Friday, September 13, 2019

Webinar - Using Proactive Strategies for Social Emotional Learning

In this webinar you’ll learn: 

• Best practices for applying timely, proactive strategies to promote self-regulation and social emotional learning

• The relationship between emotional control and students’ ability to learn

• How to choose the right strategies to address common unwanted behaviors 

A Certificate of Attendance will be awarded to those who attend the live webinar. 

Can’t attend? Just register and we’ll send a link to the recorded event.

Duration: 1 hour
Sep 24, 2019 05:00 PM in Eastern Time

An Open Letter to the Media: On “Severe” Autism and Inspiration Porn

Inspiration Porn: The Basics

So, what is inspiration porn, exactly?
Well, let’s condense a big topic into a few points that should be easy enough to identify, understand, and then, most importantly– NOT practice in journalism.

1. Featuring Disabled People Doing Everyday Tasks

If a disabled person is doing something that most people do, like communicating, attending an event, or– say– graduating from high school, then it’s not newsworthy.
A few months ago, there was a daughter who was signing for her father at a concert. This became national news, and everyone talked about how touching it was.
But this is a daughter and a father communicating. They’re using language like everyone else does when they communicate. To film them… creepy.
Two people communicating in their language is normal.
Again, for the people in the back: people communicating in their language is
Let’s imagine how cringe-worthy this scenario is in another context:
Marissa and Maya are meeting after work to have a chat over a glass of wine.
They are speaking Spanish in Nebraska. An amazed patron who has never seen two real-life people speaking Spanish films it and puts it on YouTube.
It becomes a national story. Women had a glass of wine and– communicated. Stop the presses.
See? It’s weird, right?
Was an autistic person graduating what was newsworthy? Because most autistic people graduate. Was a woman signing to her deaf father in their everyday, normal communication? Because that is not unique to them. That’s their daily life.
Not being the majority does not mean that someone is fair game for being exoticized. A disabled person sighting is not like bigfoot, and footage of their interactions in life does not make for ethical clickbait.
Read more here. 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Finding Your Way: A College Guide for Students on the Spectrum

Everyone deserves a fulfilling college experience, including students on the autism spectrum. OAR’s Finding Your Way: A College Guide for Students on the Spectrum is intended to help students with ASD become better prepared for college life and academics. This guide addresses challenges that are both universal and unique to students on the college autism spectrum by providing information, guidance, and resources that address them. Finding Your Way offers practical advice from autism experts; powerful narratives from self-advocates; and relevant resource tools. It is intended to help readers anticipate and improve their academic and social situations by advocating for themselves.

You can download or order the guide here. 

Study challenges idea that autism is caused by an overly masculine brain

Of the many proposed triggers for autism, one of the most controversial is the “extreme male brain” hypothesis. The idea posits that exposure to excess testosterone in the womb wires both men and women to have a hypermasculine view of the world, prioritizing stereotypically male behaviors like building machines over stereotypically female behaviors like empathizing with a friend. Now, a study is raising new doubts about this theory, finding no effect of testosterone on empathy in adult men.
The work does not directly address whether high levels of prenatal testosterone cause autism or lack of empathy. That would require directly sampling the hormone in utero, which can endanger a developing fetus. But the new study’s large size—more than 600 men—makes it more convincing than similar research in the past, which included no more than a few dozen participants, experts say.
The extreme male brain hypothesis was first proposed by psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. In 2011, he and colleagues found that women given a single hefty dose of testosterone fared significantly worse at the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test (RMET), which asked them to gauge the emotional states of others based on their facial expressions. The women’s performance seemed to track with a controversial metric called the 2D:4D ratio, the relative lengths of the second and fourth fingers. Men—and people with autism—tend to have a longer ring finger than index finger, and some researchers believe that is due to higher prenatal exposure to testosterone. 

Webinar: Self-Advocacy and ASD: Theory and Practice for All Ages Part 1

View the archived webinar here. 

