Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Archived Webinar - Managing the Anxious Behaviors of Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

This talk will provide an overview of a cognitive behavioral treatment (Facing Your Fears) to reduce anxiety in children/adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). We will carefully review the child and parent components of the treatment so that by the end of the webinar, participants would be familiar with specific strategies to reduce anxiety symptoms in this population. We will also describe how the program is currently being adapted for adolescents with ASD/IDD.

View the webinar here.

Archived Webinar - Toilet Training Yes, You Can!

Are you ready to move on from diapers? Is your child ready? What do you need to think about and prepare for when toilet training a person of any age? We will discuss planning, barriers, and strategies to successfully implement a toilet training program.

View the archived webinar here.

Music therapy for autism shows minimal social benefit

Music therapy does not alleviate social difficulties in children with autism, suggests a large international study1.

Engaging with music is thought to help children become more flexible, responsive and attentive, leading to better social and communication skills. But participants with autism who received improvisational music therapy scored no better on a standard diagnostic test for the condition than did children with autism who did not get the therapy. The results were published 8 August in JAMA.

Still, researchers should not give up on investigating music’s potential to ease autism features, says lead investigator Christian Gold, professor of music therapy at the University of Bergen in Norway. The study may have missed improvements in a subset of the participants, he says.

Read more here at Spectrum.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Implementing Social Thinking Concepts and Vocabulary: A Day to Develop Team Creativity

Great Falls - October 11, 2017
Havre - October 12, 2017

It’s time to get practical! Learn about three core treatment-based frameworks and more than 20 unique strategies based on Social Thinking Vocabulary and related activities. Teach students to better interpret and respond to their social world by exploring how to engage in richer social observation and making smart guesses to discover hidden social rules. Learn systematic and logical ways to encourage social responsibility by learning about our own and others’ social thinking. Explore how our thinking about a situation and what we know about others can help us navigate and create the expected behaviors that support our relationships. Learn how we make these abstract concepts more concrete by reviewing a variety of activities through clinical examples.

Participants will work in groups to learn how to use Social Thinking concepts across settings, creating one or two lesson plans of their own. We explore how to make lessons applicable across a variety of environments and focus on enabling students to apply these lessons in their lives. 

Register here. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Teens and Screens: Resources for Parents

The video of the first joint SPARK and SSC@IAN webinar, Teens and Screens: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is now available. Here are some websites, books, and tools that might be helpful.

The following resources may help your teens with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (and other family members) cut back on the time they spend gaming and watching videos, and keep them safer online:
Parents want their teens to have more technology education. One participant asked what they could do to get technology education included in the IEP.

Read more here on Interactive Autism Network.

New diagnosis covers ‘borderlands’ of autism spectrum

Children with social (pragmatic) communication disorder (SCD) have the same features as children with autism — just fewer of them, according to a large study of children with either condition1. The results suggest that the condition is a useful addition to doctors’ diagnostic repertoire.

SCD was introduced in 2013 with the release of the fifth edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM-5). The move spurred criticism from some experts who said there was little evidence that SCD differs from other conditions such as autism.

SCD is characterized by social difficulties and communication problems, which are also features of autism. The addition of SCD to the manual was part of a diagnostic shake-up that also redefined autism and removed a related condition called pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).
Researchers feared some children would fall through the cracks of the reworked divisions. But the new study suggests SCD captures children with autism features who would not otherwise receive an autism diagnosis.

Read more here at Spectrum.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Parental concern may skew scores on autism test

A widely used test for diagnosing autism may miss children whose parents are not concerned that their child may have the condition, according to a new study1.

The tool, called the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), is a 93-item questionnaire that caregivers fill out. It is often used with another test, called the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), that clinicians complete. Results on the two tests usually agree, but children who score high on the ADOS sometimes score low on the ADI-R.

The study provides a possible explanation for this mismatch: Some parents do not recognize autism features in their children, or do not consider them to be problematic.

