Pick of the Week: EasyDaysies Magnetic Schedule Plus Add-On Kits—Get off on the right start for school!

Help your child structure their daily routines to get off on the right start for school with the EasyDaysies Magnetic Schedule. Teach independence, responsibility, self-discipline, and sight-word recognition with this handy magnetic chart.

And you can save 15%* on your order of the EasyDaysies Magnetic Schedule, along with its three add-on kits: Chores & Special Times, Family & Extracurricular Activities, and Get Dressed & Bathroom Routines, when you enter promo code EASYDAYS at check-out online.

The EasyDaysies Magnetic Schedule comes with 18 magnets covering everyday activities such as “get dressed,” “do homework,” and “bath time.” You can also use the “To Do” and “Done” columns as a reward system.

The add-on kits offer an easy way to schedule daily chores, routines, and events, and helps to keep track of a child’s earned special times.

 

Chores & Special Times Add-On Kit comes with 21 amazing and durable illustrated magnets: Book/Quiet Time, Clean Bathroom, Clean Bedroom, Computer Time, Dishes, Feed Pet, Field Trip, Garbage/Recycling, Help Set Table, Put Clothes Away, Sweep/Vacuum, TV Time, Walk Dog, 2 blank magnets, and 6 blank clock magnets.

 

Family & Extracurricular Activites Add-On Kit comes with 18 durable illustrated magnets: Dance, Dentist, Doctor, Gymnastics, Martial Arts, Movie Night, Music, Party, Play Date, Play Outside, Shopping, Skating/Hockey, Soccer, Sports, Swimming, and 3 blank magnets.

 

 

Get Dressed & Bathroom Routines Add-On Kit comes with 18 helpful, prompting magnetic components, such as: Coat, Comb Hair, Dress/Skirt, Dry Hands, Flush, Lights Off, Pants, Pull Down Pants, Pull Up Pants, Sit on Toilet, Shirt, Shoes, Sock/Stockings, Underwear, Wash Hands, Wipe, and 2 blank magnets.

 

Don’t forget to redeem your savings this week on the EasyDaysies Magnetic Schedule and the supplemental packs for chores, family and extracurricular activities, and getting dressed and bathroom routines by entering our promo code EASYDAYS at check-out!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EDT on September 2nd, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

ASD Brains Show Decrease in Neuronal Autophagy, Underlying Oversensitivity and Deficits in Social Interaction

SOURCE: New York Times article by Pam Belluck

A recent study led by David Sulzer at Columbia University Medical Center showed that in children and adolescents with autism, brain tissue within the temporal lobe exhibit a decrease in neuronal autophagy (the brain’s process of clearing out old and degraded cells), which underlies oversensitivity and deficits in social interaction.

NY Times: Guomei Tang, PhD and Mark S. Sonders, PhD/Columbia University Medical Center

In early development, synapses—connections that allow neurons to communicate with each other—allows for infants to develop with as much external stimuli and information as possible. However, in childhood and adolescence, these synapses are gradually “pruned” so that the brain can develop more specific and advanced functions by not being overloaded with stimuli. As one can imagine, brains of children with autism fail to “prune” these synapses, causing them to be constantly overloaded with stimuli. In this study, young children with and without autism show roughly the same number of synapses, suggesting a “pruning” problem in autism, rather a problem with overproduction. Dr. Sulzer’s team also found biomarkers in the brains of children and adolescents diagnosed with autism, which suggested malfunctions in the process of autophagy (the neural degradation of old cells and damaged cell organelles). Without autophagy, the synaptic pruning process can’t occur.

