Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Aging Out: Autism In Montana

Each year, more children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, but the framework of care drastically changes for them after adolescence. The tidal wave of children transitioning into adulthood leaves many families on a search for help and structure. Follow Montana families as they recognize their fears and explore their options for the future.

Watch the show here.

Weak immune response in women may up autism risk in children

Iffy immunity: New data muddy the relationship between an inflammatory molecule in pregnant women and their chances of having a child with autism.

© / kjekol
Women who develop infections during pregnancy run an increased risk of having a child with autism. Most data indicate that an overactive maternal immune response underlies the risk.

But a new analysis runs contrary to this view: It ties high levels of an inflammatory protein in pregnant women to a low risk of autism in their children, suggesting that a strong immune response is protective1.

Read more here.

Antipsychotic prescribing trends in youths with autism and intellectual disability

About one in 10 youths treated with an antipsychotic are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disability. Conversely, one in six youths diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder has been prescribed antipsychotics. Furthermore, the results suggest that the proportion of adolescents with autism or intellectual disability has increased among youths treated with antipsychotics and that more youths with autism or intellectual disability have received antipsychotics.

Read more here.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Melatonin and Sleep Problems: A Guide for Parents

Many children with ASD have problems with sleep. Improving sleep habits helps many children, including those with ASD, get better sleep. But for some children with ASD, sleep problems happen even with good sleep habits. 
Melatonin is a common medicine your doctor or healthcare provider may suggest to help improve sleep. This tool kit is designed to provide parents with information about melatonin and to help parents decide if trying melatonin is right for their child.

Click here to download Melatonin and Sleep Problems in ASD: A Guide for Parents.

Webinar - Build the Brain When it Counts: Cultivate Cognitive and Executive Function Skills

June 07, 2016
11:00am to 11:45am
Central Daylight Time

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Preventing Wandering: Resources for Parents and First Responders

Seven Steps to Prevent Wandering at Your Child's School

1. If your child has a tendency to wander, it is critical to address wandering issues in his or her Individualized Education Program (IEP).
If there is a history of wandering incidents, it’s important to call a meeting with school staff, administrators, and your child’s IEP team to make them aware of these past situations, as well as educate them on the autism wandering issue in general. If something changes or an incident occurs, you as a parent have the right to amend the IEP and adjust the particular items, at any time.

2. Write a letter requesting that you always be informed, immediately and in writing, of any wandering incident on or off the campus.
If your child requires 1-on-1 supervision, be sure to make this extremely clear to school staff – and clearly documented in the IEP – and emphasize that under no circumstances should your child be left alone at any time. A sample letter can be found 

Read more and find additional resources here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Archived Webinar - Tips for Feeding Picky Eaters

Many children with autism spectrum disorders develop food selectivity, or what may be called “picky eating.” It is not uncommon for children to restrict their diets to one or two things, to refuse to eat certain colors or textures, or to consume only pureed foods. This session will focus on strategies that have been demonstrated to be successful in helping children with autism learn to eat a wide variety of new foods. Participants will also learn what assessments should be completed before starting feeding therapy.

Watch the webinar here.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Zones of Regulation - Bozeman June 23, 2016

The Zone of Regulation presentation provides teachers, therapists and parents with hands-on knowledge on the nature of self-regulation and strategies for improving self-regulation and emotional control in individuals of all ages. The presentation addresses topics such as: the brain’s involvement, typical development, sensory processing, emotional regulation, and executive functioning.  Audience participants will learn an explicit, stair-stepped method and tools to guide students in utilizing The Zones framework across situations and environments to regulate sensory needs, impulses, and emotional states to social demands. 
Visuals and student work samples are highlighted to illustrate numerous learning activities.  A variety of tools (sensory supports, calming techniques, and thinking strategies) are explored to help students recognize their internal emotions, sensory needs, and thinking patterns in each zone, when shifting from one zone to another, and then to self-regulate within zones. Participants explore ideas on how to teach, when, why, and how to use tools effectively.  The Zones of Regulation presentation also incorporates core concepts from Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking® framework to help teach students about perspective taking so they better understand how being in the different zones impacts the thoughts and feelings of other people around them.
This presentation is part of the MBI Conference. Single-day registration is $85 and you can register here. 

