Thursday, June 30, 2016

Psychiatric problems common in siblings of people with autism

Psychiatric conditions crop up more than twice as often in families that include a child with autism as in the general population. That’s the upshot of the most sweeping study to date of mental health in siblings of children with autism.
The findings suggest that clinicians should look carefully for signs of other problems in relatives of people with autism.
Among siblings of people with autism, Brown’s team found high rates of seven childhood-onset conditions including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disability. They also found that the siblings have higher rates of schizophrenia and mood disorders, among other mental health problems (see graphic below).

Webinar: Helping Parents to Think about Employment for Everyone

July 14, 2016
10:30 AM-12:00 PM MST

Parents are essential partners in the Transition process. In fact, parental involvement is one of the evidence-based predictors of post-school success in employment. Families play a key role in:
  • Helping youth develop self-determination skills, which are closely tied to successful education and career outcomes 
  • Building work readiness skills in the home
  • Identifying services and supports that will assist their child to meet future goals
  • Providing invaluable historical information to Transition Team members
  • Serving as a resource to professionals by providing access to their personal networks for job opportunities
How can we nurture and support this partnership? What barriers might parents face and how can we help them address those barriers? Why does it matter? What kinds of work goals might fit into the home environment? And how could these tie into the five Pre-Employment Transition Services categories? To learn answers to these questions and more, join us for this information-packed webinar!

Make this Summer Safer with Safety and Wandering Prevention Resources

Safety Tools You Can Use

If your loved one with autism is prone to wandering, it is important to have a multi-faceted safety approach, no matter your setting. Here are some safety tools, products and forms to help you get started right away!
For more safety and wandering prevention resources for families and first responders, visit
If your child is participating in an Extended School Year (ESY) Program, this list of 7 Steps to Prevent Wandering at Your Child's School can help keep your child safe during the school day.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Survey from MonTECH

MonTECH is part of The University of Montana Rural Institute: Center for Excellence in Disability Education, Research, and Service.

MonTECH specializes in Assistive Technology and oversee a variety of assistive technology related grants and contracts. Our overall goal is to develop a comprehensive, statewide system of assistive technology related assistance.

We strive to ensure that all people in Montana with disabilities have equitable access to assistive technology devices and services in order to enhance their independence, productivity, and quality of life. In pursuit of this goal, program staff work with consumers, service providers, educators, therapists, state agencies, private industry, researchers, legislators, and other interested individuals.

Please take a few minutes to tell us about your experience with MonTECH. Your feedback is important to Montanans’ access to assistive technology. The survey takes less than 10 minutes.

If you recommend MonTECH to students or families or work with MonTECH as a partner, please take the Service Provider and Partner Survey.

If you have you used or could use MonTECH to receive an Assistive Technology demonstration, loan, or reutilization,  please take our Consumer Survey.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Epilepsy Patients And Their Relatives More Likely To Be Diagnosed With Autism

Two neurological conditions known for wreaking havoc in childhood may have some shared roots, suggests new research published Wednesday in the journal Neurology.
Looking to settle an ongoing debate about the possible connection between epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder, the Swedish researchers extensively scoured the medical records of all patients admitted to a hospital within the country since 1987. From there, they identified just over 85,000 patients diagnosed with epilepsy. After cross-referencing with additional population data, they also tracked down some 80,000 siblings and 90,000 children of the epileptics, excluding any who had epilepsy themselves. Finally, they compared these families to the families of similarly matched individuals without epilepsy. Not only were patients with epilepsy more likely to later receive a diagnosis of autism than those without it, their siblings and children were also at greater risk.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Mutations that arise in aging sperm add little to autism risk

The mutations that men accumulate in their sperm as they age don’t account for most of their increased risk of having a child with autism, reports a study published today in Nature Genetics1. Instead, the researchers suggest, men who carry risk factors for the condition simply tend to have children late in life.
Several large epidemiological studies from the past decade suggest that the older a man is when he has a child, the more likely he is to have a child with autism or schizophrenia. For example, one study reported that men aged 50 years and older are twice as likely as men under age 30 to have a child with autism. At the same time, sequencing studies suggest that each year a man ages, he passes an estimated two more de novo, or spontaneous, mutations to children he sires.
The findings suggest that de novo mutations in sperm account for, at most, 20 percent of the increased autism and schizophrenia risk associated with the father’s advanced age. “The small number of additional mutations in children with older fathers can’t really explain the increase in risk that we see,” Gratten says.