These findings give us some insight into how autism develops from childhood onward, and help explain symptoms like oversensitivity and deficits in social interactions. Whether autism is a problem of brains with too little connectivity or too much of it has been of debate in recent years in the field of autism research. Ralph-Axel Müller, at San Diego State University, found in his studies that there was too much connectivity within brains of individuals with autism. “Impairments that we see in autism seem to be partly due to different parts of the brain talking too much to each other,” he reported to the NY Times. “You need to lose connections in order to develop a fine-tuned system of brain networks, because if all parts of the brain talk to all parts of the brain, all you get is noise.1

Eric Klann, a professor at New York University, also acknowledged an autophagy decrease in ASD brains. “The pruning problem seems to happen later in development than one might think,” Dr. Klann informed the Times. “It suggests that if you could intervene in that process that it could be beneficial for social behavior.”1 With further research into how this decrease in autophagy—and thus the synaptic pruning process in brains of children with autism—can be addressed earlier in a child’s development, there is hope that symptoms of autism may be preventable in the future.

1 “Study Finds That Brains With Autism Fail to Trim Synapses as They Develop.” New York Times. 21 Aug. 2014. Web. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/22/health/brains-of-autistic-children-have-too-many-synapses-study-suggests.html>.

Tip of the Week: 6 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Home ABA Program

CHILD IN SPEECH THERAPYWhile an ABA professional should be coming in to organize and run your ABA program, as a parent or guardian, there are some simple things you can do to make the time your child spends in a home session more effective. Several tips are here, but it may be unrealistic for you to follow ALL of these tips. Consider your home environment and family’s needs, then implement the tips that are the most feasible for your situation.

Following even one of these tips can make a big difference in your child’s sessions!

1)    Make sure all ABA materials are accessible. It’s important to have a system for storing the materials and the binder the ABA providers use. Some families I work with put everything into a box, a dresser drawer, or on a shelf the child cannot reach which is great. If the child utilizes an iPad for communication or reinforcement, be sure it’s available and charged. If any other items are necessary, such as edibles for reinforcement, make sure those are available at the beginning of the session. One parent I worked with used a craft organizer container with a clear plastic lid to store edibles, so when sessions began she’d set it on the table. All the different snacks were already broken into small pieces and organized in the box, freeing up more time for teaching during the session.

2)    Keep the area for ABA therapy free from distraction. Remove any items that are highly distracting for your student. Shut windows if you live on a noisy street. Make sure your cell phone is with you. This tip is especially challenging for families that live in studio apartments or have loud neighbors.

3)    Limit the number of disruptions from siblings or other family members. As an ABA therapist who is focused on increasing my students’ opportunities for social interaction, I don’t want to discourage the siblings and other family members from coming in. Interruptions should happen from time to time, and it’s important that my students learn to refocus after an interruption. But sometimes it becomes an obstacle to learning when there are consistent interruptions, or if I have to continue to redirect a sibling to other activities.  Instead, it’s better to structure activities with siblings and other family members, perhaps by teaching the learner with autism to request the sibling come play or adding it to the student’s activity schedule.

4)    When possible, reserve one or more highly motivating activities for ABA sessions. If a child has free access to all his/her motivating activities, then those activities are not as valuable when used in a session, and therefore less motivating. Sessions are most effective when the learner is working for something that they’re highly motivated by. It’s important to note here that I don’t want the child to only have access to fun things during sessions. I also don’t want the parents miss out on opportunities to enjoy motivating activities with the learner. The idea is to save a small number of motivating activities for sessions so the child maintains motivation and focuses on learning. This tip is especially challenging for families when the learner with autism is motivated by only one or two activities or items.

5)    Don’t allow the child to engage in their highest motivating activities right before an ABA session. I’ve had more than one case in the past in which I would get to the home and find my student watching his favorite TV show or playing his favorite game on the iPad. What would typically happen is that my student would associate my arrival with the end of his favorite activity, which would lead to crying, refusal to work, and/or attempts to escape. I want my students to be able to watch their favorite shows and play with their favorite games, but our sessions are more effective when those activities don’t take place immediately beforehand.

6)    Ask your provider if there are any changes you can make to improve sessions. Every home is different and every child’s needs are different. Your provider may be able to identify small changes for your specific situation that are not mentioned above. Opening that dialogue can be a powerful way to improve your child’s learning outcomes.  

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.