'Most of the students in my school have autism. All of them are girls'

Girls with autism are motivated by forming friendships. They actively seek out social interactions with other people and can hold reciprocal conversations. While boys with autism tend to explode when things go wrong, girls are more likely to implode and internalise problems.
As headteacher of a school for girls with communication and interaction difficulties, I am passionate about raising awareness about girls with autism. So what can you do to support these pupils?
Here are my tips:
  1. Help them to manage their anxiety
    Anxiety is ever-present for girls on the spectrum. Help them to see the link between behaviour and anxiety. Does their anxiety make them cry or have massive meltdowns?

5 Apps to Help Kids with Autism

  1. Let’s Face It! (LFI!) ScrapbookDesigned as a tool for learning faces and recognizing emotions, LFI! utilizes the iPad’s built-in camera to take photos and make videos of the user’s friends, family, classmates, and other important people in their lives. Pictures and videos can be labeled and organized into personalized albums that are then used as material for the app’s four games.
  2. The Monster at the End of This BookA long list of skills are worked on with this app, include fine motor, imagination, language, and vocabulary, but what else would you expect from Sesame Street? Parents are given tips on helping children work through their fears, and this storybook app is a top-notch choice for teaching cause and effect, since kids learn that a touch of their fingers allows them to interact with the story.
  3. Fruit Ninja FreeAs users chop apples, oranges, and strawberries in this fruit-slicing game, they may not realize they’re developing their fine motor skills at the same time.
  4. Proloquo2GoThe hefty price tag on this app ($249.99) has been well worth it according to the many users who have sung its praises. Made for children who have a hard time speaking and building vocabulary, this app uses natural voices to dictate words and offers more than 14,000 symbols to build language. In fact, many kids with autism use it as their main mode of communication since it gives them a voice through the iPad.
  5. Toca BocaApply a bandage, send out party invitations, or join a tea party with the different variations of games that this digital design studio creates. Play skills are crucial to the development of a child with ASD, and games like these teach them how to engage in reciprocal social imaginative play.

The Invisibility of Black Autism

It was in that context that Dorothy Groomer, the mother of a young African-American man named Steven, explained to the makers of the 2002 documentary Refrigerator Mothers that “a whole team of doctors” from the University of Illinois refused to diagnose her son with autism, though he displayed all of the classic signs. “They said, ‘No — it may be an emotional disturbance, but it was not autism.’ We did not fit the classic mold for autism, which is white, upper middle class, and very, very bright.”

Read more here. 

New Autism Dispute: Is Circumcision a Factor?

Dr. Morten Frisch is a Danish epidemiologist who led a study examining the link between circumcision and ASD. The study, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, found that boys who undergo circumcision are more likely to be diagnosed with autism by age 9. “Considering the widespread practice of non-therapeutic circumcision in infancy and childhood around the world,” the study states, “confirmatory studies should be given priority.”

Read more here. 

Increasing prevalence of autism is due, in part, to changing diagnoses

The greater than three-fold increase in autism diagnoses among students in special education programs in the United States between 2000 and 2010 may be due in large part to the reclassification of individuals who previously would have been diagnosed with other intellectual disability disorders, according to new research.

Read more here. 

Self-Injury in Autism May Be Sign of Pain

People with autism who engage in severe self-injurious behaviors may be experiencing 
heightened sensations to pain and acting out accordingly, researchers said here, 
contradicting a commonly held belief that such individuals are insensitive to pain.
Patients with lower functioning autism are most likely to engage in self-injurious behavior, 
said lead study author James W. Bodfish, PhD, of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., based on two studies comprising 447 adults and children with intellectual or developmental disabilities. These individuals may have an altered nociceptive function so they perceive pain even from nonpainful stimuli, and may exhibit biological changes in skin nerve 
fibers or chemicals like cortisol related to pain and stress, Bodfish said.

