Tip of the Week: Two Essential Considerations When Toilet Training Boys

Last year, I had the opportunity to interview Gary Weitzen, the Executive Director of POAC Autism Services and the Autism Shield Program. (You can see the blog post about that interview here.) In the months since our interview, many of his comments have stuck with me, but one in particular has impacted my daily work with students. He said, “A lot more boys have autism than females but the vast majority of educators in special ed, and in particular with autism, are females.” He went on to provide examples of how this fact influences some skill development, specifically with toilet training.

Child on Toilet 2 BlogThis leads to several considerations to take into account when toilet training boys. I agree with Weitzen that some of these issues arise from the simple fact that women are predominantly toilet training boys. However, it’s also possible that such issues arise from the fact that many boys are trained in early intervention or preschool years without consideration of the implications of those training techniques several years down the line, and without further intervention or training later in life. Either way, it’s important to recognize that training of life skills should be completed in such a way as to develop effective skills that are similar to those of the child’s same-age peers. To that end, here are two considerations:

Consider hygiene. Something I had never thought about prior to my conversation with Weitzen is that after boys use the bathroom, then zip up their pants, it’s easy for a little urine to drip onto their pants. Especially once children reach upper elementary and middle school grades, a spot of urine can be socially isolating or an invitation for bullying. Weitzen acknowledges that it can be difficult to teach boys to gently shake their penis before zipping up, especially because teachers don’t want to inappropriately touch the students. However, for the long term, it’s essential that teachers find a way to teach this simple action.

Consider the topography of the behavior. When we think about topography, we basically mean, “What does the behavior look like.” When initially toilet training, teachers will typically have the student pull his/her pants down to the floor. Weitzen shared a personal experience from several years ago, when he was a chaperone on a field trip with his son who is autistic. At one point, the teachers asked him to take the boys to the bathroom, so Weitzen went in with eight 14-year-old boys with autism. He said, “They took their pants and pushed them right down to their knees at the urinal at Medieval Times. So we had seven hairy tushies in the room. Out in public! And what happens is other dads and other boys came in there and everyone’s laughing and commenting and pointing.” This is the type of situation that teachers and parents do not want students to experience. When toilet training, it’s essential to recognize that the topography of the behavior in the male restroom is to unzip the pants, and then pull the fabric aside in order to urinate in the urinal. While it may be easier to teach students to pull their pants down in the initial phases of toilet training, it’s important to continue shaping behavior until it has the appropriate topography.

If our students continue to pull their pants down completely, they become targets for bullying, or worse. Weitzen says that on multiple occasions, he’s had parents report to him that their child used the bathroom at the urinal, and when they pulled their pants to the floor, another student took a picture of them. “Four different moms told me that, and if four moms told me that, I can’t imagine how often that’s happening,” Weitzen said. “And even if they’re not sharing the photo, well now you’re the weird kid who sticks his butt out. And you’re isolated and you’re picked upon, so we have to be real. We have to realize our guys live in the real world and teach them the skills that they need.”

WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-12 in NYC. Working in education for ten years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam has developed strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. Sam is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College.

Pick of the Week: “Go Fish” Card Games for Social & Emotional Skills

Here’s a therapeutic twist on the classic Go Fish card game! Hooked on Friendship and Fishing for Feelings teach youngsters about friendship and feelings. This week only, you can take 15% off* your order of Hooked on Friendship and/or Fishing for Feelings, and teach learners social and emotional skills with these easy and fun card games! Enter promo code GOFISH15 at check-out to redeem these savings.

With two decks of 50 cards (one deck for grades K–2, the other for grades 3–5), the games are played by posing an open-ended question that the player must answer before he or she can request Henry Herring, Markey Mackerel, or any other fish needed for a match.

DRC_084_Fishing_for_FeelingsFamiliar and fun, Hooked on Friendship and Fishing for Feelings are an easy, affordable way for children to improve their social and emotional skills.

Don’t forget to mention or apply promo code GOFISH15 at check-out with us to save 15%* on either or both of these card games this week!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on May 26th, 2015. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Posted in ABA

Simplifying the Science: Teaching Siblings About Behavior

When I first came across this study, Behavioral Training for Siblings of Autistic Children, I was immediately hesitant. There’s something about the idea of sibling-as-therapist that makes me cringe a little bit. When I work with the families of children with autism, the hope is that the siblings of the child with autism still have a childhood without being pushed into the role of caregiver. And I also want the child with autism to have independence and feel like an individual who is heard, which may be more challenging if their siblings are issuing demands just as a parent or teacher would. But as I read the study, I realized that the work they completed had incredible social significance.

