Thursday, March 29, 2018

Peer partners help students with autism join playground fun

Evan stands close to a teacher who is supervising recess while the other children play. Sometimes Evan paces back and forth, flaps his hands and recites lines from the television show “SpongeBob SquarePants” to himself. Other times, he pretends that he is a ninja fighting an imaginary adversary, or repeatedly asks the teacher when it will be time to go back inside. (I have left out Evan’s last name to protect his privacy.)
Occasionally he stops to look around at his peers, who are playing soccer, chatting, swinging, shooting baskets or chasing each other on the playground. A 10-year-old with autism, he simply does not know how to approach or interact with his peers. To him, it seems like all of them naturally know how to talk and play with one another.
Evan feels much more comfortable in the classroom, where there is explicit structure and clear expectations. By contrast, recess is an unstructured jungle where Evan is not quite sure what he should be doing.
Evan’s peers would never suspect that, if asked, he would tell them how much he really wants to play with them. Sometimes they look over at Evan and seem puzzled and confused by his behavior. No one is unkind to Evan, because no one interacts with him at all. Perplexed about why he would choose to play by himself and stand by the teacher, they keep their distance.
The teacher who supervises recess is sad that Evan stands close to her and plays by himself instead of with his peers. She wishes that he had the skills to join his peers, and that his peers would include him in their play.
Many students with autism struggle to play with their peers in unstructured situations or to develop friendships with children who do not have disabilities1. Although teachers are often sympathetic to these challenges, they rarely feel empowered to help.

Peer support:

My colleagues and I are tackling this problem by developing strategies for supporting students with autism during recess.

Read the full article at Spectrum for some good ideas.

Flurry of studies hint at folic acid’s protective role in autism

Folic acid, a B vitamin, may lower autism risk and ease features of the condition, according to findings from five unrelated studies published over the past few months.

Three of the studies suggest that prenatal supplements of folic acid offset autism risk associated with in utero exposure to epilepsy drugs or toxic chemicals1,2,3. The supplements are also known to prevent birth defects.
Another study found that people with autism and their immediate family members are more likely than controls to carry immune molecules that could block folate’s passage into the brain4.

Read more here at Spectrum.

Prenatal, perinatal, and neonatal risk factors of autism spectrum disorder

8,760 children diagnosed with ASD between age 2-18 years were matched with 26, 280 controls. ASD is associated with maternal mental illness, epilepsy, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, infection, asthma, assisted fertility, hyperemesis, younger maternal age, labor complications, low birth weight, infant infection, epilepsy, birth asphyxia and newborn complications. Greatest increased risk was associated with infant epilepsy and maternal mental health and epilepsy medications.


ASD is associated with a range of prenatal, perinatal, and neonatal factors, with the highest magnitude associations with maternal medication use and neonatal seizure.

Read more here at Pediatric Research.

Newsletter - Science in Autism Treatment

See the issue here.

Subscribe to the quarterly newsletter here.

Positive Behavioral Practice Based Strategies for Self-Regulation

Great Falls
April 6th

A thorough presentation of positive behavioral interventions in the classroom will be presented to conference attendees. Discussion will center around students with learning disabilities. Children with Serious Emotional Disorder and behavioral concerns will be thoroughly discussed. The audience will be able to apply the in-formation presented through videos, activities, and examples of how to set up positive plans for children in a variety of environmental settings immediately in their respective situations. The training will also contain discussions about practice based interventions such as Superflex Super Hero curriculum and Zones of Regulation in the classroom. We will examine the common pitfalls that sabotage behavioral intervention plans and thoroughly describe the common 504 accommodations presented to people

See the flyer here.

(72 attendees)

Race, income, education alter accuracy of autism screen

Customized cutoff scores could boost the accuracy of a popular screen for autism in children from certain backgrounds, according to a new study1.

The tool, the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ), may incorrectly flag children whose mothers are black, have low incomes or have a high-school education or less, the study suggests.