Voc Rehab Often Leads To Low-Paying Jobs For Those With Autism

Most people with autism who receive vocational rehabilitation services exit the program with a job, a new report finds, but such employment is typically part-time and low paid.
Nationally, about 60 percent of those on the spectrum left the federally-funded vocational rehabilitation program with a position in an integrated workplace that they’d been able to maintain for at least 90 days, according to a review of U.S. Department of Education data conducted by researchers at Drexel University.
In four out of five cases, the work was part-time with median earnings of about $160 per week, the report found. Most commonly, individuals with autism were working in an office or administrative support role.

It's more than Eyeball-to-Eyeball

Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are sometimes identified by eye contact. . . or rather lack of it.  But that eye contact thing causes confusion. 

Problems with eye contact

Students with autism are frequently described as having a lack of eye contact.  More careful observation can reveal a variety of looking behaviors. 
Sometimes students:
  • Avert their gaze to purposely avoid looking at people
  • Avoid eye contact vigorously as if trying to avoid pain
  • Don’t look because they are looking somewhere else
  • May look, but they don’t look at the important places where other people would look
  • Do not look like they are looking, but they seem to know everything that is happening
These students may not use their eyes effectively to enhance communication and social interaction.  They don’t use their eyes well to make a social connection with others. 

What does this mean for social skills?

Looking is an important foundation skill for effective social interaction.  Eye contact is the basis for making a social connection with people.  Looking at the right things can enhance communication.  Here are some reasons why:

Read more here. 

Archived Webinar - Behavior Technicians in the Educational Setting: New Expectations for Classroom Staff

Watch the archived webinar here. 

Webinar - Getting Beyond Basic Requesting

Basic requesting is a good place to start when introducing someone to communicating with AAC. However, requesting is only one of many reasons people communicate. This one-hour implementation class reviews how people use language to communicate and what you can do to help individuals get beyond basic requesting. Practical examples and materials will be used throughout the training.

This is a beginner/advanced beginner class intended for those who are new to the field of AAC.
Thu, May 26, 2016 
2:00pm - 3:00pm ET

Children are diagnosed with autism at younger ages since push for universal screening

Researchers compared two groups of children initially diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) between 2003 and 2012 at a university-affiliated developmental center in the Bronx: those born before 2005, a pivotal year because children born then would have been 24 months old when the AAP recommendation was issued, and those born in 2005 or later. They found the average age of diagnosis for those born before 2005 was just under four years old; for those born during or after 2005, it was roughly two-and-a-half years old.

Read more here. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Webinar - What Are Soft Skills?

Employment is a major component to leading a happy, healthy and productive adult life. However, there is an array of skills necessary to get and keep a job. No matter the technical requirements of a particular position, Soft Skills are what allow us to get along with others, help us know when and how to ask questions, and guide us to communicate effectively with managers, customers and co-workers. 

Many youth with disabilities are not taught these skills – they often enter the workforce with little idea how to manage and cultivate professional relationships. Lacking Soft Skills can lead to poor interviewing skills, unnecessary confrontations in the workplace, and difficulty retaining employment in the long term. 

Register today for this webinar and learn: 
• What employment Soft Skills are 
• Why it is important for youth to learn what Soft Skills are and how to use them 
• Things to consider when teaching Soft Skills and techniques for including a wide variety of learning styles and abilities 
• How to access the MYTransitions Soft Skills curriculum and future updates 
• And more! 

Register here. 

A Question I Sometimes Am Asked (and my most recent answer.)

"I am looking into furthering my training and education and  . . . I am looking and researching to becoming certified as an Autism Specialist . . . "

I'm going to give you an answer that wanders around a bit and is a bit informal. If you have further questions my contact information is at the bottom.

I will address training and education as being two different things (my definition) -
1. Training is knowledge; 
2. Education is knowledge + some sort of recognition of the specific knowledge acquired (degree, certification, etc.)