Siblings Playing Together BlogIn the study, there were three pairs of siblings. The ages of the children with autism ranged from 5 years old to 8 years old. The ages of the siblings ranged from 8 years old to 13 years old. The researchers trained each sibling of a child with autism how to teach basic skills, such as discriminating between different coins, identifying common objects, and spelling short words. As part of this training, the researchers showed videos of one-on-one sessions in which these skills were taught, utilizing techniques such as reinforcement, shaping, and chaining. What the researchers did next was the part that really stood out to me: they discussed with the siblings how to use these techniques in other environments. Finally, the researchers observed the sibling working with their brother/sister with autism and provided coaching on the techniques.

It should be noted here that the goal of the study was not to have the siblings become the teacher of basic skills. Instead, it was to provide a foundation of skills in behavioral techniques for the sibling to use in other settings with the hope of overall improvement in the behaviors of the child with autism. The researchers demonstrated that, after training, the siblings were able to effectively use prompts, reinforcement, and discrete trials to effectively teach new skills. But, perhaps the most meaningful aspects of the study were the changes reported by both siblings and parents. The researchers provide a table showing comments about the sibling with autism before and after the training. One of the most striking comments after the training was, “He gets along better if I know how to ask him” (p. 136). Parents reported that they were pleased with the results and found the training beneficial.

This study provides excellent evidence that structured training for siblings has real potential for making life a little easier for the whole family. The idea isn’t that they become the therapist, but instead that knowledge truly is power.

References

Schriebman, L., O’Neill, R.E. & Koegel, R.L. (1983). Behavioral training for siblings of autistic children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. 16(2), 129-138.

WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-12 in NYC. Working in education for ten years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam has developed strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. Sam is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College.

Pick of the Week: Sentence Building Dominoes – A fun, hands-on way to teach sentence formation skills

Help your learner improve reading, spelling, and grammar skills by building a variety of sentences with these colorful Sentence Building Dominoes. This week, you can also save 15%* when you order your set of Sentence Building Dominoes with us. Just be sure to apply our promo code DOMINO when you check out online or over the phone.

With 114 double-sided and color-coded dominoes that feature 8 parts of speech—nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions and punctuation marks—the possibilities are endless!


This is a fun, hands-on way for early readers to learn parts of speech and practice sentence formation skills. The dominoes come packed in a handy storage bucket.

Don’t forget to apply our code DOMINO at check-out to redeem your savings on the Sentence Building Dominoes this week!

 

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on May 19th, 2015. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

“Tips for Traveling with Children with Special Needs” by Ida Keiper

With the end of the school year and summer right around the corner, we’re sure many of you have started to plan for family trips and vacations. To help you prepare better, we thought we would share some valuable tips and resources from Ida Keiper on traveling with your children with special needs. Ida Keiper is a special educator and the co-founder of the Starbrite Kids’ Program and Starry Night Travel, LLC, a travel agency that specializes in planning travel for individuals with special needs.

Tips for Traveling with Children with Special Needs
by Ida Keiper

“If we all could see the world through eyes of a child we would
see the magic in everything.” –Chee Vai Tang

One of the best moments of being a parent is observing your child experience things for the first time. Children laugh at the silliest and smallest of things and are excited about everything they see. Traveling exposes children to new places, discoveries and experiences. It enhances a child’s confidence, imagination, creativity, and reinforces academic, social and communication skills.

Traveling with a child with special needs can be exciting, but also may involve emotional and physical challenges. Preparing for the trip and choosing special needs friendly destinations is extremely important.

There are a wide variety of resources and programs available for children with special needs:

  • Unique art programs, ASL interpreted programs, multisensory workshops, sensory friendly programs, and audio descriptive tours, are offered at facilities throughout the country
  • Adaptive ski and sports programs are available for individuals with developmental and physical disabilities
  • Water sports programs are available i.e. Surfers for Autism, Surfers Healing, swimming with the dolphins, scuba diving and snorkeling programs for the physically disabled through The Diveheart Foundation
  • Access passes to National Parks and guest assistance passes for amusement parks are available
  • Theater programs including accessible seating, open captioning, sign language interpreting, audio descriptions, and autism friendly showings are available through The Theatre Development Fund Accessibility Program
  • Hotels and resorts that are special needs friendly
  • Facilities that can accommodate individuals with dietary needs

Tips when planning your vacation:

