Wednesday, September 30, 2020

COVID-19 Resources

Supporting Individuals with Autism through Uncertain Times (resources on the left.) 

Developing Effective Connections with Students in Online Learning Webinar

Getting Tested for COVID-19: Social Story

MT Remote Learning Sharing Sessions

How To Talk About COVID-19 With People Who Have Autism

Archived Webinar - Coronavirus Impact – Home All Day – Basic Supports and Strategies to Get us Through and Keep us Sane

Anxiety, Autism: Five Prime Suspects – with tips for coping at home during the Coronavirus oubreak

Virginia Commonwealth University - Resources for individuals with ASD and their Family Members during the COVID-19 Closure. These resources include Information PacketsVideos, and Visual Tools.

Serving Students with Disabilities and COVID-19 (March 24 OPI update)

Autism Society Coronavirus Tool Kit

Archived Webinar - Teaching Special Education Online during COVID-19

Autism Speaks (many resources)

Coronavirus Social Story    (source)

Coronavirus Social Story from Carol Gray

Covid 19 Resources for Families from the National Autism Association

Supporting Your Child During This Public Health Crisis - Montana authors.

Archived Webinar - Home All Day - Basic Supports and Strategies To Get Through.

Archived Webinar - NCSA Coronavirus Share & Care - registration required.

How to handle school closures and services for your child with autism - additional resources at the bottom of the page.

Talking to your child about tragedy: Six tips for the autism community.

Additional Guidance on providing services to Children with Disabilities during the Coronavirus Outbreak

Special Education Update for Monday, March 16, 2020  (OPI + OSEP)

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The OPI has a New Criteria for Autism

You can see the new criteria here, along with some Frequently Asked Questions. The new criteria checklist is now in the AIM system and on the OPI web page.

If you have questions, please send them to Doug Doty at We will update the FAQ questions periodically.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

FREE Online Autism Training from the OPI Montana Autism Education Project

The OPI Montana Autism Education Project is offering 80+ hours of online training in Teaching Procedures for students with autism/cognitive delay, Applied Behavior Analysis and a variety of Focused Topics. These online trainings are available to public school staff in Montana. A listing and description of the training content can be found here.

New groups start the beginning and middle of each month every Monday through May 4, 2020 and you will be sent information at that time on how to begin your training. You have 90 days to complete the training. 

OPI renewal units are not available* for this training. The training can be taken for ASHA CEUs. 

* The training content provider now allows learners to fast-forward through videos to reach quizzes. Because there is no longer a specific amount of time that must be spent in each course, we can no longer offer OPI renewal units for this training.


ASHA members and/or MT state licensed SLPs are qualified to earn ASHA CEUs. Independent study plans are limited to 20 hours. ASHA requires that Independent Study activities are approved 30 days prior to the start of the learning activity. It works best to get the ASHA approval BEFORE registering for the courses.  

Participants fill out the form and send it to the Montana MSHA rep. Contact Doug Doty at for information on whom to send it to. You can find the Independent Study form here.  

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Autism’s relationship to head size, explained

What proportion of people with autism have large head?
When Leo Kanner first described 11 children with autism in a 1943 paper, he noted many unusual features. “Five had relatively large heads,” he reported, and he said no more on the matter. But the sample size was small.
Many other scientists noted the same link over the following decades. A 1999 review estimated that 20 percent of people with autism have statistically large head size, or ‘macrocephaly’1.
Do autistic children who have a large head also have a large brain?
Yes. Researchers have scanned the brains of autistic people by using technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and have found that those with a large head also tend to have an unusually large brain. However, the link between the two is not entirely straightforward — some autistic children with an enlarged brain don’t have a large head — so it is best for researchers to scan the brain rather than rely on head measurements.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

14 ways schools can better support girls with autism

  1. Giving them opportunities to socialize as part of a small group with common interests.
  2. Teach them coping strategies and support them with any bullying they may face as a result of their different way of thinking and acting.
  3. Read more here. 

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Owen’s odyssey: The difficult path to an autism diagnosis

This is part 1 of the story of one boy’s long journey to an autism diagnosis and therapy.

Read more here at Spectrum. 

Autism Navigator® ASD Video Glossary

The ASD Video Glossary is a web-based tool built to help families and professionals learn more about the early signs of autism. This tool was developed by the Florida State University Autism Institute in collaboration with First Signs and Autism Speaks and has been available to the public free of charge since 2007. The Glossary contains more than 100 video clips illustrating the diagnostic features of ASD. Side-by-side video clips show behaviors that are typical in contrast with those that are red flags for autism. The Glossary also contains over 100 video clips to illustrate common treatments available for children with autism. The ASD Video Glossary has been brought into the Autism Navigator collection and updated to be in line with the new DSM-5 diagnostic framework.

Read more here. 