Friday, June 10, 2016

FTC Cracks Down On Company Making Autism Claims

Those behind a “brain training” program that claimed to improve autism and a slew of other serious conditions will pay up under a settlement with federal officials.
The developers and marketers of LearningRx will pay $200,000 under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and have agreed to stop making several false and unsubstantiated claims about their programs.
According to the FTC, LearningRx Franchise Corp. and its CEO Ken Gibson claimed that the programs offered at their more than 80 franchise locations across the country were clinically proven to improve a wide range of conditions including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.
“Companies that say they can significantly improve serious health conditions or how your brain functions in everyday situations need to back up those claims with sound science,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “In this case, the defendants couldn’t show their training provides the health or other real-world benefits they claimed.”

Applied Behavior Analysis Training - Seattle / Tacoma

The UW Autism Center will be holding two ABA Boot Camps this summer!  
We’ll be in Tacoma on July 19th-21st and Seattle on August 2nd-4th.   Join us to learn about ABA strategies including prompting, reinforcement, shaping procedures, utilizing visual supports and collecting and analyzing data.  Participants will have opportunities for hands-on practice and live coaching/feedback with children on days 2 and 3.  

Register here for TACOMA workshop:
Register here for SEATTLE workshop:

August 8-9, 2016 (8:30 AM-4:30 PM)
August 10, 2016 (8:30 AM-3:00 PM)
Billings, MT

Based on Dr. Marc Gold's "Try Another Way" approach to teaching people with intellectual disabilities, systematic instruction training [PDF] is a must for people supporting individuals who have difficulty learning - This three-day course provides: background on the history of supported and customized employment; strategies to organize job information and to teach individuals to be competent, confident employees in integrated, competitive employment; and a model to facilitate the development of natural supports in the workplace.

Preparing Students with Disabilities for Successful Transition - Great Falls

July 27, 2016
9:00 AM-4:00 PM 
Parent/Student Session: 5:00-6:30 PM (Heritage Hall)
Great Falls, MT

Using her book, 7 Steps for Success: High School to College Transition Strategies for Students with DisabilitiesElizabeth C. Hamblet will share her experience and knowledge as an experienced special educator to assist teachers and others through the transition experience for students with disabilities. This workshop [PDF] is designed to assist educators, counselors, VR counselors, parents, and students in transitioning beyond high school. 

Preparing Students with Disabilities for Successful Transition - Bilings

July 25, 2016
9:00 AM-4:00 PM
Parent/Student Session: 6:30-8:00 PM
Billings, MT

Using her book, 7 Steps for Success: High School to College Transition Strategies for Students with DisabilitiesElizabeth C. Hamblet will share her experience and knowledge as an experienced special educator to assist teachers and others through the transition experience for students with disabilities. This workshop [PDF] is designed to assist educators, counselors, VR counselors, parents, and students in transitioning beyond high school. 


July 18 1nd 19, 2016 

This training will focus on how to use Discovery as an age appropriate transition assessment and an alternative to traditional assessments. The training will be a day and half. Directly following the training will be a technical assistance session for those interested in creating a plan on how to implement discovery on a particular individual.

Discovery, rather than assessing what a student needs to learn, captures when a student is at his or her best and translates that into:
*what tasks a student would like to do for pay
*the type of work environment needed to be successful
*the pacing of tasks
*the type of supervisor and supports needed
*the conditions of work that highlight a student's contributions

Discovery is an optimistic, person centered planning approach that seeks to individualize work-based learning and employment outcomes for each student. Discovery provides a substitute to comparison based testing by utilizing already existing information from the student's life to gain insight into the student's strengths, skills, interests, and support needs. Discovery takes the student's entire life experience into account rather than forming assumptions based upon a single instance of performance. Discovery throughout students' transition years can be a work in progress that helps students form their career path development.

Participants will learn:
*the steps to Discovery
*how to see possibilities from daily routines
*observation skills from inside and outside an activity
*person centered interviewing
*descriptive writing
*translating students' information into possible work tasks

Read more here. 

