Monday, November 29, 2021

Aversive Treatment Procedures - A Review of the OPI Rule

November 16th

December 2nd

December 14th  2:30 - 4:00 p.m.

January 19th     2:30 - 4:00 p.m.

 (Same content each day.)

This training will review the use of aversive treatment procedures in public schools, which is governed by ARM 10.16.3346

The training will discuss the following requirements of the rule: 

The requirements for conducting a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and positive behavior interventions before aversive procedures can be implemented; and

When physical restraint is/is not an aversive treatment procedure; and

The definition of isolation time-out and exclusion time-out and what is/is not isolation time-out; and 

Prohibited procedures; and

The requirements of a behavior intervention plan using aversive treatment procedures; and 

Parental consent for the use of aversive treatment procedures; and

Requirements for notifying parents when aversive treatment procedures are used.

Registration for this training has closed. 


Questions About Behavior Functions form

The QABF is a peer-reviewed questionnaire that helps determine the function of the behavior. The function of the behavior answers the question, “why are they doing that?” or “what are they trying to communicate?”. Often, when people lack sufficient communication skills to communicate their feeling, needs, and wants, they use behaviors to communicate those feelings, wants, and needs. 

By using the QABF, we can better determine what the student might be communicating and use that information to develop adaptive communication skills that will result in the student’s needs and wants being met more easily because everyone in the environment will be able to understand them better. 

The five categories of possible functions that the QABF considers are attention, escape, nonsocial, physical, and tangible. Attention means that the student is engaging in the MB to get the attention of anyone in the environment including what some might consider positive or negative attention such as reprimands. Escape means that the student is engaging in the problem behavior to get out of a task or to leave an environment that they might consider aversive. Nonsocial means that the student would engage in that behavior regardless of the reactions of those in their environment. It is a behavior that just feels good or has a neurological effect. Physical means that the behavior is more likely to occur if the student is not feeling well or may hint at an underlying medical cause. 

It is possible that a problem behavior has more than one function.  

You can find the QABF form here. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Virtual PECS Level 1 and 2 Trainings 2021-2022 School Year

Individuals who are nonverbal or have limited speech need a communication system they can start using right now. PECS provides an immediately useful method for requesting things, actions and people, in a way that requires and promotes social interaction. Using the principles of applied behavior analysis, PECS starts by teaching spontaneous requesting and as quickly as possible, moves on to responding to questions as well as commenting about things in the environment.

The OPI Montana Autism Education Project is offering the following (free!) PECS Level 1 and 2 trainings: 

PECS Level 1 Trainings:

Closed for registration.

                                            PECS Level 2 Training:

Closed for registration. 

Things to Know: 

These trainings are only available to public school staff. 

You must complete both days of the training. Trainings are from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the designated time zone. 

OPI renewal units (14) will be provided after verification from PECS that you have completed the training. ASHA and/or BACB CEUs are available through PECS only. 

A hardcopy PECS manual will be sent to you for the training. Training registration will close ~14 days before each training to allow for mail delivery of the PECS manual.  

If you have any questions, please email Doug Doty at If you want to know how other Montana educators value PECS training, look here

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Transitioning from PECS to Speech-Generating Devices Training (virtual) - 2021-2022 School Year

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS®) is an evidence-based protocol that teaches vital communication skills such as initiation, persistence in relaying messages, picture discrimination and basic sentence structure. After mastery of these skills, the learner likely has a large repertoire of pictures in the communication book. If the learner is not speaking, the team may need to explore a transition to a dedicated Speech Generating Device (SGD) or tablet with communication app that will accommodate larger vocabularies and allow for continued language development. 

To ensure the rapid transfer of existing communication skills, the transition will require the team to assess current PECS skills and then analyze features of various apps/SGDS to select a device that will best meet the learner’s needs. 

Following device selection, detailed lesson plans are necessary to teach use of the new device as a functional communication system. This workshop is appropriate for teams supporting learners who may be ready to transition from PECS to SGDs. It is also appropriate for teams working with learners who are not currently using their devices effectively.

*Please have a Speech Generating Device (SGD) or a tablet with an AAC app during the training to use for a variety of activities.

January 31   8:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Central Standard Time. 

OPI renewal units (6) will be provided after verification from PECS that you have attended the training. ASHA and BACB CEUs are available through PECS. 

Registration has closed for this training. 

Monday, November 8, 2021

Supporting Sibs: Meeting the Needs of Siblings

Hosted by Montana Family to Family HICFour Free Online Sessions:November 8--Supporting Sibs for Parents and CaregiversREGISTRATION LINK []
November 15--Super-Awesome SibShopREGISTRATION LINK []
December 6--Sib Panel: Listening to and Learning from Our SibsREGISTRATION LINK []
All workshops are from 7:00 to 8:00PMFLYER LINK []

Abbey Guza (LCSW, MSW) is a certified SibShop facilitator who has worked with individuals with disabilities and their families for sixteen years. Abbey has a passion for ensuring siblings grow up with a community of support.