Archived Webinar - Psychiatric Issues and Autism Spectrum Disorder

This activity provides expert insight about common psychiatric comorbidities seen in ASD, their management, and how they affect quality of life. Increased understanding of the children and adults with autism should be improved by virtue of educating about emerging genetic findings associated with this complex disorder.

Watch the webinar here. 

New Autism Study: Gluten-free Diet Does Not Help Autistic Children

The new study, just published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, is the first randomized, well-controlled study of gluten-free diets in children with autism. The scientists, all from the University of Warsaw, Poland, recruited 66 children, and assigned half of them at random to a gluten-free diet. The other half were given a normal diet, with at least one meal a day containing gluten, for 6 months. The children ranged from 3 to 5 years old. After 6 months, the scientists evaluated all children using multiple standardized measurements of autistic behavior.
The results were very clear: the study found no difference between the diets. None of the core symptoms of ASD were different between children in the two groups, and there were no differences in gastrointestinal symptoms either. 

Deafness and autism

Figures suggest that around 2-4% of deaf children are also autistic.
Both deafness and autism can have a significant impact on communication and language development.
On this webpage, we focus on some of the additional challenges that families may face if their child is both deaf and autistic.

What it’s like to be autistic at an autism research conference

The International Society for Autism Research conference, or INSAR, is the largest autism research conference in the world. Each year, it attracts thousands of researchers from dozens of different disciplines — neuroscience, genetics, immunology, pediatrics — to share their work with one another. It regularly draws some of the biggest names in the field.
But historically, the INSAR conference hasn’t exactly rolled out the red carpet for the people its research is intended to benefit. I’ve attended multiple INSAR meetings, both because I’m a journalist interested in reporting on the latest research and because I’m an autistic person interested in learning ways to improve my daily life. The experience of being surrounded by thousands of researchers — many of whom had never met anyone like me except as a study participant, and some of whom had never met anyone like me at all — was at times surreal. Being autistic at INSAR is like attending an exquisite, days-long feast in which you are the main course.

Upcoming COVID-19 Webinars

Emotional Support for Families during COVID-19

The uncertainty and sudden changes caused by COVID-19 are difficult for all families, but particularly so for some families and individuals experiencing anxiety and autism. Tune in for supportive tips, mindfulness techniques, and positive ideas for managing the stress. 

04/9/2020, 11 AM Eastern Time (U.S.)

Support for Individuals with ASD: Coping with Family and Virtual Interactions During COVID-19

Tune in to this talk to learn skills for handling disagreements with family members, resources for virtual social interactions, and general guidelines about coping with the lockdown for individuals with ASD and their families. Our speaker, Aarti Nair, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral scholar in the Dapretto Lab at the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center. Dr. Nair received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and anthropology from the University of Mumbai, and her master’s degree in clinical psychology from UNC Charlotte. In 2015, Dr. Nair received her Ph.D. in neuropsychology from the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology in San Diego, CA. Her primary research interests lie in multimodal imaging studies of social cognition in ASD, specifically using fcMRI and DTI techniques to quantify connectivity differences within this population. Currently, she is working on studies involving maturational trajectories of subcortical networks in ASD, as well as network clustering analysis to identify subgroups within the broader ASD endophenotype.

04/9/2020, 11 AM Eastern Time (U.S.)

Talking to kids about changing schedules, altered plans, and disruption during COVID-19

Amanda Tami, LPC, BCBA, holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology and has completed a recertification program in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). In addition to being a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Amanda is a Licensed Professional Counselor. She has experience working with both children and adults, including those who have autism spectrum and other pervasive developmental disorders, ADD/ADHD, anxiety issues, and trauma, both as a BCBA and as a counselor. On April 30th, she will join us to discuss ideas for providing compassionate support to individuals on the autism spectrum who are experiencing disruptions and anxiety related to the virus and its impact.
04/30/2020, 1 PM Eastern Time (U.S.)

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Welcome to the Communication Matrix

The Communication Matrix has created a free assessment tool to help families and professionals easily understand the communication status, progress, and unique needs of anyone functioning at the early stages of communication or using forms of communication other than speaking or writing.

Read more here. 

Largest-Ever Study Ties Over 100 Genes to Autism

The study, involving over 50 centers around the globe, identified 102 genes associated with ASD -- including a few dozen that had not been recognized before.
Some of the genes are also associated with intellectual disabilities and developmental delays, the researchers said. But others are unique to ASD, and appear related to the social difficulties that mark the disorder.

Rethinking repetitive behaviors in autism

Autistic people have long maintained that repetitive behaviors are beneficial. Emerging evidence in support of this idea is shaping new therapies.

Read more here at Spectrum. 