Another screening tool, the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, may also yield inflated scores for children whose mothers belong to minority groups or did not graduate from college2.

Read more here at Spectrum.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Archived Webinars - Social Thinking

The Social Competency Model: Teaching Social Competencies More Than Social Skills

How to Use Core Social Thinking Materials

How to Use Social Thinking Materials to Teach Ages 4–7

How to Use Social Thinking Materials to Teach Ages 8-11

How to Use Social Thinking Materials to Teach Ages 11–22

View the webinars here.

Navigating the Zones - A New Zones Tool by Leah Kuyper

Navigating The Zones is an interactive teaching tool designed to extend Leah Kuyper’s original teachings as described in the book The Zones of Regulation®. It engages participants in a problem-solving process at the heart of emotional self-regulation—while learning and collaborating along the way.
It walks participants through the “Zones Pathway”—a visual, sequential, and concrete road map that helps structure participants’ thinking and processing about the problem-solving sequence that is at the center of emotional self-regulation. This three-step process involves thinking about a Situation (where are we, who are we with?), thinking about and interpreting the Feeling we experience in response to the situation, and thinking about a Tool or strategy we can use to help us navigate the situation in an expected way.

Group collaboration and problem solving is a significant part of the journey in 
Navigating The Zones. Participants work together, under the guidance of the Adult Facilitator, to support each other and reach a shared goal. They can offer each other help, ask questions, suggests tools and strategies, and more—so that as a team, everyone is successful and the learning is rich!

See more information here.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Why studying autism in mice may be doomed to fail

Many of the original reports of social deficits in mice have not held up when tested by independent labs — including Silverman’s — or in different strains of mice. Inconsistent findings have plagued studies not just of SHANK3 mice, but also those with mutations in the risk genes CHD8NLGN3NLGN4 and CNTNAP2, among others. That has left many scientists wondering whether mice can ever recapitulate something as complex and human as autism.
“I think that defining an autism mouse is folly,” says Valerie Bolivar, director of the Mouse Behavioral Phenotype Analysis Core at the Wadsworth Center in Albany, New York. “To get all those things in a nice, neat package with a bow — we’re just not going to get that.”
A more productive approach may be to focus only on behaviors that are reproducible in mice, such as quantitative measures of how the animals learn. If researchers do want to get at social deficits, they may need to go back to basics and methodically catalog mouse behavior.

Missoula - Adapted Performance of "The Little Mermaid"

Tuesday, May 8 @ 6:30 PM

This adapted show features lower levels of light and sound. There is a designated quiet area, and also guidance during the performance.  These features are intended to help people on the autism spectrum more fully enjoy the theatre experience.

View the social story for The Little Mermaid.

Please call the box office, or stop in to purchase tickets at a special price of $10.

(406) 728-PLAY [7529]

Friday, March 16, 2018

Three Resources for Behavior Contracts

Resources from Intervention Central

Behavior Contracts - How to Write Them

And many many suggestions from PBIS World

Archived Webinar - Assistive Technology and the IEP

Are you a parent or family member of a child with an IEP? Do you work with students with disabilities and their families? This family-oriented webinar will provide valuable ideas on how to advocate for assistive technology devices and services designed to help students be successful at school. Among the questions that Ms. Lightner will address are:
  • What is assistive technology?
  • How do I learn what types of AT might help my child?
  • How do I get AT added to my child's IEP?
Watch the recorded webinar here. 