  • Identify services or special accommodations that need to be put in place prior to traveling. Arrange for any medical supplies/equipment needed.
  • Contact TSA Cares at (855) 787-2227 for questions pertaining to equipment regulations, procedures, and screening policies with air travel.
  • Contact Special Needs at Sea for equipment/supplies needed on cruise ships
  • Locate attractions and hotels in Florida that are “autism friendly” by visiting The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities.
  • Inquire if any special programs for children with a physical or developmental disability are available at the resort or hotel.
  • Identify Cruise Lines that accommodate individuals with developmental and physical disabilities. Royal Caribbean is the first cruise line that has been named “autism friendly”.
  • Identify your child’s potential travel concerns, i.e. change in routine, waiting in line, transitioning, sensory overload, meeting new people, going through airport security (to name a few).
  • Use strategies such as visual stories, visual scripts, calendars, schedules, and relaxation techniques to address potential travel concerns.
  • Use noise cancelling headphones, earplugs, and sunglasses for children with sensory issues.
  • Discuss vacation safety rules with your child. Safe proof your room or cabin. If your child tends to bolt, install a portable battery operated alarm system to the doors in your cabin or hotel room. Apply non-permanent tattoos for ID purposes and Child Aviation Restraint System to keep you child safe in his seat on an airplane.
  • Speak with the chef at your hotel, cruise ship, or restaurant to assure special dietary needs are in place. Visit websites such as FAAN Network and Allergy Free Table for information about accommodating food allergies while traveling
  • Contact a travel agent who has experience working with individuals with special needs.

Additional information on special needs friendly destinations including amusement parks, museums, zoos, aquariums planetariums, and ski resorts can be found in our Starbrite Traveler Book series through Amazon.com. Books also include special needs resources, safety activities, checklists, and application of evidence based strategies and interactive activities to prepare your child for travel.

  • Starbrite Traveler: A Travel Resource for Parents of Children with Special Needs
  • Starbrite Traveler: Destinations for Kids with Special Needs – East Coast Edition
  • Autism & Travel: Strategies for Kids to Enjoy an Awesome Experience

ABOUT IDA KEIPER

Ida Keiper is dually certified as Teacher of the Handicapped and Elementary School Education. She earned a B.A. from Georgian Court University. Ms. Keiper, a highly qualified teacher educated children with disabilities for thirty years, wrote district curriculum for special education, coordinator of special education department in New Jersey public schools. Her compassion and professionalism earned her “Teacher of the Year.” Over the years Ms. Keiper has fostered close relationships with her students and parents. Ms. Keiper lives in New Jersey with her husband and two sons.

Special Education Law and Advocacy Training by Wrightslaw: May 14th, Queens New York

Nationally acclaimed special education attorney and advocate, Pete Wright, will be presenting in New York City on May 14th, 2015 for a one day training course. Wright will speak to special education law, rights & responsibilities, tests & measurements to measure progress & regression, SMART IEPs, and tactics & strategies for effective advocacy. The course is from 9am – 4:30pm at the JFK Hilton in Jamaica Queens with CLE /CEU certificates offered with the professional rate.

For more information and registration details, visit the Kulanu website here.

Pick of the Week: NEW! The Self Management Planner, created by Daniel Sundberg, PhD

From Daniel Sundberg, PhD, comes the brand new Self Management Planner which offers you a better way to organize your life and check things off your to-do lists! The planner utilizes the concepts and principles of ABA to help you to get more done, and is designed specifically for users who have busy and frequently changing schedules and want something that will do more than schedule time in the day.

This week only, you can save 15%* on the new Self Management Planner by Daniel Sundberg, PhD. Just use our promo code SMP15 at check-out!

Not only is this planner perfect for effective time management and organizing your activities, but it also allows to set and track your goals (it even includes graph paper so you can watch your progress!). This is a perfect tool for those data collectors out there who are looking for an excellent organizational and record-keeping tool.
The Self Management Planner includes:

  • Appointment book with full 18.5 hour days and 7 day weeks, to accommodate those who work on variable schedules
  • A tutorial on using the planner, appointment book, and measuring your success
  • A guide to setting long term goals, and figure out ways to accomplish those goals
  • A system for that allows you to select and track your daily activities. People have used this section to track a huge variety of important things like spending, hours billed, driving mileage, activity goals, and more
  • Graphs to help you see and track progress on your goals
  • Lined note paper
  • Blank date periods that allow you to start the planner on your own schedule to prevent page waste
  • Weekly and daily to-do lists
  • Space to make note of all day events
  • Sized at 8.5″ x 5.5″ to fit a small bag or purse

We also have an exclusive article from Daniel Sundberg on all the features of The Self Management Planner and how to use it:

The Self Management Planner
by Daniel Sundberg, PhD

If you deliver treatment services to individuals with autism spectrum disorders or other special needs, then you know how hectic it can be to schedule multiple clients, meet with families, supervise staff, find time to write reports, and manage your many other responsibilities. For parents of children with autism and other special needs, the story is no different. Managing school, treatment sessions, doctor’s appointments, accomplishing your treatment goals, all while managing the rest of your life. It can get overwhelming to try and fit it all into one 24 hour period. However, effectively managing your time and your schedule helps to accomplish your to-do list and better help the individuals you care for. The good news is it is possible to do this without creating more time in your day, it simply requires effective self-management, a process of systematically managing your own behavior (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007). The Self Management Planner is a tool designed to help people self-manage their own behavior to make use of their time and accomplish their goals.

