Friday, October 26, 2018

Study: Specialized Teacher Training Yields More Success For Kids With ASD

Training public school teachers specifically to work with students who have autism makes a big difference, new research suggests, helping kids on the spectrum excel in mainstream classes.
A new study looking at elementary schools in districts across the country finds that providing teachers with just a little bit of extra knowledge about how to work with children with the developmental disorder can yield significant results.
In cases where teachers received specialized training, those on the spectrum “were initiating more, participating more, having back-and-forth conversations more and responding to their teachers and peers more frequently,” said Lindee Morgan of Emory University who led the study which was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Genetics plays outsized role in autism, large study shows

Autism is more heritable than anorexia, alcohol dependence, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, according to an analysis of data from nearly 4.5 million people1.
At 64 percent, its heritability is similar to that of schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder, the new study shows.
Heritability refers to the degree to which differences in people’s genes, as opposed to environmental factors, account for their traits. The new study measures the heritability of these conditions by calculating how often pairs of siblings — who share about half their DNA — have the same diagnosis compared with half siblings, who have about one-quarter of their genes in common.
The estimate for autism is in line with results from twin studies. Those studies show that identical twins, who have nearly identical DNA, are more likely than fraternal twins to both have autism. (Fraternal twins share about half their DNA, as other siblings do.)

Siblings of children with autism have social, emotional problems

Even typical siblings of children with autism tend to struggle with anxiety, depression and social difficulties, according to a large new analysis1.
The findings provide the most robust evidence to date that these siblings have problems, too, says lead author Carolyn Shivers, assistant professor of human development at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. “We’ve found evidence now from nearly 70 studies that says there is actually something going on there.”
The findings jibe with the ‘broad autism phenotype’ theory, which posits that family members of autistic children share some traits of the condition.
However, it does not reveal how much of the siblings’ difficulties are dictated by genetics rather than family environment, says William Mandy, senior lecturer in clinical, education and health psychology at University College London, who was not involved in the study.

Archived Webinar - Specific Carbohydrate Diet for Autism

Nutritionist Kelly Barnhill shares research updates about nutrient intake and dietary status in ASD patients. Presentation includes an overview of the SCD diet for ASD patients a case study review.

View the webinar here. 

Archived Webinar - Early Detection & Diagnosis of ASD: What should you look for and what to do if you have concerns.


Essentials for Living


  • Provides the user with helpful videos explaining the entire process from assessment to teaching
  • Provides a list of the most effective Alternative Methods of Speaking based on the learner’s repertoires that the user inputs
  • Offers the user the ability to perform the Quick Assessment in order to generate a recommendation of skills that might be deficient and might need further testing
  • Allows the user to select more skills to test from a list of must-have, should-have, good-to-have and nice-to-have skills
  • Provides the user with the ability to select skills to test and immediately conduct the initial assessment of those skills
  • Provides the user with the ability to cold probe the prompt level of each target skill chosen to teach
  • Shares data so that multiple people can be part of the process

Matrix of Evidence-based Practices by Outcome and Age

See the full matrix here. 

Helena - New! Social Skills Theatre Class after-school

This unique class is designed to promote social skills (pragmatics) through the fun and powerful medium of theatre. The participants are provided an opportunity to learn and practice age-appropriate social skills and work on the fundamentals of acting.Theatre activities are used to teach emotion recognition and expression, non-verbal behaviors and gestures, listening skills, eye contact, conversation skills, strategies to handle social situations, and critical social skills. The theatre is a safe place for individuals to try new things and to make mistakes they can learn from. Theatre is fun, motivating, and highly structured.
The class will be led by a licensed speech-language pathologist and theatre professional. It is geared for those with social communications issues including but not limited to Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, and other social deficits, but all abilities are welcomed!
The first session begins Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Register here

Tuesdays from 3:45-5:15
Grades: 1st-4th

Therapy taps rhythm to boost speech in autistic children

A novel type of speech therapy may improve the verbal abilities of children with autism who speak few or no words, according to a new study1. Children with the mildest autism traits and those who speak the most consonant and vowel sounds would benefit most.
The therapy, called auditory-motor mapping training (AMMT), involves the children reciting words in a singsong voice while tapping the syllables on drums tuned to produce high or low tones. After five weeks, the therapy increases the number of syllables spoken by minimally verbal autistic children — those who speak few or no words by age 5 — more than standard speech therapy does.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Supports for Students with ASD, Emotional Disturbance, and other Behavior Challenges

Miles City
November 1st.