Post-school Transition Assessments


Employability/Life Skills Assessment - Ages 6-13 years
Download PDF

Employability/Life Skills Assessment - Ages 14-21 years
Download PDF

Employability/Life Skills Assessment - Parent Form - Ages 6-13 years
Download PDF

Employability/Life Skills Assessment - Parent Form - Ages 14-21 years
Download PDF

Additional OCALI Transition Resources

Quickbook of Transition Assessments - multiple forms

Parent Interviews to Help in the Transition Process

Age Appropriate Transition Assessments

Casey Life Skills

 MCIS is a great site to use to give them a reality check on some of their ideas (start with the Interest Profile under assessments)

 BESI (Barriers to Employment Success Inventory)

Community-based Skills Assessment




Early Identification of ASD Through Telemedicine: Potential Value for Underserved Populations


Increasing access to diagnostic services is crucial for identifying ASD in young children. We therefore evaluated a telemedicine assessment procedure. First, we compared telediagnostic accuracy to blinded gold-standard evaluations (n = 20). ASD cases identified via telemedicine were confirmed by in-person evaluation. However, 20% of children diagnosed with ASD in-person were not diagnosed via telemedicine. Second, we evaluated telediagnostic feasibility and acceptability in a rural catchment. Children (n = 45) and caregivers completed the telemedicine procedure and provided feedback. Families indicated high levels of satisfaction. Remote diagnostic clinicians diagnosed 62% of children with ASD, but did not feel capable of ruling-in or out ASD in 13% of cases. Findings support preliminary feasibility, accuracy, and clinical utility of telemedicine-based assessment of ASD for young children.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

What Might You Need to Know About Managing a Crisis Situation?

Generally, when a child is engaged in the active, disruptive stage of a behavior, such as a tantrum or aggression, the essential focus has to be on the safety of the individual, those around them, and the protection of property. It is important to keep in mind that when he is in full meltdown mode, he is not capable of reasoning, being redirected, or learning replacement skills. However, this level of agitation does not usually come out of thin air. You can learn skills to help anticipate and turn around an escalating situation that seems to be headed in this direction.
Read some great advice here at Autism Speaks.

Should All Nonverbal Young Children with Autism Immeditely Have AAC Taught To Them?

Consider that by 18 months, babies have heard 4,380 hours of spoken language and we don’t expect them to be fluent speakers.  Yet, if AAC learners only see symbols modeled for communication twice weekly for 20-30 minutes, it will take 84 YEARS for them to have the same exposure to aided language as an 18 month old has to spoken language. (Jane Korsten- QIAT Listerv 2011).
Who are the best candidates for immediate consideration for AAC?
  1. Nonverbal children who do not progress into vocal imitation even after they have learned to imitate body movements, and who may have sight word vocabulary and other nonverbal cognitive skills.  These would be young children who cannot learn to imitate speech phonemes and have a true underlying speech dyspraxia.  They desperately need AAC to develop symbolic communication.  Some will develop verbal speech as they use signs, PECS, etc., or a combination of strategies.
  2. Preschoolers whose nonverbal performance skills are well below 12-month level.  They will not have the necessary cognitive skills to support language development.  This will be a small group of children.  They will need to use gestural and simple, low tech AAC.

Read the very good article here.

Yet Another Reason We Don't Post Mouse Studies

Statistical errors may taint as many as half of mouse studies

Seven years ago, Peter Kind, a neuroscientist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, found himself in an uncomfortable situation. He was reading a study about fragile X syndrome, a developmental condition characterized by severe intellectual disability and, often, autism. The paper had appeared in a high-profile journal, and the lead scientist was a reputable researcher — and a friend. So Kind was surprised when he noticed a potentially serious statistical flaw.
The research team had looked at 10 neurons from each of the 16 mice in the experiment, a practice that in itself was unproblematic. But in the statistical analysis, the researchers had analyzed each neuron as if it were an independent sample. That gave them 160 data points to work with, 10 times the number of mice in the experiment.
“The question is, are two neurons in the brain of the same animal truly independent data points? The answer is no,” Kind says. “The problem is that you are increasing your chance of getting a false positive.”
The more times an experiment is replicated, the more likely it is that an observed effect is not just a lucky roll of the dice. That’s why more animals (or people) means more reliable results. But in the fragile X study, the scientists had artificially inflated the number of replications — a practice known as ‘pseudoreplication.’
This practice makes it easier to reach the sweet spot of statistical significance, especially in studies involving small numbers of animals. But treating measurements taken from a single mouse as independent samples goes against a fundamental principle of statistics and can lead scientists to find effects that don’t actually exist.