The Self Management Planner is designed specifically for users who have busy and frequently changing schedules and want something that will do more than schedule time in the day. The Self Management Planner has helped parents, teachers, students, working professionals, and others to free up their time and accomplish their goals. Some people have used the planner and the behavior change tools to do simple things like record their driving mileage, schedule and increase study time, and track daily good deeds. They have also taken on bigger issues like tracking and identifying triggers for migraines, keeping track of medications, recording hours billed, managing daily spending, and freeing up time to spend with their children.

The different parts of The Self Management Planner were developed based on the concepts and principles of behavior analysis, and refined with user feedback to create a product that will satisfy the needs of those who are interested in effectively managing their life. The planner includes a full week appointment book with 18.5 hour days, full weekends (for those whose days do not start and stop at 9-5, and weeks do not end on Friday), and daily and weekly to-do lists. In addition, users have space to set yearly goals (such as pass the BACB exam or save enough for a vacation) and a section in every week of the appointment book to measure and track daily and weekly behavioral targets (such as study time, money spent, or a child’s IEP goals).

The planner also has 52 lined pages for notes, and graph paper to visually track important measures. Additionally, there is a comprehensive tutorial to guide users through the self-management process, which includes creating effective goals, identifying ways to measure and evaluate those goals, determining ways to set yourself up for success, and using the planner to manage your time. All of this is packaged in a convenient 8.5” x 5.5” size that will slip into most briefcases, backpacks, and purses.

If your time is at a premium and you are looking for a way to accomplish more and better serve those who depend upon you, effective self-management may help. The Self Management Planner can help to structure your self-management program to allow you to accomplish more.

Don’t forget to redeem your savings this week only on The Self Management Planner by applying our promo code SMP15 when you check out online or over the phone with us!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on May 12th, 2015. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Autism Awareness Month Interview Series: Creating Positive Change in ASD Treatment Through Science, Support and Education with David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D

We couldn’t be more thrilled to wrap up our Autism Awareness Month Interview Series with David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA. Dr. David Celiberti is the Executive Director of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT) and provides consultation to public and private schools and agencies in the U.S. and Canada. Here, Dr. Celiberti shares his wealth of knowledge and experience in creating positive change in autism treatments through scientific research and high-quality education and support.

Don’t forget to check out the other interviews from our Autism Awareness Month Interview Series here!


Creating Positive Change in ASD Treatment
Through Science, Support, and Education
with David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D

SAM BLANCO: I consider the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT) to be an invaluable resource for both parents and practitioners. You serve as the Executive Director. Before we discuss ASAT, can you tell us a bit about your background?

DAVID CELIBERTI: First and foremost, thank you for the opportunity to participate in this interview, particularly as you are asking about topics that are near and dear to my heart. I have been fortunate to have a career in the treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) where the journey has been just as reinforcing as the destination. I continually urge young people to work hard at finding a career path consistent with their passions. Among my many reinforcers in the field of ASD treatment are interactions with parents and siblings who did not choose a life that included ASD, but still love unconditionally, roll up their sleeves and embrace powerful roles as agents of change. Additionally reinforcing has been my collaboration with myriad professionals, particularly those who are grounded in, and informed by, science. Perhaps most inspiring, though, are the individuals with ASD themselves who work so hard to acquire new skills, learn effective strategies for negotiating their experiences, and remind us daily that science-based treatments, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), truly make a difference.

I currently serve as the halftime Executive Director of ASAT. I view this role not as a job but as a “lifestyle”, and I am so proud of what ASAT accomplishes every year, even with a tiny operating budget. We have an incredible board of directors from diverse professional backgrounds such as special education, behavior analysis, psychology, social work, sociology, law, medicine, speech-language pathology, computer science, family advocacy and business. Many of our board members have family members with ASD. Their commitment to helping other families and professionals find a clearer path to effective intervention is astounding to me. We also have scores of volunteer coordinators, externs, and an active Media Watch team who do much of the “heavy lifting”, helping ASAT remain productive, current, and responsive to the needs of the autism community.