1. Discuss how to design interventions based on assessment data.
2. Plan IEP's that include the logistics of service and how to target skills across the day.
3. Consider how instructional control impacts therapy and progress.
Round table discussions
Lunch is on your own, and will be available at the County Club, 6 renewal units will be available.
Presented by Lorri Coulter & Chelsea Phipps, Consultants for the OPI Montana Autism Education Project.

Early interventions, explained

Here’s what researchers know about early intervention.

What are the main types of early intervention?
ABA is the most popular of the therapies offered early in childhood. ABA now refers to a broad group of therapies that use reward to encourage and reinforce a set of skills.

One such treatment, the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), applies the techniques of ABA during play to help a child express feelings, form relationships and speak. By facilitating positive interactions, the therapy is designed to help the child build social-emotional skills alongside cognition and language.

Another leading intervention based on ABA, called pivotal response treatment (PRT), is also applied during play. It targets pivotal areas of development, such as motivation and self-management, rather than specific skills. This approach teaches a child how to respond to verbal cues. For instance, when a child requests a toy, the therapist or parent asks the child to name the toy; the child gets the toy once she complies.

Other treatments based on ABA target specific skills.

Read more here at Spectrum.

PECS Level I and II Registration Now Open

October 29/30           Great Falls - Level 2*
November 1/2            Billings - Level 1  FULL
December 3/4            Kalispell - Level 2*
December 5/6            Missoula - Level 2*

​​(Training locations to be determined. *You must have attended a PECS Level 1 training to attend a Level 2 training.)

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is used to rapidly teach communication skills to those with limited functional speech.  Training in PECS begins by teaching a spont​aneous request and goes on to teach additional communicative functions such as responding to questions and commenting.  Participants will learn how to implement the six phases of PECS, plus attributes, through presenter demonstrations, video examples and role-play opportunities.   

CEUs: 12 OPI renewal units. ASHA CEUs are not available.

PECS Level 1 Training: 

This intensive two-day training is designed to teach participants the theory behind the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and the protocols for how to appropriately implement the six phases of PECS.

PECS Level 2 Training: Prerequisite: PECS Level 1 Training

This two-day training focuses on creating lessons and activities to promote communication throughout the day. Beginning with a review of the Pyramid Approach to Education as it relates to PECS, we guide you in refining your PECS implementation and discuss current challenges you have experienced within the six phases.

NOTE:  EACH ATTENDEE MUST BRING THEIR OWN COPY of the Second Edition PECS Training Manual to the training. Manuals may not be shared among attendees.  You will NOT be admitted to the training if you do not bring an individual copy of that manual.

You can register here. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Ph.D. candidate April Boin Choi looks to identify ways to increase early detection of autism in infants.

As a possible pathway to earlier diagnosis, Choi is examining forms of communication, specifically hand gestures. Although researchers have long studied gesturing in preverbal children, less is known about gesturing in high-risk populations. Working in the Boston Children’s Hospital Lab of Cognitive Neuroscience, directed by Professor Charles Nelson, Choi has been able to study a cohort of infants at high risk for developing autism.

“We found that high-risk infants produce fewer gestures, and that infants with fewer gestures at age 1 were later found to have more language difficulties by age 2 and were more likely to receive autism diagnoses,” says Choi.

Even in the hands of a skilled clinician, says Nelson, reliably diagnosing autism in children under two years of age is next to impossible. “April has convincingly shown that before the infant’s first birthday they are already showing early motor signs of the disorder,” he says. “If April’s work can be replicated with a larger sample size and perhaps in low-risk infants as well, it may well pave the way for clinicians to identify infants who will develop autism before their first birthday.”

Read more here.

Quashing sex bias in autism research calls for participant rainbow

In 2010, a group of psychologists pointed out that behavioral researchers overwhelmingly rely on participants from Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic societies — what they termed a ‘WEIRD’ sample — to draw conclusions about human characteristics1. They demonstrated that theories drawn from this subpopulation may not apply to the rest of the world. In fact, they contend that results from these samples often represent outliers.