Read more here at Spectrum.

Archived Webinar - Succeeding on the Job: Using Technology to Boost the Skills Employers Want

Once you have the job, it is important to be able to meet your employer’s expectations. Assistive technology (AT) can play an important role on the job in a wide variety of work environments. AT helps to increase independence, access to a physical environment, productivity, and access to information and tools.
This webinar will present tools and strategies to support essential work performance, such as being on time, communicating, following directions, staying organized, and completing tasks. Presenters will explore a wide range of technology to support success, including smartphone apps, wearable devices, a smart pen, and alternative computer access devices.

Parents’ interactions with infants may alleviate autism features

Teaching parents to respond to cues from babies at high risk of autism eases the severity of autism features at age 3, a new study suggests1.

The research is a follow-up to a 2015 study that showed that a parent-delivered behavioral therapy decreased autism signs in their high-risk babies at age 15 months2. The new study suggests these gains persist for months to years.

“We seem to have a sustained effect on reducing symptoms,” says lead researcher Jonathan Green, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom.
“It suggests we’ve done something in the mechanics of the development of the child to change it.”

The 2015 study involved 28 babies who have an older sibling with autism. These so-called ‘baby sibs’ are 20 times more likely than a typical child to be diagnosed with autism. The new study followed the same babies until age 3.

Read more here at Spectrum.

Magnetic promise: Can brain stimulation treat autism?

There are hints that transcranial magnetic stimulation, which uses electricity to change how brain cells function, might improve the symptoms of autism. But hopes are running way ahead of the facts.

“There’s tremendous excitement at the potential to have something that’s noninvasive, non-drug-based, with potentially fewer side effects,” says Michael Platt, a neurobiologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia who is studying the effects of TMS in monkeys. “But the fact of the matter is we don’t understand very much about how it works.”

The small studies so far have mainly used TMS as a research tool, gathering data on symptoms as an aside, so they cannot prove that it works as a treatment. Of the studies that specifically assessed it as a therapy, only one meets the highest standards for research of this type. Overall, the results have been mixed: Some people with autism benefit; others do not.

Still, some for-profit clinics have already begun treating people who have autism with TMS, a practice researchers say isn’t yet justified. “It’s worrisome,” says Lindsay Oberman, an autism researcher at Bradley Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, who has studied, among other things, how TMS changes neuronal connections in response to experience. “You could make somebody worse if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Read more here at Spectrum.

Sibling study bolsters role of common variants in autism

Children with autism, as a group, are genetically more similar to one another than to a group of their unaffected siblings, a new study suggests1. The findings support the notion that people with the condition share common inherited variants that boost autism risk.

Studies comparing people who have autism with unrelated controls suggest common variants can contribute as much as 49 percent to autism risk. But ethnic differences between the two groups in previous studies may have skewed this estimate too high, says Michael Wigler, professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.

In the new study, Wigler and his team compared people with autism with their unaffected siblings, who have similar genetic backgrounds. They found strong evidence that variants of small effect that are passed down for generations contribute to autism risk, Wigler says. “It was significant at a very substantial level,” he says.

The study does not provide an estimate of how much common variants contribute to autism risk. But it adds to mounting evidence that these variants play an important role, says David Goldstein, director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at Columbia University in New York, who was not involved in the study.

Read more here at Spectrum.

Computer algorithm links facial masculinity to autism

A link between masculine facial features and autism has been discovered by researchers from The University of Western Australia, Telethon Kids Institute and Princess Margaret Hospital for Children.
The first-of-its-kind study used 3-D photogrammetry to examine whether pre-pubescent boys and girls with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) displayed more masculine features compared to those without the condition. The research has been published today in Scientific Reports by the Nature Publishing Group.

Genetic factors are known to play a major role in ASD however there is growing evidence that hormonal factors also influence development of the condition.