SB: For those out there who aren’t familiar with ASAT, can you talk a little bit more about the organization’s mission and why it continues to be such an essential resource?

DC: With respect to our mission, we improve the quality of life for individuals with ASD and their families by promoting the use of safe, effective treatments, which are grounded in science, for people with ASD. As you know, there are over 400 treatments for autism, with the vast majority lacking any semblance of scientific support. We achieve our mission by sharing accurate, scientifically-sound information with professionals, parents and journalists; and by countering inaccurate or unsubstantiated information regarding autism and its treatment as it comes up. Unfortunately, there is so much out there which distracts consumers from making the best possible choices. Our overarching goal is to help parents and providers become savvy consumers of information who can truly discriminate science from pseudoscience. This means being armed with the knowledge to ask practitioners and marketers of ASD interventions critically important questions related to the state of their science, consult with knowledgeable and impartial professionals about potential treatments, and establish methods for assessing the benefits of treatments when they are adopted by the family and their intervention team. It is absolutely heartbreaking that autism treatment has become the type of business in which parents of children with autism must work so hard just to sort through so many options and mixed messages just in order to help their sons and daughters.

For more information, your readers can visit ASAT’s comprehensive website at www.asatonline.org. On the website, they will find extensive information about the scientific support (or lack thereof) behind the full array of treatments proposed for autism; resources and guidelines on how to make informed choices and weigh evidence in selecting treatment options, and information for various groups such as parents of newly diagnosed children, parents of older individuals, teachers, medical providers, and members of the media community. We encourage people to revisit ASAT’s website often, as information about autism treatments is frequently updated to reflect the latest research, and new content is routinely added.

ASAT also publishes a free quarterly newsletter, Science in Autism Treatment. Sign-up information is available at http://asatonline.org/signup. The quarterly e-newsletter features:

  • Invited articles by leading advocates of science-based treatment;
  • A Clinical Corner which responds to frequently asked questions about autism treatment;
  • A Consumer Corner which recommends resources that can guide and inform treatment decisions;
  • A Focus on Science column which is designed to empower families to make educated treatment decisions by highlighting those elements that constitute science-based interventions as well as warning signs of unsubstantiated treatment;
  • Detailed summaries of specific treatments for autism;
  • Book reviews;
  • Highlights of our Media Watch efforts and discussion of accurate, and inaccurate, portrayals of autism and its treatment by the media;
  • Reviews of published research to help consumers and professionals understand and gain access to the science;
  • Critiques of policy statements related to autism treatment; and
  • Interviews with those who advance science-based treatment and confront pseudoscience.

Finally, your readers can also follow us on Facebook and on Twitter at @asatonline.

SB: You have dedicated a lot of your time to providing services for underserved populations, from direct services to organizing fundraisers that support organizations that serve economically disadvantaged children. Why is this an important area of work for you?

DC: When I was in graduate school in the late 1980s and early 1990s at Rutgers University under the mentorship of Dr. Sandra Harris, I was struck that only a tiny percentage of students with ASD were receiving the lion’s share of the available expertise and resources. This disparity was troubling to me as I recognized that there were scores of other children with ASD who were receiving “generic” special education services which did not yet incorporate state-of-the-art behavior analytic intervention. My hope was to one day dedicate a portion of my time to supporting students with ASD in inner city communities. As my career unfolded, I had the opportunity to work at the Rutgers Autism Program, where part of my duties focused on outreach. I started working in rural Maine in 1997, helping public schools develop and implement educational programs to students with ASD, and have now returned over 110 times! It is not that urban setting that I had envisioned as an idyllic graduate student; however, I quickly realized how rewarding it was to provide services in geographic areas that did not have the existing resources, and to assist public schools in providing high quality educational experiences.

Hoboken, New Jersey, where I live, is home to a significant number of economically disadvantaged students. I began to seek collaborative relationships between ASAT and other local organizations which focused on poverty. The common thread was the importance of providing children with meaningful, socially valid and effective opportunities to realize their fullest potential despite the myriad obstacles that they face. That resonated well with me as someone whose career focuses on the treatment of ASD. To date, my fundraising efforts have benefited four Hoboken-based organizations combating the barriers associated with poverty.

SB: I would like to go back to your reference about public school programs. In your view, what are some of the key elements of a high quality education for students with autism?