Systematic Instruction Training

June 15, 16, and 17, 2016 (8:30 AM-4:30 PM)
Missoula, MT
June 20, 21, and 22, 2016 (8:30 AM-4:30 PM)
Hamilton, MT
July 13, 14, and 15, 2016 (8:30 AM-4:30 PM)
Butte , MT

Based on Dr. Marc Gold's "Try Another Way" approach to teaching people with intellectual disabilities, systematic instruction training is a must for people supporting individuals who have difficulty learning. This three-day course provides: background on the history of supported and customized employment; strategies to organize job information and to teach individuals to be competent, confident employees in integrated, competitive employment; and a model to facilitate the development of natural supports in the workplace. is a mobile-friendly web application from the U.S. Department of Labor that helps youth plan their careers, explore education and training options, and search and apply for jobs. The app includes career interest assessments, interactive informational videos, job search engines, and tips and best practices. It also connects young people to in-person career services and resources to overcome the challenges of addiction; homelessness; criminal conviction; or a lack of financial, family or community support.

Montana Autism Center

The emergence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is at epidemic levels. But, as most would agree, ASD is an education, health and family issue that can be addressed successfully. Several entities at the University of Montana have combined resources with colleagues across Montana and the U.S. to develop a proactive, evidence-based approach to learning about and helping individuals, families and professionals thrive in this age of ASD.

Archived Webinar - difference in prevalence of autism in males and females

Donna Werling will examine the difference in prevalence of autism in males and females, and the potential mechanisms driving that difference.

Archived Webinar - difference in prevalence of autism in males and females

Donna Werling will examine the difference in prevalence of autism in males and females, and the potential mechanisms driving that difference.

Parsing pronoun confusion

Children with autism tend to mix up personal pronouns, referring to others as ‘I’ and to themselves as ‘you.’ Some studies suggest this pronoun switching reflects a fuzzy distinction between self and others. Another possibility is that these children misuse pronouns because they have a poor grasp of language, so they resort to mimicking other people’s speech.

Pronoun reversals cropped up in less than 10 percent of the speech of children with autism, who ranged in age from 2 to 5 years. These infrequent flubs are still more common in autism than in typical children of similar ages, who reverse pronouns about 1 percent of the time.
Lead researcher Letita Naigles says she observes pronoun confusion in a specific group of children with autism: those who start using language before they grasp the intricacies of social interaction.
We asked Naigles, professor of psychological sciences and director of the Child Language Lab at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, to explain the possible causes of pronoun confusion and its significance in children with autism.
S: How do researchers explain pronoun reversal?
LN: There are two explanations: a social one and a linguistic one.

Talking sense: What sensory processing disorder says about autism

Many child psychiatrists do not see SPD as a distinct diagnostic label. They say the symptoms are too diverse and there’s too much uncertainty about what SPD is and how to distinguish it from other conditions such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or anxiety. “We know that sensory issues are important in a variety of kids with a variety of different diagnostic labels,” says Carissa Cascio, assistant professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Those who have sensory problems without any of the other conditions are rare, she says.
But some parents say this doesn’t jibe with their experience, and that their children’s problems are fundamentally perceptual in nature. 

Brain tissue study bolsters autism, schizophrenia link

Brains from people with autism show patterns of gene expression similar to those from people with schizophrenia, according to a new analysis1.
The findings, published 24 May in Translational Psychiatry, deepen the connections between the two conditions, says study leader Dan Arking, associate professor of genetic medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
People who have either autism or schizophrenia share features such as language problems and difficulty understanding other people’s thoughts and feelings. They also have genetic risk factors in common. “And now I think we can show that they share overlap in gene expression,” Arking says.

Exploring 'The Story of Autism'

What is autism? 

As scientists and researchers continue to search for causes of it, simply defining autism has been a challenge for decades.

A new book, "In a Different Key: The Story of Autism" by John Donvan and Caren Zucker, explores the history of the diagnosis.

Autism, Donvan told MPR News host Tom Weber, is not a condition or syndrome that "has a biological marker. There's no DNA test for it. There's no blood test or cheek swab that says this person has autism and that person doesn't."
"Autism, from the time it was really first recognized, which was only about 75 years ago, is recognized by spotting certain behaviors in a person and matching them to the predominant — at the time — list of criteria for autism. There's room for all sorts of subjectivity and squishiness in that."

Today's definition of the disorder may still change, Zucker added. "The definition has become so broad now that you define somebody who is totally unable to care for themselves as the same diagnosis as someone who has a Ph.D. and is maybe bagging groceries and has some social issues; that's all one spectrum today."

