Saturday, April 29, 2017

Archived Webinar - Vision Therapy's Role in Attention, Stimming, Toe-Walking and other Visual-Motor Abilities

By viewing these behaviors as clues, and allowing these clues to guide you, it first leads to an understanding of the patients needs, as well as an appropriate treatment plan, that involves vision, for him or her. 

Genes and Development in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Genes and ASD

For some time, we have known that ASD is a heritable condition—that is, it runs in families. We know this from a variety of studies—including twin studies, which demonstrate that if one identical twin has ASD, the other twin almost always does also. Indeed, studies suggest that up to 90 percent of the variation in developing ASD is due to genetic factors.1 Nonetheless, as with all complex genetic conditions, environment also plays a role.
Early efforts to identify genetic factors associated with ASD were largely unsuccessful. As little as five years ago, only a handful of genes had been identified, all of which caused complex genetic syndromes, like Fragile X, Rett’s, and Down syndromes, of which ASD is one of several possible comorbid features.2More recently, however, the situation has changed dramatically. We now know dozens of genes that contribute to ASD, with more being discovered seemingly every day. How many of these genes are there? The latest estimates suggest that hundreds of genes contribute to the likelihood of developing ASD.3
Gene mutations that raise the risk for ASD come in two basic types—common variants with small effects, and rare variants with large effects. 

Archived Webinar - Misbehavior is a Puzzle, Not a Threat. Discover the STOIC Framework for Behavior Support

Join us as one of our nation's most sought-after speakers will surprise you with new insights for big change. You'll discover how the STOIC framework, a multi-tiered system of prevention and intervention, empowers special educators. Structure for success, Teach expectations, Observe systematically, Interact positively, and Correct calmly are the pieces of the puzzle you've been looking for! 

Autism and Health: A Special Report by Autism Speaks

The last decade has brought tremendous advances in understanding and addressing the many physical and mental health conditions that frequently accompany autism. We now know that autism is a whole-body disorder for many people on the spectrum. Its common co-morbidities include epilepsy, gastrointestinal distress, sleep disturbances, eating and feeding challenges, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
While each new piece of high-quality research adds to our understanding of autism, it also adds to the complexity of developing the best practices to address the diverse needs of the autism community.
So in this, our inaugural special report, we have gathered the most-authoritative research on autism-associated health conditions and the latest guidelines on treatment and support for those affected by them.
This report – and much of the research behind it – would not be possible without the passion and generosity of our community of volunteers, donors and families.

You can download a copy of the 35-page report from our website

Free Resource Guide on Females with ASD

Four vaccine myths and where they came from

False: Spreading out vaccines can be safer for kids

False: Countering mercury from vaccines can make children better

False: Mercury in vaccines acts as a neurotoxin

False: Vaccination can cause autism

Estimate of autism’s sex ratio reaches new low

The ratio of boys to girls who qualify for an autism diagnosis drops to about 3-to-1 in a massive new analysis of published research1.
The findings highlight the need to look out for girls with autism who may be misdiagnosed, identified late or overlooked entirely.
Most sources put the sex ratio in autism at 4-to-1. The new analysis is based on data from 54 prevalence studies worldwide, with a total of nearly 14 million participants, including 53,712 children with autism. Overall, these studies show that there are 4.2 boys for every girl with autism.
But a lower ratio, 3.25 boys for every girl, emerges from studies in which researchers evaluate participants for autism, rather than interviewing parents or reviewing medical or school records.

Could Smoking in Pregnancy Affect a Grandkid's Autism Risk?

In the new study, researchers analyzed data from more than 14,500 children born in the United Kingdom during the 1990s.
The study found that people with a maternal grandmother who smoked during her pregnancy had a 53 percent increased risk of developing autism.
The findings also showed that girls whose maternal grandmother smoked during pregnancy were 67 percent more likely to have autism-linked traits -- symptoms such as poor social communication skills and repetitive behaviors.
The researchers agreed with Halladay: Exposure to cigarette smoke while in the womb could affect a female's developing eggs, causing changes that may eventually affect the development of her own children.
Still, the study authors stressed that further investigation is needed to determine what those molecular changes might be, and to find out if the same associations occur in other groups of people.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Registration Scholarships are available for the Montana Association of School Psychologists Summer Institute

The OPI Montana Autism Education Project is offering a limited number of registration scholarships for the Montana Association of School Psychologists Summer Institute in Billings, June 5th and 6th. 