Read more here at Spectrum.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Archived Webinar - Prevent-Teach-Reinforce for Young Children: An Intervention Model for the Most Serious Challenging Behaviors

This webinar provides a description of Prevent-Teach-Reinforce for Young Children, a model of intervention for young children with the most persistent and severe challenging behaviors.  The model is based on the well-established procedures of positive behavior support, but is designed to help providers implement the assessment and intervention strategies with a high level of fidelity, leading to improved effectiveness. 

PTR-YC is a process for use in early childhood care and education settings, including pre-K classrooms, and consists of teaming and goal setting, practical data collection, functional behavioral assessment, intervention planning and implementation.  All steps are designed for use by typical early childhood providers. 

View the webinar here. 

FDA did not issue new statement on vaccines and autism

Some health websites have misrepresented the fine print on an old vaccine label to falsely claim that the “FDA announced that vaccines are causing autism.” Vaccines do not cause autism and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration did not make any new statement this week about the long-debunked claim.

Autism was listed as one of many “adverse events” on the 2005 label of Sanofi Pasteur’s Tripedia childhood vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. When the vaccine was first approved, such reports were generated voluntarily by consumers and were automatically added to the FDA label, even if there was no plausible connection to the product.

The 2005 label notes that such reports do not “establish a causal relationship” to the vaccine. Since then, the FDA has changed its labeling rules and now only includes adverse events “for which there is some basis to believe there is a causal relationship,” the agency said in a statement.

Sanofi Pasteur stopped making the vaccine years ago, and its last shipment of it was in 2012.

Medical researchers have debunked claims that vaccines given to children can lead to autism and developmental disorders. A study that drew a connection between autism and vaccines was found faulty and retracted in 2010.

Sensory aspects of speech linked to language issues in autism

Children with autism pay just as much attention to speech that doesn’t match lip movements as to speech in which sight and sound are coordinated, according to a new study1. Typical children prefer speech in which the sensory cues are in sync.
Some people with autism have trouble learning to speak and understand words. Some people with the condition have minimal verbal skills or don’t speak at all. The new work suggests that these problems may be partially rooted in an inability to integrate sight and sound when other people talk, and inattention to these cues.
“There are underlying mechanisms that bring about these sets of skills that then translate into language learning,” says lead researcher Giulia Righi, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. “We really need to understand from a mechanistic view how these abilities come about.”

Friday, March 2, 2018

Setting the Tone for All Learners with Visual Cues

Since many of my students have ADHD or autism, I know that lining up quietly is one of the most difficult tasks in the world for some kids. I was once one of them and I spent a good portion of my childhood being sent to the back of the line. I think that makes me an expert on wanting to make noise and wander off.
  • One thing to always consider is that we have students who learn in different ways. Some kids are great listeners and some kids really respond well to visual cues. After viewing the video, I’d want to put in place some good visual cues for students who struggle with listening.
  • Since Nick is requesting a new behavior at the threshold of the door, this is where I’ll start my adaptation and this is where the special ed team should step in. Since many special ed students need more practice than their general ed peers, I’d first advise some practice sessions before the class begins. Go over the rules in advance with anyone who might be assisting the students so all staff members have the same expectations.
Read and view more here on the Teaching Channel.

Archived Webinar on Preparing for the World of Work

In this recorded webinar video, Ernst VanBergeijk, PhD, MSW, a professor at Lesley University, discusses employment and job trends for people with autism, skills that help individuals with autism gain and retain jobs, and how employers and co-workers can create an autism-friendly workplace.

View the webinar here at Interactive Autism Network.

The costs of camouflaging autism

Many girls hide their autism, sometimes evading diagnosis well into adulthood. These efforts can help women on the spectrum socially and professionally, but they can also do serious harm.