A computer algorithm designed by UWA researchers was used to generate a gender score for a sample of 3-D facial images to create a scale ranging from very masculine to very feminine. The gender scores were based on an analysis for 11 facial features such as breadth of a person's nose, distance between the outer corners of the eyes, upper lip height and width of the mouth and were compared between an autistic group and a control group. A total 113 girls and 102 boys who were not autistic and 20 girls and 54 boys who were autistic were involved in the study. For each sex, increased facial masculinity was observed in the ASD group compared to the control group.

Further analysis revealed that increased facial masculinity in the group with autism correlated with more social communication difficulties as measured on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale.

Read more here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Life Skills Para Academy - Billings

September 26 (8:30AM to 3:30PM)

Overview: This academy provides the paraeducator with knowledge and skill in instructional methods and life skill support for youth and young adults who have moderate to severe cognitive, communicative, physical, or affective needs. The content addresses the role of the paraeducator in assisting the professionals on the team with transition planning and needs of students who are transitioning from school to community life and to adult roles and responsibilities.

1. Identify domain areas and embedded skills as they apply to elementary and middle school students.
2. Demonstrate how to support students in their efforts to set goals, create plans, solve problems, identify and access resources, and make decisions.
3. Define domain areas and embedded skills for high school and transition students.

Presenter: Libby Johnson
6 OPI Renewal Units
Cost is free

Saturday, August 19, 2017

All About Navigating Locker Challenges

Lockers can prove pretty challenging for kids with learning and attention issues. Some kids have trouble manipulating the lock. Others struggle to keep their lockers organized. And some kids just have trouble figuring out when they have time to make a locker stop, or what they need to take each time they visit. Check out these videos and tips, plus a handy download to help your child navigate locker challenges.

See more here.

How one man built a $51m theme park for his daughter

Gordon Hartman had just got out of the swimming pool on a family holiday, when his 12-year-old daughter Morgan went up to some children playing in the water. She tried to make friends with them but they quickly left the pool.
Hartman thinks they shied away from her because they didn't know how to react to someone with a disability - Morgan has the cognitive understanding of a five-year-old as well as a form of autism.

The incident played on his mind.

"Morgan is just a wonderful young lady. When you meet her you will always get a smile and she will always want to offer a hug. But there were so many times we couldn't take her places," he says

Hartman and his wife Maggie asked other parents where they could take their daughter - somewhere she would feel comfortable, and others would feel comfortable interacting with her.

"We realised such an inclusive place didn't exist," says Hartman.
So in 2007 he decided to build it himself. A former property developer, he sold his homebuilding businesses in 2005 to set up The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, a non-profit organisation that seeks to help people with disabilities.

Then he set about creating the "world's first ultra-accessible theme park".

"We wanted a theme park where everyone could do everything, where people with and without special needs could play," Hartman says.

He brought together doctors, therapists, parents and other people with and without disabilities to consult on the facilities. These were built on the 25-acre site of a disused quarry in San Antonio, Texas.

Read more here.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

TEACCH - Fundamentals in Autism 2017

Great Falls – October 23 and 24, 2017

Bozeman – October 25 and 26, 2017 
The Fundamentals in Autism is a two-day workshop that will provide participants with an overview of the learning styles of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Structured TEACCHing strategies.
Structured TEACCHing is based on the understanding of the symptoms and learning styles of individuals with autism and the use of visual supports to provide meaning, promote independence and capitalize on the individual’s strengths. Participants will also learn behavior management strategies using Structured TEACCHing principles. The format of this workshop will include presentations, videos, interactive discussions, and small group activities.
At the completion of the training, participants will be able to:

  • Identify characteristics and learning styles of Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Develop individualized schedules and work/activity systems
  • Develop meaningful visual structure that promotes independence with educational activities
  • Problem solve behaviors using Structured TEACCHing principles 
This course is designed for educators, paraeducators, psychologists, and speech language pathologists. 

Go here to register.

Attendance is limited to 50 people.