The topic of the Institute is “Managing Frustration, Anxiety and Teaching Social Skills.”
Students on the autism spectrum and those with behavioral challenges often present with difficulty regulating their feelings and interacting socially. This workshop describes how to handle meltdowns and design effective behavior plans to prevent these moments and reduce frustration and anxiety. The second day of the presentation details strategies to motivate students to learn, ways to teach social skills, how to generalize skills into the natural setting and increase acceptance and tolerance from peers. 
A full description of the conference can be found here.

These registration scholarships are available to school psychologists, special educators, speech-language pathologists and paraeducators working with students with autism in a public school and also to university students in the degree areas of school psychology, special education and communication. The scholarships are for the conference registration only. The OPI will not provide travel reimbursement (gas, food, lodging.)


We will notify you on May 17th as to whether you have received a scholarship.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Positive Behavioral Strategies for Students with Autism - Bozeman

May 2nd, 2017

After attending this session, participants will:

1. Identify why difficult behaviors are occurring, and what to do to change the inappropriate behaviors.

2. Gain knowledge about autism and what positive behavioral interventions can be most effectively utilized with which types of disabilities.

3. Apply positive behavioral interventions to children and adolescents with ASD to make permanent behavior changes.

Shawna Heiser is a board certified behavioral analyst (BCBA) who has worked and developed her own practice Special Learning 1-on-1 LCC for 21 years. She has instructed juniors and seniors at Montana State University Bozeman as a Senior Lecturer of Psychology for 15 years.

Register here. (account creation required)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Autism's Drug Problem

Many people on the spectrum take multiple medications — which can lead to serious side effects and may not even be effective.

It’s not unusual for children with autism to take two, three, even four medications at once. Many adults with the condition do so, too. Data are scant in both populations, but what little information there is suggests multiple prescriptions are even more common among adults with autism than in children. Clinicians are particularly concerned about children with the condition because psychiatric medications can have long-lasting effects on their developing brains, and yet are rarely tested in children.

In general, polypharmacy — most often defined as taking more than one prescription medication at once — is commonplace in people with autism. In one study of more than 33,000 people under age 21 with the condition, at least 35 percent had taken two psychotropic

Read more here on Spectrum.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Archived Webinar: Deborah Fein discusses an ‘optimal outcome’ in autism

In this webinar, Professor Fein will discuss an 'optimal outcome' in autism. 

Watch the webinar here. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Autism: Beware of Potentially Dangerous Therapies and Products

FDA Cracks Down on False Claims

According to Commander Jason Humbert, M.H.S., R.N., a regulatory operations officer in the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs, the agency has warned and/or taken action against a number of companies that have made improper claims about their products’ intended use as a treatment or cure for autism or autism-related symptoms. Some of these so-called therapies carry significant health risks and include:
  • “Chelation Therapies.” These products claim to cleanse the body of toxic chemicals and heavy metals by binding to them and “removing” them from circulation. They come in a number of forms, including sprays, suppositories, capsules, liquid drops and clay baths. FDA-approved chelating agents are approved for specific uses that do not include the treatment or cure of autism, such as the treatment of lead poisoning and iron overload, and are available by prescription only. FDA-approved prescription chelation therapy products should only be used under professional supervision. Chelating important minerals needed by the body can lead to serious and life-threatening outcomes.
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. This involves breathing oxygen in a pressurized chamber and has been cleared by FDA only for certain medical uses, such as treating decompression sickness suffered by divers.
  • Detoxifying Clay Baths. Added to bath water, these products claim to draw out chemical toxins, pollutants and heavy metals from the body. They are improperly advertised as offering “dramatic improvement” for autism symptoms.
  • Various products, including raw camel milk and essential oils. These products have been marketed as a treatment for autism or autism-related symptoms, but have not been proven safe and effective for these advertised uses.
Humbert offers some quick tips to help you identify false or misleading claims.
  • Be suspicious of products that claim to treat a wide range of diseases.
  • Personal testimonials are no substitute for scientific evidence.
  • Few diseases or conditions can be treated quickly, so be suspicious of any therapy claimed as a “quick fix.”
  • So-called “miracle cures,” which claim scientific breakthroughs or contain secret ingredients, may be a hoax.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Screening status quo misses most children with autism

Most children with autism go undiagnosed until after age 3, and many of these children remain undiagnosed until after they reach school age, according to a new study1.
The findings, published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, highlight gaps in implementing best practices for early autism screening and diagnosis.
The two surveys pegged the average age for an autism diagnosis at 7.4 years and 5.4 years, respectively. The proportion of children diagnosed before age 3 was 17 and 23 percent, and the proportion diagnosed after age 6 was 51 and 33 percent, respectively.
“When we look at these numbers, it should grab all of us in the gut, saying, ‘We have to do better,’” Robins says.