Study: Girls Diagnosed With Autism About 1.5 Years Later Than Boys

A new study reveals that girls with autism receive a diagnosis, on average, nearly 1.5 years later than boys. This is likely because parents and clinicians tend to notice language delays as the first sign of autism, and the girls in the study had more advanced language skills compared to the boys, say the researchers.

Read more here. 

Autism diagnosis test is less reliable than previously assumed, study finds

The standardized test, known as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), assesses communication skills, social interaction and play for children who may have autism or other developmental disorders.
The researchers digitized the test by attaching wearable technology, like an Apple Watch, to two clinicians and 52 children who came in four times and took two different versions of the test.
When researchers looked at the scores of the entire cohort, they found they did not distribute normally - which could mean a chance of false positives inflating the prevalence of autism, among other implications.

PECS Level 1 Training Available Online April 2020

You can find more information and register here.

We will not be offering scholarships for this online training and will bring live PECS trainings to Montana next fall.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Archived Webinar - Anxiety, Autism: Five Prime Suspects – with tips for coping at home.

Learn about factors that contribute to the high levels of anxiety seen in autism and learn concrete and actionable strategies for parents, teachers, and therapists.

View the webinar here.

CDC 1 in 54 Children Have Autism

Read more here. 

Sunday, March 29, 2020


A new documentary on Netflix. Not autism-specific but a good look at the some of the history of the disability rights movement in of the creation the IDEA, Section 504 and ADA. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Bibliography of Autism Books and Resources

The OPI Montana Autism Education Project has a library of books and resources we like and suggest. You can see the list here

Many of these books are also available for inter-libary loan.

To celebrate my finally getting the bibliography updated, the first four people to tell me the secret message found by the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring will get a free book of their choice. 


(This is old, but the information is still considered good.)

A field manual for coordinatingtraining procedures acrossmultiple community settings.

Hanen 4 "I"s to Socialize: Coaching Parents of Children with Autism and Social Communication Difficulties

Dates: May 6-7
Location: Early Childhood Intervention
              2016 Grand Avenue, Suite B
              Billings, MT

If your role includes supporting the communication development of young children with autism or social communication difficulties, you know that involving parents effectively is key to your success.
Hanen 4 “I”s to Socialize™ is an intensive 2-day workshop designed to facilitate and enhance your efforts to involve families and to achieve the best possible outcomes for young children with social communication challenges.
The workshop provides:
  • A research-based protocol for evaluating children’s social communication and determining next steps – A comprehensive checklist helps you zero in on a child’s stage of social communication and identify what his or her next target may be.
  • A set of responsive interaction strategies drawn from Hanen’s evidence-based More Than Words® program – You’ll share these strategies with parents so they can facilitate their child’s ability to engage in extended, enjoyable interactions within everyday activities and routines.
  • A structured parent coaching framework that’s based on principles of adult learning – this consists of a clear, 4-step coaching model that considers the needs of adult learners and effectively supports parents’ application and generalization of strategies.

We are unable to offer scholarships to this training. 

The Birds and the Bees: Hygiene, Puberty, Sexuality, & Safety in Youth with ASD or Other Developmental Disabilities

Billings    July 28

With up to 80% of individuals with disabilities reportedly becoming the victims of sexual/physical abuse or crimes by the time they reach adulthood, the topics of hygiene, puberty, and sexuality are imperative to safety. Unfortunately, these topics are often overlooked. Strategies for teaching hygiene, puberty, and sexuality with an emphasis on safety will be discussed.

*Learners will be able to articulate the importance of hygiene related to socialization and strategies to help teach and maintain good hygiene and related behaviors in their students with disabilities.
*Learners will be able to articulate the challenges that their students with disabilities may face in puberty as compared to typically-developing students.
*Learners will be able to articulate the significance of sexual development in their students with disabilities as well as strategies for teaching sexual development to these students.
*Learners will be able to articulate the importance of teaching hygiene, puberty, and sexuality as it relates to personal safety. They will be able to implement strategies to maintain the personal safety of their students.
*Learners will be able to identify strategies for working with parents of their students with disabilities that promote the best interest of the student through open conversations and collaboration.

About the Presenter: Natalie T. Montfort, PhD - Natalie earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology from the University of Houston and her Master of Arts Degree and a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Clinical Psychology from Fielding Graduate University. She has worked with children and young adults with ASD since 2002 and has training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (with children, adolescents, and adults), Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Relationship Development Intervention, Social Thinking, behavior modification (including Applied Behavior Analysis), and educational assessment.

You can register here. Dr. Montfort has presented several times in Montana to rave reviews. 

Book - The Autism-Friendly Guide to Periods

Approved by our reviewers. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Emerging Practices for Supporting Students on the Autism Spectrum in Higher Education:

Get Ready for College

Course Overview

"Get Ready for College: A Resource for Teens with Disabilities" is a free series of online lessons, each focusing on a different aspect in the college preparation, selection, and disability services process. These online lessons contain video presentations and resources that can be used to equip students and others with the knowledge and skills for the transition to postsecondary education. Topics include the differences between high school and college, postsecondary education and training, selecting a college best fit, getting accommodations in college, and what you can do now in high school to prepare for college.