On Education:

There are companies that offer the opportunity to become a "Certified Autism Specialist" as  mentioned on the blog . The Office of Public Instruction does not recognize certificates nor specification in specific disabilities.

There are online degrees available in autism spectrum disorder. Do a lot of research before spending money. For instance, a degree from the University of North Dakota may be more accepted/contain better knowledge than a degree from an online for-profit degree provider. Programs may also differ in their content. I haven't researched any of them but did find this while doing some quick research.

MSU-Billings has an online program that prepares students to take the exam to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). I believe that program can also be used as part of an online masters degree. The person who runs that program is one of our Autism Consultants.

A few thoughts on Education (as described above):

1. All of the options above cost thousands of dollars. Is that money you would recoup through moving up your district pay scale or by switching jobs?

2. Online learning isn't the same as "hands-on" classroom-based learning. It can be harder to apply the knowledge learned in those programs.
With Education, one of the questions is, "If I get another degree, what am I going to do with it? And is it worth the $$ in either the satisfaction of gaining knowledge or in increased financial opportunities?

"Training" has a lot of opportunities (in no particular order):

Read the blog. All of it. I have. ;-) There are entries on the blog with information about all different aspects of autism and knowledge that transfers to other disabilities. Some entries will lead you to a source with links to further information, which then has another set of links and so on.

Go to trainings. We offer a lot of trainings around the state, all of which are free. We also list trainings from other providers.

Stay home and watch webinars. It's another way of gaining knowledge. There are multiple webinars per month and many of them are archived.

Stay at home and learn online. We offer free online training in autism and applied behavior analysis. OPI renewal units can be earned from the training.

Ask for mentoring. We have Autism Consultants across the state and would be more than happy to have one of the consultants visit your classroom and spend time with you on a monthly or more frequent basis.

Let me know if you have any questions.


Autism: See the Potential

This video, which features the incredible Michael McCreary, is a wonderful introduction to autism spectrum disorder. The video was created to support customer service professionals when they provide services or support to people with ASD; however the positive response from the general public has been overwhelming. This video is so accessible and entertaining, it offers something for everyone.

View the video here. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Webinar - Preparing Children for a Successful Transition to the Workforce

Wednesday   May 25th   2 p.m. MST

Join one of Rethink’s Directors of Professional Services, Stephanie Whitley, MEd-BCBA, for an important new webinar on post-secondary transition. It is imperative that we prepare students with disabilities for meaningful employment – this webinar provides actionable steps educators, families and students with disabilities can take to promote a successful post-school employment outcome.

Stephanie will look at current employment statistics and initiatives, as well as, resources for supporting children and adults with disabilities through transition and into the workforce. She will discuss the importance of teaching pre-vocational and vocational skills, and will give ideas of the types of lessons to teach for more successful outcomes.

Parents and Educators will learn:

1) Why employment is so important for individuals with a developmental disability, and the current state of employment opportunities in the United States

2) Tips for assessments and steps in preparing for vocational training

3) Ideas of skills to teach during pre-vocational and vocational training

Monday, May 16, 2016

Research Request.


My name is Dr. Melissa Powell-Williams, and I am conducting research centered on experiences of autism with Kathryn DelGenio. This research has been approved by the IRB of Augusta University. The primary data informing my research are interviews with individuals over the age of eighteen who have been diagnosed with autism or an Autism Spectrum Disorder (including Asperger’s) by a professional. I hope to explore any connections between behaviors, diagnoses, interactions, and experiences in the lives of individuals diagnosed with autism. Interviews will be conducted online through a secure program called Qualtrics, and will consist of 45 questions. 

I am writing you today to see if you or others who fit the guidelines would be interested in participating in this research. Also, would it be possible to circulate my interview guide on this forum/page/website in order to recruit participants? 

Please let me know if you have any questions or if you would like to preview our interview guide. 