2017 Summer Institute, Polson, June 13 and 14, 2017

June 13 - Language of Emotions

In this LANGUAGE OF EMOTIONS session we will review traditional approaches to teaching children with autism to communicate about their emotions as well as respond to such language from other people.. These lessons may involve very young children or teenagers and adults who continue to have difficulty with this topic. We also will look at a very important part of language that helps communicative partners better understand the perspective of someone who is attempting to communicate. We will review why this area is so difficult for those with autism and suggest teaching strategies that may lead to successful acquisition of these complex language skills.

June 14 - Managing Challenging Behavior

The Guide to Managing Challenging Behaviors training involves an introduction to broad‐spectrum behavior analysis in the form of the Pyramid Approach to Education. Discussion focuses on the importance of addressing students’ skill deficits prior to or simultaneously with addressing behavior excess or other unwanted behavior. Other key elements of the training include the description and the design of effective educational settings that emphasize the use of systematic reinforcement. The link between functional activities, communication training and the reduction of unwanted behavior is explored. In addition, issues related to teaching skills are addressed. This workshop teaches participants to determine and define unwanted behavior targeted for intervention. Participants are assisted with understanding the functional assessment of behavior, and the selection and teaching of alternative responses to replace unwanted behavior. Participants are exposed to antecedent strategies designed to reduce unwanted behavior as well as differential reinforcement procedures and consequence based strategies. Finally, issues related to the evaluation and monitoring of behavior plans are discussed.

Glendive - Critical Communication Skills and Managing Challenging Behaviors

June 14, 2017 - Wednesday
Teaching Critical Communication Skills Training: You will be able to define functional communication; identify and evaluate the nine critical communication skills; design effective teaching strategies to promote these skills independent of modality; incorporate effective visual strategies for all communicators.

June 15, 2017 - Thursday

 Guide to Managing Challenging Behaviors:  You will learn how to operationally define behavior; identify and conduct a functional assessment; select and teach functionally equivalent behavior to unwanted behavior; measure, assess, and maintain the efficacy of behavior intervention.

Register here.  

Increased risk of fatal injury comes with an autism diagnosis

People with autism died significantly younger than the general population, at a mean age of 36 years old, compared to 72 in the general population. Among injury deaths specifically, autistic people died at a mean age of 29, while the mean age among those without autism was 55. 
About 40 percent of fatal injuries among people with autism occurred in homes or residential institutions. The most common causes were suffocation, choking and drowning.

Children in particular were at the greatest risk. While people with autism had three times the rate of death from accidental injury, overall, compared to the general population, the rate was 42 times higher among children under age 15.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

NAA’s Big Red Safety Boxes® Now Available!

The National Autism Association’s Big Red Safety Box® is a free-of-charge safety toolkit for autism families in need of wandering-prevention tools.'

To apply for an NAA Big Red Safety Box®, you must: 
  • Be the primary caregiver of an individual with an autism diagnosis.
  • Be 18 years or older and a resident of the U.S.
  • Agree to the terms and conditions stated in the application.
  • Be a first-time recipient. Previous recipients are not eligible to apply.
  • Apply only once. Multiple requests will not be processed, limit one box per family.
  • Allow up to 3 weeks for NAA to process your application and ship your Big Red Safety Box.