Over the past few years, scientists have discovered that, like Jennifer, many women on the spectrum ‘camouflage’ the signs of their autism. This masking may explain at least in part why three to four times as many boys as girls are diagnosed with the condition. It might also account for why girls diagnosed young tend to show severe traits, and highly intelligent girls are often diagnosed late. (Men on the spectrum also camouflage, researchers have found, but not as commonly as women.)

Nearly everyone makes small adjustments to fit in better or conform to social norms, but camouflaging calls for constant and elaborate effort. It can help women with autism maintain their relationships and careers, but those gains often come at a heavy cost, including physical exhaustion and extreme anxiety.

“Camouflaging is often about a desperate and sometimes subconscious survival battle,” says Kajsa Igelstr√∂m, assistant professor of neuroscience at Link√∂ping University in Sweden. “And this is an important point, I think — that camouflaging often develops as a natural adaptation strategy to navigate reality,” she says. “For many women, it’s not until they get properly diagnosed, recognized and accepted that they can fully map out who they are.”

Read more here at Spectrum.

3 Tips for Making Data-Based Decisions like a Pro!

Data. Some people love it. For others, it can be a real four-letter word. Whether you love it or hate it, data is here to stay! It is CRUCIAL to student success. Without data, we have no way to objectively analyze student progress. However, simply collecting data without pausing to reflect & make decisions gets us nowhere. Check out these great tips to ensure a successful data-driven school year!

1. Collect a Baseline

Prior to teaching a new goal to your students, it is a great best-practice to begin by collecting baseline data. You can think of baseline data as a pre-test: we’re simply testing the student to see what he already knows before we begin teaching. Imagine you’re planning on teaching a student to identify community helpers. Without collecting a baseline, you likely don’t know if the student knows some community helpers, all community helpers, or no community helpers at all. This would make it difficult to know where to begin. Once you collect some baseline data, you may discover that the student can already identify the police offer, the fire fighter, and the doctor, but cannot identify the postal worker, the construction worker, or the teacher. You now know where to begin your lesson!

Read more here at rethink ED.

Parent training boosts language in nonverbal children with autism

Children with autism who speak few or no words improve in their verbal abilities after their parents learn to engage them in conversation during play, according to a pilot study1.

The parents learn strategies such as following their child’s focus and engaging the child with words and toys. These strategies are part of an established behavioral therapy for autism called JASPER, which is known to improve social skills and communication when implemented by trained therapists.

The new work is part of an ongoing trend of coaching parents to provide autism therapies. This approach has the advantage of incorporating the treatments into the child’s daily life. Few studies have explored the effectiveness of this approach, however. The new study’s findings begin to fill that gap.

“Parents really took to the intervention,” says lead investigator Connie Kasari, professor of human development and psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. “They really could master the strategies to the same extent as therapists.”

The findings also show that parents do not need to use these strategies perfectly: Those who implement at least 75 percent of the techniques see improvements in their children

Read more here at Spectrum.

Autism Studies You May Have Seen Recently and What to Know About Them

With little known about it, an abundance of research about autism exists. It can be overwhelming to keep track of, and often these studies don’t take autistic individuals’ experiences into account or are rooted in finding a cure, versus bettering resources and therapies for people on the spectrum. In February alone, three stories based on research claims made headlines. The Mighty looked into each of these stories.

1. One study suggests a correlation between autism and ultrasounds.

Read more here at The Mighty.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Meet The Police

NAA’s Meet the Police safety initiative is a free, downloadable toolkit for individuals with autism, parents or caregivers who are concerned about their loved one’s safety in the community. The purpose of this program is to help enhance the quality of interactions between individuals with autism and members of law enforcement.  
The toolkit includes steps you can take to establish trusting relationships, reduce confusion and fear, and encourage opportunities for law enforcement agencies to get to know members of their community who may be at increased risk due to behaviors commonly associated with autism.