Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Autistic Toddlers May Miss Significance of Eye Contact

“They’re looking less at the eyes not because of an aversion to making eye contact, but because they don’t appear to understand the social significance of eye contact.”
The researchers studied eye gaze responses in young children with autism at the time of their initial diagnosis in order to have clearer evidence about the initial underlying reasons for reduced eye contact.
Some adults and older children with autism have reported feeling anxious in response to eye contact. “Our results aren’t meant to contradict these personal experiences,” emphasized Jones.
“For children with autism, social signals can be confusing. And as children grow up to be adults, those signals can become even more challenging to understand. This research highlights the opportunity to target the right underlying concerns as early as possible.”

Archived Webinar - Anxiety and Autism: What You Need To Know

Archived Webinar - Ask the Nutritionist - Live Q&A

Ever had a question wanted to ask a nutritionist? Here's your chance - ARI's Nutrition Director Kelly Barnhill will be taking participant's questions live online. 

View the webinar here on the Autism Research Institute web site. 

Flu Vaccine During Pregnancy Not Linked To Autism

Question  Is there an association between maternal influenza infection and vaccination and autism risk?
Findings  In a cohort study of 196 929 children, of whom 3103 had austism spectrum disorder, maternal influenza infection during pregnancy was not associated with increased autism risk. There was a suggestion of increased risk of autism spectrum disorders among children whose mothers received an influenza vaccination during their first trimester, but the association was statistically insignificant after adjusting for multiple comparisons, indicating that the finding could be due to chance.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

"Aspergers Are Us" Documentary Is Available on iTunes and Coming to Netflix

Comedians Jack Hanke, New Michael Ingemi, Ethan Finlan and Noah Britton have grown accustomed to performing in front of audiences, but the spotlight is about to get a lot larger for the members of the “Aspergers Are Us” comedy troupe.
“Aspergers Are Us” first made headlines in 2011 as the first comedy troupe comprised entirely of men on the autism spectrum. Now the troupe is the subject of a new documentary, also titled “Aspergers Are Us,” which was released on iTunes this week and will be available for streaming on Netflix in December.
“I had come across an article about [‘Aspergers Are Us’] and I loved everything about them,” director Alex Lehmann told The Mighty. “Their energy, their sense of humor, everything drew me in. Their troupe defied my preconceptions of autism, which meant I could make a movie where I was asking a question instead of presenting an answer.”
The documentary follows the four friends, who met at summer camp when they were younger, as they prepare for their final show together as “Aspergers Are Us.”

Trailer         Read more here on The Mighty 

Parent training may lead to lasting gains in autism features

Teaching parents of toddlers with autism how to recognize and respond to their children may result in stable improvements in these children’s social communication and other autism features.

The researchers measured autism severity using the Calibrated Severity Score, a test that controls for a child’s age and language ability. This test was not available when they analyzed the data for their 2010 study.
When the researchers reanalyzed their initial data using the test, they found that the children in the treatment group showed a decrease in their autism severity: They showed greater improvements in social communication and a bigger decrease in repetitive behaviors than those in the control group.
These children maintained their advantage six years later, with 46 percent of them showing severe autism features compared with 63 percent of children in the control group.
Spence says the changes are likely to be clinically meaningful. But she says the treatment does not appear to work for everyone. “A couple of the kids got worse,” she says.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

URLEND Training Opportunities


I am contacting you about an amazing learning opportunity, that will actually PAY you to participate and learn!  We are planning ahead to recruit our new URLEND trainees for next fall at the University of Montana.

URLEND is well explained on its website at  

The focus of URLEND is leadership training to work effectively with families of children with disabilities within an interprofessional team. 

University of Montana’s Rural Institute is a partner with the URLEND program. We recruit and train a handful of people – people with disabilities, caregivers, educators, health care professionals and graduate students working with people with disabilities – to be more effective as advocates, clinicians and leaders. This year-long program includes Friday afternoon classes on the UM Missoula campus during the fall and spring academic semesters as well as clinic and home visits that are scheduled as needed. A stipend is paid to all trainees completing 300 or more hours of class and training over the 30 week program. In August, all trainees from around the region are sent to Salt Lake City (expenses covered) to meet each other and enjoy an orientation weekend. Interested trainees can elect to attend a second year of training focused around autism spectrum disorders. 