NAA’s Big Red Safety Box® includes:

  • Educational materials and tools, including NAA’s Be REDy Booklet
  • Two (2) GE Door/Window Alarms including batteries
  • One (1) MedicAlert Bracelet or Pendant, and One (1) Shoe ID tag. You will receive instructions in the box to submit your custom personalization order and create your free MedicAlert account
  • Five (5) Adhesive Stop Sign Visual Prompts for doors and windows
  • Two (2) Safety Alert Window Clings for car or home windows
  • One (1) Red Safety Alert Wristband
  • One (1) Child ID Kit from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Children with autism may forego behavioral therapy for meds

Many children with autism who take antipsychotic medications do not receive behavioral therapy, according to a new study1. The findings suggest that these children start taking the drugs, many of which have harsh side effects, without first trying safer options.
Medications are not good long-term options because their benefits disappear when an individual stops taking them, the researchers say.
“The most important thing is to teach our kids skills that will allow them to learn how to regulate their own arousal level, emotions and behavior before we give medication,” Anagnostou says. “Medications do not teach skills; they’re Band-Aids.”

Analysis winnows list of mutations tied to autism

As many as one in three rare mutations seen in people with autism have nothing to do with the condition, a new study suggests1.
Researchers looked at more than 10,000 spontaneous, or de novo, mutations identified in people with autism, intellectual disability or developmental delay. De novo mutations are non-inherited mutations that are present in a child but not in her parents.
The researchers found about 3,000 of these mutations in a database of sequences from people in the general population. Finding the same mutation at similar rates in people with and without autism casts doubt on the notion that the mutation plays a role in the condition, says lead researcher Mark Daly, associate professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Archived Webinars for Paraeducators

Choreographing Effective Paraeducator Support in Inclusive Early Childhood Settings

This session will demonstrate practical strategies of how to choreograph effective paraeducator support that is child-centered, discreet and unobtrusive to advance the learning – cognitive, communication, and social-emotional – outcomes of children in inclusive pre-kindergarten and kindergarten settings. Participants will gain skills in assisting with student-specific instructional interventions, and maximizing learning opportunities for children using appropriate level of prompts and cues and gradually fading the prompts.

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.

The Three Ps for Behavioral Support: Preventive Strategies, Personalized Supports and Positive Strokes
Part 2: With the aid of classroom scenarios and student-specific vignettes involving both general education and special education settings, this webinar session will illustrate how to use the “Three Ps” approach guided by the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) model to eliminate or reduce problem behaviors. Participants will learn how to use Preventive Strategies (P1), provide Personalized Supports (P2) and deliver Positive Strokes (P3).

Delivering Effective Paraeducator Support to Students with Disabilities: A Delicate Dance
Part 1: This webinar session will identify the steps and strategies – based on best-practices research – on how the paraeducator support has to be carefully choreographed to be not too intrusive while improving the educational outcomes of students with disabilities. With the aid of classroom scenarios and student-specific vignettes involving both general education and special education settings, participants will learn how to achieve a balance between providing personalized support to maximize learning opportunities for students while encouraging the growth of independence.

Teacher and Paraeducator Teaming for Student Success

Part 2: This webinar session will address the essentials of a winning teacher-paraeducator team to support students with disabilities. Besides gaining greater clarity about teacher-paraeducator role differentiation, participants will learn steps and processes to achieve collaboration, communication and conflict resolution skills for learner success.

View the webinars here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

New findings on regression in autism: A researcher's perspective

Q: Is there evidence that regression may be a universal aspect of autism rather than one subtype of autism? 
We have to be cautious about saying that anything is universal in autism. Autism involves so much diversity. Rather, I’d say that regression may be much more common than we used to think.
This may be especially true if we broaden our definition of regression beyond loss of language and look at how kids are losing skills before they speak. When we track their communication skills and abilities over time, starting in infancy, we see evidence that they’re doing certain things less. There’s a larger proportion of kids where we see evidence that they’re not as socially engaged at 9 or 12 months as they were at 6 months.
And there are some babies who are not progressing at the same pace as they were earlier, and as a result, they’re starting to fall behind skills.
As a result of all these things, I think we may be getting away from the notion that regression is in just a minority of children with autism. As we start to think about loss of skills more broadly, it may be that regression affects most kids with autism in some way.

Sex differences among people with autism may be minimal

Autism looks similar in girls and boys, suggest results from a large study of medical records1.
Girls with the condition score slightly better than boys on some measures of social function and language ability. But boys and girls show no differences in autism severity, cognitive ability or age at diagnosis, the study suggests.
The effort is the latest to probe sex differences in autism, which is diagnosed in four boys for every girl. Many clinicians say social difficulties are subtler in girls than in boys with autism.
The new findings, published 13 February in Autism, counter the commonly held assumption that there are distinct sex differences in the nature of autism, says lead researcher Joanna Mussey, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The researchers may have failed to capture some disparities, however. For instance, the results relied on tests that do not score repetitive behaviors — a core feature of autism thought to be particularly prominent in boys.