If you are interested in circulating access to this project, please let me know. I have included a brief summary and link to the interview below:

Please consider participating in research focusing on adult experiences living with ASD (including Aspergers). We hope to explore any connections between behaviors, diagnoses, interactions, and experiences in the lives of individuals diagnosed within the spectrum. Interviews will be conducted online through a program called Qualtrics, and will consist of 45 questions. If you are an adult who has been diagnosed, please take the time answer our questions by clicking on the following link. Please consider passing the link to others. Thank you--Melissa Powell-Williams and Kathryn DelGenio--

Thank you for your time, 

Melissa Powell-Williams
Associate Professor of Sociology
Augusta University

Video Modeling in the Secondary Classroom

Video Modeling is a great way to teach secondary students important routines through watching videos. Video Modeling, combined with a task analysis of the expected behaviors, can help your students be successful when learning new routines. It also can address challenging behavior in a positive, proactive way. 
Video modeling is considered an Evidence Based-Practice by the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders (Wong et al., 2015). Video modeling has been shown to be effective for a wide-range of outcomes, including academic, social, communication, vocational and play skills.  This strategy involves creating videos to provide students a model of expected behaviors and then providing the student an opportunity to perform the expected behavior. Video modeling, combined with task analysis, prompting and reinforcement strategies has a wide range of benefits, plus it’s fun and easy! 
Add Video Modeling to your instructional tool kit with these few simple tips:
1. Select a routine that is challenging for the student to perform independently (i.e., turning in homework, transitioning from class to class).
2. Use a device (i.e., smart phone, tablet) and videotape a student performing the entire routine independently (no adult prompts provided).
• Videotape the target student(s) performing the routine. If prompts are needed, edit the prompts from the routine prior to using the video. 
• Typical peer(s) can also be used to perform the routine. It can be helpful to provide the peer with a simple script prior to the videotape session. 
• It is usually most successful to use a tablet and show the video on the same device. 
• Video editing software can be used to add captions or voice over if it enhances student learning, however, it is not necessary.
3. Show the video model to the student(s) prior to the student beginning the routine or routine simulation.

Adapted Puberty Education for Youth with Autism

With support from Autism Speaks, RCC engaged special education consultants and got to work adapting materials to make the learning experience really meaningful for students with Autism. That entailed incorporating more visual learning techniques, as well as reinforcing the lessons experientially. Developers created social stories and take-home tools to encourage later reinforcement independently and with parents and teachers.

Below is a sample of slides from the Girls Curriculum:

Free Reference Guide - Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): Seven Steps of Support

This new six-page laminated reference guide by Padmaja Sarathy presents seven steps for maximizing academic, social, and life outcomes for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), while minimizing the impact of some of their complex behavioral and learning characteristics. Packed with practical and proven strategies, this guide is an invaluable resource for all those who work with children with ASD, including classroom teachers, paraeducators, support staff, and parents.
The environmental and instructional supports outlined in this guide are derived from sound research-based practices. When these supportive interventions are applied cohesively and implemented consistently, they provide effective personalized interventions for responding to the unique needs of children with ASD. They include
  1. Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders
  2. Structural Supports
  3. Visual Supports
  4. Academic Supports
  5. Social Skills Supports
  6. Self-Regulation Supports
  7. Crisis Supports
The guide details each of the seven steps and provides examples of interventions and techniques that teachers can put into practice immediately to improve outcomes for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Research raises questions about impact of state autism insurance mandates

A total of 44 states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books requiring health insurers to cover autism treatments. But new research evaluating the so-called ‘insurance mandates’ suggests these efforts are failing in key ways to help people — especially children — get needed therapy.

Researchers found that the state mandates — which apply to coverage available on the individual market and some group and employer plans — led to about 12 percent more children getting some kind of treatment for autism. But when compared with the number believed to have the condition, it’s not nearly enough, they say.
“These numbers are orders of magnitude below” the CDC’s autism estimates, says David Mandell, one of the researchers and director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research. “It suggests that a lot of commercially insured kids with autism are not being treated through their insurance.”