If you or someone you know is interested, please let me know. We can only include a handful of people each year and like to have the spots filled by late winter/early spring for planning. Please feel free to forward this email out through your networks. If you would like some of these brochures printed, please send me an address and we will send them out. 



Mindy Oxman Renfro, PT, PhD
Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities
University of Montana

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Along the Autism Spectrum, a Path Through Campus Life

The first generation of college students with an autism diagnosis is fanning out to campuses across the country. These growing numbers reflect the sharp rise in diagnosis rates since the 1990s, as well as the success of early-learning interventions and efforts to include these students in mainstream activities.

But while these young adults have opportunities that could not have been imagined had they been born even a decade earlier, their success in college is still a long shot. Increasingly, schools are realizing that most of these students will not graduate without comprehensive support like the Kelly Autism Program at Western Kentucky. Similar programs have been taking root at nearly 40 colleges around the country, including large public institutions like Eastern Michigan UniversityCalifornia State University, Long Beach, the University of Connecticut and Rutgers.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Making the Most of the Holidays for Your Family and Your Son/Daughter on the Autism Spectrum

10.  Prepare a photo album in advance of the relatives and other guests who will be visiting during the holidays. Allow the child access to these photos at all times and also go through the photo album with your child while talking briefly about each family member.
11.  In preparation for the holiday season, you might want to practice opening gifts, taking turns and waiting for others, or giving gifts to others. Use a visual turn taking card to help with this process. Role play scenarios with your child in preparation for them getting a gift they do not want. Talk through this process to avoid embarrassing moments with family members. The New Social Story Book by Carol Gray (2010) contains a number of social stories on gifts.

Functional Assessment-Based Interventions

A functional assessment-based intervention (FABI) is a systematic approach used to support students with the most intensive intervention needs with the goal of teaching students functionally equivalent replacement behaviors to support them in enjoying a high quality life. Umbreit, Ferro, Liaupsin, and Lane (2007) developed a systematic approach to identifying maintaining function(s) of target behaviors and designing interventions (BIP) directly linked to results of the functional behavior assessment (FBA).  In these materials, you will find resources to help you design, implement, and evaluate FABIs in your setting with this systematic approach. These include, brief video modules introducing this systematic five-step process and implementation materials to support your efforts. 

See more here. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Mother's DNA linked to autism risk

Scientists are closing in on the genetic cause of autism, with the latest research pinpointing mutations in DNA inherited from the mother.
A team at Cornell University analysed DNA belonging to 903 children on the autism spectrum, and compared it with DNA from their unaffected siblings.
Children with autism had twice the number of potentially harmful mutations in their mitochondrial DNA than their siblings.
February 01, 2017, 11:00 am CST - 45-minutes
Supporting Students with Severe and Multiple Disabilities: What Paraeducators Need to Know and Do
This session will demonstrate how to choreograph effective paraeducator support to students with severe and multiple disabilities that is student-centered, non-intrusive and non-stigmatizing. Participants will learn strategies to maximize academic and social learning opportunities for students they support while facilitating growth of independence and reduce adult dependence. The inclusion of classroom scenarios and student-specific vignettes during the presentation will help with implementation of best-practices.


Archived Webinar - AT Independence in College: The QIAT-PS Student Self-evaluation Matrix

In this session, we will look at factors students must consider when attending college, including accessing available AT services and supports. A newly revised student self-evaluation matrix will be presented as a strategy for preparing students for independence with AT during the transition from high school to post-secondary education.

Archived Webinar - Apps and AT to Support Executive Functioning

Executive function is often described as difficulty with planning, behavior control/regulation, organization and thinking skills. For individuals with autism, dyslexia, ADHD, learning disabilities or a nonverbal learning disability, components of executive functioning can limit functional capabilities in all areas of occupation. Students struggle with planning, memory, organization and experience frequent challenges with recalling the Who, What, When and Where of many tasks. In this session you will learn about AT tools and Apps to support many executive functioning skills such as time management, shift and flexible thinking, emotional regulation, self-monitoring, planning and prioritizing, organization, attention and focus, task initiation, and more! Join us for demonstrations, examples, discussions and methods of implementation!

View the webinar here. 