Regression in autism

Children with an ASD who lose skills have become known as a subgroup called “regressive autism”. Regressive autism usually refers to a child where parents report an early history of normal development for 12-24 months which is followed by a loss of previously acquired skills. Language regression is the most obvious form of regression but it can also be accompanied by more global regression involving loss of social skills and social interest.

Regression research – what do we know?
  1. How common is it? Published studies have reported regression in speech, use of gesture and general development in between 22% and 50% of children with ASDs. Prevalence rates vary because of differences in the definitions used in these studies. For example, some defined language regression as loss of at least five words for a period of at least 3 months whereas others defined regression as a loss of consistent use of one word used communicatively. Lord et al., (2004) found that language regression occurs at equal rates in children diagnosed with autism or PDD-NOS. Hansen et al. (2008) found that 41% of children in their study of 333 children with ASD regressed in language and other skills.

    Read more here.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Archived Webinar - ‘Perfectly Normal’: Autism Through a Lens

At about the halfway point of “Perfectly Normal,” the artful short documentary about a man with Asperger’s syndrome, there is a rare filmic experience of the sensory overload of autism.

For about a minute, as Jordan, the articulate middle-aged subject of the film, speaks about his own condition, the music skitters and booms, rapid jump cuts intensify the sense of danger, and in this swelling moment of uncertainty, the viewer experiences a fleeting sense of what it might be like to live in a condition of permanent, anxious neural flood. “You think life has one circle, but no, there are circles which are added to extra circles that create chaos, and it looks like you’re drowning,” Jordan says. 

Archived Webinar - Classroom-Based Pre-ETS Activities

During this webinar, presenters will share ideas of activities promoting work and college readiness for students with disabilities that can be facilitated by Montana Vocational Rehabilitation staff in the classroom. In addition to suggested activities, developed curricula and free resources will be shared.

Watch the webinar here. 

Archived Webinar: David Mandell explores healthcare, education and autism

On 29 March, David Mandell discussed national and state-level healthcare and education policies that affect the autism community in the United States.

Newest "Sesame Street" Muppet has autism: Meet Julia

60 Minutes visits "Sesame Street" for the first time and films the debut of their new Muppet character, Julia, who has autism.

Watch the 60 Minutes video here. 

Archived Webinar - Wandering: How Affordable Smart-Home Technology Can Help Keep Our Kids Safe

Wandering: How Affordable Smart-Home Technology Can Help Keep Our Kids Safe

Come learn more about our smart home technology and take an in-depth look at cameras, door locks, smart sensors and the key role they can play in keeping your child safe from wandering or other harm. We’ll take a detailed look at the technology and provide real-life scenarios on how this customizable system has impacted thousands of families. 

Click here to find the recording from the National Autism Association. 

A Rare Disease? Or No Disease at All?

The mysterious affliction is called PANDAS, in which children’s behavior changes after an illness. It’s scary, but is it real? Doctors are divided. 

In trials, repurposed drug shows promise for autism

A drug used to treat excessive swelling seems to ease autism features in some children on the spectrum, according to results from a trial in France1. But there are concerns about the drug’s side effects, as well as possible placebo effects in the trial.
Clinicians prescribe the drug, called bumetanide, to relieve fluid retention after heart failure and in people with liver or kidney disease. The drug is also used to lower blood pressure. In the brain, it affects a chemical messenger, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), thought to be important in autism.
The drug would need to be taken under close medical supervision, adds John Jay Gargus, director of the Center for Autism Research and Translation at the University of California, Irvine, who was not involved in the work. “Nothing makes you pee like bumetanide,” Gargus says. “I’m kind of nervous that people will rush out and give their kid bumetanide — and then kids will die.”
Of the 66 children who took bumetanide, 23 showed an improvement of more than 6 points on the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS); only 1 of the 22 children on the placebo showed similar gains. (Clinicians administer CARS to rate features relevant to autism, such as the ability to communicate with others or to imitate them. Scores range from 15 to 60 points; a score of more than 30 signals autism.)