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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2) Clinical Training - Virtual

Thu, Jun 17, 2021, 9:00 AM – Fri, Jun 18, 2021, 5:00 PM MDT

I just found out about this ADOS training in June. We will not be offering scholarships, as we had our own ADOS training this spring.

Friday, May 21, 2021

2020-2021 Data Report for the Montana Autism Education Project (MAEP)

Educating students with autism requires specific skills and knowledge beyond what is acquired through teacher preservice programs. The goals of the MAEP are: 

• to increase district-level knowledge of how to educate students with autism through in-person training, interactive video training, on-site technical assistance and peer-to-peer collaboration; and

• to develop inter-agency collaboration between the OPI, school districts, Part C Agency providers, Department of Public Health and Human Services, the Montana Empowerment Center, and Institutes of Higher Education

The OPI Montana Autism Education Project (MAEP) provides public schools with free autism and/or behavior consultations for students who are qualified under the IDEA. OPI part-time consultants include Board Certified Behavior Analysts, Speech-Language Pathologists and experienced educators. 

Note:  On-site consultations for students with severe problem behaviors have continued under COVID-19 restrictions, though at a greatly reduced rate.  


Chart 1.1 shows the total number of consultations visits completed each year since 2010 and the number of different districts those visits happened in.  In the 2020-2021 school year, 13 virtual and 8 on-site consultations were provided to 15 school districts statewide. Students to whom consultations were provided included students with autism, cognitive delay, deaf/autistic, emotional disturbance, learning disabilities, speech-language impairment and visual impairment. 

The OPI MAEP provides in-person trainings statewide to all school staff, including general education teachers and administrators. The trainings are provided by MAEP staff and through contracts with Montana education professionals as well as national-level trainers in specific areas/curriculums (communication, behavior, educating students with autism).

The OPI MAEP has continued to provide trainings virtually, with over 800 people attending trainings in identifying students with autism, teaching communication to students who do not use verbal language and teaching social skills to all students. 

These trainings were attended by 800 educators from 114 Montana school districts and special education cooperatives. MAEP trainings had an average score of 4.7/5 on the post-training evaluation question of, “Would you suggest this training to others?”  More information about the MAEP trainings can be found on the MAEP blog. 

The OPI MAEP offers 49 hours of online training (33 courses) in applied behavior analysis and educating students with autism and cognitive delay. The training is offered year-round. Since the MAEP began offering this online training in 2012, 1174 educators from 184 school districts have completed over 27,000 hours of training.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Virtual Training - Supporting Communication Across the Lifespan: Creative Strategies for Your Client, Student, or Family Member

WE HAVE EXPENDED OUR FUNDS AND SCHOLARSHIPS ARE NO LONGER AVAILABLE. 


(NOTE - The OPI Montana Autism Education Project will be offering a limited number of scholarships to this training. You can request a scholarship here. Be aware that we cannot provide a scholarship/reimbursement to anyone who registers directly with MonTECH.) 

August 12th, 8:30-5:00, Online.

MontCOMM 2021 is a one-day online immersion into the world of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Whether you’re a seasoned speech-language pathologist, a professional providing direct support to an adult with a developmental disability, or the parent of a young child who is not developing verbal communication, you will leave MontCOMM 2021 with new ideas for implementing AAC, supporting progress, and obtaining buy-in from other team members.

MontCOMM features two dynamic speakers with expertise that will benefit your work or your family, no matter where you are in the communication continuum. Mo Buti will cover behavior and communication, aided language stimulation, positive reinforcement using nonverbal approaches, a look at the total communication approach, and an introduction to low-tech and high-tech communication systems (There are so many! Where to start?). Brandon Eddy will present a more clinical track focused on starting young children on AAC (including children who are not yet pointing or pressing buttons), data-driven AAC assessment, goal writing, evolving to a new device, access strategies and cognitive demand, obtaining interdisciplinary buy-in for successful implementation, and succeeding with AAC in rural environments.

Great topics, and guess what? You don’t have to choose between our speakers! Your registration entitles you to access both speakers. Jump between them as your interests dictate, and access the recorded sessions later.

See more information here. 


UM ranks top 10 in assisting students with autism

The University of Montana is getting national attention as it was recently ranked the seventh best school for assisting its students with autism. 

The rankings are from bestvalueschools.com. The schools were ranked based on the quality of support it provides in five categories to make students with autism happier and SAFER: 

  • Social (peer mentoring, social skills development, group activities, etc.)
  • Academic (tutoring, study hall)
  • Functioning (life coaching, daily check-ins, help navigating campus, advocacy support)
  • Employment (career training, interview help, job connections)
  • Residential (designated living quarters, single-room options, knowledgeable resident assistants)

The University of Montana has an organization called MOSSAIC, which stands for Mentoring, Organization and Social Support for Autism and All Inclusion on Campus. 

Senior Hedy Dolan was drawn to UM, from Colorado, because of the program. 

Read more here. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Resources for Helping Students Wear Face Masks/Coverings and Other Information



Learning to Wear A Mask

I Can Wear A Mask - A Social Story

Wearing A Mask - A Social Story + Video Story

How to Wear My Mask - A Social Story

How Can I Teach My Son to Cooperate with Wearing a Face Mask? - includes sample teaching steps

How To Get More Comfortable Wearing A Mask - Video

Tips for Caregivers: How to Make Mask-wearing Easier - Video

Wearing A Mask and Communication - Tips for Desensitization, Tolerating a Mask, Tips for Communication and How to Make a Mask with Clear Panels

Teaching Your Child to Wear a Mask - -Tips and Guidelines

Wearing A Mask Toolkit - Tips


Being in Public Places

Seeing People Wearing Masks - A Social Story

Social Distancing - A Social Story

We Wear Masks - A Social Story explaining why people are wearing masks

Tips for Supplementing Communication When Wearing A Face Mask

We Wear Masks - A Social Story

Wearing a Mask to School - A Social Story


Other Information

A Parents Perspective: Navigating Face Coverings - Article with good tips.