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

NOTE: This is a different, shorter training than the TEACCH trainings we have previously provided.


Monday, August 7, 2017

'Social Camouflage' May Lead To Underdiagnosis Of Autism In Girls

Girls appear to have mastered what some call "social camouflaging," says Amanda Gulsrud, clincial director of the Child and Adult Neurodevelopmental Clinic at University of California, Los Angeles. Gulsrud develops school interventions for children with autism. The interventions are based, in part, on earlier research done by colleagues at UCLA, who did a study looking at how boys and girls with autism interact with their peers on the school playground. The boys clearly stood out as being different, Gulsrud says. They were very isolated from the other boys, who were in a large group playing sports. The boys with autism were the ones "circling the perimeter of the yard, or off by the tree in the back."
Girls with autism, on the other hand, didn't stand out as much, she says. They stuck close enough to the other girls to look as if they were socially connected, but in reality they were not really connecting. "They were not having deep, meaningful conversations or exchanges," Gulsrud says. They were flitting in and out of that social connection.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Transition Tools for Life

A Workbook & Guide for Transitioning Through Life Students & Families of Students with Disabilities 

With 240+ pages it seems to have a lot of resources. 

Rethinking regression in autism

The loss of abilities that besets some toddlers with autism is probably less sudden and more common than anyone thought.

Chawarska’s view echoes the findings of numerous studies that reveal a “range of onset patterns,” as University of Melbourne autism researcher Amanda Brignell and her colleagues explain in a 2016 paper, from ‘early onset’ (early developmental delays, no loss of skills) and ‘delay and regression’ (some early delays, then loss) to ‘plateau’ (no early delays and no loss, but a failure to gain) and ordinary ‘regression’ (no delays before a clear loss). These trajectories differ so much in their timing, speed, depth and effects that it requires a tangle of words and parentheticals to try to squeeze them into a binary framework.
Given all this, Ozonoff argues, we should speak not of regression, but of a variety of onsets: The true clinical picture of how autism begins to present is not two-tone or even spectral, but a complex kaleidoscope of possibilities. “I don’t even call it regression anymore,” she says. “I just think of it as onset: how symptoms start.”

Archived Webinar - A Techie Approach to Addressing Behavior

Whether you are a teacher, a parent, a school administrator, or an education professional, successful behavior management is key to success in school and all other settings. Whether you prefer to manage (or self-manage) behavior through strategies and low-tech supports, or you are keen on going all digital, there is a tech tool for that! Join us to explore techie resources and strategies for addressing unwanted behavior for all age groups and all settings!

Register here. 

Archived Webinar - Pediatric and School-Based AAC Evaluations

When evaluating and treating someone a child with a communication disorder therapist can have a long and tedious process in helping secure a device for a pediatric patient or a school based child. There are several steps involved from the initial evaluation to submitting a device submission report. What tools are available to help us streamline the evaluation process? What are the dos and don’ts report writing when we are completing a device submission report? How can our treatment plan on the report and IEP help the user acclimate to their device? 
In this presentation, participants will learn what needs to happen before, during, and after an AAC evaluation for pediatric and/or school based communication device user. The resources, tools and strategies learned during this presentation can help a therapist during each stage of an AAC evaluation and treatment plan. During the presentation tools and strategies for having the most effective AAC evaluations and device submission reports will be discussed and demonstrated. These resources can be easily implemented into a clinician’s evaluation process when working with school based children or pediatric therapy.

View the archived webinar here.

Accommodating Disabilities in the School Meal Programs: Guidance and Questions and Answers (Q&As)

This Question and Answer (Q&A) memorandum is designed to provide practical guidance related to accommodating disabilities in the School Meal Programs.

The attached questions have been grouped under the following headings: General Information; What is a Disability?; Procedural Safeguards; Requesting a Modification; Making a Meal Modification; Reimbursement for Modified Meals; Accommodations to the Meal Service; Non-Disability Situations; and Miscellaneous.

Read more here.