Archived Webinar - Use Evidence-Based Practices like an Expert

Join Dr. Wilczynski for a free webinar to learn how the evidence-based practice of applied behavior analysis involves the integration of the best available evidence gleaned from the literature with professional judgment and client values/context. 

During this highly informative webinar, Dr. Wilczynski will review each of the components of evidence-based practicebut highlights the importance of client and contextual variables that should influence treatment selection. 

View the archived webinar here. 
Educators will quickly learn how-to:

  1. Identify efficacious treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorder. 
  2. Describe the importance of client (including family) variables in selecting appropriate behavior analytic services. 
  3. Identify multiple contextual variables that should influence selection of treatments for clients with ASD.

Self-scoring autism screen overlooks problems in girls

Scarpa’s team used machine learning technology to create an automated, self-scoring version of the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT)-Revised. The test is a 20-item parent survey administered during an 18- or 24-month well-child visit; it takes about 10 minutes to fill out and 5 minutes for pediatricians to score. Based on the results, pediatricians can follow up with children showing signs of autism and determine whether to send them for a full diagnostic evaluation.

The automated version takes scoring out of the pediatricians’ hands, sidestepping the perils of human judgment and providing a clear-cut verdict on whether a child needs further testing, Scarpa says.

Her team looked at survey responses for nearly 15,000 toddlers. About 50 percent of the toddlers are white, 20 percent are black and 30 percent are of mixed or other backgrounds; the children’s mothers have a college education on average. The study included a roughly equal number of boys and girls.
The researchers fed the survey results into an algorithm that scanned them for meaningful patterns. The algorithm could accurately detect autism using only 12 of the 20 survey items, the researchers found. The responses from the remaining eight items — including a question that asked if a toddler engages in pretend play — did not provide meaningful data, Scarpa says.

The algorithm could also indicate whether a boy was at low, medium or high risk of autism, based on the responses.
However, in girls, it missed the crucial middle ground: It picked up on girls at high risk of autism, and those at low risk, but was unable to identify girls with mild autism symptoms.

Most of the 12 key questions evaluate a child’s ability to share another person’s focus on an activity or object, known as joint attention.
Girls with severe autism tend to have trouble with joint attention, and the algorithm correctly sorted them into the high-risk group. But it missed girls with mild or moderate autism who can follow another person’s gaze and interpret social cues, lumping them into the low-risk group along with typically developing girls.

Read more here.

Autism: the restaurant steak that roared – video

Laura James is a successful writer, journalist and mother. She’s also autistic. She describes a night out at a restaurant with her husband that should have been a lovely evening for them both. But Laura needs a restaurant to follow a few simple rules. A Tex-Mex circus with hundreds of menu options and unhelpful waiters sent her reeling

Watch the video here.

Autism: a carpet made my son feel as if he was drowning – video

Watch the video here.

Baby's immune system might hint at autism risk

While the origins of autism remain mysterious, new research points to the infant immune system as a potential contributing factor.
A team of Swedish and American researchers said levels of certain protein "markers" in newborns' seemed to predict which children would go on to develop an autism spectrum disorder.
This is "important evidence that the immune system in early life may be a key determinant of later risk of autism spectrum disorders," wrote the team led by Dr. R. M. Gardner of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

Read more here.

Excessive Folate May Increase ASD Risk

Doctors have long told pregnant women to get enough of the nutrient folate to ensure proper brain development in their babies, spurring widespread use of prenatal vitamins as well as fortified foods and a decrease in the incidence of certain birth defects.

New research, however, suggests there can be too much of a good thing.
A small study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that excessive folate levels as well as high levels of vitamin B12 in mothers appear to raise the risk of autism spectrum disorders in children.


Another opinion: 

Concerns About Folate Causing Autism Are Premature

Meanwhile in 2013 - "A recent study claims that women who take folic acid supplements before conception are at a lower risk of having an autistic child."

