pollution, non-stick cookware, gluten intake, and poor maternal bonding. The typical age of onset is three years old, sometimes younger. Randy had problems from birth. Communication has always been one of his hardest struggles, and meeting someone he could truly connect with was like coming across a match burning brightly in the darkness. 

Autism Behavior Problems May Be Linked To Poor Sleep

Kids on the spectrum who didn’t sleep well at night displayed more aggression, irritability and had greater difficulty paying attention during the day, according to findings published online recently in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Kids who woke repeatedly during the night had the most trouble with behavior, exhibiting higher levels of physical aggression, hostility, lack of attention and hyperactivity, the study found. Other issues including how long a child slept and the sleeping disorder parasomnia were also associated with increased behavior problems.
“If parents are noticing that their children are having behavioral problems, it may be helpful to make sure they are sleeping well at night,” said Micah Mazurek, an assistant professor of health psychology at the University of Missouri and an author of the study. “For all children with ASD, it is important that parents and professionals routinely screen for sleep problems. Addressing these issues will help children be at their best during the day.”

Read more here. 

Montana Assistive Technology Loan Program

What can I use the money to purchase?
The money can be used to purchase any assistive technology devices, from home and vehicle modifications to daily living aids.  For more examples of what is available to purchase please view our Examples of Assistive Technology page or contact MonTECH for assistance.

Is autism one or multiple disorders?

From the earliest description of autism in 1943 to the present day, there has been a widely held view that the behavioural anomalies associated with the disorder occur more often together than would be expected by chance, and therefore there will be a single causal pathway that explains the non-random co-occurrence of these symptoms.1 The phenotypic variability of autism has proved to be a major stumbling block for aetiological research. The heterogeneity spans the entire range of intelligence quotients (IQs) and language abilities, as well as other behavioural, communicative and social functions. While any psychiatric condition is likely to incorporate a degree of heterogeneity, the variability in the nature and severity of behaviours observed in autism is thought to exceed that of other disorders.

An instructive example here is cerebral palsy. In the mid 19th century, cerebral palsy was thought to be a unitary disorder caused by anoxia secondary to trauma occurring during labour and delivery. However, the variability in the nature of impairment between individuals with cerebral palsy, spanning varying degrees of motor, intellectual and sensory difficulties, led researchers to hypothesise that there may be many causal pathways, with only a minor proportion of cases being a direct result of perinatal hypoxia. Other identified causes include a range of genetic syndromes, neuronal migration disorders, complications of preterm birth, infections and inflammation in utero, and postneonatal causes such as bacterial meningitis.5 Contemporary international agreements for diagnosis therefore emphasise that cerebral palsy is an umbrella term covering a wide range of syndromes that arise secondary to a variety of brain lesions or anomalies occurring early in development.6
Current evidence suggests that autism may also best be conceptualised as an umbrella term for a collection of behavioural disorders resulting from a range of causal pathways.

What causes autism? What we know, don’t know and suspect

One of the great and enduring mysteries of autism is what causes the brain to develop so differently. The behavioural differences of many individuals with autism are so apparent that it seems intuitive that the causes would also be obvious.
But research over the past 70 years has indicated this isn’t so. Into this knowledge gap have come all sorts of weird and wacky ideas about the causes of autism: television, power lines, vaccines and sex position during conception. None have any credence, but have fuelled the mystery surrounding what may cause autism.
A variety of genetic factors are likely to be the ultimate cause of most cases of autism. These may work by themselves, or in combination with environmental factors, to lead a child’s brain to develop differently and result in autistic behaviours.


Nothing inspires more interest, debate, and even concern, than the idea that someone could "recover" from a brain-based condition like autism. The notion fuels an industry that offers treatments, both proven and dubious; triggers both hope and sadness; and fuels political and academic controversy. Is recovery real, and is it good?
Studies have estimated that from 3 percent to 25 percent of children with autism lose their diagnosis. Some have wondered: did those who recover really have autism at the outset? Did they lose their diagnosis but still have autistic symptoms, even subtle ones?

Strategies for Socialization, Effective Learning Environments and Working with Families

1. What are effective strategies for socializing autistic kids in the classroom and meeting their emotional needs?
2. Strategies for creating an effective learning environment in the classroom for kids with autism?
3. How to work with families more effectively. 
There's An App For That - iAdvocate (download to iPad)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sharp observation skills may guard girls against severe autism

Infant girls at an elevated risk for autism pay more attention to social cues in faces than do boys at the same risk1. The finding may help to explain why girls with autism tend to have subtler symptoms than boys with the condition.
Researchers have long suspected that genetic factors guard girls against autism. The new study suggests cognitive elements help shore up the gender shield.
“For the first time, we show that infant girls at risk for autism have very unusual attention to social stimuli,” says lead researcher Katarzyna Chawarska, director of the Early Social Cognition Laboratory at Yale University. “This might protect against development of social difficulties and put high-risk girls on a different trajectory than high-risk boys.” 