Tantrums trick autism tests

Sorting autism from other developmental conditions is no simple matter. Autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), for example, can be particularly tough to tell apart. And a new study suggests that even the gold-standard tests for diagnosing autism are not a foolproof solution to this problem1.
Some children with low intelligence or behavioral issues — but not autism — meet the cutoff for autism on these tests. The findings, published 27 September in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, highlight the limitations of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule(ADOS), the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) and the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS).
We asked Somer Bishop and Alexandra Havdahl, the researchers who led the study, why these tests are not specific for autism and what this means for clinicians making the diagnosis.

10 Things I Keep in My 'Toolkit' as an Autistic Person

7. Something that smells good: My sense of smell is sensitive. Public bathrooms, household cleaners, chemicals, and air fresheners all make me queasy. I like to have good scented lotion or perfume (that smells like food or candy) in my bag to apply when I need to smell something pleasant and block out something obnoxious.
8. Gum/mints/candy: My stims are less obvious, possibly because I’ve turned to an oral fixation. I like to keep organic mints, candy, or gum in my bag. Personally, I cannot handle aspartame or artificial sweeteners as they aggravate my stomach. I tend to be more sensitive to any non-organic chemicals than most people.
9. Taking breaks: I’ve found it is better for me to step away for a quiet moment alone than to have a public meltdown or shutdown. Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself and step away to take a break if you need one.

Archived Webinar - How to Improve Transition Results for High School Students with Disabilities

Transition challenges are top-of-mind for every special educator. How can we improve achievement for students with disabilities and prepare them to transition from high school to college and career? With heightened accountability, special educators are using a range of tools and methods that go beyond core academics and include non-academic skills, while considering student motivation and engagement. Now, there is a growing need for an organizing framework that ensures all students with disabilities are college and career ready. 

Make plans to participate as transition expert Dr. Mary Morningstar describes six academic and non-academic domains special educators can use to address transition challenges and implications for program level implementation.

View the webinar here. 

The Birds and the Bees: Puberty, Hygiene, Safety and Sexuality for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder

December 7 - Kalispell 
December 8 - Missoula

Both workshops will be from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 

This presentation covers a much needed and little talked about area for youths with ASD. Youths with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities are twice as likely as their typically developing peers to be victims of physical or sexual abuse. Information regarding puberty, hygiene, and sexuality relates to keeping children with ASD safe. Areas covered can easily become target behaviors, objectives for IEPs, or treatment goals for youth with ASD.

Topics include:

What to Expect (and what you might not expect.)
Clothing Matters
Personal Safety
Rethinking "The Talk"
Teaching Anatomy
and more!

Dr. Natalie Montfort is a clinical psychologist for The Stewart Center at the Westview School in Houston, Texas.

This training is FREE from the OPI Montana Autism Education Project. Six OPI renewal units will be available for this training

Archived Webianrs - Autism Case Training

Read more here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Autism Training - Glasgow, November 2016

We have scheduled an autism training in ​in Glasgow on November 2nd and 3rd, 2016. The two-day training agenda/audience is:

November 2nd - Special Education Teachers

How To Build A Program For a Child With Autism
- What to look for in diagnosis report.
- Examine programs and assessments to gather meaningful data
- How to conduct an ER for a child with Autism
- Develop an IEP with meaningful goals based on data
- How to create a daily schedule and integrate IEP goals
- Examine 4 profiles for children with autism and how their programs differ
- Discuss/Create visual supports that may be helpful with your students

November 3rd - Paraeducator's and Aides 

How To Implement a Program For a Child With Autism
 - How to take data on goals from the IEP every day
 - How to integrate IEP goals throughout the day
 - How to help the student generalize skills
 - How to conduct a reinforcer assessment
 - How to implement a token economy
 - How to use a visual schedule
 - How to create a task analysis
 - How to use visual supports  throughout the day

Attendance is limited and all requests to attend must be recieved by October 27th. The training will be from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day. To request to attend, please provide the following information for each person attending:

Day attending - November 2?   November 3?

Email address:

Zones of Regulation One-day Webinar

November 30, 2016

We have contracted with Leah Kuypers, author of The Zones of Regulation, for a live webinar in five Montana locations. The webinar will be available at locations in Kalispell, Missoula, Great Falls, Billings and Sidney. This webinar is not available on individual computers, only at the specific locations in each city. 

The Zones of Regulation 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 webinar will be from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This training is FREE from the OPI Montana Autism Education Project. 

See more and register here. 

Didn't get the handouts in your emails? Here they are:

Agenda (note that times are one hour ahead of Montana)
Reproducible Z (Toolbox)