Therapy improves speech in autistic children with language delay

A behavioral therapy called pivotal response treatment (PRT) boosts the communication skills of autistic children with language delay better than do standard speech and autism therapies, a small study suggests1.
PRT therapists use various strategies to motivate autistic children to talk during play. For instance, they may name a toy that a child shows interest in, but hand it over only if the child then requests it by name. They also teach parents to use similar strategies in their daily routines.
The treatment has been shown to improve communication skills and ease autism traits when therapists implement it2. It is also effective when trained parents deliver it3. The new work explores its effectiveness when both parents and therapists are involved, as the therapy’s creators intended.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

2018 Child Count Data on Montana Students with Autism

Doug Note: It will be interesting to see the data for the 2019 Child Count and beyond, as the 2019 expansion of Developmental Delay until age 9 may increase the number of students in that category while lessening the number of 6-8 year-olds who are identified in other categories.


Note: 2011 was the first year to allow, "multi-racial" as a choice for the Other category.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Best Autism Apparel for Kids on the Spectrum

If you are caring for a child with autism, you are probably aware of sensory issues when it comes to clothing. Kids on the spectrum can be overly sensitive to clothing tags, seams, and textures that are not comfortable for them. Fortunately, some clothing companies are now making autism apparel that is affordable and available to everyone.

Some popular stores with sensory clothing for autism include the following:


Target’s adaptive clothing line is a terrific collection of everyday casual wear for boys and girls. The clothes do not have tags, have flat seams, and are made of a cotton-blend for maximum comfort. Hoodies and pants have side openings with either zippers or snap buttons for easy on/off wear. Some denim pants have back elastics and are wheelchair-friendly.

Analysis finds no evidence for popular autism communication method

A comprehensive review has found no scientific basis for a controversial technique that supposedly helps autistic people communicate1.
In the ‘rapid prompting method,’ a person trained in the technique holds an alphabet board or a tablet and, using words or gestures, prompts an autistic person to point to or tap letters, words or pictures.
The method resembles a discredited technique, called facilitated communication, in which a person applies pressure to the hand or arm of an autistic person to help her share her thoughts via a board or tablet. A string of rigorous studies, dating back to the 1990s, has shown that messages created by facilitated communication are almost always controlled by the facilitator — sometimes with harmful consequences.
“There’s no scientific validity to [rapid prompting],” says Diane Paul, director of clinical issues in speech-language pathology at the American Speech-Hearing-Language Association, who was not involved in the study. “It hasn’t been demonstrated to lead to independent communication, and it’s very prompt-dependent.”

Quiet Hands

Quiet Hands

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The misnomer of ‘high functioning autism’: Intelligence is an imprecise predictor of functional abilities at diagnosis

‘High functioning autism’ is a term often used for individuals with autism spectrum disorder without an intellectual disability. Over time, this term has become synonymous with expectations of greater functional skills and better long-term outcomes, despite contradictory clinical observations.

These data indicate that estimates from intelligence quotient alone are an imprecise proxy for functional abilities when diagnosing autism spectrum disorder, particularly for those without intellectual disability. We argue that ‘high functioning autism’ is an inaccurate clinical descriptor when based solely on intelligence quotient demarcations and this term should be abandoned in research and clinical practice.

Read more here. 

The DSM-5’s take on autism: Five years on

It’s been five years since the autism community agonized over the debut of a new iteration of a diagnostic manual that set out to rewrite the definition of autism. In this special report, we revisit the concerns and controversy over the fifth edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM-5).

Read more here at Spectrum. 

The evolution of ‘autism’ as a diagnosis, explained

You can draw a straight line from the initial descriptions of many conditions – claustrophobia, for example, or vertigo – to their diagnostic criteria. Not so with autism. Its history has taken a less direct path with several detours, according to Jeffrey Baker, professor of pediatrics and history at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Autism was originally described as a form of childhood schizophrenia and the result of cold parenting, then as a set of related developmental disorders, and finally as a spectrum condition with wide-ranging degrees of impairment. Along with these shifting views, its diagnostic criteria have changed as well.
Here is how the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM), the diagnostic manual used in the United States, has reflected our evolving understanding of autism.

Webinar - Self-Injurious Behavior: Live Q&A

Have questions you would like to ask a behaviorist regarding self-injurious behavior in ASD? Join this live Q&A and ask your questions in real time. To review Dr. Moskowitz’s previous talk on positive strategies for addressing anxiety and OCD, see:

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Early exposure to speech may shape autistic children’s language ability

The more words autistic children hear as infants — and the more verbal interactions they have with their caregivers — the better their language skills at age 2, a new study suggests1.
The quantity of speech young children hear in the home is known to have a strong influence on language development and in turn, on reading skills and ‘school readiness’2.