Getting Tested for COVID-19 - A Social Story

Getting an Oral Test for COVID-19 - Two Social Stories

Getting a Saliva Test for COVID-19 - Two Social Stories: clinic and drive-through

Getting a Nasal Test for COVID-19 - Two Social Stories: clinic and drive-through

Handwashing - Visual Steps Poster

Wash Your Hands - Visual Steps Poster

Teaching Handwashing - Video

Keeping Friends Safe - A Social Story

10 Face Masks People with Chronic Illness Recommend - Article

Riding the Bus Will be Different - Social Story

Navigating a Socially Distanced Classroom for Students with Autism - archived webinar


When a special education student wears a face mask or face shield solely to prevent the spread of COVID-19, that is not considered an aversive treatment procedure (ARM 10.16.3346(4)(e) Aversive Treatment Procedures.​) 

The determination of medical necessity as included on page 118, question 18, of the Montana Special Education Guidance document is not necessary when state or local governments require individuals to wear face masks or coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.




Friday, May 7, 2021

Webinar - Behavioral and Sensory Support


Learning Objectives:

  1. Robing Steinberg-Epstein, MD, UCI, will present 30 minutes on the neurological/sensory processing experience, underpinning of challenging and dangerous behavior in autism (30 minutes)

  2. John Guericio, PhD will talk on his assessment tool for managing adults with severe behavioral challenges (30 minutes)

  3. Erik Jacobson, PhD will talk on the cultural approach he and his team have embraced with the emphasis on their clients with severe and challenging behaviors by being happy, relaxed and engaged (30 minutes)

  4. Kelly Bermingham, Steve Perez, Q&A facilitation

Chair: Kelly Bermingham; Co-chairs: Kathy Freeman, Erik Jacobson, Shann Jones

Free. Register here

What is Functional Communication Training (FCT)?

How does FCT change challenging behavior?

FCT usually involves a three step process (Mancil & Boman, 2010):

  • Completion of a functional behavior assessment to identify the function of the child’s problematic or difficult behavior. The child may use tantrums to get out of an activity that causes distress, or the difficult behavior may be geared towards getting attention. It can also be a way to demand access to something the child wants
  • The next step involves identifying a communication response, therefore, determining a more desirable way of communication to replace the challenging behavior. This does not have to mean verbal communication, other forms of communication like sign language is appropropriate as a replacement for the difficult behavior. The child may use any readily available (appropriate) method to communicate, this could include gestures, nonverbal communication, or pictures. In the above example the child had a tantrum because an activity caused distress; the child could be taught to point to a picture that indicates: “I need help.” Instead of a tantrum the child is communicating that he/she finds the activity overwhelming and  help is needed to complete it successfully
  • In the last step a FCT treatment plan is devised which may include ignoring difficult behavior and rewarding, reinforcing or acknowledging the positive replacement behaviors (or appropriate communication) identified in step two. In future, attempts by the child to communicate through the past problematic behavior will need to be ignored—the child should realize that communicating in the appropriate way will get attention, reinforcement and/or rewards.

Read more here at Autism Parenting Magazine. 

Autism Language: Person-first or Identity-first?

Perhaps this is the point of the debate… we should ask individuals on the spectrum what they want. When it comes to children, parents are often in the best position to find out about their language preferences—when they reach the necessary understanding concerning person- and identity-first language. In this regard, parents can help children (who are interested and able to understand the debate) see the reasoning behind both language choices.

Because, believe it or not, the reasoning behind person-first language was not to offend anyone, it was actually intended to show respect and build self-esteem. So how did the use of person-first language become so contentious?

The good intentions behind people-first (or person-first) terminology merit investigation, and so does the reasoning behind a shift in preference to identity-first language by many in the autism, blind and Deaf communities.

Read more here. 

Methodological issues plague studies of early autism interventions

 The new work aimed to evaluate the reliability of studies that examine the effectiveness of early interventions. Conventional wisdom on therapy says “the earlier the better, and the more the better,” Sandbank says.

But the evidence supporting that idea is weak, she and her colleagues found. Several sources of bias threaten to undermine the reliability of many early-intervention studies: selection bias, when experimental groups and control groups are not randomly assigned; detection bias, when the same person administers an intervention and judges its effectiveness; and attrition bias, when participants from a control or experimental group disproportionately drop out over time.

The number of studies at high risk for selection or attrition bias decreased from 1989 to 2017, Sandbank and her colleagues found, drawing on data collected for their 2020 study on early interventions. But both types of bias were still common among the studies they reviewed, and 50 to 75 percent were at high risk for detection bias.

Many studies also leaned heavily on reports from parents or caregivers to assess the effectiveness of an intervention, instead of relying on clinical observations, which studies show are more reliable. Between 25 and 50 percent of the studies from 2011 to 2017 relied on parent reports, down from around 90 percent in 2000.

The team’s 2020 meta-analysis concluded that many early interventions had positive effects. But once they excluded studies that relied on caregiver reports or had a high risk of one or more types of bias, there were often too few studies left to assess an intervention’s effects.

Read more here at Spectrum. 

Movin' On Day - 2021