In autism research, much of our knowledge is similarly drawn from a WEIRD population. But there is further ‘weirdness’: For far too long, autism researchers have assumed that what they’ve learned from males applies to people of other sexes and genders.

This is perhaps understandable given the history of the field. Initial reports of autism were primarily in boys, and researchers have long considered autism a male-dominant condition. In the past two decades, the consensus has been that the ratio is four or five boys for every girl diagnosed.

But work over the past 20 years points to a lower ratio for the condition. For example, a meta-analysis published in 2017 showed that in prevalence studies that rely on direct assessment in the general population instead of on clinical or educational databases, the ratio falls to 3.25-to-1 or so2. Studies of younger siblings of children with autism have similarly revealed that in this group, there is a 3.18-to-1 ratio3.

Read more here at Spectrum.

Archived Webinar - Self-Injury and ASD – Updates

Listen to this Q&A as Lauren Moskowitz discusses self-injury and other challenging behaviors.

View the archived webinar here at the Autism Research Institute.

Autism and Wandering Resources

A short video about autism and wandering.

Wandering Prevention Resources from Autism Speaks.

An Investigator's Package with specific questions on page 3 of a subsection that educators should have when contacting law enforcement.

Other resources on wandering (elopement.)

Does prenatal Tdap vaccination increase autism risk for infants?

This new study, however, sought to assess whether there was a link between prenatal Tdap vaccination and development of ASD. Researchers studied more than 109,000 mothers at Kaiser Permanente Southern California hospitals between 2011 and 2014. The children of the vaccinated mothers were followed for several years, and ASD was diagnosed in 1.6% of the children of mothers vaccinated during their pregnancies.

The report reveals that the incidence of autism diagnoses declined throughout the study period, from 2% to 1.5% in children of mothers who were not vaccinated during pregnancy, and from 1.8% to 1.2% in mothers who did receive the vaccination. Overall, researchers note, the incidence of ASD in the vaccinated group was 3.78 per 1000 person-years compared with 4.05 per 1000 person-years in the unvaccinated group.

“We found no evidence of increased risk for ASD diagnosis associated with Tdap vaccination during pregnancy,” the report concludes.

Read more here in Contemporary Pediatrics.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Devising spectrum of tests for different types of autism

One of the biggest challenges in studying autism is the condition’s heterogeneity. By definition, each person with autism has difficulties interacting and communicating with others and engages in repetitive and restricted behaviors. But the nature and severity of these features vary significantly. This diversity represents a major hurdle for developing treatments for individuals on the spectrum.
Most studies ignore this diversity and instead focus on what makes people with autism different from a ‘neurotypical’ control group. No single psychological or neurobiological feature has emerged that characterizes all people with autism1. Rather, there appear to be distinct subtypes of the condition that vary in their cognitive profile, underlying biology and prognosis.
This variability means that subgroups of people with autism may need different treatments. A certain treatment may be effective for a subtype of the condition, but clinical trials that include people of all subtypes may not pick up on its benefit.

Archived Webinar - Strengthening Working Memory (Executive Function) in the Early Years: Designing Environmental Scaffolds and Child-specific Interventions

Executive functioning, an important area of growth during the early childhood period, is critical for school readiness and success. This webinar will focus on strengthening working memory, an essential component of executive functioning. The session will present easy-to-use environmental scaffolds, growth-promoting instructional experiences and child-specific interventions woven into the daily routines to promote working memory in all young children, including those who have or at risk for developmental delays.

2018 MYTransitions/MAR Conference

November 14-16, 2018

Best Western Heritage Inn, Great Falls, MT

Archived Webinar - Technology at School & Home for Students with Autism

We often hear that we live in a digital age in which there's an app for everything. While there is no question that recent technology has dramatically changed our day-to-day lives, how has it changed how we teach and learn? As we support our students and children to become independent in a digital world, how are we making sure that they have the technological tools and skills to be successful? 

This session will give a brief overview of what we know about how technology can best be used to increase learning. We will also look at how technology fits in with other evidence-based practices to maximize instruction and independence.

View the webinar here.