Read more here at Spectrum.

Easy Ways to Teach Perspective Taking to an ASD Child

Embedding instruction into children’s literature

Reading to children is one of the best ways to help children experience different worlds, imagine different experiences, and see the world from different perspectives. This, in turn, helps us become more empathetic by helping us understand others feelings and perspectives. While reading picture books to children, we can use the following prompts to teach children about facial expressions portrayed by the characters:

“I notice (describe nonverbal cues in detail). This makes me think the character is (name feeling).
I’m going to make my face/body look like that (model nonverbal cues).”

“It seems like (character) is (name feeling). I know this because (describe nonverbal cues in detail).”

Read more here at Autism Parenting magazine.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Montana Autism Trainings - August and September, 2019

MontComm AAC Conference

Missoula – August 5

iPad Boot Camp

Great Falls – August 8/9

Positive Practices in Behavior Support

Missoula – August 13, 14, 15

PECS Level 1

Kalispell - August 19,20

Billings – September 30/October 1

AAC & Proloquo2Go: How to Program for Better Implementation and Outcomes!

Glendive – August 19

Billings – August 20

Bozeman – September 23

Teaching Intraverbal Behavior / The Role of Joint Control

Billings – September 12 / 13

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Eye tracking reveals early communication problem in autistic children

At 10 months of age, infants later diagnosed with autism rarely draw others’ attention to an object or event, a new study suggests1.
The results hint that early treatments that focus on joint attention — a behavior in which two people focus on the same thing — could ease communication problems in autistic children.
The study is the first to use eye tracking to assess how babies initiate joint attention. It fits with other research over the past few years showing that joint-attention measures may help identify autism before other autism traits emerge, and with long-standing work showing that initiation of joint attention is particularly relevant to autism.

Autism Mostly Caused By Genetics, Study Finds

In what’s being called the largest study of its kind, researchers say that the likelihood of developing autism is overwhelmingly rooted in a person’s genetic makeup.
Nearly 81 percent of autism risk is hereditary, according to findings published this week in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
Heritability accounted for a varying level of risk across the countries studied, with a high of 87 percent in Israel compared to 51 percent in Finland.
Overall, however, the study found that the vast majority of autism risk was associated with genetics. Environmental factors “contributed minimally” and maternal effects such as the mother’s weight played a “nonexistent or minimal” role.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Unusual eating behaviors may be a new diagnostic indicator for autism

 Atypical eating behaviors may be a sign a child should be screened for autism, according to a new study from Penn State College of Medicine.
Research by Susan Mayes, professor of psychiatry, found that atypical eating behaviors were present in 70% of children with autism, which is 15 times more common than in neurotypical children. 
Atypical eating behaviors may include severely limited food preferences, hypersensitivity to food textures or temperatures, and pocketing food without swallowing.
According to Mayes, these behaviors are present in many 1-year-olds with autism and could signal to doctors and parents that a child may have autism.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

ASD Intervention: How Do We Measure Effectiveness?

Question 1: “What behaviors should change as a result of the intervention?”
Virtually any ASD intervention that is truly effective will result in observable change in behavior. For example, a speech intervention may very well result in increased spoken language (e.g., novel words, greater rate of utterances). An academic intervention should result in specific new academic skills (e.g., independent proficiency with particular math operations). An exercise purported to decrease the occurrence of challenging behavior will, if effective, result in a lower rate of specific challenging behaviors (e.g., tantrums, self-injury). 
As “consumers” of ASD interventions, you and your family member have every right to expect that the marketer will identify specific, objective, and measurable changes in behaviors that indicate treatment efficacy. Scientists refer to such definitions as “operational definitions” – these are definitions that are written using observable and measurable terms. If the marketer insists on using ill-defined, “fuzzy” descriptions of treatment benefit (e.g., “increased sense of well-being”, “greater focus and intentionality”, an increased “inner balance” or “regulation”), then “Buyer Beware!” These kinds of outcome goals will leave you guessing about treatment effect. Insist that operational definitions of target behaviors be agreed upon prior to starting the intervention.

