Tuesday, September 24, 2019

How much behavioral therapy does an autistic child need?

In 1987, psychologist Ole Ivar Lovaas reported that the optimal ‘dose’ for an autism therapy he had developed was 40 hours a week. The intensive therapy, a type of applied behavior analysis (ABA), led to “normal” functioning for 9 of 19 children with autism in his study, he said1. Just 10 hours of the therapy produced small benefits. Small controlled trials of Lovaas’ therapy, however, did not fully replicate his findings on dose2,3.
The form of ABA Lovaas tested has become the most widely used autism therapy — despite controversy about its approach and findings — and 40 hours became a treatment goal for many families. ABA agencies typically market services at that intensity. And this year, that goal was formalized by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, which recommended 30 to 40 hours of treatment per week for autistic children who need help in several areas, such as cognition, communication or social functioning. (They recommend fewer hours for children with fewer needs.)
Receiving 40 hours of weekly therapy is essentially a full-time job for a 3-year-old.
Still, people tend to believe that, regardless of the treatment, more is always better. But is it?

Studies of autism treatments lack standard yardsticks

Clinical trials of autism treatments rarely use a consistent set of tools to measure efficacy, a new study suggests1. Instead, researchers generally design questionnaires specific to their study goals, and 69 percent of these tools are used only once.
The lack of consistency could obscure positive results. “Losing even one treatment that could possibly be helpful, just because we don’t use the right instruments, is a big loss,” says study investigator Natascia Brondino, assistant professor at the University of Pavia in Italy.
This variability also makes it difficult to compare treatments, or even the same treatment across studies.

Screening and Referral Practices for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Primary Pediatric Care

RESULTS: Rates of M-CHAT screening were 93% at 18 months and 82% at 24 months. Among 23 514 screens, scores of 648 (3%) were ≥3 (386 at 18 months, 262 at 24 months) among 530 unique children who failed 1 or both screenings. Among screen-failed cases, 18% received a diagnosis of ASD and 59% received ≥1 non-ASD neurodevelopmental disorder diagnosis within the follow-up period. Only 31% of children were referred to a specialist for additional evaluation.
CONCLUSIONS: High rates of ASD-specific screening do not necessarily translate to increases in subsequent referrals for ASD evaluation or ASD diagnoses. Low rates of referrals and/or lack of follow-through on referrals appear to contribute to delays in children’s receipt of ASD diagnoses. Additional education of primary care providers regarding the referral process after a failed ASD screening is warranted.

Friday, September 20, 2019

AAC Courses from the Idaho Training Clearinghouse


  • Course ID: 40846
  • Download Syllabus & Requirements
  • Registration Deadline: October 18, 2019  Registration Open
  • Course Dates: August 26, 2019 through December 2, 2019
  • Credits Available: 1 (through the University of Idaho)


  • Course ID: 35984
  • Download Syllabus & Requirements
  • Registration Deadline: October 18, 2019  Registration Open
  • Course Dates: September 6, 2019 through December 2, 2019
  • Credits Available: 1 (through the University of Idaho)
How to Register

  1. Review course syllabus for course requirements and deadlines.
  2. Review registration deadline.
  3. To participate in a course, you will need to create an account (see LMS User Overview blue button above) and verify this account with the Idaho Training Clearinghouse (ITC) Learning Management System (LMS). Once an account is created, you will be able to login and choose courses from the ITC LMS Course Catalog. 
  4. If you have problems verifying your account (e.g., you get a 'services not available' page), please email for assistance.
  5. You will also need to complete a University of Idaho (UI) registration form located inside your course. Please include your district or a personal email address on the form. Then mail/fax the registration form and payment* to the UI Registrar (address/phone on form).
*Course Fees: $60.00/academic graduate credit

Against neurodiversity

"The movement has good intentions, but it favours the high-functioning and overlooks those who struggle with severe autism."

"The neurodiversity movement is dividing both the autism community and autism researchers. Advocates make the distinction between autistics and ‘neurotypicals’, or nonautistics. This fosters an ‘us versus them’ mentality, wherein nonautistic people are regarded as an oppressive enemy. It also fosters intolerance towards different ways of thinking about autism, as well as a deep and unhealthy mistrust of the scientific and medical communities.
Ironically, a social-justice movement that aims to highlight the ways in which autistic people have been mistreated by society is now directly responsible for the mistreatment of the most vulnerable of all autistics – many of whom are too severely affected by their condition to speak up for themselves. In standing up for their rights, a group of marginalised people are effectively hyper-marginalising the very people they claim to be advocating for. They have monopolised the public discourse on autism, and continue to do whatever they can to silence any dissenting voices; this inability to debate and try to reach compromise is a problem not only for the autistic community, but for wider society."

Autistic girls’ brains show distinct anatomical features

Nerve fiber tracts in the brains of autistic girls are more fragmented than those of typical girls. By contrast, autistic boys’ brain structure is indistinguishable from that of typical boys, a new study suggests1.
Compared with controls, autistic girls and women have less integrity in several nerve tracts, the researchers found, including in one that connects the occipital lobe at the back of the head to the temporal lobe at the side. The differences are greater on the left side of the brain than on the right. This may explain some of the girls’ challenges with language, because the brain’s main language areas are in the left hemisphere, Jou says.
The autistic girls have autism traits similar to those of the boys: The two sexes scored similarly on a test of autism severity. That result fits with a theory called the female protective effect, the researchers say. This theory posits that biological factors — such as a lack of integrity of brain tracts — must be more extreme in girls than in boys to result in autism.
The evidence is indirect, however.
“It’s consistent with the female protective effect, but I don’t think it’s evidence for [the theory],” Nordahl says.
The wide age range of the participants is a limitation of the study, Nordahl says. Structural differences in autistic boys and men could show up only at certain ages, and lumping people of disparate ages could mask this variation.

Free Esports Curriculum Contains Full Lesson Plans

An esports league has launched a free high school curriculum to help teachers use gaming to boost student learning. "Gaming Concepts" from the High School Esports League (HSEL), was written as turnkey curriculum "that almost anyone with even rudimentary computer skills could teach," according to authors Kristy Custer and Michael Russell. The project was supported by Microsoft.
The content covers learning standards in areas such as careers in gaming, maintaining healthy practices, self-management and interpersonal communications, as well as an overview of esports gaming and complete lesson plans.
The new curriculum, "Gaming Concepts," is openly available as a downloadable PDF file on the HSEL website.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

School Psychologist of the Year

The Montana Association of School Psychologist (MASP) is currently accepting nominations for the School Psychologist of the Year Award. Nominations will be accept until the end of September and the award will be presented during the MASP Conference over MEA. 

Do you know a worthy candidate for MASP School Psychologist of the Year? To nominate someone for this award please fill out this form.
Montana School Psychologists work tirelessly, and often anonymously, to better the lives of children and youth. Every day, in settings as diverse as a preschool setting, a tiny K-12 rural school, or a large urban high school, school psychologists can be found discovering what turns a student on to learning, building a better behavior plan, contributing helpful ideas to an RtI team, guiding colleagues through data-based decision making, and more.

Every year, MASP acknowledges one individual, nominated by peers or colleagues, who stands out as a shining example of the best of the profession. This person is publicly acclaimed as the School Psychologist of the Year.  

Friday, September 13, 2019

Archved 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 

View the recording here. 

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. 

Archived 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.