Aging Out: Autism Care in Montana

Upcoming Air Date:
  • Tuesday, 05/24 at 8:00pm on Montana PBS stations
Each year, more children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, but the framework of care drastically changes for them after adolescence. In 2000, only one in 150 children were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, but that rate increased to one in 68 by 2010, according to the Center for Disease Control. The wave of children aging out of the school system and transitioning into adulthood leaves many people on a search for help and structure.

Rural Montana families have fewer alternatives to create a plan for the future. Dianne Booth and her family are a prime example of that. Reed Point’s Dianne and Jim Booth worry about the future of their son with the programs available to them right now. Their son Logan, 22, is nonverbal and will never be able to live on his own. Coming from rural Montana, Dianne and Jim want Logan to stay in an agricultural setting for him to continue the lifestyle he has grown up with, but they are struggling with a lack of options. Follow the Booths and other Montana families as they recognize their fears and try to piece together a plan for the future.

Brenda Smith Myles in Missoula, August 10 and 11, 2016

August 10th – The Hidden Curriculum

The Hidden Curriculum refers to the set of rules or guidelines that are often not directly taught but are assumed to be. This curriculum contains items that impact social interactions, school performance, and sometimes health and well-being. The curriculum also includes unspoken rules, slang, metaphors, body language, etc. While this information may be intuitive for neurotypical individuals, it is not for those with autism or other special needs. This session includes practical tips for teaching these hidden social needs to children and to adults and stresses the importance of making these a part of everyday life.

          The Hidden Curriculum book

August 11th – The Comprehensive Autism Planning System (CAPS)

This comprehensive, yet easy-to-use system allows educators to understand how and when to implement an instructional program for students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The CAPS model answers the questions (a) What supports does my student/child need in each class to be successful? (b) What goals is my student/child working on? And (c) Is there a thoughtful sequence to the student’s/child’s day that matches his learning style? The structure of this innovative tool ensures consistent use of supports to ensure student success as well as data collection to measure that success.

          Comprehensive Autism Planning System book

Brenda Smith Myles, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas where she co-directs a graduate program in Asperger Syndrome and autism. She has written numerous articles and books on Asperger Syndrome and autism.

Go here for more information and to register.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Language Acquisition through Motor Planning (LAMP) Training - Missoula and Kalispell

Kalispell - November 1, 2016

Missoula - November 2, 2016

LAMP is an augmentative alternative communication (AAC) approach designed to give users a method of independently and spontaneously expressing themselves through a speech generating device. This course will cover the components of LAMP: readiness to learn, engaging the learner through joint engagement, and learning language through a unique and consistent motor plan paired with an auditory signal and a natural consequence. Discussion will include how this approach addresses the core language deficits of autism, device features that are beneficial to teaching language, and how to use those features to implement LAMP components. Videos will be used to illustrate the treatment components.

The company’s language system and devices will be used to illustrate treatment components; however LAMP principles can be applied to other products. Due to the limited duration of this course, hands-on time with devices will be limited to breaks.

Please note: The LAMP training is focused on students who use a device for speech, and not only symbolic communication (e.g., PECS.) “LAMP focuses on giving the individual independent access to vocabulary on voice output AAC devices that use consistent motor plans for accessing vocabulary.”

This training is FREE from the OPI Montana Autism Education Project.
Six OPI renewal units will be available for this training. Information on ASHA CEUs can be found here.
You can register for the workshops here. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Suggestions for fading 1:1 "velcro" pareducators

(From a report by one of our Autism Consultants.)

The reasons for having a 1 on 1 paraprofessional with the student are valid, yet the concerns with a one on one may outweigh the benefits. Be clear what the goals are for the student, academically, socially, and as a good learner. Define the role and responsibilities of the para. Looking long term, constantly having an adult with the student could create co-dependency, is stigmatizing, and may not be realistic when the ultimate goal is being an independent learner. The student can be weaned off a para slowly in small steps, to give him confidence and by building his skill set.