Autism Risk In Children Quadrupled For Moms With Maternal Obesity And Diabetes

According to a recent study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, mothers who are obese during pregnancy run nearly two times the risk of having a child with autism, compared with those who are not obese.

However, if a woman also has diabetes, the researchers noted, the risk of having a child with autism is at least four times higher.
Their research was published in the journal Pediatrics.

Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Guanajuato, Mexico:

At just under 1 percent, the estimate is roughly in line with the “1 in 100” figure for Hispanic children diagnosed with autism in the United States. Autism’s overall prevalence in the United States is an estimated 1 in 68. Experts generally agree that the lower Hispanic number reflects a lower rate of identifying autism – not a true lower prevalence. The same may be true of the new estimate for Mexico.


There are no epidemiological data on autism for Mexico. This study was conducted to generate a first estimate of ASD prevalence in Mexico. We surveyed children age eight in Leon (Guanajuato). The sample was stratified in two strata: (1) children having special education and medical records (SEMR; N = 432) and (2) children attending regular schools (GSS; N = 11,684). GSS children were screened with the SRS and those with the highest scores were invited to a diagnostic evaluation. 
The final sample comprised 36 children (80.6 % male) who had confirmed ASD. A third had intellectual disability, 25 % were non-verbal, 69 % had co-occurring behavioral problems. The prevalence overall was 0.87 % (95 % CI 0.62, 1.1 %). This survey provides an estimate for ASD prevalence in Mexico that is consistent with recent studies.

This is a rate of 1 in 115. 

Pediatrics publishes research & guidelines on autism-related health issues

The new and much-expanded supplement includes treatment recommendations for such autism-associated health issues as
* anxiety,
* depression,
* disturbed sleep and
* severe irritability and problem behaviors.
It also includes much-needed guidance on
* the special needs of adopted children who have autism,
* transition plans for teenagers with autism as they move from pediatric to adult healthcare systems,
* autism-tailored hospital care plans and
* autism-sensitive emergency room procedures.
Read more here. 

NOTE: Full articles are available on the Pediatrics web site for a fee. However, speak to your school or community librarian and they may have access to the articles. 

Repetitive behaviors augur developmental delays in autism

Preschool-age children with autism who have severe repetitive behaviors and intensely restricted interests tend to lag intellectually and struggle with daily living skills later on1.
The findings support the notion that repetitive behaviors pave the way for other autism-related symptoms, perhaps by shifting a child’s focus away from important learning experiences.
“These children can’t disengage their attention from these internal monologues or visual images and get their attention focused on the outside world,” says lead researcher Deborah Fein, professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.
The researchers found that preschool-age children who showed intense fascination with parts of objects, such as the wheels on a toy car, and had restricted sensory interests, such as sniffing objects, had lower scores on cognitive tests at ages 8 to 10 than did those with mild repetitive behaviors or restricted interests. This trend affects both verbal and nonverbal reasoning, the researchers reported 16 December in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
The researchers found that preschool-age children who showed intense fascination with parts of objects, such as the wheels on a toy car, and had restricted sensory interests, such as sniffing objects, had lower scores on cognitive tests at ages 8 to 10 than did those with mild repetitive behaviors or restricted interests. This trend affects both verbal and nonverbal reasoning, the researchers reported 16 December in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Twins Studies in Autism

Scientists have for decades relied on studies of twins to parse the genetic versus environmental contributions to complex syndromes. Assessing the degree to which a condition affects both members of a set of identical twins, who share the same genetic information, can yield an estimate of the extent to which genetics underlie that condition.
Two new papers explore the genetic and environmental underpinnings of autism using data from the Twins Early Development Study, which follows identical and fraternal twins born in England and Wales in the mid-1990s.
In the first study, published 27 December in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, researchers looked at autism traits in 6,413 twin pairs from the Twins Early Development Study and examined autism heritability in a meta-analysis of seven published twin studies, representing another 8,508 twin pairs. Their study suggests that genes trump environment in a big way: When one identical twin has autism, there’s a 98 percent chance that the other twin also has the condition1.
The second study, published 26 November in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, involved 207 identical and fraternal twin pairs, 127 of which include at least one twin with autism2. The researchers found that some autism-linked behaviors are more genetic in origin than others. Specifically, genes appear to largely dictate disruptive behaviors, such as rule-breaking and violent outbursts, whereas environmental factors underlie emotional symptoms such as anxiety.
Fruhling Rijsdijk, a statistical geneticist at King’s College London, was involved in both new studies. We asked her how studying twins can help settle the score between genetic and environmental factors in autism.
Spectrum: What can we learn from twin studies?
Fruhling Rijsdijk: Twin studies give us a handle on how individual differences in the population might be explained by genetic differences. It’s the first step that you would want to take before trying to identify specific genes involved in a certain trait or condition such as autism.