Autism Non-Verbal Medical Alert Seat Belt Cover

$26 on Amazon. 

Autism Behind the Wheel: Teaching Teens and Young Adults with ASD to Drive


Monday, July 8, 2019

Great Ways to Improve Life and Social Skills In the Kitchen

Kids with autism are more likely than their peers to have food aversions, which leads to a poor quality diet. Inviting children into the kitchen to experience various textures and temperatures is often the first step to eventually tasting something new. Research shows that children are more likely to eat a meal when they are involved in its preparation and that children who are exposed to food outside of meal times tend to have diverse diets.
The benefits of cooking extend beyond diet. Cooking is a valuable life skill that fosters confidence and independence. Being in the kitchen with others can improve communication and social skills. Following a recipe teaches reading, listening, math, and sequencing. Learning to prepare food can promote sensory integration and focus. Finally, many parents find that cooking with their child is a gratifying opportunity for connection.

Math Teaching Tip: Build a Bridge from Concrete to Abstract with the "Concrete–Representational–Abstract" Approach

When working on math skills, it can be helpful to take more abstract concepts and demonstrate them with concrete objects and pictures. This allows students to obtain an understanding of the core concepts behind the math problems they're learning (Witzel & Little, 2016) and can help close gaps in mathematics knowledge (Allsopp et al., 2008).

One way to achieve this is to teach using an instructional method called the "Concrete-Representational-Abstract" (CRA) approach.

Episode 9: Gender and Autism

As our understanding of autism grows, researchers are finding that the way we diagnose autism may be biased.
They're also finding, through early research and small studies, that gender fluidity may be more prevalent in people with autism than the general population.
In this episode, we'll dive into both of these topics through the experiences of three autistic advocates.

Subscribe at the below platforms to get new episodes as they are released:

From Autism Speaks. 

FREE Being a Good Communication Partner to an AAC User

Mealtime and Children on the Autism Spectrum: Beyond Picky, Fussy, and Fads

Many parents of children on the autism spectrum struggle with their child’s severe eating problems with little or no professional help. In part, this is simply due to the limited number of specialists dealing with eating and feeding disorders. Furthermore, within this limited number of specialists few have much understanding and experience with children who have autism spectrum disorders.

Medical, behavioral, and environmental factors, including sensory difficulties, must be considered when feeding and eating problems occur. Within the scope of this article, medical and behavioral factors will be addressed briefly. Medical issues and frequently, behavioral issues, need to be assessed and addressed by working with the appropriate professionals. The environmental and sensory related issues will be discussed and outlined in more depth. It is the environmental and sensory related problems that families can often adjust on their own once they better understand their child’s needs.

Read more here at the Indiana Resource Center for Autism. 

Webinar on Repetitive Behaviors in Autism

View the webinar here at Spectrum. 

Supplements, worms and stool: How families are trying to game the gut to treat autism traits

Every two weeks, Alex Chinitz swallows the strangest of brews: fruit juice with 20 to 30 larvae of Hymenolepis diminuta mixed in. That fancy Latin word is the name of a helminth — a tapeworm, to be precise — that can grow to 30 centimeters.

Research on the microbiome — the collection of microbes that live in and on the body — is still in its infancy, says Mauro Costa-Mattioli, professor of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Just the idea that microbes could influence the brain was “unthinkable a few years ago,” he says. The pace of research has accelerated over the past few years, but microbe-based medicines are not yet in sight.
Still, many parents and clinicians are not waiting. A growing number are experimenting with specialized diets, probiotics, stool transplants and parasites, trying to game the gut to address core autism traits. About 19 percent of physicians surveyed in 2009 said they recommend probiotics to the autistic people they treat. An unpublished survey of 100 people found 2 adults trying stool transplants at home for autism.
These unregulated therapies can be costly and unpredictable — and they pose significant, even life-threatening, risks. Home-grown stool transplants and parasites, for example, can introduce deadly infections. This month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a safety alert about fecal transplantsafter two recipients contracted an antibiotic-resistant infection and one of them died.