Organization of Course

The course is self-paced and divided into eight lessons. Self-paced allows you to have access to narrated, recorded presentations and resources for you to review at your own pace. Please note, this course does not have an assigned instructor, however, at any time, you can visit the course "web board" and post questions you have regarding any of the lesson topics.


Whether you're a student, family member, educator, school counselor, college disability support services staff, vocational rehabilitation counselor, or an individual with a disability who wants to learn more about going to college, "Get Ready for College" will provide you with the college planning information necessary in the transition.
Students, grades 9-12, who are interested in attending college and have a desire to take a self-paced online class to learn more about the skills and knowledge necessary for postsecondary success.
Teachers and School Counselors interested in utilizing the course content to equip individual students or groups who are interested in gaining information to successfully navigate the college preparation, selection, and disability services process.

Read more here.

Desperation And Broken Trust When Schools Restrain Students Or Lock Them In Rooms

Every time Jennifer Tidd's son was secluded or restrained at school, she received a letter from his teachers. Her son has autism and behavioral issues, and over three years — from 2013 to 2016 — Tidd got 437 of those letters.

"I see this pile of documents that's 5 inches tall that represents hundreds of hours of being locked into a room, and I feel, you know, horrible," Tidd says.

She's sitting in her living room in Northern Virginia, her head hanging over the stack of papers. Tears are in her eyes.

"What kind of parent lets this happen to their child? ... I just trusted the school. I thought that it would work — we were at our wits' end with the behaviors and stuff. But it actually just made it worse."
Restraint and seclusion are most often used on students with disabilities or special needs — children like Tidd's son. Those terms can mean anything from holding or using restraints on students to isolating them in a separate room or space.

Read/hear more here at NPR.

Sleep, growth, and puberty after 2 years of prolonged-release melatonin in children with autism spectrum disorder

In view of a recent 3-month double-blind, placebo-controlled study reporting the efficacy and safety of pediatric prolonged-release melatonin (PedPRM) for insomnia in children with autism spectrum disorder, researchers here examined how PedPRM treatment affect sleep, growth, body mass index, and pubertal development in long term. T

he double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was completed by 80 children and adolescents (2–17.5 years of age; 96% with autism spectrum disorder); these were administered 2 mg, 5 mg, or 10 mg PedPRM nightly up to 104 weeks, followed by a 2-week placebo period to assess withdrawal effects. During the 104-week treatment period, there remained improvements in child sleep disturbance and caregiver satisfaction with child sleep patterns, quality of sleep, and quality of life. The measures declined during the 2-week withdrawal placebo period compared with the treatment period but these were still improved compared with baseline. 

Outcomes support the safety and efficacy of nightly PedPRM at optimal dose (2, 5, or 10 mg nightly) for long-term treatment in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and insomnia. No detrimental effects were observed on children’s growth and pubertal development and there were no withdrawal or safety issues related to the use or discontinuation of the drug.


Autism rates declining among wealthy whites, escalating among poor

For the study, the researchers analyzed 20 years’ worth of autism caseload counts from the California Department of Developmental Services, comparing data from 36 of the state’s most populous counties.

Between birth years 1993 and 2000, autism prevalence increased steadily among all racial groups.

But around 2000, the trajectories started to diverge: Prevalence among whites in wealthy counties like Santa Clara (home to Silicon Valley) and from Monterey to the San Francisco coast started to decline.

In middle-income counties like Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego, prevalence among whites continued to increase, but at a slower rate.
Meanwhile, in lower income areas like Riverside and the South Central Valley, rates among whites climbed steeply.

By birth year 2013, prevalence among whites in the lowest income counties was at least double that of whites in the highest income counties. Generally speaking, the higher the county income, the lower the rate of autism among white children.

Read mere here.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Webinar - Corvid-19 Ideas and Q & A from Leah Kuypers (Zones of Regulation)

Our Team Answers Your Questions
March 20, 2020
12:00-1:00pm Central Time

Online Via ZOOM and 

During this time of social isolation, we are all trying our best to manage schedules, big emotions, and find our balance in uncharted territory. One thing we want to do is to hold space for you, our Zones and Make Social Learning Stick communities. We also wanted to provide some resources [] to help while you are home with your children.

In partnership, Leah Kuypers [],[]Elizabeth Sautter [] and Emily Walz [] will be hosting a LIVE Q & A via Zoom and Facebook Live related to navigating the challenges of social distancing, proactive ideas for supporting your kids, and taking care of yourself. 

Psychopharmacology and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Read more here.