Task analyze a typical learning situation and target where the student could use direct instruction on a skill or what support is needed in areas of cognition, communication, language, social,  fine motor, etc.  Consider that the student may have some learned helplessness or not know what to do. Teach him to look around and see what everyone else is doing or raise his hand to ask for clarification. When assessing his skills at performing each step, note the latency (how long it takes to get started), duration (how long it takes to complete a step). Note any difficulties he may have with finding his place, writing, cutting, finding the glue, etc.  The paraeducator can act as a classroom assistant with full awareness of when the student will need support. Scaffolding is providing just enough support necessary for the student to be successful. She may also be weaning herself off his emotional and social need to have attention and help.

Currently the paraeducator sits right next to the student most of the time. Decrease proximity by standing behind him. If he protests, act as if there is a job that needs to be done (correcting papers or preparing for the next lesson). Increase distance when the student can perform parts of the tasks independently. The paraeducator knows him well enough to notice times he can be independent and when she needs to intervene. He is not fond of "sharing her", that is, when she helps other students. The teachers and the paraeducator need to sit down with the student and explain to him why she is no longer Velcro-attached to him. She can say, "My job is to help students learn. Your job is to follow Mrs. General Education Teacher’s directions and do the best you can."  They can have a signal, a gesture between them to indicate an urgent need for help. Provide positive feedback and praise as the time away from him increases and when he is more independent in doing his work. You can start with easy tasks. As he notices how successful he can be, it should raise his self-confidence and self-esteem.

Video Modeling for Persons with Autism or Cognitive-Behavior Challenges

June 14, 2016
Shodair Children’s Hospital
2755 Colonial Drive – Helena, Montana

Video modeling is the most deeply researched and valid educational and behavioral‐training strategy in the mobile technology arsenal. During this half of the workshop, participants will explore the use of this strategy in positive behavioral support interventions for people with behavioral challenges, including supports for anxiety‐ management, task‐completion, wayfinding, problem‐solving, and social interactions. Participants will practice making effective instructional videos for a variety of students and situations and explore applications designed for video modeling uses. Learning from the first day’s workshop will be leveraged to combine all strategies for the just‐right solution for individual students.

Presenter Tony Gentry, PhD OTR/L is an associate professor in the occupational therapy department at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he directs the Assistive Technology for Cognition laboratory, which conducts research into the development and utilization of mobile devices and apps, smart homes, and sensor‐based telehealth strategies to support individuals with cognitive‐behavioral challenges. Dr. Gentry has conducted well‐ received training workshops on these tools and strategies in 19 states and 3 foreign countries. He is the co‐owner of Neurological Expert Therapies, LLC, an assistive technology company focused on assisting people with autism, brain injury, and other neurological conditions. 

There is NO COST for this workshop. If you have your own device, please bring. There will be devices provided for those who need them.

Course ID – 6464

Smart Technologies for Persons with Autism or Cognitive-Behavior Challenges

June 13, 2016

Shodair Children’s Hospital
2755 Colonial Drive  Helena

This workshop will focus on using mobile devices as cognitive‐behavioral and learning supports for students with autism, at home, at school, and in the community. We will discuss the HAAT model and positive behavioral supports facilitated by mobile apps as part of a larger exploration of current hardware and accessibility solutions. 

Then attendees will be loaned Apple iOS devices loaded with appropriate applications to use during the workshop. We will practice using accessibility settings, Bluetooth switches and other peripherals for students with sensorimotor impairments, and then address challenges to time management, task‐sequencing, wayfinding, behavior, and social skills. 

Using case studies drawn from extensive experience working directly with these tools among young people with autism, we will problem‐solve mobile technology solutions for these challenges, along with person tracking, augmentative communication, medication routines, and anxiety. We will explore strategies for leveraging these solutions to transition planning. The workshop will be experiential, and attendees will have opportunities to practice with the recommended apps, solve problems from their own cases, and develop stepwise strategies for implementing these solutions.

There is NO COST for this workshop. If you have your own device, please bring. There will be devices provided for those who need them.

Course ID – 6463