For more information contact Shawna Hanson at 406-243-4531 or email at

Doug - We also have Sibling resources on this blog. This is one of my favorites in discussing siblings as adults. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Training - Autism 101

Virtual Training 

November 9th   2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

December 7th  2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

     (Same content, two different days.)

This training will include: 

1. An infomercial for the services/resources provided by the OPI Montana Autism Education Project;

2. A quick history of autism diagnoses;

3. “Causes” of and “Cures” for autism;

4.  A review of Child Count data on Montana students with autism. 

(Please note – this training will NOT include a review of the OPI criteria for autism or the identification on students with autism.) 

Two OPI renewal units are available for attending this training. The training will NOT be recorded. 

Registration for this training has closed. 

ADOS Booster Training - 2021 December

Virtual Training – December 10th.   9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

This is a one-day review of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale complete with scoring practice and practical question review. This training is available only for Montana public school educators who have previously completed a two-day ADOS administration training. 

Registration for this training has closed. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2021


 A PROMPT is extra support to achieve success when teaching a skill. A CUE is something in the environment that occurs naturally and tells a person what to do.  

Prompting procedures are used in conjunction with time delayreinforcement, and prompt fading to support successive approximations to acquiring a skill. A teacherskilled at prompting, can balance between allowing the student to attempt a task, maybe struggle, and ensuring his/her success with the appropriate level of prompts. We typically teach skill acquisition using least to most level of prompting. There are instances when full physical assistance is needed in the beginning, usually paired with other types of prompts.  

Listed below is the prompt hierarchy in the order of least to most:  


  • Natural Cue - is the naturally occurring stimulus in the environment that tells the student what to do (schedule, bell rings, teacher gives directions). The student responds to a natural cue without prompts.


  • Indirect Verbal  ask a question that makes them think about it. “What’s next” 

  • Gestural - pointing, looking (eye gaze); often paired with a verbal prompt. 

  • Direct Verbal  tell student exactly what to do 

  • Modeling - demonstrate, show learner what to do. 

  • Partial or Full Physical Prompt  touching or guiding the body with the learner’s cooperation (not physically forcing the child to do things or stop doing things). It can be a graduated guidance, nudging the hand and backing off to shadowing. 

Simultaneous prompting is when the teacher/para provides a cue and simultaneously prompts the student to ensure the target skill is successfully achieved. The teacher then presents the cue again and waits for the learner to respond.  

Graduated guidance is when the teacher provides the needed level of prompt and just the right amount of prompting based on the learner’s response. The teacher gradually removes or fades a prompt when the learner is being successful or increases the level of prompt as the student needs it. This is a judgment call.  

A common problem with prompting, is giving the same prompt multiple times. It's like nagging. The adult will give a verbal prompt over and over until the learner responds. If the student does not respond to a natural cue (within a reasonable amount of time per an individual's ability), provide a prompt as a means of support, not a means of control.  

Prompt fading is important to increase independence and prevent prompt dependency. Some students won't initiate a task unless prompted by an adult. Fade a physical prompt by decreasing hand-over-hand to graduated guidance (less pressure) to shadowing to pausing at the last step of a sequence, giving the student a chance to complete the task (which becomes the natural reinforcer).  

Fading verbal prompts can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Provide visual supports and teach self-management. Cue the student to “check your schedule” or point to a word/picture of desired behavior. For other activities, lop off the last word or syllable:  "Time to go _____(look expectantly for student to respond).” "Get your baaa…(student: ‘backpack’).  Or change the prompt to: "Check number 4 again, what's missing?" 

Remember to allow time for the student to process the natural cue. Use prompts with the intention of ensuring success on the part of the student (errorless learning) and praise his/her efforts and participation even though you prompted him/herProvide positive feedback for the effort and accomplishment even if you prompted the skill. “You remembered to…”  “You put on your coat. Nice!” Plan to fade the prompts as you work towards independence (data). The completion of the task should become a natural reinforcer ('I did it.' 'I'm done.') 


Note: The hierarchy of prompts is presently differently by professionals. Know the level of prompt your learner needs for errorless learning. Pause, allow the learner to process the natural cue. Do not repeat a verbal prompt over and over. Instead, verbally prompt with simple, clear, concise words; wait, then decide which prompt to use next. Reinforce with a specific, positive description; emphasize the effort, the progress, and the increase in independence.  


Scroll down to How to Prompting videos  


Post a picture of the prompt hierarchy to remind adults. Search Google Images to find one that meets your aesthetic preferences.  

Colleen N. Fay, M.S.