Pablo - A New Show on Netflix

PABLO, a young boy with autism uses his creativity to invent a world where he can better process the complex emotions he feels in various social situations. Each episode opens with five-year-old Pablo (William Burns and Oliver Burns, voiced by Jake Williamson) facing a new and potentially frightening event, such as a friend's birthday party or a haircut. As he draws with his magic crayons, he's transported to a magical world where his animal friends -- Wren (voiced by Sumita Majumdar), Tang (Michael White), Mouse (Rachael Dickson), Noasaurus (Tony Finnegan), Llama (Rosie King), and Draff (Scott Mulligan) -- help him understand what he's feeling and gain the confidence he needs to face the unknown.

The series uses a mix of live-action and animated sequences to differentiate between Pablo's real-life experiences and those that take place in a world of his imagination, where his animal friends help him process his complex emotions and find the courage to face the unknown. Featuring a core cast of actors with autism and using real-life experiences of kids and adults on the autism spectrum as its inspiration, this series is an excellent tool for helping kids on the spectrum identify their own emotions. It also offers a unique glimpse into the effects of autism for viewers without firsthand experience.

Review from Common Sense Media. 

Large study supports discarding the term ‘high-functioning autism’

Autistic people described as ‘high functioning’ because they do not have intellectual disability often still struggle with daily living skills, according to a study of more than 2,000 people on the spectrum1. The data should put the term ‘high functioning’ out of commission for good, the researchers argue.
The study, the largest of its type, shows that individuals deemed high functioning often have poor ‘adaptive behavior’ — the ability to perform basic tasks such as brushing teeth, tying shoelaces or taking the bus.
Researchers coined the term ‘high functioning’ in two papers published in the late 1980s2,3. It has since become shorthand to describe people with autism who have strong language skills and do not have intellectual disability (an IQ below 70).
For years, autistic people have objected to the label, as well as its counterpart, ‘low functioning,’ saying these terms do not reflect how much support they actually need.

Age of Majority Tool Kit

NAA's Age of Majority guide is a free, downloadable toolkit for caregivers in need of information and resources to prepare and support their child through the transition from adolesence to adulthood. 
This item is provided by NAA at no charge. When you complete the order process, you will receive a link to download the booklet in PDF format. The link will expire in 72 hours.

Stimming, therapeutic for autistic people, deserves acceptance

Rhythmic, repetitive behaviors are a hallmark of autism. Hand-flapping, spinning in circles, body rocking, vocalizations such as grunting and muttering, and other habits can be disquieting to people unfamiliar with them. Scientists and clinicians have long puzzled over what these behaviors mean — and how to respond to them.

But growing evidence suggests that repetitive behaviors have been misunderstood — and that they may in fact be incredibly useful. My colleagues and I have found that the behaviors give autistic people a sense of control, helping them cope with overwhelming external stimuli, and a way to calm and communicate their moods. On the other hand, many autistic people say that engaging in repetitive behaviors makes them feel like social outcasts.

Read more here at Spectrum. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

Conference - Montana Association for Behavior Analysis

September 12-13, 2019


Teaching Intraverbal Behavior
Many children with autism acquire mand and tact repertoires but fail to develop intraverbal responding.  Failure to acquire intraverbal behavior leads to difficulties in academic, social and over all communication. In the past few years the behavior analytic literature has included reports of methods to teach the intraverbal. The purpose of this workshop is to present the current research on teaching  intraverbal responding which extends Skinner’s 1957, analysis of this verbal operant.  A sequence for teaching intraverbal responding from simple to complex will be offered with many video illustrations of teaching methods within applied settings.
The Role of Joint Control in Teaching Complex Listener Responding to Children with Autism and Other Disabilities
Skinner’s (1957) analysis of language has much to offer clinicians interested in teaching verbal behavior to persons with autism.  Much of the research in this area has emphasized the teaching of speaker behavior with less work dedicated to a thorough analysis of the contingencies operating on the behavior of the listener. Possibly due to this lack of attention cognitive explanations of comprehension, understanding and word recognition have persisted. A special form of multiple control called joint stimulus control may provide an alternative and cogent behavioral analysis of complex listener and other  behavior. The purpose of this presentation is to provide an overview of the conceptual analysis of joint control and the basic and applied research that has followed.  Video demonstrations of the teaching of joint control with participants from a recently published study and additional clinical applications will be presented to illustrate the implementation of joint control procedures in applied settings.