Federal Ruling Ensures that Insurers Must Cover ABA Therapy

GavelFederal Judge Michael H. Simon in Oregon ruled last week that insurance providers cannot deny coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy for children diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit against Providence Health Plan, an insurance provider that denied coverage of ABA therapy for children diagnosed with autism, while simultaneously granting coverage for children without a diagnosis. ABA therapy, which can cost over $50,000 a year, involves a behavioral interventionist working with a child in the family’s home or in his school to address behavioral deficits for up to forty hours a week.

Oregon State Governor John Kitzhaber also agreed with this ruling and will adjust state health plans to reflect Judge Simon’s decision. The discrepancy between insurance policies and what providers actually cover arises because the medical community views ABA as “a medically necessary treatment of autism,”1 whereas some insurance providers accept it as an educational service that is provided in schools. Since autism is also classified as a “developmental disability,” instead of a mental health disorder, insurers exclude ABA coverage for those with autism, which is also a violation of mental health parity laws.

In some states like California, several warnings have been issued to insurance companies after several denials of ABA coverage had been overturned on appeal. Regional centers now fund ABA therapy by service providers, as well as insurance companies. With President Obama’s signing of Autism CARES last week, the federal ruling will hopefully set a precedent for insurance companies across the country to allow coverage of ABA therapy for families of children diagnosed with autism. ABA therapy is the most influential and widely cited form of therapy for autism, showing the most promise and efficacy in the treatment of autism.

1 http://exm.nr/1oJvnxa

Pick of the Week: Prepositions StoryCards—Learn basic prepositions & sequencing through storytelling!

Learn and practice using basic prepositions with creative storytelling with story cards and finger-puppets! You can also save 15%* this week on Prepositions StoryCards by using our promo code PREPOS2 at checkout. This set of 48 beautifully illustrated cards is designed to develop children’s understanding of basic prepositions such as in, on, under, above, below, and around.

With only illustrations and no words, Prepositions StoryCards promotes expressive language in storytelling form, and each story is flexible to your student’s standards. An accompanying booklet includes suggested stories for each of the 4 sets of story cards, as well as approaches for building and reinforcing preliminary concepts, developing verbal comprehension, improving attention and listening skills, expanding expressive language and vocabulary, and sequencing.

Four felt finger-puppets depicting the main character in each story are also included as an interactive and playful tool for reinforcing preliminary concepts.

Don’t forget to take 15%* off your set of Prepositions StoryCards when you order it online or by phone with promo code PREPOS2 at checkout!

 

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EDT on August 26th, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Obama Signs Autism CARES to Renew Funding for Support

Late last Friday, August 8th, President Obama signed the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support Act (Autism CARES), a reauthorization of the U.S.’s primary autism legislation, which includes over a billion dollars in federal funding for autism research, services, and support.

Autism CARES is a renewal of what was previously called the Combating Autism Act, which was first enacted in 2006. The renewal calls for $260 million in funding per year through 2019 for autism research, prevalence tracking, screening, professional training, and other initiatives. It will also ensure a new point person in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to oversee research and support services and activities related to autism. Amendments will also be made to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, mandating that a new report be conducted on the needs of young adults and youth during transition.

“The Autism CARES Act will allow us to continue to build on these efforts. It will increase understanding of the barriers that youth and young adults with an autism spectrum disorder or other developmental disability face as they transition from school-based services to those available during adulthood by charging federal agencies with assessing the particular needs of this population,” said Taryn Mackenzie Williams, Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

To find out more about how the Department of Health and Human Services is supporting autism, visit their website here.

Tip of the Week: How to Implement a Successful Behavioral Intervention

Creating a successful behavior intervention is more challenging than it first appears. Below, I’ve listed four essential parts for changing maladaptive behaviors and increasing desired behaviors. Most of the time, when a behavior intervention is not working, one or more of these steps has been neglected.

1.  Find a BCBA or ABA provider who can guide you through the process. Getting help from someone with experience in addressing challenging behaviors is an essential first step. They should be a wealth of information about each of the following steps, provide check-ins and troubleshooting during the intervention process, and maintain data on the behavior to insure the intervention is working.