DC: This is such an important question! In a nutshell, a high-quality education would include the following elements:

  • Be truly individualized – An educational plan should truly fit the child like a glove fits a hand. Services should not be about what a provider likes to do, but rather what the student needs, as determined through ongoing, valid assessment.
  • Be comprehensive – A high quality education targets the full array of skills that will promote success at home, school and community and uses a wide range of techniques based on science that are well fitted to the skills being targeted.
  • Keep the future in mind when selecting goals – The skills needed to be successful and marketable in the next setting (be that a particular job or even Mr. Walker’s 4th grade classroom) must be identified and addressed.
  • Use well conceptualized behavior management strategies – When addressing challenging behavior, these strategies should take into account the underlying function of the behavior, include carefully selected antecedent and consequence based supports, and build skills to help students better meet their needs in a way which promotes their day-to-day independence and opportunities.
  • Consider and offer inclusion opportunities carefully – Ensure that it occurs with the appropriate supports and is delivered by adequately trained staff. Social skill development does not occur through pure exposure alone; rather, skill acquisition occurs when inclusion is approached as a systematic, individualized process, with proper supports, monitoring of data, and a goal of challenging the individual with ASD while not overwhelming them, or inadvertently creating isolation.
  • Carefully implement instruction, including modifications and accommodations – Promote early success and carryover, identify and use powerful motivators, and consider how to motivate students to work hard, to learn new skills, and to minimize frustration.
  • Allocate resources thoughtfully – Intervention and teaching-team members need solid training in order to implement teaching procedures and services. Regularly scheduled team meeting promote coordination, particularly when multiple disciplines are involved.
  • Engage parents – Not only is it important to continually seek input from parents about treatment priorities and goal selection, parents benefit from the training, collaboration, and information that will enable them to embrace their role as a co-pilot in their child’s intervention. This support should include siblings, grandparents, and other significant individuals for whom parents consent to their involvement. Engagement should occur throughout the educational journey and be adjusted to face the unique needs and challenges at each point in time.
  • Take data collection seriously – Ongoing data collection enables one to objectively assess progress, make timely adjustments, and remain accountable to those we serve. No provider should get a “pass” on data collection.
  • Start early and get it right from the start! – We know that early intervention can make an incredible difference. Don’t squander precious time on interventions that are not time-tested and research based.

SB: You’ve been instrumental in implementing change in many aspects of our field of ABA and ASD treatment in general. Do you have your thoughts on two or three areas that you think need to be addressed differently? How can we improve our work there?

DC: There is certainly room for improvement. Promoting science and science-based interventions such as ABA is not an area in which we have been very successful. Media representations tend to favor less science-based treatments, perhaps because their promoters use more sensationalized language when describing both their methods and their outcomes. Behavior analysts must take a closer look at how they market their work so that their outcomes can be more understandable and appreciated by various stakeholders (e.g., media, funding sources, consumers). We must also be more proactive in helping the media approach autism treatment in a more accurate manner.

Autism is clearly a spectrum disorder. In recent years, we have seen many higher functioning persons with ASD who have been very vocal; generously sharing their views about the appropriateness of treatment. Although their views and perspectives are important, I worry that the public, policy makers, and other important stakeholders may take these views as applicable to the entire spectrum. I believe this has the potential to do parents a tremendous disservice when they try to acquire the resources, tools, and experiences which will enable their son or daughter (who may not be on the upper end of the spectrum) to realize his or her fullest potential. On the other hand, one important take-away message is the importance of cultivating and celebrating the strengths of individuals with ASD rather than approach our work from a pure deficit model.

Another significant concern is that the hundreds of thousands of children with ASD who were diagnosed in the last two decades are growing up and becoming hundreds of thousands of young adults with ASD; as a society, we are failing them. When children with ASD turn twenty-one, funding for services drastically changes. As a result, there are very few quality programs for adults. We are facing a crisis in the field, with a scarcity of services for adults with ASD and the absence of a clear strategy for closing the gap between the ever-increasing need, and an unprepared supply of resources. Autism awareness must include important conversations about how we can help adults with ASD live and work independently, develop meaningful relationships, reduce challenging behaviors that may limit opportunities, access faith communities, and enjoy the array of recreational pursuits which are available within their communities. Those are important conversations to have and these conversations should translate into actionable items at every level of service delivery.

SB: With Autism Awareness month drawing to a close, what would you like the general public to know about autism treatment?

DC: Even though ASD is no longer the rare disorder it once was, each person with ASD is unique. Efforts to help them realize their fullest potential should be individualized to meet the specific needs of each individual with ASD across settings such as home, school, community and the workplace; and informed by input from the individual, as well as his or her family.

Do not believe everything you hear. There are dozens of purported “miracle cures” and “breakthroughs” for ASD which receive widespread media attention, even if they have not been proven effective. Sadly, effective treatments rarely gain media attention.