Autism/Behavior Consultant

Montana Autism Education Project 

25 Reasons to Use Visual Strategies for Autism

When we use visual strategies for autism, it helps students succeed. We use visual tools to accomplish a purpose. Perhaps we use something visual to help a student understand a situation. Maybe we provide a visual prompt so a student can accomplish a task more independently. 

Think of the PURPOSE of a visual tool.

Defining the student's NEEDS guides the decision about what kind of tool to use. Identifying the purpose of a visual tool helps us know how to use it. 

Is your school or home environment set up to provide the visual support your students can benefit from? 

Is your school or home environment set up to provide the visual support your students can benefit from? 

How many of these functions are accomplished in your environment with visual tools? As you look at the list, count how many ways your students currently receive visual support.

1. Establish attention 
Looking at something can help students establish attention better than just listening. Once they have focused their attention, the rest of the communication message can get in.

2. Give information 
How do students get information to answer the who, what, why, where, when questions?

3. Explain social situations 
The social world can be confusing. People are moving, changing & unpredictable. Giving social information by writing it down helps students understand.

Read more here from Linda Hodgdon (who we hope to have return to Montana.) 

Incorporating Visuals to Support Individuals with Autism

Visual supports are an evidenced-based practice for individuals with autism, language delays, developmental delays, auditory processing disorders, learning disabilities, ADD, and other communication disorders. Actually, it helps all learners. Visuals serve multiple purposes. It’s a tool that supports communication and behavior, increases access to the curriculum, and increases successful participation in and completion of curriculum requirements.  


WHAT ARE VISUALS? In contrast to auditory input, visuals are concrete, meaningful, static, and permanent.  


  • Body movements, gestures, facial expressions. 

  • Environmental cues (visual boundaries, signs, labels) 

  • Pictures, Objects 

  • Written language  

  • Concrete tools to give information 



Everyone benefits: the teacher, the individual student, and the whole class. Imagine a classroom where communication is clearer, instruction is efficient and effective, and the social emotional atmosphere is calmer, positive, and supportive.  




  • Visuals provide information that doesn’t “disappear” like verbal or auditory information, (even sign language can be transient). 

  • Allows for time to process information and supports comprehension. 

  • Structures the environment, establishes expectations. 

  • Creates organizational tools. 

  • Increases participation and independence. 

  • Makes abstract concepts a bit concrete. 

  • Accommodates for challenges with language, attention, memory.  

  • Supports behavior – student learns how to behave. 

  • Visual schedules reduce anxiety; student knows what to expect. 

  • Helps with current activity and next activity; transitions (shift attention to next activity). What is going to happen, when it is going to happen, what is the sequence of events, what do students need, where he/she is going, what are the choices, what is changing, who is coming, how long will an activity last, when he/she gets a breakwhen is the preferred activity. 

  • Makes time visual and concrete 

  • Supports short attention span (how long, how many more?) 

  • Reduces anxiety, provides predictability  



Visuals are tools to 

  • Organize and structure the environment 

  • Establish expectations, rules, routines 

  • Provide directions, explicit instructions 

  • Facilitate communication, social interaction 

  • Adapt curriculum 

  • Modify assignments (highlight, underline, arrows) 

  • Support comprehension  

  • Support communication  

  • Give information on who what when why how 


Examples – Types of Visual Strategies         


  • Calendars 

  • Schedules- classroom and individual  

  • Timelines 

  • Classroom/individual rules & routines 

  • School planner  

  • Task Organizers  

  • Clocks, timers 

  • Organizational systems 

  • Work Systems 

  • First, Then  

  • Graphic organizers 

  • Checklists  

  • Task analysis tool to teach a skill or routine 

  • Step-by-step instructions 

  • Social stories 

  • Tools to teach and support behavior  

  • Token board 

  • Choice board 

  • Videos to teach social, communication, behavior  

  • Conversation tools 

  • Scripts  

  • Comic strip conversations  


Visuals support learning, language, communication, and behavior in an inclusive environment. It increases independence and participation. Think visual when teaching. Explore the resources listed below. Incorporating visual strategies in your teaching will become a natural part of your repertoire. It benefits all. 




  1.  Virginia Commonwealth University  = How to Videos 

How to: Visual Supports 

 Video:  6:33 


  1. You can find the whole How To videos here:  


  1. Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Modules. Training modules for evidence-based practices: 


  1. Visual Schedules: Do2Learn is overall a great resource. 


      5.   Resource for visual supports to search and print out:  

BOOKS (some links are to, used books at a reduced price) 

Everyday Education: Visual Support for Children with Autism by Pernille Dyrbjerg & Maria Vedel, 2007.  

Visual Strategies for Improving Communication by Linda A. Hodgdon, 2011. 


Colleen N. Fay, M.S.

Autism/Behavior Consultant

Montana Autism Education Project