2.  Identify the function of the behavior. There are four reasons that any of us behave: attention, escape/avoidance, access to a tangible (such as chips or a toy train), and automatic reinforcement (meaning physical sensations that are not related to social interactions, including sound, taste, touch, or a response to movement). A BCBA can be especially useful in helping to identify the function of the behavior. They may utilize an ABC chart to determine the function, which means they observe the behavior and note it’s antecedent, what the behavior looks like, and the immediate consequence. If the ABC chart is not helpful, they may perform a more formal Functional Analysis. Before any intervention is put in place, all parties interacting with the child should understand the function (or reason) for the problematic behavior.

3.  Provide a replacement behavior. As a part of the intervention, a replacement behavior should be provided. A BCBA or ABA provider should be able to help you find appropriate replacement behaviors for the problematic behavior. For example, with one student who was chewing his shirt, we introduced a replacement behavior of chewing gum. With another student who was throwing his iPad, we used tape to put an “X” on his desk and taught him to place it on the “X.” The idea is to provide an appropriate behavior that is incompatible with the problematic behavior. But that’s not always possible. For example, one of my former students was banging her head on the table during instruction. We taught her to request a break by touching a picture of a stop sign. Realistically, she was able to bang her head while simultaneously touching the stop sign, but once she learned that she got to escape the activity by touching the stop sign, she stopped banging her head in order to escape. It’s important to note that using the stop sign wouldn’t work for all head-banging behavior, but we had identified the function of the behavior and were able to introduce a replacement behavior that served the same function while meeting the skill level and needs of that individual student.

4.  Provide reinforcement for appropriate behavior. A specific plan for providing reinforcement for use of a replacement behavior and any other desired behaviors is essential. The reinforcement for the appropriate replacement behavior should serve the same function as the problematic behavior. This can sometimes be difficult to achieve, but without this aspect of intervention, you may see slow success, or no success at all.

Again, creating a multi-pronged intervention can be a challenge. It’s important to seek out help, and to take a look at research related to the problem behavior you are trying to address. It is possible to create a strong intervention that has a huge impact on your learner, but it must include the aspects listed above to have the highest potential for success.

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.

Pick of the Week: NEW! Caterpillar Token Board – Reinforce and monitor behavioral success

Reinforce and monitor behavioral success with our brand new Caterpillar Token Board, a versatile chart that’s perfect for focusing on a specific task, behavior, or goal. This week, you can save 15%* on your Caterpillar Token Board by entering or mentioning promo code CATERP1 online or over the phone during check-out.

With a cute, furry friend, kids will be motivated to work and stay on task both at home and in school. Use the Caterpillar Token Board for a short-term goal, such as helping your child sit still at the dinner table, or getting their homework done without complaining, as well as tracking long-term goals. This token board serves as a portable reward system to encourage positive behavior and reduce anxiety. The Caterpillar Token Board comes with 8 reusable reward stars, a magnetic strip on the back for easy display, and a Suggestion Guide. Measures approximately 9 x 5 inches.

Don’t forget to take 15% off* your order of the new Caterpillar Token Board by applying CATERP1 at check-out!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EDT on August 19, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Modified Instructions for Parachute Play

We’re excited to bring you the sixth installment of our series of Modified Instructions, created by Sam Blanco, BCBAIn this installment, we’re introducing Sam’s Modified Instructions for Parachute Play. Our bright and colorful parachutes are perfect for motivating young learners during the summer holidays.

   6ft-Parachute 12ft-Parachute

Continue reading

Pick of the Week: Teaching Hands Clock—Take the Guess Work Out of Telling Time

This innovative wall clock takes the guess work out of telling time by highlighting both the correct hour and minute numerals. This week only, take 15% off* the Teaching Hands Clock by entering in promo code THCLOCK6 at check-out.

The shaped hands of the clock are sure to attract your students’ attention and help them learn to tell time quickly. Think of the hands as training wheels for an analog clock. The shapes at the end of each hand help train the student’s eye to look at the correct hour and minute.

Remember, you can take 15% off* your own Teaching Hands Clock this week only by using code THCLOCK6 when you check out online or over the phone with us, and help your student learn to tell time with ease with this handy clock!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EDT on August 12, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!