On a related vein, do not believe everything you read. Not all information on the internet is reliable and accurate, and celebrities are neither trained nor equipped to define or guide ASD treatment even though many appear comfortable in that role. On the other hand, there is a large body of research published in peer-reviewed scientific journals which should guide autism treatment. Visit our website to learn more at www.asatonline.org.

Lastly, there is hope and tremendous opportunity. With the right treatment, individuals with autism can lead happy and fulfilling lives. Research indicates that interventions such as ABA can effectively help children and adults with ASD realize their fullest potential. As stated earlier, we know that early and intensive behavioral intervention can make a huge difference, both with respect to human potential and significant cost savings across the lifespan.

SB: How can the general public make a positive difference?

DC: It cannot be overstated that it takes a village to help individuals with ASD learn to enjoy and benefit from all that their communities have to offer. Every member of the public can make a difference in supporting individuals with ASD and their families. There are so many positive ways the public can help. Although I will share several examples here, this list is by no means exhaustive:

  1. If you have a family member or a neighbor who has a child with ASD, ask specifically how you may be helpful (e.g., assist with siblings, offer play dates, help with transportation to therapies, or provide an empathic ear).
  2. If you see a family struggle in the community, do not stare, comment, or judge. In some cases, it may be appropriate to go over and assist (e.g., “I see you are helping your little guy, may I help you put your bags in the car?”). Family members may take you up on your kind offer or may just decline.
  3. If your children are interested, inquire if there are opportunities for them to help classmates with ASD at their school (e.g., becoming a lunch buddy, peer tutor). This is particularly beneficial in the later grades when opportunities for students with ASD to interact meaningfully with their typically-developing peers is lessened.
  4. At school board meetings encourage board members to learn about best practices in special education which are scientifically validated. Inquire if special education resources are being spent on interventions that lack scientific support or are not being spent on those that do possess such support (e.g., ABA). In fact, a research basis should inform most decisions.
  5. Some faith communities are very welcoming to families of individuals with ASD, whereas others are not. Discuss this within your place of worship. Identify steps that can be taken to help individuals with ASD participate in their religious communities in a positive and meaningful manner. This applies to both religious ceremonies, as well as day to day participation.
  6. Encourage organizations to be more accepting of persons with ASD and to take appropriate steps to learn how to create meaningful inclusion opportunities (e.g., seeking out information, soliciting training and education, learning from others who are doing this with success).
  7. If you are involved with youth sports or other extracurricular activities, offer to coach and/or mentor a player with ASD.
  8. Encourage your town or city to provide and/or create recreational opportunities that include individuals with ASD as there is often a tendency to focus only on separate experiences.
  9. Support ASD organizations that put science first. Research how your donations are used.

ABOUT DAVID CELIBERTI, PHD, BCBA-D

DCelibertiDr. David Celiberti is the Executive Director of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT). He previously served as the President of the Board of Directors of ASAT from 2006 through 2012. In response to the increasing number of parents attending professional conferences to learn about applied behavior analysis, he also founded the Parent-Professional Partnership SIG for the Association for Behavior Analysis International in 2000 and served as its Co-President until 2014. He had also served as President of the Autism Special Interest Group (SIG) from 1998 to 2006. He currently sits on a number of Advisory Boards in the area of autism, as well as in early childhood education. He has organized fundraising initiatives to support afterschool programming for economically disadvantaged children in Northern New Jersey. Dr. Celiberti is in private practice and provides consultation to public and private schools and agencies in the U.S. and Canada. He received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Rutgers University in 1993. He has authored several articles in professional journals and presents frequently at regional, national, and international conferences. He has taught courses related to ABA at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, supervised individuals pursuing their BCBA and BCaBA, and in prior positions had conducted research in the areas of applied behavior analysis, family intervention, and autism.

Pick of the Week: Chunk Stacker – A Word-Building Game to Expand Vocabulary and Improve reading

Open the doors to literary success with the challenging and stimulating word-building game, Chunk Stacker! This week only, you can save 15%* on Chunk Stacker by applying our promo code CHUNK at checkout, and help students expand their vocabulary and improve reading skills!

Chunk Stacker encourages strategic and lateral thinking as players attempt to fill their trays with words made from frequently used onsets and rimes. The rules are simple, but involve plenty of higher-order thinking.

Players select from face-down tiles and try to make words on their stackers, making and breaking as necessary. Chunk Stacker includes a 48-page dictionary for word look-up and definition, word trays, and 80 onsets and rimes tiles. Play as a game or use it for teaching basic reading and spelling!