At the moment, Donvan said the definition of autism "in the most broad sense ... is a collection of challenges with communication and social interaction."

Experience What It Feels Like To Have Autism

The following videos, interactive games, and simulations are great attempts to help us understand what it feels like to have autism.

Warning: Since the following videos are meant to simulate sensory overload, many of them feature loud, repetitive noises and flashing lights. Those with epilepsy or who are prone to seizures are advised to not watch these videos.

New Study Found Link Between Stress During Pregnancy and Autism

A new study from the University of Missouri, School of Medicine revealed that expecting mothers who have a stress-sensitive gene and were exposed to stress during pregnancy were most likely to give birth to a child with autism spectrum disorder.

For the study, researchers studied two separate groups of mothers from MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Queen's University in Ontario, Canada. Both groups of mother have a child with autism spectrum disorder. The mothers were surveyed about any possible stress they experienced during their pregnancies. These stresses may include, but not limited to, loss of a job, moving or divorce. The researchers also took blood samples from the mothers to test for a variation of 5-HTTLPR.
The researchers then discovered that mothers who have a variation of 5-HTTLRP experience more stress during the end of the second and the beginning of the third trimester of pregnancy, while mothers who do not carry the altered gene did not report experiencing more stress.
In a press release, researchers noted that the study is purely observational and does not provide any concrete proof to show causal relationship between the altered gene and autism. However, with their findings, there is a high chance in the future that health care providers can identify women who may be at a greater risk of having a child with autism when exposed to stress.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Paraeducator Supervision Academy (PSA) and Training of Paraeducator Academy (TOPA) - Billings June 29/30, 2016

This two-day training is divided into two sections, PSA and TOPA. 

Paraeducator Supervision Academy (PSA) a one-day training that enables educators and other school professionals to develop a core of communication, collaboration, problem solving, and supervisory skills needed to work with paraeducators. PSA focuses on research-based strategies for establishing and working relationships and assessing personal supervisory skills. It also includes approaches to building work and instructional plans, identifying training for paraeducators through needs assessment, and using feedback to improve the job performance of paraeducators. 

Individuals who have taken PSA can become trainers for paraeducators by taking the Trainers of Paraeducators Academy (TOPA) day of training to qualify as a CO-TOP Trainer. This training will provide participants with skills to deliver CO-TOP curriculum, consisting of 22 courses, to paraeducators in their districts. TOPA focuses on knowledge of the characteristics of effective and ineffective training sessions and the characteristics of adult learners. It provides guidelines and resources for planning the content of presentations for para-educators and for developing effective presentation methods.

Find more information here. 

Consultation Visits from the OPI Montana Autism Education Project

Consultation Visits:  Staff from the Montana Autism Education Project are available to provide on-site trainings, classroom-level consultations or consultations on individual students. These services are available for no charge and must be requested by the school. Please contact Doug Doty at if you are interested.

Here is a bit of data on our past student consultation visits.

2015-2016 post-consultation survey results: (N= 16)





The consultant developed a good understanding of our student. = 4.9
The suggestions/changes the consultant made were easy to understand. = 4.8

The suggestions the consultant made were realistic. = 4.8

The consultant provided me with useful information. = 4.9

The suggestions in the consultation report were realistic. = 4.9

The consultation report provided me with valuable information. = 4.9

What did you like best about the consultation visit?

“Our consultation was very personalized. The consultant valued the opinion of the staff, and came with a wealth of knowledge to share.”

“You can tell the consultant has a lot of experience. The consultant understands the struggles many special education teachers have and has a lot of insight The consultation report had many things I could share with the IEP team for this student. The consultant provided specific suggestions that will be useful for this student.”

“The consultation process was easy going, relaxed, helpful, supportive, and not conflict based.”

Other Data 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Book - Methods for Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Evidence-Based Practices

Methods for Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders is the most comprehensive text available, aimed at helping pre-service and in-service teachers and related service professionals understand the importance of evidence-based practices in the education of learners with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) from a family and longitudinal learning perspective. 

With its emphasis on the theme of family and professional partnerships and collaboration and consultation, the book includes learning aids such as suggested print and web-based resources, graphic organizers, and points for reflection; child and family vignettes, “Consider This” features, and examples of exemplary programs and practices; and the most up-to-date information and latest trends in the field.

See more here.