Don’t forget to use our promo code CHUNK this week only to take 15%* off your order of Chunk Stacker!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on May 5th, 2015. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Understanding Autism: Tips for Teens by a Teen by Alexandra Jackman

We’re excited to feature some tips for teens from Alexandra Jackman on what it means to understand autism and the perspectives of their peers with autism. You may remember Alex from last year, when we shared an exclusive interview from our BCBA Sam Blanco with Alexandra Jackman. Alex is a 15-year-old New Jersey teen and the creator of the documentary A Teen’s Guide to Understanding and Communicating with People with AutismShe’s also been awarded Hasbro and GenerationOn’s scholarship grant for being a “Community Action Hero” and making a difference in her community through hands-on service projects that create awareness for important social issues. Congratulations, Alex!


Understanding Autism: Tips for Teens by a Teen
by Alexandra Jackman

During summer camp when I was eight, I met a girl named Jaime. I noticed that at lunch she always sat by herself with an aide. I assumed she wanted to sit alone, because she never came and sat with the rest of us. One day I was curious, so I hesitantly asked if I could sit with her and the aide replied “yes.” I learned that Jaime had something called cerebral palsy. She couldn’t speak but communicated through hand signals.

Jaime and I started hanging out outside of camp activities, and I really liked her. Just because communicating wasn’t her strong suit didn’t mean that she couldn’t be a friend. I think our friendship helped others in the camp group realize, “Oh, we can hang out with her,” and they started including Jaime in camp activities.

That was the first time I realized that many people don’t take the opportunity to get to know people with special needs. I almost didn’t. If I hadn’t been curious that day, I would have most likely missed out on the opportunity to get to know someone I really liked.

Knowledge Matters
I think knowledge is so important. As a 15-year-old autism advocate, I often notice how other teenagers interact with people with special needs in my school and in my community. I have found that teens (and adults) often ignore their peers with autism not to be mean, but because they do not understand what is “wrong.” People don’t know what to say because they don’t understand what is different. I think that it is important to change this.

Fortunately, there are many resources to teach people about autism. However, very few of those resources teach middle and high school students about special needs. So, as a teen, I have some tips that I think can help spread autism acceptance and understanding to hormonal, moody, creative, curious teenagers. Well, people kind of like me.

While not everyone with autism will have all of these behaviors, these general tips are important to keep in mind whenever you are speaking, studying, hanging out, or working with a classmate or friend with autism:

Be direct: Social cues can often be difficult for people with autism. It’s kind of like texting in real life. When someone texts “What?!” are they angry, excited or disappointed? Do ALL CAPS always mean that someone is yelling at you? Many people with autism cannot always distinguish the tone of what others are saying to understand the emotions behind words. Imagine how much harder it would be to interact with people if everything said to you was said with a monotone voice and blank facial expression. So, when talking to people with autism, try to say what you mean and be straightforward.

Be specific in your communication. Avoid open-ended questions: It is important to realize that for many people with autism, a question like “Do you want to go hang out in town with me?” can be overwhelming, because there are just so many possibilities. Maybe you are going to Starbucks, a diner, or shopping. Maybe you are going to the doctor’s office for a vaccination or to the dentist. What might be less stressful would be to specify exactly where you would be going. For example, asking something like “Do you want to come to the diner with me for lunch?” or “Do you want to go into town with me to see a movie and then go shopping?”

Don’t judge physical behaviors. You do similar things: Many people with autism make repetitive movements called self-stimulatory behaviors, such as flapping their arms or tapping things. Also known as stimming, these behaviors are a way to handle emotions and keep calm. While these movements might seem weird to you, everyone exhibits self-stimulatory behaviors that help them deal with stress. Do you ever bite your nails, twirl your hair, or bite on a pencil? Yeah, that’s stimming, and it’s how you handle your emotions.

Get past the disability and make a friend: Having an autism spectrum disorder is not who a person is, it is just something that they have. So don’t let autism define a person. Get to know who the person is on the inside. You just might meet someone you really like!

WRITTEN BY ALEXANDRA JACKMAN

Alex Jackman is a 15-year-old autism advocate and the writer and director of the documentary, A Teen’s Guide to Understanding and Communicating with People with Autism. A high school sophomore in Westfield, NJ, she is currently the peer mentor leader for monthly special needs teen nights and the founder of The Hangout Club, a program at her school to promote inclusion. She is also a special needs volunteer at the YMCA, The Friendship Circle, and Children’s Specialized Hospital. She has received a number of honors for her advocacy efforts and speaks to students, adults, and professionals throughout New Jersey and beyond about autism.